A Joker revealed! The Chicago college student behind the Obama image


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Mark Milian, a good friend to the mighty Hero Complex, has an eye-catching post at our political sister blog Top of the Ticket. In a mash-up of fan-boy, Midway and the Beltway storylines, it seems Mark got a bead on who created the Barack Obama/Joker image that has become a sidewalk-culture sensation. Here’s an excerpt...

Bored during his winter school break, Firas Alkhateeb, a senior history major at the University of Illinois, crafted the picture of Obama with the recognizable clown makeup using Adobe’s Photoshop software.


Alkhateeb had been tinkering with the program to improve the looks of photos he had taken on his clunky Kodak camera. The Joker project was his grandest undertaking yet. Using a tutorial he’d found online about how to ‘Jokerize’ portraits, he downloaded the October 23 Time Magazine cover of Obama and began digitally painting over it.

Four or five hours later, he happily had his product. On Jan. 18, Alkhateeb uploaded the image to photo-sharing site Flickr (shown at right). Over the next two months, he amassed just a couple thousand hits, he said.

Then the counter exploded after a still-anonymous rogue famously found his image, digitally removed the references to Time Magazine, captioned the picture with the word ‘socialism’ and hung printed copies around L.A., making headlines...


-- Mark Milian


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