Tuesday, February 19

ARENA OF VALOR – THE JOKER – THE MAN WHO LAUGHS

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Arena of Valor Joker Hero was perhaps one of the biggest surprises I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering. The reasons for this are numerous, but it is not because of the obvious AoV Joker being the first time I’ve seen this character integrated into a MOBA game, and also not because of the brilliant way he’s been featured and represented. My reasons, as with all of you Joker fans, lies in the endless complexity and the power this archetype has, and will always have in the entire history of the modern culture.

When I say words like ‘archetype’ and ‘history of the modern culture’, I am still not saying anything even remotely new to anyone who loves, or even just likes this character. The Joker archetype is fairly obvious to anyone who had even the slightest contact with it, and as far as the modern culture goes, well just look at the fact that the story of Batman and Joker can be linked to countless other cultural phenomena and historical instances, from the story of Kain and Abel, all the way to every other dual nature of our reality.

But, even if it is this obvious as I present it to be, I must admit that it took me quite a while, a few decades in fact, to have a feeling of understanding the Joker character and the significance this archetype has in all its other aspects.

I first saw the Joker when I first watched Tim Burton’s Batman, before I even entered elementary school. I clearly remember the character being interesting to me, and even as a kid I think I felt the perfect balance and union that Batman and Joker possess. But, naturally, I liked Batman much more, because he was the good guy, meaning I hadn’t had the first clue of what the Joker was about. More than two decades went by and I watched and re-watched that movie, naturally along with all other appearances of this character in every single movie, animated movie, comic book, video game, and other.

But, it wasn’t until I’ve had some personal hard times and hardships in my life that that first impression of the character, that underlined truth, came back from my childhood and pushed me to really penetrate into the depths of the Joker.
And, in my study, I’ve found that the inspiration and the first actual appearance of this character is recognized in the book called “The Man Who Laughs” by Victor Hugo.

The Man Who Laughs

I wouldn’t presume to try and explain anything about this book in a single paragraph, or a single article…or even a study, but perhaps the best thing I can do is simply copy the basic description of it, and it goes like this:

In late 17th-century England, a homeless boy named Gwynplaine rescues an infant girl during a snowstorm, her mother having frozen to death whilst feeding her. They meet an itinerant carnival vendor who calls himself Ursus, and his pet wolf, Homo. Gwynplaine’s mouth has been mutilated into a perpetual grin; Ursus is initially horrified, then moved to pity, and he takes them in. Fifteen years later, Gwynplaine has grown into a strong young man, attractive except for his distorted visage. The girl, now named Dea, is blind, and has grown into a beautiful and innocent young woman. By touching his face, Dea concludes that Gwynplaine is perpetually happy. They fall in love. Ursus and his surrogate children earn a meager living in the fairs of southern England. Gwynplaine keeps the lower half of his face concealed. In each town, Gwynplaine gives a stage performance in which the crowds are provoked to laughter when Gwynplaine reveals his grotesque face.

 

This very description will probably awaken many terribly sad emotions in all who read it, and it will also probably lead you to realize this story was used as an inspiration for so much more than only to create the Joker.
But, the emotional archetypes I took from this book and incorporated into my own understanding of the joker are the incredible sadness, the chilling tragedy, and the tremendous amount of pain so easily pictured in a human smile. That last one is perhaps the most important and the most impactful of them all. It’s a picture present in all Joker personifications, no matter how violent or crude, genius or deceptive they are. It’s the underlying reason for his existence as it is, which was never actually pointed at or even hinted at, besides this book.

The Joker character in movies and cartoons

There are far too many depictions of him to be mentioned, even briefly, so I will focus on those who are my favorite, but you can consider all others who I skip to be as equally as important as my picks.

The first Joker I’ve seen, played by Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s movie, is widely said to embody the gangster side of the character. This is true, but I feel it is very much incomplete to only characterize him in a single dimension. Jack Nicholson emphasized the narcissistic side of the Joker before he became what he is, back when he was Jack Napier. He is presented as a quite closed off and tough individual, with no brakes on his own whims. If he would ever think about doing something, he would do it, but with a quite destructive focus.

Also, an important mention here is the fact that he is presented as the actual killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents, which puts the Batman – Joker relationship in a sort of a full circle type thing. The Joker, killing Bruce’s parents, created the Batman, and the Batman, later on, drops Jack Napier in acid and creates the Joker. Since it is said that Tim Burton worked closely with Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, I believe this is quite close to what Bob Kane had in mind for the two characters. And, I salute the effort to put the genuine and the original story to fruition in this 1989 masterpiece of cinema.

Later on, I naturally got swept away by the Christopher Nolan’s and Heath Ledger’s version of the character, where every line and every move the Joker does is simply intoxicating. I got so hooked on this portrayal of the character that I’ve not only memorized every detail of every scene featuring him completely, but I can also imitate everything he does perfectly. And, I should stress that this does not have anything to do with my ability to imitate a person, but with the character’s innate toxic and addictive nature.
And I think many people feel the same about it. It is probably the reason why there are so many good impressions of the character out there, and why since the movie came out the Joker has been one of the most popular Halloween and Cosplay costume choices ever.

As far as the animated movies go, I would have to just briefly say that I have a high respect for the Joker version from the Batman TAS, from the Justice League cartoons, the Killing Joke, and hell…probably from all of them. Even in the 2005 cartoon entitled The Batman, where the Joker is almost a Jamaican version of himself with dreadlocks and a black man’s jazz voice, seems quite good to me.

But, to go back to the archetypical side of this character, I’ve already mentioned that the Batman/Joker duality has been compared even to the story of Kain and Abel. Furthermore, it is my opinion that he represents the crazy man’s laughter in the face of complete and all-embracing pain a man feels when he is at his lowest point in life. The absolute bottom, the lowest and the most terrible of all the bottom hits anyone has ever experienced. I say ‘crazy man’s laughter’ not because that man is actually crazy, but because laughter in such circumstances can only be heard as a haunting song of a man having a complete and absolute nervous breakdown. That laugh is almost completely the same as a cry, but it comes out as a laugh because the pain is so deep and heavy even tears cannot help relieve even the slightest amount of it.

If you’ve ever faced anything similar, then you probably realize that a man cannot do anything else in those situations, but laugh in such a grim fashion.

To finish up this ‘short story’ of mine, short because I now realize that this attempt to put all Jokers in a single article is as futile as it would be to put them all in a book, I must go over to my own thoughts on the Arena of Valor Joker Hero feature, by comparing his abilities and appearance with what I think is a good idea in this respect, as you already know I did in my previous AoV Batman and AoV Superman featured articles.
If you want to read them, just click on the underlined names of the Arena of Valor heroes above.

AoV Joker

It was naturally entirely expected that the Joker will be incepted as an assassin hero, and his overall appearance is quite good. I like that they went with the classic version of the character, which is something of a mixture between the Joker from the first comic book appearance, the one from the Batman TAS, and maybe from the Batman Arkham Asylum video game. I am not saying that if they’ve done it differently, like going for the Chris Nolan/Heath Ledger version, it wouldn’t be equally good, but this way they’ve demonstrated that they care about the hardcore fans and that they respect the tradition and the origin.

Besides his appearance, Joker’s skills are also a good representation of the devious and fiendishly clever tricks this character resorts to. And, as for the skills they’ve added on their own, regardless of any other multimedia version of the character, they are also done to make the character functional in a MOBA environment.

So, here…. We… GO!

Punch Line

So adequately called, this passive ability gives the Joker stronger attacks after he engages again. He fires a gun or throws knives, which needs no further explanation. He is the king of blades and bullets, end of story. The attack range is increased and the bullets are affecting the target negatively, which is also done right.

The Killing Joke

Named after arguably the best, or one of the most important depictions of this character, the Killing Joke enables him to launch a giant rocket that hits all enemies in its path and also gives the Joker some beneficial effects. The thing I like about it is that the rocket he fires is ridiculously large to be kept in his pocket, which reminds me of the scene when Jack Nicholson pulls a gun with the longest barrel ever from his pocket and shoots down Batman’s Batpod or Batplane, whatever it is called.

Pick a Card, Any Card

Cards and the Joker go hand in hand for a long time, so this one is again a pure bullseye. The Joker frees himself from movement impairing effects and gains movement speed, and get this – immunity to physical damage. A slippery foe, as he should be.

Canned Laughter

This is his ultimate ability, which again speaks for itself. The Joker Gas is a standard weapon in his arsenal, which is frequently used in almost all the versions of the character. He rushes to the target and gives them a can of his laughing gas, which explodes and negatively affects the target in multiple ways. The stun it inflicts is a good representation of what the gas should do, only scaled down to fit the MOBA functionality. He cannot be targeted during the action and the ability is in good synergy with his other abilities.

So, there you have it. I think this is so far the best adaptation of a DC Hero in this game, though Superman and Batman are also quite impressive. AoV Joker gives the player a chance to play a comic book character perfectly incorporated in a MOBA environment of Arena of Valor, and to really have the feeling of being the Prince of Crime himself. I love playing him and, although I probably suck at it, AoV Joker really makes the game endlessly more appealing to me, and I bet for all of you, Joker fans or not.

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