Bart lives a good life. He has a house, wife, kids, and a cute little dog who likes to chew on his shoelaces. His profession's actual reality only shadows the pride he feels in his day-to-day life; it's Bart's last day as a clown, and his family couldn't care less about him. The niche of clowns in comics has long been filled by the one and only Joker of DC Comics, but the team behind Haha #1 attempts to break into this métier by introducing a man who tries to keep positive throughout his one bad day…even when he gets shot in the head during a botched robbery.
W. Maxwell Prince made a splash in the comic book scene with his 'one-shot' series called Ice Cream Man, which debuted in 2018. With a unique cast of characters, each comic showed true mystery, horror, misery, loneliness, and more. Taking this successful rubric for storytelling, Prince teamed up with Vanessa Del Rey (The Empty Man) for the art and Chris O'Halloran (Ice Cream Man) for the first issue of Haha, which hit comic shops on January 13th, 2021.
Failed funnyman trying to make ends meet, much to his unhappy wife's chagrin, is nothing new in the comic book scene. Fans of the Joker have been introduced to enough origin stories to pick their favorite, and poor clown desperate for approval follows closely enough to the Red Hood origin to make one wonder, "Why bother with Haha at all?" Before dismissing this comic series as another attempt to jump on the bandwagon of the clowns-are-scary trope, this comic team manages to introduce toxic positivity through the eyes of a desperate man and how that looks in the current status quo.
The ability of Prince to set up a dynamic and chipper internal monologue pairs ominously with Del Rey's gritty and line heavy style of art. Her drawings are anything but clean and lend to an overall vibe of Bart's reality. Background characters are often so simply rendered they almost don't look human, while the expressions of the failed clown are expressive enough to elicit an emotional response. Prince astutely pairs the jovial mentality of Bart with his very relatable reality: your "happy life" is only one paycheck away from being gone forever. Even after being shot in the head, Bart stumbles through the rest of his day in the clear decline of sanity with a pep in his step and happiness to see his very disdainful wife.
Haha #1 is idiosyncratic merriment of social commentary meets the fantastical world of comic book storytelling. Fans of Joker comics will see similarities that come with the territory of struggling clowns. Still, they will come out of this first issue relating with Bart and his struggles through a terrible economy more than they probably could with Batman's greatest nemesis. Haha will be released monthly with new art talent each time and is a good choice for readers who prefer uncomfortable and disturbing storylines that just skim the surface of reality.