Something weird happened recently in the world of Mortal Kombat. Usually, when new DLC characters are announced, the ever-loving fanbase of this wacky series gets nothing but hyped out of their minds. But this time, there was quite a bit of social media consternation. This one wasn’t upset over a particular character choice, however. Indeed, this DLC addition is one of the most popular and enduring characters, and one that already has a healthy history with NetherRealm. The gags, jokes, memes, and confusion are all stemming from the character’s design. Let’s talk about why people are scratching their heads over the latest incarnation of DC Comic’s The Joker.
The Joker was revealed for Mortal Kombat 11’s first wave of DLC characters, which also includes the likes of Spawn and The Terminator. The series has been no stranger to goofy guest characters since Mortal Kombat 9, and this one is certainly no exception. But while almost everyone has been plenty excited about Spawn and Terminator despite their frankly cliché presence in video games over the years, the Clown Prince of Crime has inspired a lot of, well, wacky responses. Despite The Joker’s ubiquitous popularity across almost all of pop culture, it seems like NetherRealm’s design team simply missed the mark in appealing to its own audience.
This version of The Joker is weirdly clean cut, with a hair style that looks like something you’d see on a bunch of normal dudes walking down the street. His outfit seems pretty mundane too, and the most common gag is that this guy looks like an average Joker cosplayer you’ll run into at a local convention. Other comparisons have been drawn to alt-right nerds (again, the hair and clean cut dress style), and even one of the more well-known DC Universe porn parodies.
In looking around at these reactions, and laughing along of course, I wondered what happened here. Obviously, something like a character design is inherently subjective, but it seems so odd that one of the most easy to please fanbases in video games is rejecting this one so thoroughly. After doing some light internet research, I’ve seen the suggestion that this Joker was rushed out of the gate a little early, due to some licensing issues with another planned character.
For a while, the rumor rumblings indicated that Ash Williams, the famous boomstick and chainsaw wielding anti-hero from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series, was on the way to Mortal Kombat 11. Bruce Campbell did some teasing of his own, and some datamining led to other traces of evidence this was going to happen. But then, things went quiet. Around the time Nightwolf was revealed, series lead Ed Boon noted that DLC delays were happening due to reasons outside his team’s control. Around the same time, we all learned that Bruce Campbell was officially retiring the Ash character, the Ash vs the Evil Dead show was being canceled after a few seasons, and that the actor’s final obligation is a video game project that has yet to be officially revealed.
If this is true, the running theory is that The Joker was planned for a later batch of DLC characters, and that he was bumped up the production line (so to speak) to fill in a hole left by Ash. Due to talks breaking down or some other issue related to the Evil Dead license, it seems like NetherRealm may have had the rug yanked out from under it. That could explain this Joker’s relatively mundane and ill-fitting design, especially compared to NetherRealm’s other, edgier takes on the character from past games.
Ultimately, it’s still everyone’s favorite DC villian, and there’s no doubt the tech wizards at NetherRealm will have plenty of personality and style injected into his moveset. And this will be Joker’s first time actually drawing blood, which is notable as well. We’ll see how it ends up–perhaps further changes to the design will be made, or it will simply end up looking better in the actual game. Either way, you can always go back to Injustice 2 and its extensive customization options to get your edgy Joker fix.