|Joker and Herley Quinn
Engaging in a good old bit of ultra violence
I feel sorry for Jared Leto. Sure, he's a fine actor, and I have no doubt that he will knock it out of the park when Suicide Squad finally hits our screens, but he does have the monumental task of following the legendary performance of Heath Ledger as Joker. What's more, the visual design of his new Joker has proven to be somewhat controversial, accused of trying too hard and being over-stuffed with dumb tattoos, shiny grills, and not being timeless or classic in its outlook. I hold my hands up right now - I am one of the people who shares this view. I grew up watching Cesar Romero camping it up alongside Adam West and Burt Ward, and I remember the jolt that I got when I first witnessed Jack Nicholson turn the character into a real menace. But Ledger did something unexpected and extraordinary with the character, delivering a performance so good that the hardcore of Batfans were even able to forgive the potentially risky design decision in The Dark Knight (the comic book Joker traditionally has bleached white skin and green hair following an incident with a vat of toxic chemicals, but Ledger's Joker was a real departure: A man with a Chelsea Grin wearing war paint).
When the chance came for me to create my own Joker to accompany Harley Quinn, my gut reaction was (like most people these days) to splat some face paint on a male model and go for the Heath Ledger look. It's become the "go to" look for most Joker cosplay and photoshoots. But then I paused, and thought about arguably THE greatest Joker of all time, which is easily lost amid all the movie stars and big films. If you are a big Batman fan then you will no doubt already know which version I am going to say. And you're right - it is the version drawn by Brian Boland for Alan Moore's 1988 classic graphic novel The Killing Joke. I wanted to make THIS Joker.
It was a far more difficult option in terms of makeup and effects. Ledger's Joker makeup is popular because it is beautiful, classic, and scary, but it is also pretty easy to do. The comic book Joker is a bit more of a challenge given the traditional slender anatomy, large chin, angry brow, and of course that vile grin. Half the challenge would be to find and cast a male model who fits this sort of profile, the rest is down to my makeup which would need to extend beyond just his face. I chose to give my Joker no shirt or vest in order to show off the fact that his whole body is white. Comic book purists will surely appreciate that, right?
Aedea Lynch made a perfect Joker. I'm not kidding: he was PERFECT! Aside from the fact that he is littered with interesting tattoos, all of which had to be painted out with layer after layer of body paint, Lynch had the exact right look to play the Clown Prince of Crime.
Faye Miller's Harley was a much simpler affair to create. Based on the new Suicide Squad movie, rather than the more traditional comic book cat-suited female jester, the most difficult part of her character was creating an ultra-violent weapon from a wooden baseball bat. It was strewn with graffiti, fixed with real razor blades, screw heads, chains and nails, and was probably actually illegal to own in that state. The thing was lethal.
The shoot was done with a combination of colour gels, soft boxes, and digital backdrops. During the shoot, I applied blood to the characters. I'm a horror photographer, what do you expect? A lot of cosplay shoots will show the characters in dramatic fighting poses, but I never forget that fighting and weaponry are very violent. Violence has consequences. In this case, the violence was implied as a frenzy as they both got utterly covered in their victim's blood. Showing this visceral consequence made the violence more unpalatable. Harley's modded-out baseball bat isn't just a cool fashion accessory, but a vicious tool designed to inflict extreme bodily trauma. Using it will be messy! Which is what makes it fun for me to shoot.
Thanks for reading folks. Keep loving horror :)