6027 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

The Jester (Jonathan Powers) (Daredevil enemy)

Jester

(Jonathan Powers) (Part #1 -1960s/1980s)


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

Context

There are multiple characters going by “Jester”. A jester’s costume is after all much like a comic book costume.

On the other hand, they will get compared to stars like the Joker or the Green Goblin…

This Jester is from Marvel Comics. He first appeared in 1968, and is primarily a Daredevil villain. He’s a C-list street-level type with odd gadgets.

However, his core themes are surprisingly modern. You could make a case that him being C-list is because he was ahead of his time. Which is ironic since the character also thought he was an underappreciated visionary. 😺

Sequencing

This profile covers his “classic” era – 1968-1985. After that, he vanished until 2001.


Advertisement


Background

  • Real Name: Jonathan Powers.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: Occasionally runs his own crew.
  • Base of Operations: New York City.
  • Height: 6’2″ Weight: 190 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Brown.


Powers & Abilities

The late 1960s Jester is a superior physical specimen.

He intensively trained in athletics, gymnastics, fencing, hand-to-hand combat, high diving… Anything he might need to do his own stunts as a movie or theatre swashbuckling hero.

During his original appearance, he seemed almost on Daredevil (Matt Murdock)’s level. This is likely because Powers reached his physical peak early during Murdock’s career, but couldn’t maintain it. Or perhaps he had an accident or sickness ?

By the 1970s, he has become more of a schemer than a fighter.


Advertisement


Other skills

He also has a high level of intelligence.

The most visible application of this are his gadgets, detailed below. He mostly designs and builds them himself. The advanced parts — mostly robotics — are contracted from the Tinkerer (Phineas Mason).

He also is a connoisseur of toys. Powers knows a great deal about their history, rare and valuable models, and the like.

The Jester learned to use a very advanced video editing prototype, capable of splicing and smoothing the sound and image to make convincing (by 1970s standards) fake videos.

Gear

The Jester’s bizarre, toys-and-novelties-themed gadgets are a key part of his MO.

1968 gear

  • Sleep gas thrown pellets.
  • A weighted yo-yo. This hits about as hard as a nunchaku. Controlling the length of the string allows for hard-to-predict ranged hits.
  • A sharp fencing foil.
  • Marbles thrown on the floor. These do a great job at making people fall.
  • Electronic elf. This doll-sized robot is remote-controlled. It can walk, and has mini-boot-jets to make small jumps. It also has sonar scanners and crude “hands” that can open simple combination locks (such as a small safe’s).
  • A one-man pocket submarine looking like a giant bathtub toy.
  • Small robot soldiers looking like a cross between 1950s sci-fi space robots and “Army Men” figures. Their capabilities remain unrevealed.
  • A carton of popcorn. The fake kernels therein are filled with knockout gas. There seems to be a piston projecting the “popcorn” forward, making this gadget a surprise attack with a range of a few metres.
  • Cartoony one-man flying saucers, ridden by a Jester figurine. These are flying, self-aiming missiles that squirt a jet of liquid anaesthetic at their target.
  • A trick ping-pong ball. It is actually made of rubber, and gets bigger with every bounce. Maximum size is more than three metres tall. It also chases its target to pin them against a surface and suffocate them.
    It was vaguely reminiscent of Rover in The Prisoner. But faster and much bouncier.

The Jester (Daredevil foe) with his yo-yo

1976 gear

  • A sort of disintegrator pistol. This was reportedly derived from the one used by the original Foolkiller (Ross Everbest). The Jester never actually used it in combat, though.
  • Explosive marbles, powerful enough to kill a man at close range.
  • A white helicopter with logos showing his costumed face, and a rope ladder. Used to escape.
  • A spring-loaded fist worn over his actual hand, for a surprise ranged attack.
  • A short-range sleep gas jet hidden in his sleeves. One dose took Daredevil out.
  • A combination death trap/obstacle course complex. One suspects that it was originally built by Arcade, and Powers modified it to be Jester-themed. Details in the game stats section.
  • His yo-yo now has a sonic emitter, giving off painful frequencies to nearby persons. But even Daredevil could withstand the effect.

1981 gear

  • Sharpened fencing foil.
  • Slippery marbles.
  • Gas popcorn. It is also revealed that he uses nose filters to withstand accidental exposure to this weapon.
  • Weighted yo-yo.
  • Three robot henchmen that could project acid or heat from their arm cannons, and non-lethal electrical shocks from their eyes. They also could speak.
  • The henchmen could release model biplanes from their chest. These kept attacking using a drill mounted on the propeller.
  • Another getaway-helicopter-with-a-rope-ladder.

1985 assets

  • The Jester’s house was shown to have booby traps. Such as volleys of darts shot along corridors.
  • Three ex-convicts were also in for security. One had a sharpened foil, one had one of the 1981 model biplanes, and one had weighted juggling balls. Daredevil made short work of them.

Soundtrack

So it’s either a song from 1968, or a song about acting stardom… Let’s go with the second, because classic Kate Bush is a dang genius.

Available for download on Amazon .


History

For years, actor Jonathan Powers sought fame, acclaim and validation.

He appeared in a dozen movies. But these were all, in the parlance of the day, flopperoos.

Powers thought that his day had come when he played the lead in an off-Broadway revival of Cyrano de Bergerac.

(Cyrano is one of the biggest classics in French theatre. It was written in 1896/97. It’s a flashy, epic romantic dramedy. But it’s a demanding play. It has five acts, dozens of characters, thousands of verses, a battle scene, multiple sets, floofy costumes, etc..)

However, the premiere horribly tanked. Powers was abundantly booed. His performance was so bad that he was fired within seconds of the curtains falling.

Dude u doign it worng roflmao

Powers remained convinced that he was an acting genius. And that everyone else was an envious philistine.

He threw himself into physical training so he could portray epic action heroes. He ignored any advice about instead taking acting classes.

However, Mr. Powers barely got any role. The one steady gig he could get was at a low-brow off-off-off-off-Broadway comic theatre. He played the straight man whom the public delighted in seeing crudely humiliated.

Circa 1967, Powers blew a gasket. He walked off after punching out his employer.

Lessons learned

He now considered that what the public wanted was to cheer a flashy bully. Therefore, Powers created a new identity as the criminal Jester. As well as a bizarre themed arsenal.

Jester (Marvel Comics) (Daredevil enemy) (Johnathan Powers) fight toys

In 1968, the Jester launched a spectacular series of heists in New York City. It went unhindered, in part because Matt Murdock had temporarily retired his Daredevil identity.

The NYPD mobilised, but the Jester was too unpredictable.

A fellow of infinite jest

Corrupt Mayoral candidate Richard Raleigh then did a big speech promising to stop this new menace. But his goal was to reel in and hire Powers. The job was to sabotage the campaign of District Attorney candidate Franklin “Foggy” Nelson.

This led to a clash against Daredevil (Matt Murdock), with the Jester holding his own.

But in the meanwhile, Raleigh was slain by the Smasher a.k.a. the Man-Monster. The Jester aborted his scheme, and managed to flee from Daredevil.

Powers then decided to fake his own death to protect his identity. To kill two birds with this, he’d also make it look like Daredevil murdered him.

As Powers, he announced that he would dramatically reveal Daredevil’s secret identity on the G. Washington Bridge.

I chase the Devil

Powers lured Daredevil at the edge of the bridge by pretending to lose his balance. He then :

  1. Fought Daredevil in apparent self-defence before a crowd.
  2. Yelled that DD was trying to kill him.
  3. Threw himself into the Hudson River.
  4. Fled aboard a pocket submarine.
  5. Waited for a day, then hijacked a TV studio. As the Jester, he announced that he would bring the murderer Daredevil to justice.

His attempt at a citizen’s arrest narrowly failed. Daredevil escaped, and realised that Powers and the Jester were the same man.

Daredevil impersonated the Jester and gave a TV interview. Furious, the Jester rushed in. After a big fight, Daredevil prevailed and unmasked Powers on the air. This also proved his innocence.

Where does he get all those wonderful toys ?

In 1970, the Jester allied with Mister Hyde (Calvin Zabo) and the Cobra (Klaus Voorhees).

Jester (Marvel Comics) (Daredevil enemy) (Johnathan Powers) small robot

They’d rob the Guggenheim Museum  of rare toys. The Jester, as a toys expert, would then be able to properly fence them.

They then paid the owner of a seedy carnival to leak info about them. Meanwhile, they turned the carnival into a trap for Daredevil.

But their assaults and booby traps failed, and they were arrested.

Disinformation is about doubt, not truth

In 1976, the Jester was shown a prototype computer that could extensively doctor videos. He kidnapped and beat the inventor, then forced him to use his creation to create fake commercials.

Out of spite, he thus ruined Foggy Nelson’s reelection campaign for DA.

More fake footage was broadcast, showing :

  • Robert and John Kennedy still being alive.
  • That American soldiers had been hypnotised into believing in a non-existent war in Việt Nam.
  • A secret US invasion of Saudi Arabia.

Powers then murdered the kidnapped inventor. He no longer needed him for his campaign to sow doubt and mistrust.

(This storyline took place two years after the Watergate scandal . During this era, there was an unprecedented collapse in the confidence of the mainstream US public toward the authorities.)

Daredevil wants you for dead

The Jester then produced footage of Daredevil murdering NYPD officers on the street, and threatening to kill New Yorkers. This turned the police against the red-clad hero.

Daredevil Jester marvel comics video edit

The Torpedo (Brock Jones) also attacked. But DD convinced Jones to leave him alone.

By this point there was enough disinformation making the rounds that Powers could argue that he had been framed by Daredevil. Furthermore, he :

  • Procured a sort of LMD  to make it look like Daredevil had murdered the Jester. The fake corpse burst into flames before autopsy, though. It wasn’t realistic enough to pass the full procedure.
  • Set a trap, using the fake corpse as bait, that resulted in DD getting arrested.
  • Generated fake footage of DD spectacularly escaping from prison, but being recaptured by the Jester and cops.
  • Made a fake Presidential announcement about the NYPD and New York City’s super-heroes having gone rogue under Daredevil’s leadership. The “President” called for the New Yorkers to resist.
  • Allied with mobs to launch a major crime wave during that night. The Jester murdered the first mobster who disagreed to force the others into compliance.

(I’m detailing this storyline (by Marv Wolfman) since it exaggerates aspects of the mid-1970s enough that they resemble the 2010s and 2020s. It certainly suggests possibilities for modern Jester scenarios.)

There’s always a lynching

Only a small percentage of the citizenry believed the fake Presidential message. But that was enough to force the NYPD and super-heroes off the street for the night. To avoid shootouts.

Daredevil did try to stop the crime wave. But he was overwhelmed and captured. The Jester then put on a big show, hanging Daredevil in the street before the paranoid crowd. However, he lost control of the mob and was forced to retreat.

During the next meeting with the mob, Powers killed another boss with an explosive marble to maintain order. They thus remained at his side. But their activities alerted Daredevil and enabled him to find the Jester’s HQ.

Murdock was captured, but he overcame the Jester’s murder maze, and stopped Powers.


History (part 2)

In 1978, the Purple Man (Zebediah Killgrave) mind-controlled super-villains to fight Daredevil in an arena. The Jester was thus reunited with Mr. Hyde and Cobra, plus the Gladiator (Melvin Potter) making four.

Jester (Marvel Comics) (Daredevil enemy) (Johnathan Powers) lynching hanging

However, Daredevil threw Jester into Hyde. Hyde contemptuously slapped Power unconscious to clear his way. The Jester returned to prison.

Theatrical revenge

In 1981, Johnathan Powers made a deal with his cellmate Ace Taggert.

Director James Martin, who had fired Powers after the Cyrano disaster, was making his return to Broadway. Taggert would be Powers’ expandable patsy in humiliating Martin.

In his 1968 costume, the Jester took the premiere’s audience hostage. He forced them to applaud his performance, and to surrender their valuables. However, Daredevil and Moon Knight (Marc Spector) intervened, destroyed his robots and routed him.

The Jester thought that he was escaping. But the helicopter flying him out was actually piloted by Jean-Paul “Frenchie” Duchamp. Hanging from a rope ladder, the Jester was carefully landed amidst waiting police officers.

Foiling corrections

In 1985, the Jester escaped.

He had talked his way into being transferred to a low-sec pen, then to organise fencing lessons for the inmates. He paid one man to take his place.

With the fencing masks on, the guards realised the substitution too late.

Que dis-je, c’est un cap ?… C’est une péninsule !

Powers kidnapped the pretentious actor hired to play Cyrano, and replaced him during the play. He gave a magistral performance.

Daredevil jester marvel comics giant ping pong ball

However, Daredevil and the NYPD had been trailing him. But Murdock realised that a thunderous thespian  triumph would mean that the Jester wouldn’t return to crime.

He thus disguised himself as the Jester, leading the cops away so they wouldn’t interrupt the play to arrest Powers.

The premiere had been televised live, and apparently did a solid audience for filmed theatre. At the end of the play, Johnathan Powers gracefully surrendered and was arrested.

Later on

While Powers was retired as a villain, the Jester identity was revived by an admirer, Jody Putt. However, Putt’s career as the Jester was but a litany of failures.

Howbeit, the real Jester would return.


Description

It would make sense if Powers were 10-12 years older than Murdock. Enough to explain the loss of physical power, but not so much that’d it be visible in most art.

The costume with the checkered patterns is the one he debuted in 1976.


Personality

Jonathan Powers craves widespread recognition of his alleged superiority. At first it was about his acting. Then it shifted a bit to his physical power as an actor in action movies.

Jester (Marvel Comics) (Daredevil enemy) (Johnathan Powers) yo-yo dance

Eventually it became about being an infamous master criminal, a Napoléon of crime, a dreaded lord of the underworld.

The theme, the hook of the Jester is that the public are fools who only love all the wrong things. And cannot discern truth or talent, being endlessly hoodwinked by manipulators and not recognising alleged genius like Powers’.

Thus, his actions have a strong angle where they make a fool of everyone. He seeks to fool all the people all the time. And this is done through staging, acting, diversion, spin, fakery, framing, etc..

He also wants to make his recurrent opponents look like saps, stooges, the straight man. Like he was for years when his theatrical career had hit rock bottom.

Passions

The Jester always talks a mile a minute. In a grandiose, grandiloquent, grandiflorous (like, big and flowery) manner.

Most of his ramblings are about how he’s totally a genius, and everybody else is a cretin, and how he’s the greatest criminal ever, and how “Dumbdevil” will not defeat him, etc..

He’s also fond of theming his gadgets after his current costume. That often means a little figure of himself, or a logo with his masked face.

The Jester is also passionate about, and a connoisseur of, toys. It’s just a hobby of his, but it determined what sort of weapons he’d use. And thus shaped his villainous identity.

Descent into evil

In 1976, the Jester had reinvented himself as a murderous master manipulator. He used disinformation and fabrications to sow chaos and wreck everything.

He was filled with cruelty, maniacal intensity, and megalomania.

He’s a homicidal and bitter misanthrope, delighting in dissolving the bonds of society out of contempt and a thirst for dominance. Back then, that made him a Nixonian figure. That’s guilty, guilty, guilty !

Or maybe not

Curiously, the 1980s stories happen as if the extensive 1976 storyline had never taken place.

Furthermore, the Jester is now a stock costumed criminal. His plots no longer rely on disinformation, and he’s roughly as threatening as… say, the contemporary Riddler. And then he reforms.

It’s like there are three tracks for the Jester :

  1. The 1968 mastermind, who descends into the 1976 mastermind.
  2. The random costumed bloke who appears in all other stories.
  3. The 1985 reformed bloke, an evolution from previous events.

No-Prize Hypotheses 

Since Powers doesn’t seem well, he might have a comic book version of a bipolar disorder.

The egomaniac phases would be behind his two main storylines and the 1985 reform. The depressive phases, where he’s just going through the motions, would be behind the more perfunctory appearances.

Another traditional Marvel explanation is that the perfunctory appearances were by an impostor from Earth-A. This alternate Earth has a sort of tourism industry where people can pass themselves for their Earth-616  equivalent.

Heh, perhaps Earth-616 Jonathan Powers met with Earth-A Jonathan Powers when tracking down the imposter. And met a version of himself who was a brilliant stage actor but a so-so criminal.


Quotes

“Within a few short months, I have become the greatest criminal success in the nation ! But, for the Jester… this is only the beginning ! With my superb skills… my titanic talents… I’ll reach the most dizzying heights of all ! Never has a dedicated arch-criminal been endowed with the background, the natural genius that I myself possess ! Here, among my innocent-looking, specially-modified toys I am ready to launch a crime campaign the likes of which the world has never known !”

“Don’t shoot [me] ! The sound of gunfire offends my ears ! Which is why I prefer more silent methods — such as this !” (THUP !)

“That’s right ! Daredevil, that crooked murderer ! He rigged that whole fiasco which made it look like I was a crook and not him. Remember that he tried to kill me, and then convinced the cops that I was trying to fake my own death ! But the truth is now out, and that scarlet clown is finally shown for what he truly is — a black-hearted killer.”

“Lovely ! LOVELY ! It’s all worked out now… the final subtle details are set in place. The time has come for my newest spectacular to make its debut. Eat your heart out, Cecil B. , ’cause after tonight’s little spot showing yours truly slashing my scarlet-clad sap into riotous red ribbons… there will be no one left to deny… THE JESTER’S THE GREATEST CRIMINAL GENIUS OF ALL !”

“If laughter is what the public wants — laughter at the expense of someone else — then I’m going to provide it for them… in a manner that will make me the greatest star of all !”


Sharing



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Jester (1968)

Dex: 06 Str: 04 Bod: 05 Motivation: Power
Int: 05 Wil: 06 Min: 04 Occupation: Criminal
Inf: 05 Aur: 05 Spi: 04 Wealth: 006
Init: 017 HP: 050

Skills:
Acrobatics: 05, Artist (Physical acting): 04, Gadgetry: 05, Martial artist: 07, Vehicles (Land): 04, Weaponry (Melee, Missile, Exotic): 07

Advantages:
Connoisseur (Toys only), Headquarters (Expansive).

Connections:
Underworld (Low).

Drawbacks:
SIA toward Megalomania, MIA toward Ranting.


That joke was better the first time

The Jester was markedly more adept, physically, at that point.

I am assuming that Daredevil — then in the fourth year of his career — had about 08 APs in both DEX and Martial Artist.

This is tentative. Ideally we’d already have benchmarks for late 1960s DD but heh, life. Don’t talk to me about life.


Jester (1970s/1980s)

Dex: 05 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Power
Int: 04 Wil: 04 Min: 04 Occupation: Criminal
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 04 Wealth: 005
Init: 013 HP: 025

Skills:
Acrobatics: 04, Artist (Physical acting): 04, Gadgetry: 05, Vehicles (Land): 04, Weaponry (Melee, Missile, Exotic): 06

Advantages:
Connoisseur (Toys only), Headquarters (Expansive).

Connections:
Underworld (Low).

Drawbacks:
MIA toward Ranting.


Primary equipment (1968)

  • Weighted yo-yo [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 05), Stretching: 00, Limitation: Stretching has No Fine Manipulation, Descriptor: Blunt].
  • Sleep gas pellets (x5) [BODY 01, Knockout gas: 07, Grenade drawback].
  • Marbles (x2) [BODY 01, Stagger: 12, Notes: Stagger only works on targets stepping on hard and even ground ; Stagger is resisted by Joined and Growth ; RAPs from Stagger fade at 4 RAPs per Phase (plus any Dice Action)].
  • Popcorn carton [BODY 01, Flash: 07, Ammo: 02, R#2, Limitation: Flash has a Range of but 00; Flash is gas, and is resisted by Sealed Systems and Systemic Antidote rather than Shade].
  • Powers used nose filters not to be taken down by his own popcorn gas [BODY 01, Sealed systems respirator only): 04, Miniaturisation: 03].

Secondary equipment (1968)

  • The Jester was often driving downtown. The general lines of the car he’s first seen using are reminiscent of a first gen Dodge Charger, but it’s not detailed at all.
  • Sharpened foil [BODY 02, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 05), Descriptor: Piercing].
  • Electronic elf [DEX 01 BODY 01, Jumping: 00, Shrinking: 05, Thief (Locks & Safes): 05, Note: Shrinking is Always On and Already Factored In (land speed is minus 2)].
  • Pocket submarine [STR 02 BODY 04, Sonar: 04, Swimming: 03, Water freedom: 02, R#02].
  • Flying saucers [BODY 01, Poison touch (Bashing): 06, AV 04, Flight: 05, R#02, Grenade drawback, Limitation : Flight can only be sustained for four Phases (-2)].
  • Ping-pong ball [DEX 05 STR 05 BODY 05, Running: 05, R#02; Grenade Drawback, Limitation: Running can only be sustained for five Phases, at which point the ball stops (and presumably deflates)].

1976 equipment

  • Weighted sonic yo-yo [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 05), Sonic beam: 02, Stretching: 00, Bonus: Sonic beam can be Combined With EV, Limitation: Stretching has No Fine Manipulation, Descriptor: Blunt].
  • Explosive marbles (x3) [BODY 02, EV 06, Grenade Drawback].
  • SPRING-LOADED FIST [BODY 02, EV 05, Stretching: 01, Grenade Drawback, Limitation: Stretching has no defensive component].
  • GAS JET IN SLEEVES [BODY 01, Poison touch: 08, Grenade Drawback, Bonus: Poison touch is its own AV, and is often a Blindside Attack ; Limitation: Poison touch is a gas, and is resisted by Sealed Systems and similar measures].

1981 equipment

The robot henchmen’s arm cannon could cut through a door (Heat vision: 05 ?). They had BODY 05.

The toy biplanes had DEX 05 BODY 01 Claws: 03. At least one also exploded on contact (EV 07). They presumably could fly for five Phases or so.

1985 henchmen

Three basic thugs with 005 HPs.

  • One had a rapier. Weaponry (Melee): 03.
  • One had one of the planes above.
  • One could juggle weighted balls. Weaponry (Missile): 04, Artist (Juggling): 03. The balls have EV 03, Ammo: 12, Dart Bonus.

The 1976 deathtraps

This murder maze is plunged in near-darkness. It featured :

  • A giant jack-in-the-box with the Jester’s costumed head. This is just for intimidation.
  • Stairs that turn into a frictionless ramp. The slide sends the person toward a giant Jester face with enormous steel fangs, that close on them. Cannonballing forward to get past the teeth in time is a 07/07 DEX or Acrobatics roll. If the victim can see in the dark, lower the OV/RV by one CS. Otherwise, the attack is Claws: 10.
  • Manacles that silently raise from the floor and grab the ankles. This is Glue: 07 that attacks STR/STR, unless the target has Danger Sense (even Daredevil didn’t sense these coming) in which case it’s DEX/STR. The manacles have BODY (Hardened) 04.
  • The manacles hold the victim in place as a Jester-theme squad of three riflemen and one drummer comes in. The riflemen have DEX 02 STR 02 BODY 02, Weaponry (Firearms): 03 and pump-action shotguns. The danger comes from the manacles’ Glue, really. And the darkness.
  • A choice between two doors. The door Daredevil picked had a spring-activated trapdoor behind it, same check as with the giant head’s jaws.
  • The final door has huge “FREEDOM THIS WAY OUT” neon signs pointing at it. But the doorknob is electrified with a killing charge (Lightning: 09 ?). The door only has a BODY of 03, though.

Design Notes

As often in DCH, some of the non-lethal attacks like the marbles or the popcorn use unintuitive Powers. As usual, it’s because I’m modelling their observed effects, not their in-story description.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Comics.

Writeup completed on the 1st of March, 2020.

Writeups.org is a non-commercial, community site

You can learn more with the writeups.org FAQ.