Friday, August 2, 2013

Bill Finger’s Coney Island contribution to Joker

Multiple sources, including Bill Finger’s son Fred and Carmine Infantino, claimed that Bill derived some inspiration for the Joker from a grinning figure at Coney Island, in Brooklyn—specifically at an amusement park called Steeplechase Park.

Here is how I think the clown went down, though the proper order of the first two is lost to time:

  • Bill mentioned the grinning character he saw at Coney Island to the Bat-team (Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson).
  • Bill showed the team a photo book featuring Conrad Veidt in the 1928 film The Man Who Laughs.
  • Jerry designed the Joker caricature that would appear on his signature playing/calling card.
  • Bill wrote the first Joker story in late 1939 or early 1940. The character looked primarily like Veidt with an aura of the Steeplechase mascot.

But I’m not aiming to start a debate. Rather I recount this simply to set up an image that I was jazzed to see.

DC Comics will be reintroducing a Harley Quinn series. And the first promo (possibly cover) image released features a fun nod to history that many will not pick up on…but those who do will, well, grin.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Awesome article! So true, I am a native to NYC, grew up near Coney, and am surprised to realize that not many people know much about Coney Island's rich history or influence.