clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Alexis, aka Punchline, sits on her bed in her dorm room, smoking a cigarette. She’s wearing a Joker t-shirt and purple combat boots with green laces, Her wall is plastered with posters of the Joker. “No $#@&,” she says, in The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular, DC Comics (2020). Image: James Tynion IV, Mikel Janín/DC Comics

Filed under:

The Joker’s new partner in crime is a former campus troll

Her name is Punchline, she’s the anti-Harley Quinn

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

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

“I’m the punchline,” snarls Punchline. In her full costume she wears a ripped purple shirt and tights, along with a black jumper, gloves, and pink and red clown makeup, in The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular, DC Comics (2020). Image: James Tynion IV, Mikel Janín/DC Comics

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.

Harley Quinn, to Punchline: Wait, why are you dressed like that? Catwoman: She’s Joker’s new girlfriend, Harley. Punchline: I’m his partner. From Batman #92, DC Comics (2020). Image: James Tynion IV, Guillem March/DC Comics

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.

“A few years from now, after you have a couple dozen come-to-god moments and do some good long cries in the shower,” Harley tells Punchline, “I’m going to buy you a frozen margarita, and we’re going to chat, girl to girl.” But in the meantime, she’s going to have to kick her ass, in Batman #92, DC Comics (2020). Image: James Tynion IV, Guillem March/DC Comics

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.


The Joker: Year One will reveal a new secret history of Batman’s archfoe in 2024


Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad game looks a lot more fun now


Green Lantern writer to donate royalties in response to anti-gay backlash

View all stories in DC