Today, DC Comics released images teasing an upcoming new Batman villain who will appear in one panel in Batman #89 (releasing on February 19) and in Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #3, releasing the following week.
This new villain, named Punchline, will be the Joker’s girlfriend and the new number one henchwoman. It has also been hinted that she’ll play a bigger role in the upcoming Joker War arc, which is solicited for April 2020. You can find the full details at DC Comics’ blog, including character designs by artist Jorge Jimenez.
On Twitter, writer James Tynion IV has teased that Punchline will very much be a villain in tune with Joker’s sadism and evil. “If Harley was a twisted angel on Joker’s shoulder,” Tynion writes, “Punchline is the devil.” He also teased that Harley Quinn and Punchline will battle each other at some point.
With Harley Quinn having grown into her own character in recent years, it makes sense that Punchline joins the roster as the Joker’s girlfriend. Harley is very much depicted as her own one-woman show these days. This has never been more evident than in her most recent film portrayal, Birds of Prey And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, where the Joker is referenced as little as possible.
That stated, it makes sense not to tie Harley Quinn down and relegate her to the role of a secondary henchwoman anymore. That dynamic between Harley and Joker has been played out over and over again since her incarnation in 1992. Plus, Harley fans cherish her as a symbol of empowerment, which furthers the need to separate her from the Joker.
Punchline, on the other hand, offers a wonderful opportunity to retread that well of stories we saw all too often with the Joker and Harley without having to involve Harley at all. It seems like this is the best route for DC Comics to have its cake and eat it, too.
As much as DC is touting the creation of this character and seemingly patting itself on the back for introducing a new villain (new villains get created all the time and often forgotten; see Mr. Bloom for example), it remains to be seen if Punchline will land with readers. This begs two questions. Will she stick? Are there Batman readers clamoring for Joker to have a girlfriend again?
We’ll know the answer to these questions in time. At the moment, all we can hope for is a new villain who delivers the chaotic clown-age DC is promising.