Gotham’s newest smiling villain, Cheer, may be making strides against the Dark Knight, but his gimmick is inadvertently ripping off the Joker.
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for “Cheer” in Batman: Urban Legends by Chip Zdarsky, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Diogenes Neves, Marcus To, Adriano Lucas and Becca Carey, on sale now.
In Batman: Urban Legends, the introduction of Gotham’s latest criminal Cheer has given the city yet another smiling villain. Cheer’s origins are rooted in the desire for true happiness, even if it means manufacturing it through less than ethical means. His drug, cheerdrops, are actually a derivative of his wife’s work, a formula he tailored to suit his needs and then sell on the street.
But his work, though formed from the basis of Scarecrow’s fear toxin, has more in common with the Joker’s special gas, and he might invoke the clown’s wrath when he learns that someone else is putting smiles on the faces of Gotham’s citizens.
Red Hood and Batman had been following different leads to hunt down the mysterious Cheer, but when Batman was captured following an encounter with Mister Freeze, Red Hood solved the case by returning to the original creator of the fear gas, Doctor Olivia Romero. After examining her home, he discovered that her husband, Silvanio Romero, had quite a number of antidepressants, but neglected to take any of them. This put him on the path to suspecting that Sil had used his wife’s clearance with a pharmaceutical company to get access to the chemicals he needed to create cheerdrops.
This is later confirmed by Cheer, who explains he had been searching for happiness all his life. Years of battling depression had left him desperate for a supposed cure, but it was his wife’s achievement of creating the fear gas that pushed him over the edge into villainy. Unable to come up with something from scratch, he realized he could alter his wife’s formula to suit his needs. So he tailored the drug to induce the opposite effect in people, creating cheerdrops. And as Batman deduced, Cheer had been taking his own concoction to battle his depression. But that was the last deduction he made before Cheer gave him a special dose of cheerdrops designed to make Batman happy.
Heartbreakingly, The only reason Cheer created this drug was to try and find happiness, but in the process, he created something that harms people in exchange for a temporary reprieve from whatever was causing them emotional turmoil. But the drug’s creation may also inadvertently put him at odds with the Joker, Gotham’s other smiling villain. In many ways, Cheer is very similar to the Joker, his whole gimmick is just about getting people to smile instead of laughing.
Though cheerdrops are actually a variant of Scarecrow’s famous gas, they have more in common with Joker venom. Some people who take the drug have been shown to laugh as they experience their dreams come to life. An overdose can leave victims either dead or in a coma with a rictus grin, much like the victims of the Joker’s own special drug.
He’s away from Gotham for now, but in the past, the Joker has never suffered posers or people who try to steal “his act.” He may view Cheer as an embarrassment or someone trying to replace him. Historically, when Joker is mad at one person, he usually brings suffering to everyone. The indignation he might feel could spark a return to Gotham where the Joker has something to prove, creating a deadlier Clown Prince of Crime who is determined to remind the city who its one and only smiling menace is.
And of course, Cheer would be the biggest victim in this scenario. He’s proven he can work with some of Gotham’s worst criminals, but only when they want to partake in what he’s offering. The Joker, however, will be less inclined to even humor someone who poses a threat to his status in Gotham.
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