The Joker is a supervillain and the archenemy of Batman. He was first introduced in Batman #1 (Spring 1940) and has remained consistently popular.
The Joker is a master criminal with a clown-like appearance. Initially portrayed as a violent sociopath who murders people for his own amusement, the Joker later in the 1940s began to be written as a goofy trickster-thief. That characterization continued through the late-1950s and 1960s before the character became again depicted as a vicious, calculating, psychopathic killer. The Joker has been responsible for numerous tragedies in Batman's life, including the paralysis of Barbara Gordon and the murders of Jason Todd and Jim Gordon's second wife Sarah Essen.
Interpretations of the Joker in other media include Cesar Romero's in the 1960s Batman television series, Jack Nicholson's in Tim Burton's Batman, and Mark Hamill's in Batman: The Animated Series and other DC Animated Universe shows. Wizard magazine listed him the #1 villian of all time in 2006. As played by Nicholson, The Joker ranks #45 in the American Film Institute's list of the top 50 film villains of all time. Heath Ledger signed to play the Joker in July 2006, for director Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins sequel, The Dark Knight and won a posthumous Oscar for his performance. He was also achieved the rank of the 8th Greatest Comic Book Character of All Time list, which was released by Empire (notably being the highest ranked villain character on the list), as well as being the fifth Greatest Comic Book Character Ever in Wizard Magazine's 200 Greatest Comic Book Characters of all Time list, once again being the highest ranked villain on the list.
Originally conceived as an evil "court-jester" type, the character was initially rejected by studio writer Bill Finger as being "too clownish," but he later relayed the idea to Bob Kane. Kane, who started out as a gag artist, loved the concept and encouraged its production. Finger found a photograph of actor Conrad Veidt wearing make-up for the silent film The Man Who Laughs, and it was from this photograph that the Joker was modeled. This influence was referenced in the graphic novel Batman: The Man Who Laughs, a retelling of the first Joker story from 1940.
The credit for creation of the Joker is disputed. Kane responded in a 1994 interview to claims that Jerry Robinson created the character:
In his initial dozen or so appearances, starting with Batman #1 (1940), the Joker was a straightforward spree killer/mass murderer, with a bizarre appearance modeled after the symbol of the Joker known from playing cards. It is of note that in his second appearance he was actually slated to be killed off, with the final page detailing the villain accidentally stabbing himself, lying dead as Batman and Robin run off into the night. DC editor Whitney Ellsworth thought the Joker was too good a character to kill off, suggesting that he be spared. A hastily drawn panel, calculated to imply that the Joker was still alive, was subsequently added to the comic.
For the next several appearances, the Joker often escaped capture but suffered an apparent death (falling off a cliff, being caught in a burning building, etc.), from which his body was not recovered. In these first dozen adventures, the Joker killed close to three dozen people, impressive for a villain who didn't use giant robots, mutant monsters, or space lasers, as was the status quo between 1940 until around 1942. Ironically, the turning point came in "Joker Walks the Last Mile" (Detective Comics #64), when the Joker was actually executed in the electric chair only to be chemically revived by henchmen.
While the Joker was back, he was decidedly less deadly than previous engagements. At this point, the editors decided that only one-shot villains should commit murder, so as to not make Batman look impotent in his inability to punish such recurring foes as the Joker or the Penguin. As the Batman comics softened their tone, the Joker shifted towards a harmless, cackling nuisance. He quickly became the most popular villain and was used frequently during the Golden Age of Comic Books. The use of the character lessened somewhat by the late 1950s, and disappeared almost entirely when Julius Schwartz took over editorship of the Batman comics in 1964.
In 1973, the character was revived and profoundly revised in the Batman comic stories by Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams. Beginning in Batman #251, with the story "The Joker's Five Way Revenge", the Joker becomes a homicidal maniac who casually murders people on a whim, while enjoying battles of wits with Batman. This take on the character has taken prominence since. Steve Englehart, in his short but well-received run on the book, added elements deepening the severity of the Joker's insanity.
Joker even had his own nine-issue series during the 1970s in which he faces off against a variety of foes, both superheroes and supervillains. Although he was the protagonist of the series, certain issues feature just as much murder as those in which he was the antagonist; of the nine issues, he commits murder in seven. The development of the Joker as a sociopath continues with the issues "A Death in the Family" (in which readers voted for the character to kill off Jason Todd) and The Killing Joke in 1988, redefining the character for DC's Modern Age after the company wide reboot following Crisis on Infinite Earths.
A major addition to the character was the introduction of the character Harley Quinn. Originally introduced in Batman: The Animated Series, Quinn is a clinical psychiatrist who falls hopelessly in love with the Joker in Arkham Asylum after he relays his tale of having an abusive father and a runaway mother, and now serves as his loyal, if daffy, sidekick, costumed in a skintight harlequin suit. Their relationship often resembles that of an abusive domestic relationship, with the Joker insulting, hurting, or even attempting to kill Quinn, who remains undaunted in her devotion. She was popular enough to be integrated into the comics in 1999 and a modified version of the character (less goofy, but still criminally insane and utterly committed to the Joker) was also featured on the short-lived live-action TV series Birds of Prey.
Detective Comics #168 (February 1951) revealed that he had been a criminal known as the Red Hood. In the story, the Red Hood falls into a vat of chemicals while escaping from Batman. He emerges with white skin, green hair, and a bizarre grin.
Though many have been related, a definitive history of the Joker has never been established in the comics, and his true name has never been confirmed. The most widely cited back-story can be seen in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke. It depicts him as originally being an engineer at a chemical plant who quit his job to pursue his dream of being a stand-up comedian, only to fail miserably. Desperate to support his pregnant wife, Jeannie, the man agrees to help two criminals break into the plant where he was formerly employed. In this version of the story, the Red Hood persona is given to the inside man of every job (thus it is never the same man twice); this makes the inside man appear to be the leader, allowing the two ring-leaders to escape. During the planning, police contact him and inform him that his wife and unborn child have died in a household accident.
Stricken with grief, he attempts to back out of the plan, but the criminals strong-arm him into keeping his promise. As soon as they enter the plant, however, they are immediately caught by security and a fatal shoot-out ensues, in which the two criminals are killed. As he tries to escape, he is confronted by Batman, who is investigating the disturbance. Terrified, the engineer leaps over a rail and plummets into a vat of chemicals. When he surfaces in the nearby reservoir, he removes the hood and sees his reflection: bleached chalk-white skin, ruby-red lips, and green hair. These events, coupled with his other misfortunes that day, drive the engineer through the massive personality shift that results in the birth of the Joker.
The story "Push-back" (Batman: Gotham Knights # 50-55), supports part of this version of the Joker's origin story. In it, a witness (who coincidentally turns out to be Edward Nigma, a.k.a. The Riddler) recounts that the Joker's wife was kidnapped and murdered by the criminals in order to force the engineer into performing the crime. In this version, the Joker was called Jack.
The second arc of Batman Confidential (#7-12) re-imagines the Joker as a gifted criminal and abandons the Red Hood identity, also called Jack, who is nearly suicidal due to boredom with his "job". He talks to a waitress, Harleen Quinzel, who convinces him to find something to live for. Jack becomes obsessed with Batman after he breaks up one of his jobs, leading Jack to attract Batman's attention at a ball. Jack injures Lorna Shore (whom Bruce Wayne is dating), leading Batman to disfigure his face with a batarang. Jack escapes and Batman gives Jack's information to mobsters, who torture Jack in a chemical plant. Jack kills several of his assailants after escaping, but falls into an empty vat as wild gunfire punctures the chemical tanks above him, and the resultant flood of antidepressant chemicals alters his appearance to that of a clown, completing his transformation into the Joker.
No recounting of the Joker's origin has been definitive, however, as he has been portrayed as lying so often about his former life that he himself is confused as to what actually happened. As he says in The Killing Joke: "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another... if I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!"
From the Joker's first appearance in Batman #1, he has been willing (and eager) to wreak as much havoc as possible upon innocent people in order to claim the mantle of Gotham City's greatest criminal mastermind. Throughout his decades-long war with Batman, he has committed crimes both whimsical and inhumanly brutal, all with a logic and reasoning that, in Batman's words, "make sense to him alone."
In The Killing Joke, the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon (a.k.a. Batgirl), paralyzing her below the waist. He kidnaps Commissioner Gordon and taunts him with photographs of what he has done to Barbara, in an attempt to prove that any man can have "one bad day" and become just like him, but fails to drive Gordon insane, despite giving him some serious trauma. Batman rescues Gordon and tries one final time to reach the Joker, offering to rehabilitate him. After a few moments of consideration, the Joker refuses, stating that it is "too late for that", but shows his appreciation by sharing a joke with Batman (which, surprisingly, receives an uncharacteristic laugh from the vigilante) and allowing himself to be taken back to Arkham.
The Joker also murdered Jason Todd, the second Robin, in the story "A Death in the Family (Batman story arc)|A Death in the Family". Jason Todd discovers that a woman who may be his birth mother is being blackmailed by the Joker. She betrays her son to keep from having her medical supply thefts exposed, leading to Jason's brutal beating by the Joker with a crowbar. The Joker locks Jason and his mother in the warehouse where the assault took place and blows it up just as Batman arrives. Readers could vote on whether they wanted Jason Todd to survive the blast. They voted for him to die, hence Batman finds Jason's lifeless body. Jason's death has haunted him since and has intensified his obsession with his archenemy.
Psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel eventually ponders whether the Joker may in fact be faking insanity so as to avoid the death penalty. As she tries to treat the Joker, he recounts a tale of an absent father and runaway mother to gain her sympathy. Falling in love, she allows him to escape Arkham several times before she is eventually exposed. Driven over the edge with obsession, she becomes the criminal Harley Quinn and the Joker's sidekick.
In a company-wide crossover, "The Last Laugh," the Joker believes himself to be dying and plans one last historic crime spree, infecting the inmates of 'The Slab,' a prison for super criminals, with Joker venom to escape. With plans to infect the entire world, he sets the super-powered inmates loose to cause mass chaos in their 'jokerized' forms. Meanwhile, he tries to ensure his "legacy" by defacing statues in his image. The entire United States declares war on the Joker under the orders of President Lex Luthor; in response, Joker sends his minions to kill the President.
The heroes of the world try to fight off the rampaging villains, while Black Canary discovers that Joker's doctor modified his CAT scan to make it appear that he had a fatal tumor in an attempt to subdue him with the threat of death. Harley Quinn, angry at the Joker's attempt to get her pregnant without marrying her (to continue his legacy, through artificial insemination), helps the heroes create an antidote to the Joker poison and return the super villains to their normal state. Believing Robin (then Tim Drake) had been eaten by Killer Croc in the ensuing madness, Nightwing eventually catches up with the Joker and beats him to death (heart stopped). To keep Nightwing from having blood on his hands, Batman resuscitates the Joker with CPR.
During the events of the No Man's Land storyline, the Joker murders Sarah Essen Gordon, Commissioner Gordon's second wife, by shooting her in the head as she tries to protect the infants that he had kidnapped. He did not, however, take any pleasure in the act, shown frowning afterward rather than with his trademark grin. He surrenders to Batman, but continues to taunt James Gordon, provoking the commissioner to shoot him in the kneecap. After lamenting the fact he may never walk again, the Joker suddenly begins laughing manically as Gordon just avenged the fate of Barbara.
In "Emperor Joker", a multi-part story throughout the Superman titles, the Joker steals Mister Mxyzptlk's reality altering power, remaking the entire world into a twisted caricature, with everyone in it stuck in a loop, repeating the same patterns over and over. The conflict focuses on the fate of Batman in this world, with the Joker torturing and killing his adversary every day, only to bring him back to life and do it over and over again. Superman's powerful will allows him to fight off the Joker's influence enough to make contact with the weakened Mxyzptlk, who along with a less-powerful Spectre, encourages Superman to work out the Joker's weakness before reality is destroyed by the Joker's misuse of Mxyzptlk's power. As time runs out, Superman realizes that the Joker still cannot erase Batman from existence, as the Joker totally defines himself by his opposition to the Dark Knight; if the Joker can't even erase one man, how can he destroy the universe? The Joker's control shattered, Mxyzptlk and the Spectre manage to reconstruct reality from the moment the Joker disrupted everything, but Batman is left broken from experiencing multiple deaths. Superman has to steal Batman's memories so that he can go on, apparently transferring them to the Joker.
During the return of new villain Hush to Gotham City, The Riddler hires the Joker to save him, offering the Joker the name of the crooked cop who killed his wife all those years ago. However, the Joker's attempted revenge is cut short when Hush attacks with Prometheus, forcing the Joker to retreat. After Jason Todd returns to life and takes over his killer's old Red Hood identity during the lead-up to Infinite Crisis, Jason asserts that the Joker was not quite as crazy as he leads people to believe. Jason attempts to force Batman to shoot the Joker, angered at Batman's refusal to kill the Joker despite what he'd done. Batman refuses, however, driving Jason away with a well-aimed batarang instead. At the conclusion of Infinite Crisis the Joker kills Alexander Luthor, hero of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths and villain of Infinite Crisis.
In Batman #655, a captive shoots the Joker in the face. The Joker returns in Batman #663 after having undergone extensive facial surgery that has left him with a permanent smile and unable to speak coherently. While in intensive care at Arkham, he sends Harley Quinn to kill his former henchmen, having her use a more lethal version of Joker venom, in order to signal his "rebirth". The Joker has by now developed an immunity to this venom.
In Countdown #50, Jimmy Olsen interviews an incarcerated Joker about the murder of Duela Dent, who had called herself the Joker's Daughter. The Joker states that he never had any daughter, and expresses awareness of the Multiverse's existence and of shifts in reality. The Joker appears as he did before Batman #655.
Joker is among the many villains transported to a remote jungle imprisonment planet where Psimon is elected as leader. Joker gives up hope, thinking that he could never surpass Psimon in power, and sunk into a depression. Kid Karnival snaps him out of it and tells him about how he admires him and how he wouldn't let anyone stand in his way, this gives Joker his confidence back so when Psimon is giving his speech Joker chucks a stone at the back of his head stunning him, he then picks up a larger rock and pins Psimon to the ground and gives him a speech on his views on survival and beats him to death with the rock also destroying his brain, he then takes command as chief. Lex Luthor questions his leadership and sends Iron Cross after him and Joker kills him and Splitshot attempts to avenge him but Joker kills him too by strangling him with his bow, after this Lex Luthor takes half of the villains and leaves to form his own tribe. Later Gorilla Grodd takes over as leader for Joker's tribe and Monsieur Mallah tells him to ditch the humans and form a society together but after insulting him they fight and Gorilla Grodd manages to kill Mallah by smashing the Brain's case over his head, Grodd is heavily wounded in the fight and asks Joker to help him but he kicks him off a cliff putting him in a coma. Later on Joker's camp invades Luthor's camp and they have an all out brawl, it is then decided that Joker and Lex Luthor should fight to the death, Luthor has the upper hand for the first half of the fight but Joker manages to defeat him after he recovers from the beating and he is about to finish him when Parademons invade the planet. They decide to work together to get rid of the threat and defeat the first wave, afterward Gorilla Grodd recovers from his injuries and tries to tear off Joker's arm for revenge when another wave of Parademons attack Joker helps fight off the invasion when he runs out of bullets he trades guns from a gullible Parademon he kills that one and steals it's weapon and wipes out more of them, eventually after Lex Luthor uses elemental villains to power his teleportation machine Joker is able to escape from the planet, and the remaining Parademons are wiped out when Luthor rigs the machine to explode.
In the beginning of the Batman R.I.P. arc Batman visits the Joker in Arkham for information on the group known as the Black Glove. In response, the Joker nonchalantly deals him a "dead man's hand". During routine therapy, Joker is met by a spy for the Club of Villains who offers him a chance to join them in their crusade against Batman. He participates in their action, considering it a farce all along (knowing Batman will survive their attempts, which he spitefully reveals to them just when they think their plan has come to fruition). He tells them that he has spent many years trying to kill Batman and that it would only be a matter of time before he'd come back. Later Batman infiltrates the headquarters, and the Joker flees, casually murdering some Black Glove members before escaping in an ambulance. Joker drives through the Gotham bridge, plowing through police cars. The Joker then encounters Alfred Pennyworth and Damian Wayne in the Batmobile. Damian rams the Joker's ambulance with the Batmobile and sends him careening off the bridge (unaware that it is the Joker).
Gotham City Sirens and Beyond
The Joker soon returns as a member of Libra's Secret Society of Super Villains during Final Crisis. Meanwhile, his place in Gotham City was taken by his old henchman, Gaggy, during Gotham City Sirens.
During the events of the "Batman: Last Rites" story arc, the Joker is mentioned and shown several times in Batman's past experiences as his history is explored. He is also shown entering the funeral service for Batman in Neil Gaiman's "Whatever Happened to The Caped Crusader?" story.
When the real Joker returned to Gotham City, he began to pose as a British journalist/detective Oberon Sexton, a famous author of a book called "Masks of Evil". At the same time however, he operated as the mysterious Domino Killer, killing members of the Black Glove one by one. The Joker then became the target of a blackmail scheme from an organization called "El Penitente". Using a "secret" (probably knowledge of his true identity) as leverage, they tried to force him to murder Batman. The Joker as Sexton met Dick Grayson, the current Batman, later to discuss his alleged serial killer believing that the killer was targeting members of the Black Glove and that Bruce Wayne would be next on the killer's list. Despite his blackmailer's demands, Joker watched Batman leave. For his failure to kill Batman "El Penitente" sent four assassins after him, but the villain escaped his pursuers by a rope out of the window.
He escaped to Wayne Manor, where he aided Damian Wayne against several assassins. Damian revealed that he knew Sexton was not really English, but was faking his accent. He asked Sexton if he was really Bruce Wayne. The Joker denied this, saying he was worried that Wayne was the target of a serial killer. However, he went on to hint to Damian that he was not really who he seems. Eventually, Dick Grayson figures it all out and confronts Oberon about all the domino killings really being a set routine of jokes. Oberon takes off his mask to reveal the Joker, grinning at his old foe.
After the Joker is arrested once more, he underestimates the current Robin (Damian Wayne), by trying to win the Boy Wonder's pity before the Clown Prince of Crime begins his attempts on killing the young hero. Instead, he receives a beating with a crowbar (mirroring Jason Todd's murder) from Robin, whom he realizes is a son of his old foe after noting the resemblance between the child and the original Batman. The officers at GCPD ignore the Clown Prince's pleas for help, as they think Robin can handle the villain easily, and seem to take pleasure in the Joker's suffering.
The Joker seems to attempt to retreat from Robin in fear, apparently completely under the Boy Wonder's mercy. The Joker then wrapped his handcuffs around Damien's neck, scratching Robin's cheek with the metal. Joker then smeared his own blood on Damien's face causing him to fall under the effects of the Joker Venom in Joker's blood. Damien collapse to the ground with a smile on his face while Joker snatches away crowbar he had been victim to.
Powers and abilities
The Joker commits crimes with countless "comedic" weapons (such as razor-sharp playing cards, acid flowers, cyanide pies and lethal electric joy buzzers) and Joker Venom, a deadly poison that infects his victims with a ghoulish rictus grin as they die while laughing uncontrollably. This venom comes in many forms, from gas to darts to liquid poison, and has been his primary calling card from his first appearance till the present; he is immune to it. The Joker is also very skilled in the fields of chemistry, genetics, and nuclear engineering. In a miniseries featuring Tim Drake, the third Robin, he kidnaps a computer genius, admitting that he doesn't know much about computers. In future issues, he is shown as very computer literate.
The Joker has moderate skill in hand to hand combat. Over the years it has been shown that although Batman is stronger, the Joker is faster and more agile. The Joker has been known to be able to hold his own in hand-to-hand combat against Batman, however every time he is subdued by Batman, it is through physical force. However, the Joker has proven to be very skilled in the area of martial arts as well, this being proven when beating the batman once in a fight without "cheating". However, this skill in fighting can also be questioned, due to different artists having different reincarnations of the Joker. In some cases, he is so weak, that Batman can take him down with a single punch, whilst in other cases, he has proven to be more than a match for the Dark Knight.
The Joker has cheated death numerous times, even in seemingly inescapable and lethal situations. Though he has been seen caught in explosions, been shot repeatedly, dropped from heights, electrocuted, etc, the Joker always manages to return fully alive and unscathed to wreak havoc again.
Over several decades there have been a variety of depictions and possibilities regarding the Joker's apparent insanity, of which the following are a sampling:
Grant Morrison's graphic novel Arkham Asylum suggests that the Joker's mental state is in fact a previously unprecedented form of "super-sanity," a form of ultra-sensory perception. It also suggests that he has no true personality of his own, that on any given day he can be a harmless clown or a vicious killer, depending on which would benefit him the most (thus explaining the two very different interpretations of the character that have developed over the decades; see below).
Later, during the Knightfall saga, after Scarecrow, Cornelius Stirk, and the Joker team up and kidnap the mayor of Gotham City, Scarecrow turns on the Joker and uses his fear gas to see what Joker is afraid of. To Scarecrow's surprise, the gas has no effect on Joker, who in turn beats him with a chair.
In Morrison's JLA title, the Martian Manhunter rewires his own brain in order to think like the Joker, and later briefly rewires the Joker's brain to create momentary "sanity". In those few moments, the Joker seems to regret his various murders and wish to reevaluate his life. He is returned to his usual self soon afterward.
Various DC Comics Who's Who publications state that due to his level of insanity, at times the Joker manifests a degree of superhuman strength. In an alternate depiction of the Joker called Elseworlds: Distant Fires, the Joker is rendered sane by a nuclear war that deprives all super beings of their powers. In Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #145, the Joker became sane when Batman put him in one of Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus Pits after being shot, a reversal of the insanity which may come after experiencing such rejuvenation. However, the sanity, like the more commonplace insanity, was only temporary, and soon the Joker was back to his normal self. It is to be noted that during the brief moments of sanity, Joker expresses regret for all the sins and crimes that he has committed and has begged for forgiveness.
The character is sometimes portrayed as having a heightened sense of self-awareness that other characters do not, such as being aware of being in a comic book. This fourth wall awareness also seems to carry over to Batman: The Animated Series. The Joker is the only character to talk directly into the "camera" (such as in Joker's Wild, where he says "Don't try this at home, kids!" before lasso-wing a passing truck and using it to swing him over the fence of Arkham Asylum), and can be heard whistling his own theme music in the episode adaptation of the comic Mad Love. In the Marvel vs DC crossover, he also demonstrates knowledge of the first Batman/Spider-Man crossover even though that story's events did not occur in the canonical history of either the Marvel or DC universe. The only one who should be aware of such events is Access who fixed these errors in dimensional overlap.
The Clown Prince of Crime has used many equipment to use as weapons and gadgets, often disguised as harmless practical joke items.
- Joker Venom: A chemical capable of causing victims to have uncontrollable spasm's of laughter until a painful death with a massive grin. A non-lethal version was also created which will cause victims to laugh uncontrollably until their face is stretched into a giant Joker-like grin as well as bulging eyes. It will instead paralyze victims instead of killing them.
- Joy Buzzer: A highly dangerous joy buzzer capable of stunning or killing victims using electrocution. Joker often uses this in assassinations to trick victims into hand shakes.
- Razor Playing Cards: Highly dangerous playing cards capable of killing victims by cutting them.
- Jester Cane Sword: Although it looks like an ordinary cane, the jester cane which contains a thin-razor sharp sword.
- Harpoon Gun: The Joker's Harpoon Gun initially takes the appearance of a harmless toy gun that shoots a small flag reading "BANG!". However, after a second pull of the trigger, the flag will shoot out of the barrel and impale the target.
- Acid Flower: The flower that Joker wears on his suit to squirt a wide variety of chemicals. The chemical inside it depends on Joker's mood; it can be poison, Joker Venom, acid, water or even nothing at all.
- Firearms: Joker used a variety of guns and firearms including Pistols and Tommy Guns.
- Knives: Joker used a variety of knives and blades.
- Crowbar: Joker used a Crowbar to beat Jason Todd to death.
- Hammer: Joker used a Hammer to beat Alfred Pennyworth.
- Mallet: A Mallet similar to Harley Quinn's.
- Boxing Glove Arm: A spring-loaded mechanical arm with a Boxing Glove at the end. Whilst it appears to be harmless, it's force is capable of knocking out victims.
- Explosive Toys: Explosives disguised as toys.
- Custom Explosives: Explosives colored green and purple with a large Joker-like grin painted on it.
- Bazooka: A powerful Bazooka.
The Joker has been referred to as the Clown Prince of Crime, the Harlequin of Hate, and the Ace of Knaves. Throughout the evolution of the DC universe, interpretations and incarnations of the Joker have taken two forms. The original and currently dominant image is of a sadistic, fiendishly intelligent lunatic with a warped sense of humor, deriving pleasure from inflicting twisted, morbid death and terror upon innocent people. In this interpretation, he is a textbook example of antisocial personality disorder. The other interpretation of the character, popular in the late 1940s through 1960s comic books as well as the 1960s television series, is that of an eccentric but harmless prankster and thief. The 1990s cartoon Batman: The Animated Series is notable for blending these two aspects to great acclaim, although most interpretations tend to embrace one characterization or the other.
The Joker's victims have included men, women, children, and even his own henchmen. A 1996 issue of Hitman stated that the Joker once gassed an entire kindergarten class. In the graphic novel The Joker: Devil's Advocate, the Joker is reported to have killed well over 2,000 people. Despite having murdered enough people to get the death penalty thousands of times over, he is always found not guilty by reason of insanity. In the Batman story line "War Crimes", this continued ruling of insanity is in fact made possible by The Joker's own dream team of lawyers. He is then placed in Arkham Asylum, from which he appears able to escape at will, referring to it as a resting ground between his "performances".
There have been times when Batman has been tempted to put the Joker down once and for all, but has relented at the last minute. After capturing the Joker in one story, he threatens to kill his old foe, but then says, "But that would give you the final victory, making me into a killer like yourself!" Also, the Joker seems to acknowledge this fact, casually remarking (after Batman threatened to "break him") that if he "had the guts for 'that kind of fun', you (the Batman) would have done it years ago", once again expressing his disregard for (his own) life through stating that killing him is a kind of fun. Conversely, the Joker has given up many chances to kill Batman. Their mutual obsession is unique compared to other superheroes and villains:
- In "The Clown at Midnight" (featured in Batman #663), the Joker states to Batman, "You can't kill me without becoming like me. I can't kill you without losing the only human being who can keep up with me. Isn't it ironic?!" The Joker says later, "I could never kill you. Where would the act be without my straight man?"
- In "Going Sane" (featured in Legends of the Dark Knight # 65-68), the Joker lures Batman into a trap that he believes kills his arch nemesis. Batman's apparent death snaps the Joker back to sanity and prompts him to undergo plastic surgery in order to look like a normal human being. The Joker attempts to lead a normal, honest life, donning the name Joseph Kerr (a pun on his criminal moniker) and engaging in a small romance with a neighbor. Normality does not last for the Joker, however, as he later discovers Batman to be alive, which drives him to insanity. The Joker then mutilates himself in order to restore his trademark white skin, green hair, and crimson lips, and resumes his quest to destroy Batman.
- In another issue, the Joker threatens to kill crime boss Rupert Thorne if he uncovers Batman's secret identity. Thorne has Hugo Strange discover Batman's identity, but, when Strange refuses to tell him who Batman is, has him killed. The Joker, who is also bidding for Batman's identity alongside The Penguin, tells Thorne he was lucky Strange took whatever secrets he held with him to the grave; he explains that he is destined to defeat Batman in a manner worthy of his criminal reputation, and that no one else has the right.
- In Emperor Joker, although the Joker uses his new god-like powers to torture Batman to death night after night, he still cannot erase his foe from existence. Superman states that this is because the Joker totally defines himself by his opposition to the Dark Knight, and how the Joker lives in Batman's world rather than Batman living in the Joker's.
- In the movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Terry McGinnis, the successor to the mantle of Dark Knight, says to the Joker that the only real reason he keeps coming back is because he never got a laugh out of the original Batman.
- In the film The Dark Knight, after his apparent defeat, the Joker remarks that Batman "won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, and I won't kill you, because you're just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever."
- In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a catatonic Joker becomes animated only after seeing a police report that Batman has returned to action, setting in motion a final confrontation where the Joker breaks his own neck to frame Batman for murder.
- In "The Laughing Bat" (Featured in "The Batman" season 2 episode 4), Joker remarks that "the batman needs a Joker. Someone who gives him purpose", afterwards referring to Batman as his "old friend".
- In Batman Cacophony Joker (temporarily sane) tells Batman he wants to kill him. He explains that if he kills Batman he will surrender to the police and give up crime. Batman later tells Alfred The clown won't stop until one of us is dead. Joker states to Batman I don't hate you because I'm crazy. I'm crazy because I hate you.
The Joker is renowned as Batman's most unpredictable foe, despite him not having any special powers. While other villains rely on tried-and-true methods to commit crimes (such as Mr. Freeze's freeze gun or Poison Ivy's toxic plants), Joker has a variety of weapons at his disposal. For example, the flower he wears in his lapel sprays (at any given time) acid, poisonous laughing gas, or nothing at all. In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and much earlier in "Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker!" (Batman #321), the Joker has a gun which at first shoots a flag saying "BANG!", but then, with another pull of the trigger, the flag fires and kills a henchman (in the censored version of the movie, the gun shot out laughing gas instead of the dart). His most recurring gadget is his high-voltage hand-buzzer where he literally electrocutes his victims with a handshake. Sometimes he commits crimes just for the fun of it, while on other occasions, it is part of a grand scheme; Batman has been noted to say that the Joker's plans make sense to him alone. This capricious nature, coupled with his maniacal blood-lust, makes the Joker the one villain that even the DC Universe's other super-villains fear; in the Villains United and Infinite Crisis mini-series, the members of the villains' Secret Society refuse to induct the Joker for this reason. In the one-shot Underworld Unleashed, the Trickster remarks, "When super-villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories."
The March 2007 issue of Wizard magazine had a two-page article (pgs 42 & 43) in which various comic book writers and artists were asked to give their favorite moments with The Joker. Kurt Busiek (writer of Superman) discussed a couple moments that helped to demonstrate the Joker’s insanity:
Cruel and sadistic as he is, the Joker has a human side. Before his accident, nobody thought he was worth anything special, and all he wanted to do was prove his worth. Now emotionally scarred by life's tragedies, he merely desires to extend his amazing sense of humor to the point where people finally see who he is meant to be-a star. However, with Batman foiling his every comically-ridden crime, he feels he may never get that chance, so he attempts constantly to prove himself to Batman as special, so maybe the Dark Knight will leave him be. This is a false hope, however, as Batman will always be there to rid the city of turmoil, no matter how much pain it causes the Joker. Also, he even has his own code of ethics and honor, as during the Living Hell arc, he tells Warren White, aka, Great White Shark, that he's a bigger monster than he was, admitting that while he is a killer, even he doesn't steal from a child's college funds. He was also sane enough to realize when he actually committed a crime or not, as evidenced by the Joker: Devil's Advocate arc where he was to be placed on death row because several people had died of Joker venom from licking postage stamps, and he explains even after being sentenced to death row that he considered himself innocent of the crime because even he wouldn't stoop down as low and simply as just placing joker venom on stamps for people to die from licking it, and would have operated on a much smarter level given his credentials of a criminal mastermind, something that even Batman agreed with.
The Joker's origin is also a focus of much attention. Though many have been related, a definitive history of the Joker has never been established in the comics, and his real identity has never been confirmed. The most widely cited back-story can be seen in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, but no recounting of the Joker's origin has been definitive, however, as he has been portrayed as lying often about his background. According to the Joker himself, the three most common origin stories are that he was failed comedian who could never make an audience laugh, a mob killer named Napier from outside Gotham City, and of course, the Red Hood story recounted in The Killing Joke.
Appearances in other media
Birds of Prey
Roger Stoneburner made a cameo appearance as the character in an episode of Birds of Prey in which Batgirl is caught in the crossfire between Batman and the Joker. In the series, the Joker not only paralyzes Barbara, but hires a thug (who later turns out to be Clayface) to kill Selena Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman. Joker is said in another episode to be locked up in a prison far from New Gotham, however his old partner Harley Quinn intends to take over the city and avenge him. Mark Hamill, who voiced the Joker in various animated shows throughout the 1990s, provided the Joker's voice in the scene, and he was the only of the two actors to be credited.
OnStar TV commercials
In 2001 and 2002, General Motors aired a series of Batman-themed TV commercials promoting OnStar, a hi-tech car communication and security system. Actor Curtis Armstrong played the Joker in one of the ads.
The Adventures of Batman
The Joker appeared as a recurring adversary in the 1969 Filmation series The Adventures of Batman. Two episodes of the 1972 series The New Scooby-Doo Movies featured a meeting with Batman; the Joker was one of the villains, voiced by Larry Storch.
The Joker was planned to be a main villain and part of the Legion of Doom on Challenge of the SuperFriends, but Filmation already had the rights to the character for The New Adventures of Batman. However he appeared inThe Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians episode, "The Wild Cards" which featured a version of the Royal Flush Gang. The leader of the group, Ace, turned out to be a disguised Joker (voiced by Frank Welker).
In the Justice League episode "Injustice for All", the Joker became a member of the Injustice Gang after Copperhead was arrested, much to Luthor's annoyance. Although, he was more of a "senior advisor", seemingly having the most experience being a criminal. Surprisingly, Joker, despite not having any powers, was the last one to be captured by the Justice League during the episode (even managing to deter the Flash with explosives and escape Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth by tossing an explosive doll at her).
The Joker took a step further than he has before: he recruited a bunch of "mutant"-like teenagers from a government containment center. He took these five teenagers and formed the Royal Flush Gang. Dressed up as playing cards, the Royal Flush Gang did whatever the Joker asked them to do, until things turned for worse and they left.
In Batman Beyond, which is set 40 years in the future of the DC Animated Universe, the Joker has not been seen in several decades. There are now street gangs known as Jokerz, some of whom emulate his appearance and others who simply use some sort of clown motif.
In the episode "Joyride", a skeleton wearing the Joker's suit is seen in a cave where the Jokerz go for initiations.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
The Joker appears in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, both in flashback sequences opposing the original Batman and in the "present" of Batman Beyond.
It is revealed that the Joker eventually recovers, and continues to be a thorn in Batman's side, until one night he kidnaps Tim Drake (the second Robin in the "Animated Series" continuity). Over the course of three weeks, he tortures and alters the boy to become his own twisted "son". Attempting to turn Tim against Batman, The Joker is instead killed by Tim when he tries to have him kill an injured Batman. Batman and Batgirl, in conjunction with Commissioner James Gordon, hide the body beneath Arkham Asylum.
Forty years later, the Joker returns to Gotham. Joker's determination to wreck havoc on the city continues into the time of Batman Beyond, as the clown has apparently returned, alive, unchanged, and in his words, "Ready to give this old town a wedgie again!" it's eventually revealed that this isn't Joker in the flesh but in fact Tim Drake whom was forcefully implanted with a chip containing the Joker's personality and DNA during his brief tenure as the Jokers "son" which slowly began rewriting Tim into a clone of the Joker. Terry McGinnis, the current Batman, eventually defeats the Joker by frying the chip with the Joker's own Joy Buzzer thus returning Tim to normal.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
The Joker appears in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episodes "Deep Cover for Batman" and "Game over for Owlman!", voiced by Jeff Bennett.
In the first episode, Batman is transported to a parallel dimension in which the villains of his world are the heroes. The Red Hood is the leaders of these "heroes", and the last one to evade capture following a face-off. He had previously kept the Ace Chemical Plant as a base of operations, where he was attacked and thrown into a chemical bath, disfiguring him. Upon looking upon his clown-like face, he had managed to suppress any madness and his resolve became unbreakable; the moment in which the story of the Joker and that of his parallel counterpart diverge. Batman eventually manages to free the Red Hood and the other heroes, and - after defeating the villains of the parallel Earth - returns home.
The Joker then briefly teamed up with Batman to defeat Owlman when the villain was upstaging Joker. He joined Owlman when Owlman gave him an opportunity to kill Batman at last. During the fight, he and Owlman ended up trapped in wax. As Owlman was returned to his dimension in bondage, Joker was sent to prison. Joker did comment that he enjoyed working with Batman and even said that had circumstances been different they could have been friends before being loaded into the paddy wagon ("If you weren't the goody two-shoes crime fighter and I the homicidal maniac we could have been friends"). The Joker reappears in the episode "Legends of the Dark Mite." He, along with Catwoman, The Riddler, Two-Face, Killer Moth, Mr. Freeze, Kite Man, Mad Hatter, Penguin, Catman, Poison Ivy, and several other villains are shown briefly in Bat-Mite's imagination. He also makes a cameo appearance in Mayhem of the Music Meister in Arkham Asylum.
Joker appears in the video game Batman: Vengeance. As the main villain of the game, Joker funds the research of Promethium and sends his bumbling henchmen: Mo, Lar, and Cur, to wreak havoc and cause explosions throughout the city. He nearly succeeds in defeating Batman during a confrontation on a Gotham bridge, but ends up falling to his apparent death. As the Joker's demise is never permanent, however, he is later shown to have survived.
In addition to the above game Joker has appeared in most of the Batman video games. He has appeared in the various video game adaptations of the 1989 Batman film. He was the final boss in the Batman: Return of the Joker game and has appeared as a boss character in Batman: Dark Tomorrow, Batman: The Caped Crusader, Batman: The Animated Series, Adventures of Batman and Robin for the SNES, The Adventures of Batman & Robin for the Sega Genesis and the Sega CD and Batman: Chaos in Gotham. In Batman: Vengeance and the Sega CD game Mark Hamill reprises the role of the Joker. The Joker also had a short cameo appearance in the video game Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu, based on The New Batman Adventures. At one point of the game, if The Scarecrow is able to gas Batman with fear gas, apparitions of Joker, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and Mr. Freeze will appear onscreen as part of the fear gas effects.
Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe
In the game Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe he is among the characters transported to the Mortal Kombat Universe and becomes infected with the rage virus and unlike the other people who get infected he enjoys it, it also gives him enhanced fighting abilities using them he manages to defeat Sonya Blade, Kano, Deathstroke, and Batman in combat while gloating over his Batman victory Batman regains consciousness and knocks him out with a taser, he later joins the others in the battle between the Mortal Kombat characters and is knocked unconscious along with the other fighters except for Raiden, Batman, and Superman. He is a playable character in arcade mode with two fatalities. In this game he is voiced by Richard Epcar. Amongst his variety of attacks is his famous Joy-buzzer which he can use to deal damage to his enemies during fights.
Lego Batman: The Video Game
In the game Lego Batman: The Video Game, Joker is the main villain in the third chapter, titled The Joker's Return in most versions of the game, and The Joker's Last Laugh in the Nintendo DS version of the game. The Joker can either be unlocked by playing him as him in the Villain Campaign, or by purchasing him for 800,000 Lego studs (the currency in the Lego games) from the Batcomputer, depending on which version of the game you own. On most consoles, the Joker is equipped with a joy buzzer, that can destroy enemies or power up generators. As well as all this, Joker appears in a tropical guise, which you can buy from the Batcomputer after completing level 10 of the Villain Hunt mini-game on DS, or on other consoles by typing the code CCB199.
In the game Batman: Arkham Asylum, Joker is the main villain, trapping Batman in Arkham Asylum, testing him against all the inmates and other super-villains in the asylum. However, the Joker doesn't directly confront Batman until the end of the game where he injects himself with TITAN, a chemical based on the Venom extracted from Bane's blood and grows into a huge beast. Batman inevitably defeats him and Joker is locked back up in Arkham Asylum where he undergoes the painful regression back to his normal form. Mark Hamill reprises his role.
DC Universe Online
The Joker is reprises by Mark Hamill in DC Universe Online.
Published in 1990, The Further Adventures of The Joker (edited by Martin H. Greenberg) assembled 20 short stories about the Clown Prince of Crime. The content of its material ranged from macabre to campy. All of the stories featured in the book are considered non-canon in relation to mainstream DC Comics continuity.
In the DC Comics/Marvel Comics crossover Batman vs. the Incredible Hulk (DC Special Series #27, 1981), the Joker is recruited to help the Shaper of Worlds who is going mad and will twist all of reality if he isn't healed. Having used the Hulk's gamma energy to calm the Shaper's mind, the Joker winds up with near-cosmic level powers as the Shaper makes the Joker's wishes come true. Despite his new power, the Joker ultimately defeats himself, when twisting reality ever tighter in an effort to defeat Hulk and Batman, he drives himself over the edge, having created too many worlds in too little time.
In Spider-Man/Batman #1 (1995), a surgical procedure that implants a behavior-altering computer chip into the head of serial killer Cletus Kasady (Carnage) is also used on The Joker to turn both men into timid souls. Carnage uses his symbiotic to short out his chip, but waits until Joker is nearby to leap into action, so that he can take Joker and short out his chip as well. The two agree to an alliance, which is quickly dissolved when the two disagree on killing methods; Joker favors theatrical methods of murder, while Carnage prefers numbers and immediacy in planning his murder sprees. Joker uses various tricks to escape Carnage and blows up his hideout in an attempt to kill Carnage. This fails, and a corpse wrapped in symbiotic material lures Batman into Carnage's reach. Carnage announces he will kill Batman in front of an audience, until Joker shows up and says that he would rather unleash his viral plague upon Gotham, killing himself in the process if need be, to rob Carnage of the kill. Carnage becomes distracted and Batman knocks him out, while Spider-Man uses a web-line to steal the viral container from Joker, chasing him into an alley and knocking him out cold.
In the DC Comics/Dark Horse Comics crossover Joker-Mask #1-4 (2000), while vandalizing a museum exhibit, the Joker finds and wears The Mask, an item that grants the wearer a wide range of super powers and unleashes their hidden desires. Having no desires or personality traits that are hidden, the Joker essentially is himself but with near invulnerability, super speed, strength and other abilities. Using the Mask, Joker is able to defeat Batman and become unstoppable; the Joker quickly becomes bored with his power, but still refuses to remove the Mask. He takes over the Gotham television waves and broadcasts 24/7 destruction, threatening to destroy the world with bombs planted in every toy store. Becoming bored with this, he commandeers a nuclear bomb to destroy Gotham City. Batman confronts Joker/Mask, and his insistence that the Mask isn't funny forces the Joker to emerge and remove the mask. The Mask had been in control for some time after Joker put it on. This story is considered non-canon.
In the DC Comics/2000AD crossover, Batman/Judge Dredd: Die Laughing #1-2, a dimension jump mishap transports the Joker's disembodied spirit to Mega City One, where he meets Judge Death and the other Dark Judges and joins them as the fifth Dark Judge. While in this form (with his catatonic body back in Gotham), he can possess bodies like the other Dark Judges and his laugh becomes so powerful it causes several skulls to explode. The reign of terror ends when Batman and Dredd arrive to capture the spirits of Death, Fear, Fire and Mortis and force the Joker's spirit to return to Gotham.
LEGO, the Danish building toy company, have released a line of licensed products based on Batman. The Joker is featured in two sets; one with his purple helicopter from the movie, while Batman pilots his Batwing and the second with a Joker themed ice cream truck, while Batman drives the Tumbler. The Joker's appearance is similar to the standard likeness in the comics. Lego has also produced sets featuring sidekick and love interest Harley Quinn.
Theme park attractions
There are a few theme park attractions themed to the Joker. The Joker's Jinx, a twisting steel roller coaster in Six Flags America, follows the Joker's dominantly purple and green color scheme, and his mad laughter is played during the ride queue.
The current version of the motion simulator ride Batman Adventure - The Ride at Warner Bros. Movie World revolves around the Dark Knight attempting to foil the Joker's plan of spreading his deadly Joker Gas throughout Gotham from an airship.
In Six Flags Great America The Dark Knight coaster (based off the movie) is a indoor ride, where Joker interrupts Harvey Dent's speech and takes control of the T.V.s. You go through a corridor before entering the ride, seeing all cameras hacked by Joker. The ride ends when you are supposedly saved by Batman.
Joker's appearances are in many other Batman comics, graphic novels, and media.
- Cesaro Romero (1965-1968)
- Larry Stortch (1969)
- Lennie Weinrib (1977)
- Jack Nicholson (1989)
- Frank Welker (1985-1988)
- Mark Hamill (1992-Present)
- Michael Mckean (1997-1999)
- Allen Enlow(2003)
- Kevin Michael Richardson (2004-2008)
- Jeff Bennett & Corey Burton(2008-2014)
- Michael Dobson (2008)
- Heath Ledger (2008)
- Richard Epcar (2009-Present)
- John Kassir(2010)
- Brent Spiner(2010-2011)
- John Dimaggio(2010)
- Corey Smith(2012)
- Michael Emerson(2013)
- Troy Baker(2013)
- Jared Leto (2016)
- Joaquin Phoenix (2019)
|Shared codenames: Batman • Robin • Batwoman • Batgirl • Huntress • Nightwing|
Villains: 2-Face-2 • Bane • Black Mask • Calender Man • Catwoman • Clayface
Character names: Ace the Bat-Hound • Bat-Mite • Helena Bertinelli • Stephanie Brown • Cassandra Cain • Tim Drake • Barbara Gordon • Dick Grayson • Betty Kane