A darker 'The Batman' requires an even darker Joker and Martha Wayne could be its best bet
If the buzz about 'The Batman' is to be believed, than we may be seeing the darkest version of the character yet. DC is apparently doubling down on its dark and gritty Batman, and if that's where they're going, they should go all in. Confirm that the Bat-symbol is made out of the gun that shot Bruce Wayne's (Robert Pattinson) parents. Make Batman shoot foes with his grappling gun. Put grenade launchers in the Batmobile. Make Martha Wayne the Joker.
The last one, especially.
DC does not have the self-restraint to be able to make Batman movies without introducing the Joker in at some point. So if 'The Batman' is a success, we can expect to see yet another version of the character. There has been such a range of Jokers played so far, that it's going to be hard for them to do anything new with the character unless they make a drastic change. Making Martha Wayne the Joker is about as drastic a change as it can get.
The idea for this first appeared in 'Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance' by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso.
It follows the adventures of Batman in an alternative timeline. In that timeline, Bruce Wayne was shot instead of Thomas and Martha Wayne in Crime Alley, driving Martha insane and Thomas to fight crime as the Batman. We've seen that version of Batman reappear in Tom King's run on 'Batman,' but we haven't seen the Martha Wayne Joker since.
Batman's war on crime was always done in honor of his parents. Having Martha Wayne be the criminal Batman faces down corrupts that vow, and leads to some really interesting questions about why Batman does what he does. It heightens the conflict between Batman and the Joker.
One thing that has always been missing from the Batman-Joker dynamic is that neither of their regular identities is relevant. With Martha Wayne as the Joker, however, Bruce's story isn't relegated to the shadows anymore. It is a Bruce Wayne story as much as it is a Batman story, and that is a great way to establish what both identities really mean to the mythos.
As to how Martha Wayne would be alive in the first place, there are two ways the movie could do this. First, the film can resurrect her in the Lazarus Pit, tying the movie to Ra's Al Ghul. This is something Ra's Al Ghul has actually threatened to do before, despite the fact that the Lazarus Pits tend to induce madness in those it resurrects.
The other possibility is that Thomas Wayne is killed, and the experience is enough to traumatize Martha Wayne enough to be institutionalized. She would be alive as Bruce grows up, but behind asylum bars. Bruce grows up not just with the memory of that night in Crime Alley haunting him, but his still-living mother and her deteriorating mental health, giving the film a chance to strengthen Batman's strange relationship with Arkham Asylum.
On paper, it sounds absurd, but that's the whole point of comic book franchises. They take ideas that are ridiculous and spin fantastic stories out of them. In this new era of live-action superhero popularity, we're on our third Batman, and DC isn't going to get anywhere by playing it safe.
We've talked about how much darker the film might end up being, and if it's determined to go that route at this point, it should go all in. Every new incarnation of the Joker is an opportunity to tell new kinds of stories with the character - the last one won an Oscar - and there's no better place for a truly radical vision of the Joker than the new 'The Batman' movies.
If nothing else, making a scary, new Martha Wayne the Joker is the only way they're ever going to be able to put the ridiculousness of "Why did you say that name?!" from 'Batman v. Superman' out of everyone's minds.
'The Batman' is set to release in cinemas on June 25, 2021.