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The Joker (Tangent DC Comics version) with a cartoonishly large mallet

Joker

(DC Tangent version)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

This version of the Joker is completely different from the one in the mainstream DC Universes. She appeared in a 1997/1998 DC Comics creative project called Tangent Comics.

Tangent Comics use well-known DC Comics character names, but in a completely different setting and for completely different characters. *This* Joker is thus an anarchistic heroine living on a Earth with a divergent history. She lives in a futuristic city built on, as she sees it, lies.

Though she wasn’t used much, this Joker had a clear potential.


Background

  • Real Name: Unrevealed
  • Alter-Ego: Mary Marvel, Lori Lemaris, Madame Christy Xanadu
  • Other Aliases: “Lady of laughter”, “Mirthful maiden of mayhem”, “Costumed queen of chaos”, “Clown princess of anarchy”
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Known Relatives: Unnamed parents (deceased), Mary, Lori, Christy (younger sisters, deceased)
  • Note: See the History section for more about the Joker’s Alter Egos and Known Relatives
  • Group Affiliation: Secret Six
  • Base of Operations: New Atlantis
  • Height: 5’4″ Weight: 105 lbs Age: 20s
  • Note: The design sheet lists her at 5’10” 120 lbs, but that doesn’t match the published art.
  • Eyes: Unrevealed Hair: Unrevealed


Powers & Abilities

The Joker is incredibly fast and agile, and a highly trained acrobat. Her speed and dexterity are very developed, like a stage magician or a quick-change artist, and she can perform small physical tasks in a flash.

One caption in Convergence lists her as possibly “hyper-athletic” but what she does is within the bounds of a top-shelf comic book acrobat.

She also seems extraordinarily intelligent, and a gifted actress and disguise artist capable of running 4 distinct identities. In these identities she is a superior technologist and inventor, a highly successful businesswoman, and an excellent investigative reporter.

The Joker is a cinematic computer hacker, and a sousveillance  expert. She has most of the authorities in town extensively bugged and surveilled.

It is possible that she has some sort of metahuman ability to run these 4 identities at once – for instance, perhaps she never sleeps. The conservative explanation is simply that she is that driven, like Batman (Bruce Wayne) – there are similarities between this Joker and Wayne.

Punchline

The Joker’s most visible gadget is her Punchline. This is a wand topped with a cartoon hand, which is fully articulated. The hand can be shot far away and draws a line stored within the haft.

The Punchline can be used as a mace, as a projectile (much like Daredevil’s billy clubs) or a grapnel with a swingline (as the cartoon hand grabs what it’s shot at). It can be stored up one of her sleeves, which includes an ejector and some reloads.

Joker (DC's Tangent Comics) fighting men in skeleton suits

The Joker is also fond of shooting the hand at people’s back so it lands softly on a shoulder and taps them with a finger.

The Joker travels remarkably quickly by swinging between building with her Punchline, like Spider-Man.

Other equipment

Her other sleeve holds a small arsenal on a series of straps :

  • Tyre-puncturing tacks
  • Wind-up novelty dentures that can bite fairly hard, though it’s more distracting than damaging
  • Pom-poms loaded with a dose of mace-like chemical
  • A 2 or 3 metres-long party horn dosed with the same chemical on its tip
  • Presumably other small projectiles such as smoke grenades (or rather, confetti bombs)

The Joker has her equivalent of the Batcave – with a powerful computer, media feeds, multiple technical workstations to build and repair her gadgets, test benches and firing ranges, some trophies (which look like large gadgets she used once in a particular caper, such as a giant troll doll  or a bumper car), etc.

Her equipment includes vehicles, but these seem to be commercially-available models she painted up to match her theme. One such vehicle was a small outboard boat – which, amusingly, had twin windshields evoking the Batboat of the Adam West era.

There is a reference to the Joker’s HQ having been built and programmed by somebody named Hal Jordan, upon whom the virtual intelligence running Joker’s mainframe is based.

Clowning around

An important edge is that the Joker secretly owns the ubiquitous Impulse cola vending machines. Though they work poorly at providing people with health-destroying beverages, they hold large secret compartments where the Joker stores all sorts of goofy custom gadgets.

Joker (DC's Tangent Comics) design sheet model

Since nobody pays any attention to Impulse vending machines and the Joker is so quick, the equipment will seem to appear from nowhere – as long as she has 1 or 2 seconds unobserved near a vending machine. She is also highly adept at planning her operations so they’ll take place near pre-stocked machines.

One presumes that her equipment includes a small remote compatible with the vending machines, particularly those rigged to eject their equipment.

Among the gadgets produced from these machines were :

  • A skateboard (possibly motorized) with a tiny elevated seat
  • The “lead-y bear”, a large teddy bear that increases its mass to about 50 lbs. when thrown. She uses it as a projectile to knock down and immobilize people
  • An accurate replica of a Winston Terminator handgun used by the police (and greatly resembling Deckard‘s pistol in Blade Runner). Pressing the trigger just results in a little “Bang” flag popping out the barrel.
  • An enormous spring propelling the armoured front door of the vending machine with enough force to knock out a low-powered superhuman
  • A one-shot focused electromagnetic pulse pistol to take out robots.
  • A torrent of foam to deter pursuit
  • A cartoonishly large mallet, which seemed to give off a shock wave on impact

One gets the impression that Impulse Cola machines all have a core equipment loadout, plus extra room for more specific equipment placed for a planned mission – and perhaps some additional equipment relevant to the specific location of the vending machine.

Furthermore, many Impulse vending machines include concealed surveillance equipment… including some of the machines within all NAPD precinct houses.

Service technicians working for Impulse (who may all be recruited among nuclear war victims) seem aware that the vending machines are tricked out, and to support the Joker.


The Tangent Earth

In this reality, the most easily identifiable point of divergence occurs during the 1940s. One of the American soldiers exposed to deadly radiation during atomic tests did not die – instead he mutated into a ghastly, superhumanly powerful form.

The setting supports both humans and animals being mutated into powerful forms, with genetically transmissible powers – Silver Age-style comic book radiation. However, the success rate is particularly low and the vast majority of irradiated subjects die of cancer, leukemia, etc.

Arthur Thompson was intensively studied, in the hope of developing a way for humans to survive radiation poisoning in case of a nuclear war. His existence was kept a secret.

During the Cuban Missiles Crisis , Thompson rebelled as he felt he should use his great power against the Soviets. During this altercation, he killed his handler. Crushed by guilt, he flew to Cuba to destroy the nukes there, but was misidentified as an incoming US missile.

This triggered a nuclear exchange. Florida, Cuba and nearby areas were destroyed, but the immensely powerful Thompson intercepted all other missiles, whether Soviet or American.

The metahuman age

The US rewrote history as an inexplicable Communist aggression stopped by unleashing the valiant A. ”Atom” Thompson at enemy missiles. The world carried on, and soon managed to forget about the dead and irradiated from the nuclear strike, treating them like a bad smell.

The Atom was propped up as a Great American Hero, and the public was fascinated by his metahuman powers. This had a huge impact on history, culture, and research. 35 years later, when the Tangent Comics take place, this Earth is markedly different from the real world.

There are many superhuman and “super-normal” costumed characters, the level of technology is markedly higher than of of the real world during the 2010s, etc. A lot of technology comes from work by US secret governmental conspiracy Nightwing, established to develop ways to keep metahumans under control.

For affluent persons in wealthy countries, the tech isn’t unlike “space cyberpunk” stories such as Blade Runner – for instance the exploitation of the solar system has started.

Cold War

The world is also still in the throes of the Cold War, and the societal dynamics and paranoia are in some ways closer to the 1960s than the 1990s.

The Việt Nam conflict was won in 1968, implicitly due to US backing of South Việt Nam – perhaps the American superhuman Captain Comet played a decisive role. However, there was another war in Czechoslovakia 6 months later, as the US responded directly to Soviet invasion (perhaps because they had more superhumans to throw into the fight).

The USSR used its Red Tornado viral weapon, killing Captain Comet along with with a large US military base. A new MAD  situation was reached when US Special Forces team the Metal Men captured an intact Red Tornado warhead, threatening to launch it on Moscow.

New Atlantis

The Joker lives in New Atlantis. This huge city’s main root is Atlanta, which wasn’t directly hit by the nukes. From there it spreads into the ocean over destroyed land. New Atlantis is meant to literally rise above the destruction and radiation as a symbol of hope and reconstruction.

The architecture of New Atlantis is based on gigantic neo-Roman columns that bear skyscrapers and futuristic structures high above the water. It is a particularly vertical sort of place.

There are impossibly long ramps between buildings to drive on, and public transit and freight is done via flying freighters. In some ways it is visually reminiscent of Mega-City 1 in classic Judge Dredd comics, though with a lot more art nouveau  flashbacks.

The waters under New Atlantis are called the Devil’s Archipelago, and teem with mutated sea life. A significant number have evolved into humanoid or semi-humanoid, sapient, tool-using lifeforms.

Nomenclature

The Tangent Earth has also been referred to as Earth-94.

When the multiverse was recreated after the New 52 events, Earth-9 was the one with the Tangent characters and setting – but how closely it resembled Earth-94 is unclear.

Predictably, the Tangent universe has been ravaged, destroyed, massacred, obliterated, etc. about… 4 times I think. Between the constant reality reboots and alterations, it is difficult to discern a coherent narrative.

As per the usual writeups.org policy, this profile focuses on events during which the Joker was physically present and/or that she clearly referenced.


History

The Joker is the daughter of 2 irradiated, disfigured survivors of the Cuban Missiles Crisis. She was born during the 1970s.

Her existence was highly unlikely – normally the children of people that badly hit are stillborn or live for but a few weeks. Perhaps hoping that they were different, the doomed couple attempted to have more daughters, but none of the Joker’s 3 younger sisters lived.

As she grew up, the orphaned lass grew dejected over the treatment of radiation victims. Often cruelly referred to as having the “Miami sunburn”, these disfigured and condemned persons were usually relegated to menial and ignorable positions.

Even the memorial to the survivors was conveniently forgotten, far below the gleaming spires of New Atlantis.

I started a joke

In unchronicled circumstances, the orphan built herself a strange life – or rather 4. To keep her sisters alive after a fashion, she ran 3 alternate identities using their first names :

  • Mary Marvel, a gifted technology student at Higher Atlantis University (an equivalent of MIT or Stanford)
  • Lori Lemaris, a sarcastically independent reporter at World’s Finest – the leading provider of news about metahumans
  • Christy Xanadu, millionaire entrepreneur and owner of Madame Xanadu’s – the city’s largest and best-reputed Virtual Reality facility

Joker (DC's Tangent Comics) leaping and catching a pistol

She also became the Joker, a colourful and seemingly unstoppable activist. The Joker benefited from her 3 other identities :

  • as Mary she had access to the knowledge and technical infrastructure to produce her unique Joker gadgets
  • as Christy she had the money to finance her activities
  • as Lori she had privileged access to information as a famous reporter

The flamboyant, acrobatic Joker became a popular figure in New Atlantis, particularly among the youth. She denounced and exposed the authorities as corrupt and ridiculous. She also fought crime and saved lives, though she usually arranged for the police to look like chumps as she left criminals tied up for them to find.

As Lori Lemaris, she was present when Wonder Woman (Wanda) crash-landed on Earth and demonstrated her power — and when the Doom Patrol came in to make its widely-derided prediction about the approaching doomsday.

Running joke

During her forays, the Joker discovered that a new officer on the force was the son of the soldier who had launched the missiles in 1962. Thinking that he might understand, she had a series of confrontations with him.

They did bond in a way. The officer carried the crushing guilt about what his father had done and could empathise with the Joker – and deduced the broad strokes of her origin. The Joker saved him from Big Barda, a criminal using Martian super-steroids, and later on from a malfunctioning OMAC police robot.

Joker also confronted a naïve youth movement led by demagogue Brother Power, who saw her as a leader revealing the absurdity of society. Pointing out that wanting an anti-authoritarian as a leader was stupid, the Joker ridiculed Brother Power and leapt away.

Sea Devils

Later on, sea devils — mutated aquatic life forms from the Devil’s Archipelago — made a deal with the governor of Georgia. They offered to defend New Atlantis against an incoming giant sea monster in exchange for weapons and a gravity bomb to kill the behemoth, since their capital city was also on the thing’s path.

Though the governor intended to betray the Sea Devils (as mutated aquatics were too reviled for him to openly support), the Joker popped in and revealed that she had recorded the entire conversation.

This forced Georgia to publicly acknowledge the sacrifice made by sea devils to defend New Atlantis.

The Hidden Half-Dozen

While investigating possible government malfeasance, the Joker ran into the masked killer vigilante Manhunter. The partnered up as they discovered an undersea lab complex.

Joker (DC's Tangent Comics) swinging through the air

As they discovered the global threat of Dr. Aquadus, they teamed up with disparate responding super-heroes – the Flash (Lia Nelson), Atom (Adam Thompson – grandson of the original), the Spectre (Taylor Pike) and Plastic Man (Gunther Ganz).

Atom proposed that they remain in touch to form a team when necessary, and the Joker christened the group the Secret Six (or alternatively the Hidden Half-Dozen). Though their operations are undocumented, they did set up satellite headquarters.

Convergence, Schmonvergence

Not too long after the Secret Six assembled, a version of Brainiac did… something that resulted in him having a copy of the city of New Atlantis, with its full population and the Six. This joined his collection of bottled cities from various continuities and time periods within various versions of the DC Universe.

His servant Telos had the various cities fight each other, announcing that he would destroy the losers. New Atlantis ended up pitted against a past version of Gotham City protected by the Detroit-era Justice League of America.

A booby-trap rigged by the Joker incapacitated the 3 most powerful JLAers in a stasis field, giving the S6 a clear upper hand. The rest of the JLA was forced to retreat and fight delaying action until Sue Dibny and the GCPD unexpectedly broke the stasis field – freeing the Martian Manhunter, Zatanna and Aquaman. The S6 were soon defeated.

Rise of the Ultra-Humanite

Months later, the revelation that the original Atom had been behind the destruction of Florida and Cuba triggered brutal changes. Opinion turned against metahumans.

A small cabal of influential Americans, calling itself the Justice League of America, decided to strike. They sent their own metahuman operatives against free agents such as the Secret Six, to bring the world back under human control.

Joker (DC's Tangent Comics) secret headquarters

Meanwhile, the time travellers of the Doom Patrol were captured by Josef Stalin – who had secretly become a vampire. Stalin spent most of his time in torpor, letting puppets rule but awakening from time to time to make sure that everything was going according to plan.

Stalin used a necromantic/technologic device on the Doom Patrol, but the intervention of the superhuman covert team Night Force, who had been chasing the Doom Patrol, triggered an accident. The Doom Patrol was merged into a being of world-destroying power, the Ultra-Humanite.

This creation resulted in a worldwide EMP, rendering most technology inoperative. New Atlantis, the city of the future, was hit particularly hard.

Joker’s wild

A Justice League strike team (Rip Hunter, Chemo, Teen Titan) had been tracking down the Atom (Adam Thompson) in New Atlantis when the EMP hit. They seized the occasion to kill the Atom, but the Joker intervened. Her gadgets being inert due to the EMP, the Joker was also nearly killed.

The Joker was saved by the arrival of her 2 sisters in their own Joker identity. The unconscious Atom was also successfully evacuated.

(The retcon about the Joker being actually 3 people comes completely out of the left field, contradicting previous accounts and weakening her motivation. Apparently, the goal of the retcon was just to make use of alternate costumes designed for the Joker for a few panels. How 3 sisters have 3 markedly different ethnicities and last names, and how an irradiated couple could have 3 kids rather than a single nigh-miraculous birth, is handwaved away.)

Joker-Tangent-DC-Comics-Acrobatics

When the Ultra-Humanite came to New Atlantis, he overwhelmed the Secret Six. Only Superman (Harvey Dent) was powerful enough, and he eventually destroyed the Ultra-Humanite on the Moon.

Superman then took over the planet (for its own good, of course). The Secret Six made an attempt to stop him, but were again overwhelmed. Superman picked the Joker (Mary Marvel) to make an example of, interrogating and killing her. The Joker (Lori Lemaris) was locked up and reeducated for 10 years.

Superman’s reign

In 2008, just as Lori was freed on parole, Earth-9’s Green Lantern was rejuvenated by the arrival of Flash (Wally West) and Green Lantern (John Stewart). Her magic power renewed, she resurrected Mary Marvel.

As the Joker, Mary joined a desperate attempt to free the Atom (Adam Thompson) but was promptly destroyed again by Superman (Harvey Dent).

Meanwhile Lori was recruited by Hex (Vincent Lord), a former Nightwing operative and part of a covert network to overthrow Superman. She, Plastic Man and Spectre were reunited, and joined a clandestine team called the Outsiders.

However, Lori refused to become the Joker again – she had changed too much, and couldn’t bear to even look at the costume as it reminded her of Mary Marvel. She adopted a completely different identity, taking the name and costume of the recently deceased Manhunter.


Description

One panel implies that the Joker is bald – perhaps from radiation damage. On the other hand she could simply be wearing a head net to facilitate the use of her wigs.

In her adventuring identity she wears a red bodysuit with alternating black and white diamond patterns, a blue vest with big puffy sleeves and bright yellow striped trim, and blue buccaneer boots. Her face is painted clown-white, with red lips and a black square over her left eye. A shaggy blue fright-wig tops her head.

Joker (DC's Tangent Comics) masks and wigs

Her voice is also distorted as the Joker, and the soles of her boots can change their treading to display letters. There might be a cybernetic interface involved, as the soles seem to display what she’s thinking about – at least in combat.

As to her alter-egos :

  • Lori Lemaris looks Asian or part-Asian, with brown eyes and black hair. She usually wears sharp business casual, and looks 5’6″ or so.
  • Mary Marvel is a diminutive, skinny White youth with enormous glasses and a mop-like non-haircut. She wears clothing that seems typical of students her age but is probably well out of fashion. She has a slight stutter.
  • Madame Xanadu is Black, with straightened hair. She wears a Kirbyesque metallic getup that seems made on Apokolips. She looks about 5’8″, and speaks very quietly.

Personality

The Joker is a mirthful, swashbuckling activist who exposes and ridicules the lies, injustices, hypocrisy and abuses of authority by the Powers That Be.

A large part of her motivation is the insistence that New Atlantis is a perfect city on the hill, a gleaming wonder, the greatest of humanity’s achievements – while it’s really built on mass death and ignoring the victims.

Joker (DC's Tangent Comics) - 3 sisters 3 costumes

The 3 Joker sisters (?)

While she’s an excellent fighter and will competently defend herself, the Joker isn’t really violent and doesn’t kill. She occasionally manhandles and steals from cops, but is very unlikely to hit them with anything other than delaying tactics. Likewise her sabotages are here to boldly expose hypocrisy, not do physical damage.

An important part of her edge is her extreme intelligence – the Joker’s modus operandi works because she correctly plans ahead by at least 3 moves. Her plans come together with superb timing, making her foes look like buffoons.

The Joker likes pranks, puns and laughing. She often acts like a mix of improv theatre actor, swashbuckler and comedian.


Quotes

(As a cop is banging on a vending machine that refuses to deliver the paid-for soda bottle, the Joker pops up out of nowhere) “So — you guys use less force on a soda machine than on protesting students ? Bet the 4 hospitalized kids think that’s hilarious !”

(In a cartoon voice) “Why, offisah Pupp… have I kimmitted a misdemenial ?”

(Addressing a man plotting betrayal) “Got a riddle for you, governor. Why don’t dictionaries, encyclopedias and thesauruses have blank pages ? Because they keep their words !”

(As unexpected gunfire tears through a map she’s holding) “Hey ! I *just* got the hang of *folding* this thing !”

(Huge, colourful wall graffitis with multiple arrows pointing at a door) “JOKER NOT INSIDE ! NOPE ! JOKER ANYWHERE BUT HERE ! Nada ! Trust me !”

(Zooming at high speed between 2 cops on a skateboard) “HAAAAAAAAAALLLLP ! I’m careening wildly out of control ! If only someone had a ridiculously overpowered firearm to blast this skateboard into toothpicks and ball bearings !” (grabs a large-calibre handgun from an officer before anybody can react) “Oh — here’s one ! Thank yew !”


Marvel Universe History

This Joker could be from Wakanda – another semi-futuristic setting with complex and oft-hypocritical politics. She might even benefit from minor superhuman enhancements akin to the heart-shaped herb of the Panther God, but derived from a trickster deity (perhaps a monkey, given her acrobatic style).

Since the retconned-in  introduction of the Black Panther (Shuri) was a bit sudden, a Joker firmly embedded in Wakandan political affairs as an outsider activist could have been the one to serve as an interim Black Panther instead of having to create a sister for T’Challa. Choosing the Joker to bear the mantle would no doubt be a complex gambit by T’Challa to stall his opponents while he’s away from politics.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Joker (Tangent)

Dex: 08 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Anti-authoritarian
Int: 08 Wil: 07 Min: 06 Occupation: Multiple
Inf: 07 Aur: 07 Spi: 06 Wealth: 011
Init: 027 HP: 060

Powers:
Superspeed: 01

Bonuses and Limitations:
Superspeed only for brief physical Tasks, and is a Skilled Power

Skills:
Acrobatics: 10, Acrobatics (Hard Target): 09, Artist (Actress): 08, Gadgetry: 07, Martial Artist: 05, Scientist (Computers): 07, Thief (Stealth): 07, Weaponry: 07

Advantages:
Area Knowledge (New Atlantis), Expertise (Surveillance), Headquarters (Expansive, and taken twice – once for her HQ, once for her Impulse machines), Lightning Reflexes,

Connections:
Police (Low – via listening devices, not actual contacts), Georgia gov’t (Low – ditto), Press (Low, as Lori), Higher Atlantis University (Low, as Mary), Business (Low, as Christy), Street (Low), Officer John Keel of the NAPD (Low), Impulse Cola field maintenance staff (High)

Drawbacks:
Mistrust, Secret Identity

Equipment:

  • Punchline [BODY 06, EV 03 (04 w/STR), Stretching: 02, Bonus: Includes a 4 APs swingline, Limitation: Stretching has no defensive application, and no fine manipulation].
  • Tacks [BODY 05, Ammo: 02, Grenade Drawback]. These’ll puncture non-armoured tyres.
  • Pom-Poms [BODY 01, Chemical attack: 05, Ammo: 01, Bonus: Chemical Attack has No Range but can be Combined with a punch]
  • Mechanical dentures [BODY 01, Stagger: 03, Grenade Drawback]
  • 2x 5 APs Omni-Gadgets up her sleeves

Impulse vending machines equipment:
The stats of the gadgets listed in the P&A section :

  • Lead-y bear [Stagger: 05]
  • Spring-loaded door [EV 09, Range: 00 and probably a Blindside]
  • EMP pistol [BODY 01, EMP: 07, Range: 01, Ammo: 01]
  • Foam screen [Fog: 06]
  • Cartoon mallet [BODY 06, EV 06, Mental blast (Area of Effect 0 APs): 04, Diminution: 04, Limitation: Diminution for mass only, not size, Note: Mental Blast has No Range but is Combined With EV – it’s a shockwave from when the mallet hits]

Design Notes

With this approach I’m assuming that the Gadgets placed in Impulse Cola vending machines aren’t Omni ones (or any Hero Point-driven variant) but something actually planned out and organized by the player. This seems to better match the way the Joker was originally presented.

The characterisation and assumed power level for the Joker was not exactly airtight (the project seems to have been chaotic). This profile uses the 1997 Joker issue as the authoritative material.


Sébastien Andrivet and REZCat

Source of Character: DC Comics’ Tangent Comics

Helper(s): Perry L. Holley, Alex Hunter

Writeup completed on the 19th of April, 2016.

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