?Clowns! They’re silly! They make balloon animals and tell jokes and do low-level magic! They’re funny! Or… they’re terrifying, grinning ghouls that only want to eat your soul. Either one, depending on your childhood traumas.
Comic creators know that while clowns are ostensibly supposed to be appealing, they evoke a visceral response for many, many people, so dozens of them have been crammed into the tiny car known as “comic continuity.” Clowns abound in comics; some are good guys, but many are villains. Some of these clown characters work, some of them don’t… and others have become some of the most memorable comic characters ever (you know who we’re talking about). Some of them… well, they don’t show up much anymore, and for that, we should thank our lucky red rubber noses. Here’s a list of the five comic book clowns we’re happy to read about, and five we aren’t… although we wouldn’t want to particularly meet any of them in a dark alley.
?Slapstick was straight out of the “let’s just put weird books out and see if any of them *cough*Nightwatch*cough* stick” era of comics publishing. But unlike the Darkhold Redeemers, Slapstick’s still popping up. His Bugs Bunny-like powers of doing anything he wanted to served him well on The Initiative, where he went from being goofy comic relief to a backstabbing rebel who fragged his own drill instructor. He may be silly, but a Slapstick miniseries would be much more fun than the constant stream of Captain America series Marvel’s been churning out.
?To his friends, he’s a giant horned demon who guides Hellspawn. But when he wants to play it cool, he dons his classy clown gear. You know, just to fuck with people with fears of clowns (coulrophobia). In Spawn comics, he was comfortable to show up either as clown or demon, but in the Spawn movie he basically stayed human, as John Leguizamo’s salary was much higher than the Violator CGI budget.
3) Harley Quinn
?Not only does Harley Quinn star month to month in Gotham City Sirens, she’s also featured quite prominently in crudely-drawn fan art of her fucking basically everyone in the Bat-cast. Seriously, I’m a comic art collector and it shows up in every single search I try to do for Batman art. Harley’s obviously one of DC’s top female villains, starring her own title for 38 issues and making an appearance in almost every other single Bat book. And with her numerous animated appearances, she’s keeping voice actor Arleen Sorkin filthy rich.
?Astro City’s comical hero is one of the series’ most striking and recognizable characters, and with good reason: he’s freaking awesome. The costume’s everything a clown fan could ask for, and he’s got a box of toys that would make Batman cry. Electrocuting clown noses? Streamers that immobilize crooks? Telescoping boxing gloves? It’s like he’s got all the awesome Joker weapons that got forgotten in the ’60s! And speaking of whom…
1) The Joker
?Yeah, he’s #1. He crippled Batgirl. He killed Robin. He killed Jim Gordon’s wife. He hates everybody all the time but steals the spotlight in every book he’s in. We can forgive him for all his goofy Silver Age crimes because he gave us great stories like “The Laughing Fish” and “The Killing Joke.” He’s Batman’s baddest villain, and hence, our favorite.
Comics’ crappiest clowns are on the next page.
?Maybe “lame” is not the word to describe Obnoxio. Maybe “vile” works better. As a character in Marvel’s Crazy, this reprobate was happily kept out of the hands of kids who just wanted good ol’ fashioned superhero books. Then he fought the X-Men and a mutant who could turn himself into ice cream. That book, incidentally, is worth almost no money. Please, Marvel, keep Obnoxio in the “not ever to be resurrected, not even by Bendis” file.
4) Punch and Jewelee
?Once, the clowning couple of Punch and Jewelee were fun DC villains. And then they fell to D-list status, kept alive only because they were one of comic-dom’s few supervillain couples (oddly enough, one of the best is also on this list). Their appearances turned into an endless string of “I love you Mickey!” “I love you Mallory!” clich?s. Now, Punch is dead and Jewelee cannot stop bringing it up all the damn time. It’s like one note played on a tiny, gag-sized piano.
3) Harlequin/Joker’s Daughter
?Duela Dent is like one of those dye packs that banks slip into sacks of stolen cash, except instead of dye the pack is full of crazy and it’s exploded over almost every DC title. She’s a liar and schizophrenic; although she called her herself the Joker’s Daughter at one point, she’s also claimed that she’s the daughter of nearly every villain put on paper (including Riddler, the Penguin, and even Doomsday!). Occasionally she’s a hero. Sometimes she’s a villain. Mostly she’s a nuisance. Sometimes she’s really good at being a villain. Othertimes she gets shot to death.
2) The Clown I
?To start off, being part of Marvel’ Circus of Crime is like being on the JV version of the 2008 Detroit Lions (for those of us not versed in sports, the 2008 Detroit Lions failed to win a single game all season). No one will take you seriously, no matter how many circus gimmicks you throw into your act. Then to take on the role of clown, the one position in the circus that comes with the lowest expectations, you’re digging your hole deeper. The Clown didn’t pull himself out of the shame that comes along with the Circus of Crime. Instead, he volunteered for a stupid experiment and became an even sillier bird-man. One would assume the experiment also robbed him of whatever lingering shame he had.
1) The Clown II
?He’s only showed up briefly, but I cannot fucking stand this guy. He’s the henchman to a villain who only showed up in three issues of a limited series that had nothing to do with anything and hasn’t been referenced since. Being the vague partner of Zodiac in the pages of Dark Reign: Zodiac should have won him some fans, but no, this stereotype of the gross, unshaven, tough-talking clown hasn’t been seen since Marvel tried to pass him off as an edgy newcomer. We all knew what this was. No one welcomed the new Clown.