In Batman Annual #5, Bao Pham reveals the series of events that led him to become the bloodthirsty vigilante Clownhunter to Dr. Leslie Thompkins.
Warning, this article contains spoilers for Batman Annual #5.
Batman’s presence in Gotham has been bringing waves of heroes, villains, and vigilantes to the city for decades. Whether it’s to join, challenge, or destroy, everyone is obsessed with or influenced by the Bat. As for Bao Pham, aka Clownhunter, Batman’s signature weapon became a huge part of his traumatic origin story. When Bruce Wayne decided that he would be a force of justice in Gotham, his choice had a ripple effect that touched every corner of the city, including Gotham’s narrows. The Pham family lived the busy life of minority immigrants in one of Gotham’s poorest districts when fate struck. When Bao’s parents died, The Clownhunter was born.
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Before his parents’ death, Bao was an ordinary teen, he liked his videogames and didn’t care for chores. His family owned a Vietnamese Pho shop that also functioned as their home in Gotham’s narrows. One day Harley Quinn decided that it was time The Joker was introduced to the cultural delicacy that is Pho, a meal she had enjoyed on many occasions as a student. The Clown Prince of Crime, Harley, and their crew dined for free because the family was so intimidated by their arrival.
Despite Bao’s father’s refusal to be compensated for the meal, The Joker left a tip, not the conventional monetary tip, he departed with a verbal piece of advice: “don’t breathe.” The villain cackled as the room filled with Joker Gas and Bao’s parents’ horrified expressions slowly turned into sickening, psychotic smiles. Bao’s parents were dead. All they had tried to do was make a living in the poorest part of Gotham and they were murdered for it by the man Batman had refused to stop: The Joker. In Batman Annual #5 by James Tynion IV and James Stokoe, Bao Pham details the tragedies that led him to become The Clownhunter.
Batman and Commissioner Gordon arrived on the scene after Bao’s parents were killed and Bao was told that everything would be ok, but it was far from ok. Night after night, Bao longed for justice. He watched, battle after battle, as Batman would thwart the Joker’s maniacal plans, all while more innocent lives were lost. The night his parents died, Batman had left Bao a Batarang as a symbol of solidarity, little did he know it would help make the teen a killing machine.
The Joker War was the last straw for Bao. He saw the gangs of Gotham all put on clown personas because of The Joker’s new power in the city and get away with atrocities. Innocents were brutally murdered and tortured and Batman was nowhere to be found. Bao saw an old woman in his apartment building burned alive in front of him and decided enough was enough. If Batman could not protect Gotham, then Bao would as Clownhunter. He drove the Batarang he was gifted through a bat and created the bat-bat, a baseball bat that acted as a hatchet. Clownhunter then went on a killing spree, murdering every clown he could find. Maybe it was Batman’s negligence, or perhaps it was Harley craving pho on that fateful night, but destiny grabbed hold of the young man and turned him into one of Gotham’s deadliest vigilantes.
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