The People’s Joker Has Arrived to Give Superhero Movies a Much-Needed Shakeup

She’s da Joker, baby!

Altered Innocence

The DC Universe may be getting a big reset courtesy of James Gunn, but if you want to see a fresh take on its heroes and villains, you don’t have to wait for him to finish his Superman reboot. An experimental superhero movie has survived a potentially fatal scandal, and now it’s set to hit theaters.

The People’s Joker, the debut feature from Emmy-nominated editor Vera Drew, is a video-collage-style coming-of-age story that uses the Clown Prince of Crime to tell a story about gender discovery and a love of performing. Drew plays Joker the Harlequin, a trans woman who forms an underground comedy ring in a world where comedy is forbidden. If that sounds a little confusing, the trailer should clear things up, or at least pique your interest.

This movie almost didn’t happen. The People’s Joker premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, but after “an angry letter” from Warner Brothers over rights issues, all other screenings were pulled, and the possibility of a distributor risking legal issues by picking up the project seemed slim.

But in December 2023, queer-focused distributor Altered Innocence signed on, and after all the controversy, there’s now more interest in the movie. Its release is still limited, but The People’s Joker will be available in many cities across the United States than expected. After an initial premiere on April 5 in New York, the movie will roll out to independent theaters and Alamo Drafthouse locations across the country, some with Q&As attached.

The People’s Joker is an experimental coming-of-age movie that crosses genres and mediums.

Altered Innocence

The People’s Joker may have been a long time coming, but it’s the kind of wake-up call the superhero movie industry needs. These characters are beloved by all sorts of fans, and those fans should be allowed to make parodies and pastiches without fear of being sued into oblivion. Superheroes are such a cultural juggernaut that it’s intriguing to see art made in reaction to them, and Drew seems set to prove that the Joker is more than just a cog in a blockbuster machine. We may not want to conquer Gotham, but everyone feels a little sick and twisted sometimes.

The People’s Joker premieres April 4 before a wider release in April and May.

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