DC Comics teased a single picture this week, under the title “What’s New in The New 52 – Joker’s Daughter?!” (I’ve put the full picture below the jump.) And while a lot of you are probably thinking “ugh, what a trite idea for a female character,” I was thinking “Oh, neat, are they really going to bring back Duela Dent?
Now at this point some of you are probably going “Dent? Like… Harvey Dent? And Duela is “two”… but she’s the Joker‘s daughter?”
Yes. Come, lets talk about weird shit in comics, and a strange female character who maybe is getting a comeback, who knows?
Let’s put this out there first: there are a lot of Batman villains who got one, maybe two shots at becoming characters that remained in the pop culture mind, and then dropped off the face of the Earth. A lot of them deserved it. This is why nobody knows who King Tut is if they haven’t watched the 1960’s Batman television show, which, to its credit, is the only reason anybody today knows who the Riddler is. Which is not to say that villains can’t get a second chance: Mr. Freeze, for example, never really caught on until Batman: The Animated Series scrapped his jewel thief identity to give him a tragic motivation and a frozen wife. To sum up: superheroes get a lot of crazy villains.
Duella Dent’s first appearance was definitely one of those. She debuted in Batman Family #6, published in July of 1976, as an antagonist for Robin and Batgirl. Here’s the cover:
Ahh, Silver Age crack at its finest. (Although this was during the period where Barbara Gordon split her identity between Batgirl and serving in Congress, so that was pretty great.) Duela’s schtick was, well, taking the schtick of other supervillains and claiming to be their daughter while committing crimes. During her first issue she maintained she was the daughter of no less than the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, Catwoman, and Scarecrow (under the unambiguously awesome name “Scarecrone”). She was eventually revealed to only actually be the daughter of Harvey Dent, Two-Face. From Wikipedia:
Creator Bob Rozakis stated, “It didn’t take too long to decide whose daughter she would turn out to be. After all, the only married villain was Two-Face. I convinced Julie (and associate editor E. Nelson Bridwell, the acknowledged keeper of DC’s historical consistency) that Harvey and Gilda Dent had a daughter, that Harvey had been disappointed because she wasn’t a twin, and that they’d named her Duela.”
And before you start talking about Mary Sues, if I have to sit through the glorified Damian Wayne, son of the Batman, I would like, nay, I will demand the legitimacy of the Joker’s daughter.*
Now, I’ve never actually read Batman Family #6, so I can’t tell you if the original appearance of Duella was a story about a girl so desperate for an identity of her own that she would suck up to any villain in Gotham; or one about a woman so impressed by Gotham’s cast of rogues and their dedication to mayhem that she set about emulating their work in the same way that many of Batman’s sidekicks and partners do. But, as you might have guessed from my second option there, I can see potential in the concept. Duela was later occasionally incorporated (as a good guy whose ideas on her parentage were delusional) into the Teen Titans under the codename Harlequin (it’s important to remember that her character predates the creation of Harley Quinn as the Joker’s girlfriend by decades), and would make other appearances around the DC Universe that were muddled by alternate universe and time travel shenanigans of the first order.
Duela’s return to the DC universe would be interesting to say the least. There are a lot of fans wondering exactly how and when the Joker, and his face, will be making a comeback after Scott Snyder‘s Death of the Family. Oh, you hadn’t heard about the modern version of the Joker who wears his own flayed-off face as a mask? Joker’s face, and the rest of him, were lost at the end of the story arc, and if I can think of one way to bring a bit of him back without the pressure of having to live up to the best Joker story told in several decades, it would be to have somebody who just needs an excuse to sow some mayhem find it… as you can see in the picture above.
And yeah. I wouldn’t mind seeing a madwoman who’s looking to join Batman’s rogues gallery at any cost give the Batfamily a run for their money. Ideally, as far as gender representation in comics goes, we should be creating female characters who are not derivative of male characters but rather have their own identities. But Duela’s a legacy character who I’ve always thought had more potential than she was treated with, and if there’s one thing that could be really scary, it’d be a person striving to embody everything the people in Batman’s rogues gallery represents: madness, fear, cunning, intelligence, and murder.
*Jill, a big Damian fan, tried to talk me out of this sentence, but even setting aside my dislike for the character, I think the argument holds.