In my post “The Holy Trinity: Osiris, Isis, And Horus In Popular-Culture” I wrote of a persistent basic archetypal trio or “trinity” that has operated in pop-culture (especially comic books): Isis (the Mother), Osiris (the Father) and Horus (the Son). It didn’t matter if these characters were actually related to each other, or what their specific relationships with each other were. If there was a Woman (say, Supergirl) a Man (Superman) and a Child (Superboy): that was a Trinity!
For the very popular Batman franchise, this was a natural fit: Batgirl or Catwoman was the Isis-figure, Batman was Osiris, and Robin (dressed in his bird costume) made a fitting hawk-Horus.
But when I wrote that post, there was one element I left out (well, two actually, but we’ll touch on the second one—that of Nephthys, the “dark double”—another time).
I left out Set. (a.k.a “Seth”)
Set, the arch-enemy of Osiris. Set, the villain archetype. Set, the god of Darkness and Chaos. Set, whom Horus confronts after the death of his father at the hands of the ruthless villain.
Who is Set in the Batman universe?
The Joker, of course.
The Joker: a mix of the primordial Trickster and the primordial Satan.
It is the fate of Horus to go to battle with Set after the passing of Osiris.
Similarly, Robins and Jokers seem to have their own very complicated, “fated” relationship.
It all started with a storyline in the comic book Batman called “A Death In The Family,” in 1988. Robin was kidnapped by the Joker and graphically beaten by him with a crowbar.
The readers learned that the life of Robin was in their very own grubby hands: they could call a telephone number and vote as to whether Robin would live or die.
They voted for Robin to die.
And so Robin—still bloody from his beating at the hands of the Joker—perished in an explosion.
But don’t worry, True Believers! (wrong company catchphrase?) That wasn’t “the” Robin who died…it wasn’t Dick Grayson (who had grown up and become the still-birdy Nightwing). No, it was Jason Todd who died…a street punk Batman had met and turned into his second Robin.
A lot of fans didn’t like Todd—they thought he was a snot-nosed brat—and so it isn’t too surprising to see him get the axe via the phone survey. But the incident kicked off the very beginning of an important recurring theme in the mythos.
Because many years later, Todd comes back as…
But more on that later. Let’s move up to 2000 and the direct-to-video animated movie Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker. In the film, the third Robin, Tim Drake, gets kidnapped by the Joker, brainwashed, and turned into…
It’s super-creepy stuff. But it will not be the last time the characters of Robin and the Joker will “blend.” Because in 2004, a storyline in Batman called “Under The Red Hood” begins…[SPOILERS]…
Bringing back Jason Todd from the dead (note the resurrection storyline).
And Jason’s PISSED.
Indeed, Todd almost seems more angry at Batman & crew than he does at the Joker (who he does give a revenge crowbar beatdown).
But the most significant detail of this story is the identity Todd has chosen for himself, The Red Hood. Because the Red Hood is the original identity of…
But why would Todd choose the identity of the man who technically killed him???
The Robin/Joker storyline had already become so sadomasochistic and twisted since “Death In The Family” that…perhaps…why ask why?
But the Horus/Set thing was all kinds of fucked-up as well.
In “The Contendings of Horus and Seth,” a story from the Twentieth Dynasty of ancient Egypt, Set(h) mutilates and even rapes Horus. It gets pretty ugly and personal.
Anyway, back to the Comics: Jason Todd becomes “the angry Robin,” the mentally unstable Robin…the “damaged” Robin.
Fastforward to 2016, and the movie Suicide Squad. A new Joker is introduced—somewhat of a big deal, eight years after The Dark Knight star Heath Ledger’s untimely passing.
But this was a verrrry different Joker…
Jared Leto’s Joker seems considerably younger than previous versions (we’ll ignore the fact that seemingly ageless Leto was in his early 40s when he filmed this), and…just strange (even by Joker standards!).
There was something not “right” about him…like, seemingly on purpose.
And wouldn’t you know, there’s a “conspiracy theory” about this Joker! The theory is that this Joker was originally…
Sometimes it’s Dick Grayson, sometimes it’s Jason Todd, and sometimes it’s even Tim Drake (he from the Return Of The Joker). But the essential idea is:
The Joker *seemingly* killed Robin, but instead really turned him into “The Joker 2.”
OR: the Joker fucked up Robin, and Robin decided on his own (Red Hood-style) to become “Joker 2.”
OR (most intriguingly): A fucked-up Robin (because of the Joker), ended up in Arkham Asylum where he ran into Harley Quinn and Harley turned him into “Joker 2” (so she could get her boyfriend Joker 1 back…in a “sense”).
“Clues” within the current DC Universe movie continuity supporting this theory include a Robin costume in the Batcave with Joker graffiti on it.
Bruce Wayne says in Batman v. Superman Dawn Of Justice, looking at the costume:
“Twenty years in Gotham… how many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?”
Another clue cited is a tattoo of what looks like a bird on the Leto Joker, the bird possibly referring to “Robin”:
As well as small circular scars that match holes on the Robin suit in the Batcave:
Then there is just the tattoo “damaged” on Joker’s forehead…this is a very self-deprecating, “emo” thing that I just don’t think the Joker would do to himself…but that a fucked-up Robin who turned into the Joker as part of some sick “tribute” might do.
But most compelling of all to some theorists is the “J” tattoo Jason Todd’s character has in the video game Batman: Arkham Knight…almost identical to the “teardrop” tattoo the Leto Joker sports:
But what is the significance of a possibly “Robin” Joker in contemporary pop-culture? Well…
Let’s go over the “Aeons” theory of Thelema.
The Aeons of Isis and Osiris have just passed; we have just entered the Aeon of Horus. Each Aeon embodies a certain “energy” of the Age. The energy of the Aeon of Horus, according to Aleister Crowley, is:
“…the crowned and conquering child, who dieth not, nor is reborn, but goeth radiant ever upon His Way. Even so goeth the Sun: for as it is now known that night is but the shadow of the Earth, so Death is but the shadow of the Body, that veileth his Light from its bearer.”
Horus, in terms of the Trinity archetypes discussed earlier, is the next generation, the Hope of the next Age…at least, he should be that “Hope.” But what happens when that hope is corrupted? What happens to that Age?
Does it instead become the Age of Set?
Or does it become a “hybrid” Age—a “nervy,” rebellious, possibly morally ambivalent Age?
Does it instead become an Aeon of Horus-Set? (Horuset?)
And is this really the Age/Aeon we are in now? Is it an Age that, like Jason Todd, could go “either way?”
It’s funny…there is no greater Horus-like figure in pop-culture, I think, than Luke Skywalker. He is “the New Hope,” the fresh-faced boy.
And yet…the person who played Luke, Mark Hamill…
…his 2nd most famous role is that of the voice of the Joker.
(He even has the word “Arkham” embedded within his name, mARK HAMill.)
Anyway, what IS it about Robins and Jokers?
Maybe it’s just simple synchronicity.