Batman: How Flashpoint Twisted Martha Wayne Into the Joker
Amer Sawan
Martha Wayne Joker header
Martha Wayne Joker header
When the Flash went back in time to save his mother's life in Flashpoint, the act came at a greater cost than he could ever have imagined. The ripple effect changed so many of the DCU's historical events that the new timeline was thrown into complete chaos. But it dealt a far worse blow to the Wayne family, altering things so that young Bruce Wayne was the one killed by Joe Chill. This had an adverse effect on his parents. Thomas became a lethal version of Batman, but Martha suffered an even worse fate. The trauma of losing her only child turned her into this world's Joker, and as twisted as she became her story was still rooted in tragedy.
As detailed in Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance, the story began the same as in the mainstream universe, with a fateful night in Crime Alley that would change Gotham City forever. Only in this world, it was Bruce who was shot dead by a criminal. His parents tried to save his life, but it was to no avail. Bruce died in his father's arms and Martha missed her son's last moments of life, as she had fled the scene to find help.
Flashpoint Joker
Flashpoint Joker
The Waynes were forever changed by the loss. Thomas tried to move on, but he had difficulty doing so without Martha, who was suffering far worse than anyone realized. Months of therapy after the tragedy hadn't been helping at all and Thomas was getting desperate. He had lost his son, he couldn't lose his wife too. In desperation, he promised he would find and kill Joe Chill to hopefully provide both of them some measure of peace. Unfortunately, the woman he loved was already gone forever.
Thomas kept his promise, finding Joe Chill and beating him to death. When he returned home to tell Martha the news, he found that something was terribly wrong with her. She had cut into her face, giving herself a morbid smile just as her husband had earlier requested. Seeing that Martha had completely broken down, Thomas had her institutionalized, watching as she was dragged away by orderlies, all the while laughing hysterically.
This wasn't the end of her relationship with Thomas though. Martha developed a new persona for herself, the Joker, that she used to torment her husband, whom she had come to hate for failing to save their son's life. Martha became a constant reminder of everything Thomas had failed to be at the most critical moments of his life and she made things worse by racking up a body count. All the while, both still suffered silently over the loss of their child.
Martha's origins as the Joker, while undoubtedly disturbing and heartbreaking, make her a much more tragic figure than the main version of the Joker. When most think of his origins, they recall his one bad day. But the thing about the Joker is that he never gives a definitive answer about his origins. The tragic loss of his wife and unborn child could very well be a fabrication meant to justify decades of horror.
But Martha's story is not a lie or delusion. It's a part of who she is in that world. As much as she laughs at the absurdity of the world, inside she is broken and weeping for a child lost and life that she once had. The one person she could have turned to for support is now the person she hates most in the world. She is completely alone with only her grief and misery to keep her company.