It’s no joke that The Joker’s new girlfriend has captured the hearts of Gotham. The Joker has once more fled into the shadows following “Joker War,” which appeared in the pages of Batman. But Alexis Kaye, often known by her stage name Punchline, carries on his legacy. Punchline debuted in Batman No. 89 in April of this year after being created by James Tynion IV and Jorge Jimenez. Punchline, who Tynion IV described as the anti-Harley Quinn and was “serious, menacing, and driven by a real bloodlust,” paradoxically struck a chord with fans in a similar way to how Harley Quinn had nearly 30 years earlier.
Punchline is one of the most popular comic book characters of 2020 thanks to Jimenez’s cosplay-friendly design and history with Harley during “Joker War.” And it appears that her rise to prominence in the DC Universe is just getting started.
In the one-shot Punchline No. 1, authors James Tynion IV and Sam Jones and artist Mirka Andolfo explore deeper into Punchline’s beginnings and future intentions for Gotham. The Joker interrupted Alexis Kaye’s field trip to a broadcast studio in the issue, revealing that she was once a regular high school student. After being saved by Batman from becoming the Joker’s next victim, Alexis developed an obsession with the Joker. She started to hunt for the reason and purpose behind his crimes and tried to figure out the joke she thought he was trying to tell. In many aspects, Alexis Kaye’s origin story is similar to that of Tim Drake, the third Robin, who is one of Tynion’s favourite characters. Drake developed a well-intentioned fascination as a result of his fortuitous encounter with Batman and Robin (Dick Grayson). Drake trained in martial arts and detective techniques before even meeting the two heroes, so that he would be ready to help out if the opportunity presented itself. After Jason Todd’s passing, Drake recognised an opportunity to serve the Batman by taking on the role of the third Robin. Similar to Drake, Kaye was raised amid the legends of Gotham, but unlike so many of Batman’s allies, she found inspiration in her would-be killer rather than in her saviour.
Harper Row and her brother Cullen, who had significant roles in the Batman run by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo as well as the maxi-series Batman & Robin Eternal, are brought back in Punchline No. 1. Both characters discuss the influence Punchline has over Gotham. With Kaye professing sanity and innocence and defending herself as simply another victim of the Joker, lured to him only because Gotham’s sense of justice is damaged, Punchline’s trial for her actions in “Joker War” has turned into a public circus. Kaye’s appeals are not being taken seriously by Harper, who also occasionally dresses up as the superhero Bluebird. She encounters another villain who poses a threat to Gotham’s future because to her youth and media savvy. In contrast, Cullen feels for Punchline because he sees Alexis Kaye as another another victim of Gotham, just like he and his sister did. He develops an obsession with her podcast, which she recorded in the years before “Joker War” and which explains her interest in the Joker. Kaye really establishes herself as something other than the raven-haired opposite of Harley Quinn with her first-person story of her transition into Punchline. Harley believed there was a human being she could save and preserve when she glimpsed the man she assumed to reside within the Joker. Alexis perceived the idea she pictured as existing in the Joker, thinking that there was more to his acts than just chaos and evil.
Punchline has become something of a martyr for the city, a woman who might have been any of them, a living representation of Gotham and Batman’s shortcomings, thanks to the millions of residents of Gotham who have rallied behind her and supported her claim of innocence. Punchline, though, differs from all of them, and as we saw in “Joker War,” she is anything but innocent. The use of her influence is simply the start of another joke that is being set up for an upcoming incident in 2021 that is hinted to at the end of the issue.
Sales for Punchline’s appearances this year indicate that drawing attention to her character the next year will only help to further establish her as a figure who has captured the attention of comic book readers. A live-action appearance can’t be too far off, given the other comic appearances that are scheduled.
While it took Harley Quinn, who made her television debut in 1992’s Batman: The Animated Series before moving on to the comics, ten years to make her live-action debut in The WB’s ill-fated Birds of Prey series, the popularity of superhero media suggests that Punchline will make the transition much more quickly. Alexis Kaye might first debut in the new DC video games or the animated Harley Quinn series on HBO Max, but there’s little question she’ll make a live-action appearance sooner rather than later. Given the show’s propensity to adopt more modern Batman characters, The CW’s Batwoman makes sense. The white whale of Punchline’s media image, though, is undoubtedly a fight between the character and Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie.
One of the best elements of the DC Extended Universe is without a doubt Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn, and the actor has frequently expressed her wish to continue portraying the role as long as feasible. Assuming she survives (there’s no way she dies, right? ), there will presumably be additional movies or an HBO Max miniseries featuring Robbie’s Harley Quinn after James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad comes out the following year. A confrontation between Harleen Quinzel and Alexis Kaye in the DCEU would make for an excellent punchline, whether it’s in Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey sequel, the long-rumored Harley & Joker film, or Gotham City Sirens. Fans may be in for one of the most exciting rivalries to arise in this new decade of superhero film if Kaye is cast as well as Harley was, and that’s something to smile about.
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