When DC Comics went on pause this spring, the company’s big character reveal went on pause, too. But now she’s here: Punchline, a new villain created by writer James Tynion IV and artists Guillem March and Carlo Pagulayan.
Punchline is the Joker’s new second in command — dark and scary where Harley Quinn was cheerful and loud — and she’d only been teased with brief appearances in a few Gotham City books. But this week we finally got a one-two Punchline punch, with her origin story in The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular, and her first encounter with Harley Quinn in Batman #92.
So what I’m saying is, that’s a long time to wait for the Punchline. HEYOOOOOO.
Punchline is helping the Joker with his latest plan
The Joker seems to be reviving an old scheme from the Designer, a mysterious mastermind who years ago brought several of Gotham’s biggest supervillains together with a promise of helping them up their game. Everybody thought the Joker killed the Designer, but the truth might be very different — and now it looks like the Designer’s schemes are being implemented anyway.
But we now know that before Punchline donned her makeup and gained the Joker’s confidence, she was a college student named Alexis. In the Joker Anniversary special, we see her in her college dorm, as her dean gives her a heart to heart. Specifically, he wants to know why, on a “Dress Like a Hero Day” created to lift spirits after a deadly Joker gas attack, she decided to wear a Joker t-shirt. She’s, unsurprisingly, not receptive.
“You came because this scares the $#@% out of you, and you know it’s dangerous,” she says, but he wants to believe that she’s just lashing out, being ironically destructive. He doesn’t want “to admit that I might actually believe something dangerous. That I might not be the only one. That it might have been growing right under your nose all this time.”
Like any good supervillain, she outlines her ideological manifesto as she poisons him with Joker gas, the recipe for which she got off the internet. After he dies, she reveals the Joker was observing the entire scene. It was a test, to see if she was “serious” enough to join his organization, and she passed with flying colors.
So that was the first time she met the Joker, but how about the first time she met Harley Quinn? That happened in this week’s Batman #92, when Catwoman and Harley ran into Punchline as they all showed up to rob the same underground supervillain bank.
Are the Joker and Punchline dating, like Joker and Harley once did? Well, they haven’t smushed faces on panel or professed their love yet — so there are multiple ways to take Punchline’s declaration that they’re partners, here. But considering that she’s college age, I hope not. I know the Joker’s a bad guy, but Harley had at least gotten her PhD-MD.
Either way, Harley knows all about making yourself believe that you matter to a maniacal narcissist.
Which is to say, she’s sympathetic, but not to the point where she’s gonna lose a fight. I mean, come on. This is Gotham City.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.