Vera Drew The People's Joker
Vera Drew in The People's Joker. Credit: Altered Innocence

Vera Drew’s parody movie The People’s Joker will soon begin screening in theaters across the U.S., despite earlier objections from Warner Bros. Discovery over copyright infringement.

The explosive, do-it-yourself, autobiographical queer work of art reimagines the Joker’s origin, starring Drew — the director, editor, and co-writer — as a closeted trans woman who moves to Gotham City to become a stand up comedian.

Now the film — which features versions of The Joker and other characters from Warner Bros.’ DC Films, including Batman, is expanding to more than 20 cities across the country, including a run at several Alamo Drafthouses April 19-25.

What Happened Between Vera Drew’s The People’s Joker and Warner Bros.?

The conflict between The People’s Joker and Warner Bros. began at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2022, when the film was pulled following its premiere screening over “rights issues,” TIFF said at the time.

Drew had originally expected Warner Bros. to “just quietly ignore us and rest comfortably knowing that nobody’s going to ever confuse our movie with a DC property, or think that we’re trying to replace their brand,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

But the night before that premiere screening, Drew received a cease and desist letter from Warner Bros. Discovery, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Warner Bros. argued copyright infringement, but Drew maintains that the film is protected under fair-use laws. The premiere screening took place as planned, but further TIFF screenings were cancelled and Drew pulled the movie from other planned festival showings.

“I have no clue how today goes and my team wants me to say nothing of course so I’ll stay vague,” Drew tweeted at the time. “But whatever happens in the next few hours, I want you to know… if you’ve been waiting and aching to watch our movie, ur going to get to soon. Stay tuned and stay with me. Need ur help.”

She continued to push for the film to be released, and in December, indie distributor Altered Innocence, which specializes in LGBTQ+ and coming-of-age films, announced that it would screen nationwide starting in New York City at IFC Center on April 5. (Screening details are on the company’s website.)

Now, the film’s team believes things are going more smoothly with Warner Bros.

The People’s Joker have been in touch with WB and, based on those conversations, we’re all extremely hopeful and optimistic that there won’t be any issue with the film’s release,” publicists for the film told MovieMaker on Tuesday. “Also, we should add, there wasn’t ever an actual hard cease and desist — that was something that grew out of proportion on the press cycle back then.”

Representatives for Warner Bros. Discovery did not immediately respond to MovieMaker‘s request for comment Tuesday.

Drew has a rich background in comedy, having edited An Evening With Tim Heidecker, I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson, and Comedy Bang! Bang!. She co-wrote, edited, and executive produced Tim and Eric’s Beef House, directed Adult Swim’s Our Bodies and I Love David, and the the 12th season of On Cinema at the Cinema. She also earned an Emmy nomination for editing Showtime’s Who Is America?

Heidecker appears in The People’s Joker along with other well-known comedians including Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Maria Bamford (Big Mouth), and Scott Aukerman (Between Two Ferns). Other notable cast include Lynn Downey (Daisy Jones & The Six), Nathan Faustyn (Saddled), and newcomer Kane Distler.

Altered Innocence’s site promises that The People’s Joker also includes “vats of feminizing chemicals, sexy cartoon interludes, scarecrow psychiatrists, CGI Lorne Michaels, and psychedelic gender dysphoria all play supporting roles.”

In order to make The People’s Joker, Drew says, she crowdsourced help from 200 other creators, most of whom were also queer. The entire film was shot on green screen, and includes 2D, 3D, spot-motion, and other forms of animation.

The People’s Joker is produced by Joey Lyons (John Early: Now More Than Ever) and executive produced by Richie Doyle (Dad & Step-Dad), Conor Hannon (Dear Mama), and Riccardo Maddalosso (Armageddon Time, How to Blow Up a Pipeline). 

The movie was co-written by Brie LeRose. Nate Cornett served as cinematographer with production design by Noah Stijl, Rosie Sanders, Maggie Forest, Courtney McIntosh, Amy Smoot, Yesenia Rego, Shannon Pollak, Cory Porter, AT Pratt, and Ashley Brown. The score was compsed by Justin Krol & Quinn Scharber, Ember Knight, Danni Rowan, and electronic composer Elias and the Error.

Main Image: Vera Drew in The People’s Joker. Altered Innocence