The Man Who Laughs: grotesque Victor Hugo potboiler was the basis for The Joker


18 Responses to “The Man Who Laughs: grotesque Victor Hugo potboiler was the basis for The Joker”

  1. guentheralex says:

    Nice penultimate sentence. Good parallelism or whatever it is that makes sentences good. And, of course, “flensed”.

  2. quidnuncquixotic says:

    I’m not sure legions of Batman fans can complain about a “meandering political treatise grafted onto a novel”. *cough* Frank Miller *cough*

  3. Cosmoe says:

    Not that good? It’s one of my favorite Hugo novels. Dark, macabre stuff that makes Clive Barker and Stephen King look like they write nursery rhymes. “It’s a political treatise grafted onto a novel”–aren’t you guilty of the same, Cory? And is this really a bad thing? All of Hugo’s novels include deep political musings, many of which helped set the stage for a modern socialist France. Another later work written in exile on the Channel Islands is Les Miserables. Again, dense and meandering, but also a masterpiece and far more political and radical than the musical suggests.

    • heartsutra says:

      I’ve never found a good translation of “L’homme qui rit” — maybe that’s what Cory’s holding against it. Victor Hugo expresses his heartfelt  convictions in such inspiring prose that I can happily take his 50-100 page meanderings.

      Incidentally, Victor Hugo’s works are enjoying a new surge of popularity in France, thanks to his timeless call for social justice.

  4. normal says:

    I remember reading the earlier comic adaptation by Fernando de Felipe in Heavy Metal magazine back in the mid 90s.

  5. heartsutra says:

    Ahem, spoilers!

  6. Peter Huestis says:

    Somebody told me once that they had a hard time telling what constituted “great acting” in a silent film, since the style is so strange and dated to us today. I recommended that they watch “The Man Who Laughs”.

  7. GregS says:

     I agree with Cosmoe. I think that “The Man Who Laughs” is one of Hugo’s best novels. I’d rank it above “Notre Dame de Paris” (a.k.a “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”). And Cosmoe is also right that all of Hugo’s novels have a social or political meaning. Hugo wasn’t just a novelist. He was also an intellectual agitator, using his literary talents to advocate for the causes he was championing. One can’t really hold that against “The Man Who Laughs” without also holding it against his better known works like “Les Miserables” and “Notre Dame de Paris”.

  8. kiptw says:

    I’ll join the defenders of the book, which I liked enough to read more than once, though not as many times as Notre-Dame de Paris.

    Hugo, obviously, has two modes: full-on plot, and master of minutiae. His stories (shown so well in ‘Hunchback’) build for maximum emotion, with mistaken identities, tragic coincidences, and other page-turning plot devices. On the other hand, he likes to get into long explanations and scene setting (I haven’t gotten out of this part of Toilers of the Sea yet), and these can be the best part as well. Both parts are the best part, for me, when I’m in them.

    I don’t think abridgement serves Hugo well (though I’ll always stand up for the “Classics Illustrated” version of ‘Hunchback,’ with George Evans’s superb post-EC artwork). After my second reading, I realized that I was reading an abridgement, and found a longer translation. I even found out later that this one was a little bit short of a faithful rendition of the original, and found a better one.

    But always, if you’re going to read Hugo, remember that the irony knob is set to 11. It’s like opera.

  9. deetee says:

    I have to correct The Joker connection. This confused me for years too, because this has been repeated so often, and it seems like such a logical surmise. But here are the actual facts. Bob Kane claimed The Joker was based on this movie. Jerry Robinson, who actually created The Joker said he just based the character on the joker in a pack of cards.

  10. Yeah I’m going to have to agree that L’homme qui rit is Hugo at his best!  The whole “OMG I’m so heartbroken I have to KILL MYSELF” thing is annoying.. but it that’s romanticism for ya. 

  11. Antinous / Moderator says:

    And look at its other spinoff.

  12. thermidorthelobster says:

    Did anybody else see the first 2 pics and think of Tony & Cherie Blair?

  13. blearghhh says:

    Sounds like the way William Goldman condensed and edited S. Morgenstern’s political satire The Princess Bride into something more readable by taking out the satirical political parts that go too far into minutia.

  14. jim wright says:

    “The Man Who Laughs” is also referenced in James Ellroy’s “Black Dahlia>”

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