By David Colosi
In The Dark Knight, starring Christian Bale and Heath Ledger, the Joker’s catch phrase to try to convince Batman not to kill him is “we complete one another.” Batman can’t morally bring himself to kill the joker because that would make him a villain too, but as he says, he doesn’t have to save him. Presumably, he lets the Joker die. We’ll see what the sequels say. So ends the Joker’s theory that if one dies, so too does the other. The fact is that once the Joker goes, many other villains will fill his shoes. This narrative trope has been repeated recently in the non-comic world by talking heads debating the death of Osama Bin Laden, the closest person we’ve had to an evil villain with a vision for world domination. Jokers come and Riddlers go, but there is always Batman. The hero perseveres. Well, unless you’re Captain America who was killed by one of his own on a simple walk into a courthouse – so much for the resilience of superpowers.
I’m driving at a point – the Joker does not complete Batman, just as Elmer Fudd does not complete Bugs Bunny, or Melamid complete Komar, or Garfunkel complete Simon, or Ulay complete Marina Abramovic (though for a time becoming a united self was the couple’s goal). Pairs such as these, whether combative or collaborative can split up and each individual can attempt a solo career or, in the case of superheroes, find new villains to rascal around with. Bugs had that construction worker, Yosemite Sam, and the Tasmanian Devil. Since 2003 Vitaly Komar has been making art independently, and - well - I don’t quite know what Alexander Melamid is up to. Marina Abramovic, since her collaborative’s poetic end on the Great Wall of China, went on to much success culminating in the first ever retrospective by a performance artist at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010, and Ulay - well - I don’t quite know what he is up to either (though, in a touching moment, he did appear in the chair opposite Abramovic in The Artist Is Present). Paul Simon went on to a fully blossomed solo career, and Art Garfunkel’s career has continued as well, but not to the same commercial success. The pair, though battling over business issues for decades, has revived their friendship on occasion to continue touring as a duo. In some cases a star is born and a superhero grows out of the collaborative and, unfortunately, the other can never step out of their shadow, remaining the perpetual sidekick.
But I have yet to get to my point. Unlike the pairs I’ve mentioned, there are some dynamic duos that are absolutely co-dependent. Without the one, the other would simply not function. These seem to occur best in dynamic duels where the relationship is uniquely tied to one’s need to destroy...