The Knight is a character which originally appeared in a story in Batman #62, published in late 1950, titled “The Batman of England”. Like the original, Knight has a secret identity, that of Percy Sheldrake, Earl of Wordenshire, and a sidekick, Squire who is his son Cyril. He belonged to the global Club of All Heroes. Grant Morrison brought the characters of Knight and Squire back as part of the Ultramarine Corps in JLA #26 and a JLA Classified story. Cyril assumed the mantle of Knight upon his father’s death at the hands of Springhill Jack. Morrison returned to the characters in Batman and Robin $7 – 9 and writer Paul Cornell expanded on them and their world in the six issue Knight and Squire mini series. As part of this expansion, Cornell created Jarvis Poker to play Joker to Sheldrake’s Knight.
Cornell alluded to a long history of activity for Jarvis in Britain’s heroic circles and faithfully attended the monthly hero and villain meet ups at The Time In A Bottle pub where rules and a form of “truce magic” assured an air of conviviliaty. Initially you might assume Jarvis is a violent sociopath much like the current iteration of Batman’s oldest villain. Such is not the case. More of a merry prankster and relatively less violent, Jarvis is much more akin to the mirthful TV version played by Cesar Romero if Romero had been able to channel current Brit talk show host Graham Norton.
As villains go, Jarvis is rather willing and satisfied to be perceived as less than nefarious and dangerous; even so far as being seen as a bit of a public joke. Then Jarvis receives a terrible diagnosis of prostate cancer with a prognosis of weeks to live. Later that night Jarvis watches a popular talk show host interview Knight and Squire and he becomes angry when the host insults his reputation. This coupled with his imminent death pushes Jarvis to go on a crime spree and he’s met with laughter. Undaunted, Jarvis’ efforts escalate and are aided in part by Knight and Squire once they realize he’s dying. The crimes unknowingly attract the attention of the Joker who’s quite ticked off. Joker travels to London to confront Jarvis and forces his “cover version” into being an unwilling accomplice and witness to callous murders. To regain his dignity, Jarvis calculates a plan to foil Joker’s efforts and pays dearly for it.
Jarvis has his Bag of Tricks containing a dust that induces uncontrollable laughter, a nod to the Golden and Silver Ages Joker who often employed a fake flower/ corsage that dispensed a liquid to the same effect.
Jarvis’ sexuality is never explicitly stated. Rather in true British fashion it is hinted at and alluded to with double entendre and quite literally by a pair of older, foppish villains going by the name “Double Entendre”. The most obvious clue comes from Jarvis himself when he sees the strapping young lad who’ll adopt the name Shrike the first time the young man visits The Time In A Bottle pub. “A bear of so very little brain” is the phrase Jarvis used to describe him, likely an allusion to innoncence. It’s also the phrase by which Winnie the Pooh described himself.
Jarvis Poker was created by Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton. Jarvis’ first appearance is in Batman: Knight and Squire #1. The series is collected in trade and available in print and digital on Amazon.
Thanks to T. Gibbon for the note about Jarvis!
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