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All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.
~ The Joker's most famous quote.
Madness is the emergency exit. You can just step outside, and close the door on all those dreadful things that happened. You can lock them away… forever.
~ The Joker
A lion doesn't pass judgement on a gazelle. Cancer doesn't pass judgement on a brain. I've been saying this all along. Evil doesn't exist. There are only actions. We got to the same place - the top of the food chain - just on different paths. Mine was more fun.
In the comics, the Joker is portrayed as a master criminal whose characterization has varied. The original and currently dominant image is of a highly intelligent homicidal maniac with a twisted, sadistic sense of humor. His most prominent origin story is that he fell into a vat of chemicals, which bleached his skin white, turned his hair green and turned his lips bright red, giving him the appearance of a clown. His crazed grin, psychotic, clown-like appearance and sadistic practical jokes all make the Joker one of the most diabolical villains of DC Comics and of all time.
He has been directly responsible for numerous tragedies in Batman's life, including the death of Robin (Jason Todd, formerly the 2nd Robin, currently The Red Hood) and the paralyzing of Barbara Gordon (formerly the Oracle, currently Batgirl). He is generally one of the most infamous of Gotham's criminal elements.
A year after Bob Kane first introduced Batman to comics, DC Comics requested a new villain for the hero. Kane and Batman's co-creator Bill Finger started working on ideas and they came up with one villain known as The Cat. However, they were in need of a second villain and after a suggestion by their frequent collaborator, Jerry Robinson, Kane and Finger developed the idea for the Joker. They developed the idea after the main character on the 1928 film The Man Who Laughs, portrayed by the late Conrad Veidt - a man whose face is disfigured into a permanent smile. On his first appearance, Joker was characterized as a psychopathic master criminal who murdered for pleasure, but in the original script, he was killed off on his second appearance, in which he accidentally stabs himself as he rushed at Batman. However, DC Comics feared that they would run out of ideas for villains if they kept killing them off, so, after an editorial edict, a final scene was arranged in which the Joker was shown to be alive.
The Joker in the 1940s was portrayed as a spree killer/mass murderer; in the 1950s, the Comics Code Authority cracked down on violence in comic books, and so the Joker was portrayed as a goofy, harmless prankster.
The Joker was given an origin story in 1951, written by the Joker's co-creator Bill Finger in Detective Comics #168. In this story, the Joker was once a masked criminal known as The Red Hood, who was disfigured after falling into a vat of chemicals during a confrontation with Batman.
In the 1980s, that origin story was expanded by Alan Moore in The Killing Joke, portraying the Joker as having been an engineer who quit his job to become a stand-up comedian, only to fail miserably. Desperate for money to support his pregnant wife Jeannie, the engineer agreed to help two criminals break in to the chemical plant he once worked in, dressed as the Red Hood. 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 man appear to be the ringleader, allowing the two criminals to escape. During the planning, police contacted him and informed him that his wife and unborn child had died in a household accident.
Devastated, he tried to back out of the plan, but the criminals strong-armed him into keeping their commitment to them. When they entered the plant, however, the police were waiting for them, and opened fire. In the ensuing melee, the two criminals were killed and the engineer escaped, only to run into Batman, who happened to be investigating the disturbance. Terrified, the engineer jumped over the railings into a vat of chemicals in order to escape from Batman. He swam out of the plant's drainage canal, but the chemicals bleached his skin and turned his hair green and lips red. His disfigurement, coupled with the loss of his wife and child, drove the engineer insane and resulted in the birth of the Joker.
This is just one of four origin stories suggested by writers in the Batman universe. The true story is unclear due to the fact that the only man who knows what really happened (that being, The Joker) is an unreliable source. The Joker even says to Batman during a battle between the two:
"Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another. If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple-choice!"
Another origin story, written by Paul Dini, portrays the Joker as a mob enforcer who created the Red Hood persona to commit small-time crimes, since he reveled in "dirty work". After his disfigurement, the gangster remained sane, but made his crimes look like the work of a lunatic in order to pursue his vendetta against Batman and avoid the death penalty.
The "Lovers and Madmen" story arc in Batman Confidential portrays the Joker as having been a professional criminal who had grown bored with his work until encountering Batman; he found that matching wits with the Caped Crusader rekindled the thrill of crime. He badly injured Bruce Wayne's girlfriend Silver St. Cloud, prompting an enraged Batman to scar the criminal's face with a batarang, leaving him with a permanent grin. Batman then chased the criminal into a chemical plant, and the criminal fell into a vat of toxic waste, resulting in his disfigurement and the birth of the Joker.
Joker was given yet another origin in the New 52. In this continuity, the man who would become the Joker was once leader of the Red Hood Gang. Eventually their members were picked off and incarcerated by Batman; causing the gang's numbers to dwindle. Batman then learned that the gang's leader, known as Red Hood One, had planned to steal deadly chemicals from the ACE chemical plant. So he got the drop on them by blowing off the building's roof. Red Hood One tried to escape via helicopter but Batman yanked him off it, causing them both to fall through the damaged roof and be left dangling over a chemical vat. Batman tried to save Red Hood One but the villain told him that this encounter was "only the beginning" before breaking free of the Dark Knight's grasp and letting himself plunge into the chemicals below, resulting in his disfigurement. Like some other origin stories, Joker's true identity is never revealed.
It is later revealed that there are apparently three Jokers on Prime Earth, which might explain why there are various origins for the mad man. One of the Jokers has the origin from the Killing Joke confirming it did indeed happen.
Joker appeared in comics in various versions, these are some of the most important.
Joker from Batman #1
This was the first ever version of the Joker in which he intended to steal diamonds. In some editions of this comic book he didn't even have green hair and a purple suit that he's known for today, he had casual black hair and a brown suit. This comic book presents some of its basic features according to which it is recognized to this day.
Joker from Batman: The Killing Joke
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This version of the Joker offers us one of origin's most famous stories in which he, as an engineer employed by a company by force of opportunity, helps the mafia rob it. Meanwhile his pregnant wife dies in a domestic accident. The grief-stricken engineer tries to get out of the plan, but the criminals make him keep going. During the robbery, the engineer comes into conflict with Batman, and then out of fear he jumps into chemicals. His distortion and sadness drive him mad, thus creating the Joker.
In a special mini-series that ran through several issues of Superman, the Joker tricked the reality-warping imp known as Mister Mxyzptlk into giving him his powers. This resulted in the Joker becoming a god and transforming the entire world into a sick amusement-park style nightmare dedicated to his own madness. Despite all of the Joker's vast power in this special story line he had a weakness in the fact that his relationship to Batman had reached a point where he could not exist with him, a kind of psychological "vicious cycle" deal in which for all his hatred of the Dark Knight, the Joker could not kill him as the two had become interlinked as characters: in short without Batman there was no Joker. Superman used this knowledge to his advantage and ultimately defeated the omnipotent Emperor Joker as a result - the Joker has never obtained such godlike power again.
Joker from Batman: Death of the Family
In this version, the Joker marks his return to Gotham with the recovery of a preserved ripped-off face with the help of a villain called Dollmaker. Joker kidnaps Alfred Pennyworth and brainwashes him, captures Bat Family and puts blood-washed bandages on their heads and rips some people's faces out to make it look like he's torn off Bat Family members faces. He invites Batman to dinner where he shows it to him and then set the building exploding, Batman chases Joker to the ravine, threatening to know his true identity, but the Joker kidnaps him and jumps down.
There are so many strategies employed by the Joker that there can often be no discernible pattern to his attacks. For instance, The Joker often uses his lapel either to shoot his "Joker gas", or to shoot nothing at all. Other times The Joker has pointed guns at others with a label saying "bang", yet as "Infinite Crisis" has proven, The Joker can also be extremely sadistic. As such, this makes The Joker a very dangerous opponent indeed due to his unpredictable mind. He has outsmarted Batman on numerous occasions, and superhumans like Superman have fallen into his traps many times.
Joker's appearance usually varies depending on different artists and media, but typically he wears a lavender suit with matching trousers, gloves, a necktie and a flower on his chest that shoots acid, laughing gas, or knockout gas. Of course, aside from his clothes, Joker has chalk white skin, green hair, green eyes, and a big ghoulish smile on his face with an unusually long nose and chin. Occasionally, Joker is also seen wearing a wide brim hat.
Joker has been known to wear different outfits depending on his mood. In the infamous graphic novel The Killing Joke he wore an outfit to resemble a tourist on a tropical vacation.
In the Death of the Family comic arc, Joker was determined to "fix" what he saw wrong with Batman and wore an outfit to show this. He wore a blue mechanics jumpsuit with the words "Joe's Garage" labeled on the back, a tool belt around his waist and, most noticeably, had the skin of his dismembered face hastily strapped back on his head with a belt and twine after cutting it off a year prior.
In the comic arc Endgame, Joker returned with a new appearance. His face had completely grown back with a few alterations due to the healing properties of the chemical Dionesium. The length of his nose and chin are less exaggerated then they were before and his iconic grin, while still very wide, is not as long as it use to be. Joker also sports a new hairdo and wears a black suit ensemble with a pair of white gloves. He eventually wears another outfit more in line with his classic attire, although changes to his hair and facial features remain.
In the mini-series, Underworld Unleashed, The Trickster remarks, "When supervillains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories". As far as truth about Joker’s personality, one word sums him up, unpredictable. One day, the Joker may be a harmless clown, to others he can become a crazy, maniacal, lunatic, psychotic, homicidal, psychopathic, ruthless, sadistic, manipulative, intelligent and diabolical serial-killer and master criminal who wants nothing but chaos and anarchy wherever he goes, as well as reveling in the suffering of others. The same goes for what lines he will and won't cross.
Various psychologists in Arkham Asylum have tried to diagnose, though unsuccessfully, the nature of the Joker's mania. It has been stated that he tests positive for all of the clinical markers for both sociopathy and psychopathy although given his unpredictability and volatile nature, the Joker would be closer to a psychopath. It is believed that a combination of trauma of falling into the chemicals that changed him and the chemicals' effect on his system that twisted the Joker into what he is, which is partially supported by the fact that the Lazarus pit temporarily cured him of insanity and the pit is known for its healing properties.
At his most harmless, the Joker is still menacing and will endanger lives with no regard for the harm he causes while also pulling dangerous pranks for no reason other than to spread chaos. At his worst, the Joker would be best described as a living nightmare. A creature whose only purpose is to bring pain and death for his own perverse amusement.
In addition to this, the Joker is one of the few villains attributed with killing one of Batman's sidekicks (the other being Black Mask). The Joker beat Robin/Jason Todd to death in the comic A Death in the Family. For any Batman villain, killing a Robin is almost the peak of villainy. Only two Robins and one Batgirl have ever been maimed or killed at the hands of supervillains.
He also indicates that all it takes is one bad day for even the nicest most upstanding of people to go insane, citing his own experiences, as well as claims that life is all "one big joke" and that the only sensible way to live is either by being insane or by living without rules, strongly indicating that he is a nihilist and an anarchist.
In fact, The Joker does not have any plan to kill Batman because he is "just so much fun" because he always plays his little "games". Rather he actually wants to corrupt Batman by causing greater tragedies in his life so that he can get Batman to kill him or make Batman like him. Even though the Dark Knight has shown to be incorruptible and sticks to his moral code of not murdering his enemies and having them receive justice instead, the Joker never gives up because the more tragedies he causes, the more Batman will get angry at the Joker and thus, risk breaking his code. Thus making sure that even if Batman finally snaps and finishes him off, Joker would still come out on top.
However, even the Joker had his standards. During a DC/Marvel crossover, while Joker is working with the Red Skull, he thinks his partner in crime's trademark swastika is merely part of a costume. However, when the Red Skull revealed himself as an actual Nazi, the Joker is horrified and in the end, he fights him as he is about to drop a bomb on Washington DC. In addition, he was contemptuous of white-collar corporate crime, as evidenced by his hatred of Warren White, a corrupt CEO who embezzled his client's money; he says that, while he may have killed people, he "didn't steal their kids' college funds." Another noticeable moment is at the end of the "No Man's Land" story arc, in which the Joker kidnapped several infants and held them hostage, planning to kill them in order to break Gotham's already fragile spirit. Sarah Essen Gordon tried to rescue them, but he disarmed and killed her during her attempt. He found no humor in her death, uncharacteristically frowning as he walked away, leaving the infants unharmed and promptly surrendered to the police. He also freely admits and takes credit for the crimes he commits. In fact, he has done this so many times that it is usually a surefire sign that the Joker is actually innocent of a crime if the Clown Prince of Crime denies any involvement in it.
Despite this, Joker ended up becoming a more ruthless and sadistic monster overtime. Whatever standards he did have no longer exist. However, his love for Jeannie, his deceased wife, still carried with him even after losing his sanity, to the point where in Batman: Gotham Knight #54, when the Riddler revealed that the dirty cop Oliver Hammet apparently killed Jeannie, the Joker wanted nothing more than to kill him in revenge. Nevertheless, the Joker is still able to control his level of destruction, as demonstrated with his extreme hatred towards The Batman Who Laughs, who despite being a "Jokerized Batman", is far more destructive than the Joker, leading the Clown Prince of Crime to cooperate with Batman to get rid of him. Despite that, the Joker tried to transform Batman into the very same thing Laughs became because he believed that the only way to destroy that Batman was making his own Batman like him, demonstrating that even in spite of that the Joker doesn't measure the potential consequences of his actions.
Relationship with Harley Quinn
Previously known as Dr. Harleen Quinzel, an ambitious young psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, Harley is now employed as the Joker's hench-wench/ girlfriend. The Joker is often abusive (physically and emotionally) towards her, but she is nevertheless completely devoted to him, believing that her "Puddin'" loves her and only hurts her as a joke. Harley has also returned the beatings a few times. It is implied that the Joker is in fact fond of her despite himself. In fact, in “The LEGO Batman Movie”, they get along well and there is a deleted scene where his coattails turn into a heart shape when she hugs him.
When she became his doctor at the asylum, he told her that her name reminded him of the clown character Harlequin. The next day, when she went into her office, she found a rose on her desk from the Joker. She treated him over the next weeks, during which he told her that he was abandoned by his mother and abused by his alcoholic father. She fell completely in love with him, broke him out of Arkham and became his lover and sidekick, Harley Quinn.
Appearances in Other Media
Holy Musical Batman
He was only mentioned by name by the Penguin and Sweet Tooth. The Clown Prince of Crime was supposed to be the main villain in the show, but instead, Sweet Tooth, portrayed by Jeff Blim, replaced him.
The Joker first makes his appearance in the Mortal Kombat series as a major antagonist and playable character in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.
In Batman's chapter, Joker tried to kill Batman by blowing him up with a bomb after while he was trying to take Scorpion to Arkham. Despite his defeat, Joker escaped later encountering Scorpion who defeated him with ease.
Joker later teams up with Lex's team and the heroes to defeat Dark Kahn. Betraying them after getting infused bu The Rage, Joker defeats Batman before getting tasered. Later, Batman argues that since Joker and Flash both got corrupted by The Rage, they couldn't trust them. However, they decide to keep them on as long as Joker behaves. Joker then particpates during the final battle with the MK side; facing Kano before getting knocked out and aiding both sides aganist Dark Kahn during the climax.
In the Joker's Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe ending, he gain new supernatural powers since after the parallel universes-merger crisis. He now uses them to ultimately enslave all of Gotham City forever, proclaiming himself "Mayor Joker". Within his chaotic city, the Joker held a new tournament in which contestants fight for his amusement, and the winner of all these challenges would have to face the final opponent, the Joker himself.
The Joker is a DLC character in the first Kombat Pack in Mortal Kombat 11. He was revealed on August 21, 2019.
The Joker is voiced by Richard Epcar in both of his appearances, who also voices Raiden and also voices the Joker in the Injustice series.
DC Universe Online
The Joker appears as a major antagonist in DC Universe Online where he acts as the mentor for villains who choose to specialize in technology.
While the Joker is almost a given to appear in any video game that has Batman, he has not appeared in all of them, and is not always the Big Bad. On systems and games before the modern era, he has appeared in:
Two Batman PC games from the late 80's, Batman and Batman: The Caped Crusader both of which featured the relatively primitive graphics of that era.
A TurboGrafix 16 (PC Engine) game with Pac-Man like mechanics.
Games for several systems, based upon the 1989 Batman movie featuring Jack Nicholson as The Joker. This included a full-featured arcade game.
Return of the Joker for NES and Genesis, an unofficial semi-sequel to the 1989 film and the games based on it. Both hero and villain rely a lot more on weapons than combat, ala Contra. Each level had a sub-boss.
Two games based on the 1990's Batman: The Animated Series in its early incarnation. In neither case is Joker the central villain. Stages are based on villains' lairs and traps from the series. This appeared on SNES, Genesis and Sega-CD (Mega Drive and Mega-CD). The Sega/Mega CD version of The Adventures Of Batman & Robin had extensive animated scenes made for its cutscenes, to the point it is considered a 'lost' episode.
Batman: Chaos In Gotham for Game Boy Color. Not the central villain. These later games are based off The New Batman Adventures. Another Arkham mass breakout.
Batman: Gotham City Racer, as the name implies, a racing game, based again on the 90's animated series. For PS1. Joker and Harley Quinn had specialized race cars, similar to LEGO Batman.
Batman: Dark Tomorrow, an original video game adventure. Joker either works for or is manipulated by Ra's Al Ghul. XBox, GameCube. Plagued by plotholes stifling game play.
Batman: Vengeance, based upon The New Batman Adventures and featuring extensive cinematics based on it. While the graphics, cinematics and story were widely praised, the controls left a great deal to be desired. In this, Batman is electrocuted by his joy buzzer and Joker falls to his apparent death. But he survives.
Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker - As in the animated feature, a reborn Joker bedevils the Terry McGinnis Batman, and his mystery is tied up in the final battle between Joker and the original Batman. For N64 and Playstation, very poorly received.
Batman: Rise Of Sin Tzu - Only a non-speaking cameo
Justice League: Injustice For All - The Joker as a member of the Injustice League aids their schemes. Based on the Justice League animated series from the 2000's. For Game Boy Advance.
The Joker will be appearing in the 2021 film Space Jam: A New Legacy, the anticipated sequel to the 1996 Warner Bros. hybrid film Space Jam. He is going to appear alongside other villains from other Warner Bros. properties to challenge LeBron James and the Looney Tunes into a basketball match. Much like in The LEGO Batman Movie, the Joker will be reunited with Agent Smith and Lord Voldemort.
It's currently unknown whether any previous actor will resume their role as the Joker or if the character will be recast.
Here's to crime.
~ Joker, after shooting Barbara Gordon.
All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day. You had a bad day once. Am I right? I know I am. I can tell. You had a bad day and everything changed. Why else would you dress up like a flying rat? You had a bad day, and it drove you as crazy as everybody else... only you won't admit it! You have to keep pretending that life makes sense, that there's some point to all the struggling! God, you make me want to puke. I mean, what is it with you? What made you what you are? Girlfriend killed by the mob, maybe? Brother carved up by some mugger? Something like that, I bet something like that... something like that happened to me, you know. I... I'm not exactly sure what it was. Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another... If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha Ha Ha! But my point is... I went crazy. When I saw what a black, awful joke the world was, I went crazy as a coot! I admit it! So why can't you? You're not unintelligent, you must see the reality of the situation? Do you know how many times we've come close to World War III over a flock of geese on a computer screen? Do you even know what triggered the last world war? An argument with Germany over how many telegraph poles they owed their war debt creditors. Telegraph poles! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha! It's all a joke! Anything anybody ever valued or struggled for, it's all just a monstrous, demented gag. So why can't you see the funny side? Why aren't you laughing?
~ The Joker's famous monologue to Batman in The Killing Joke.
Memories can be vile. Repulsive little brutes, like children I suppose. But can we live without them? Memories are what our reason is based upon. If we can't face them, we deny reason itself! Although, why not? We aren't contractually tied down to rationality. There is no sanity clause. So when you find yourself locked down in an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember: There's always madness. You can just step outside and close the door, and all those dreadful things that happened, you can lock them away. Madness... is an emergency exit.
~ The Joker.
No. I'm sorry, but... no. It's too late for that. Far too late. Hahaha. You know, it's funny. This situation. It reminds me of a joke...
~ The Joker to Batman, refusing rehabilitation.
See, there were these two guys in a lunatic asylum. And one night, they decide they don't like living in the asylum anymore. They decide they're going to escape! So, like, they get up onto the roof, and there, just across this narrow gap, they see the rooftops of the town, stretching away into the moonlight. Stretching away to freedom. Now, the first guy, he jumps right across with no problem. But his friend, his friend daren't make the leap. Y'see... y'see, he's afraid of falling. So then the first guy has an idea... He says, 'Hey, I have a flashlight with me! I'll shine it across the gap between the buildings. You can walk across the beam and join me!' But the second guy just shakes his head. He suh-says... he says 'Wh-what do you think I am? Crazy? You'd turn it off when I was halfway across!
~ The Joker's joke.
If I weren't crazy, I'd be insane!
~ The Joker.
If the police expect to play against the JOKER, they had best be prepared to be dealt from the bottom of the deck!
~ The Joker.
I may be insane... but I'm not crazy!
If someone hates you for no reason, give that jerk a reason!
~ The Joker
Give a man a mask and he'll become his true self.
~ The Joker
The only way you'll beat him... is to become him. Heh.
~ The Joker's dying words to Batman after attempting to kill himself.
You and I... We'll always be at war. You think we matter, I think life is a bad @$#%!$& joke. I believe that one day I'll win. That I'll watch you screaming at my feet as this city dies, and on that day I will laugh at you. But just once, and never again, here and now... I... I want you to know... that's not what I want.
~ The Joker to Batman.
No. (...) I want neither of us to win. Ever. Heh.
~ The Joker to Batman.
He was created by the late Bob Kane, the late Bill Finger and the late Jerry Robinson.
The Joker's first name is nearly revealed and apparently begins with "Ja--" However, before Melvin Reipan is about to mention the name, the Joker shushes him, saying "We don't use that name anymore, remember? I'm Cousin Joker now".
The Joker is one of the most iconic and recognized villains in popular media, having been ranked #1 on Wizard's list of the 100 Greatest Villains of All Time. He was also ranked #1 on IGN's ist of the Greatest Comic Book Villains of All Time in 2009.
The Joker arguably has the largest individual body count in the DC Universe (galactic rulers and planet destroyers aside), having killed over 2,000 victims in his career. While Mongul, Cheshire, and Black Adam have devastated entire cities, Joker probably has killed more in a single act, ranging from traditional knives and explosives to his lethal electric joybuzzer and his signature laughing gas.
It has recently been revealed there are three different Jokers. The original Golden Age Joker (prominent in Golden Age and Pre-Crisis), the Silver Age Joker (also prominent in Death in the Family, Death of the Family, Batman Endgame and Dark Knights Metal) and the Bronze Age Joker (The Killing Joke, Emperor Joker and No Man's Lands).
Despite being a rapist (albeit in an Elseworlds non-canon story), the Joker doesn't seem to enjoy such crime and just satisfies himself that his victim feels hurt, leading to the possibility that he may be asexual. Considering that the Joker doesn't brag about raping his victims, let alone his lack of affection towards Harley Quinn, this may well be the case (though he does occasionally shows genuine affection to Harley like in "Emperor Joker").
The Joker fought the sadistic serial killer clown Sweet Tooth in DEATH BATTLE & won.
In Kano'sMK Vs. DC Universe ending, he becomes a Joker-like killer in his universe.
In MK9, Shang Tsung has a Fatality where he morphs into a red-nose-and-makeup clown, and then shoots with a gun that first gives off a BANG! flag, only to then really shoot the enemy, with him giggling over it. It is very similar to Joker's MK vs. DCU fatality, and some accounts say that the programmers actually wanted Tsung to morph into the Joker, but copyright concerns arose.
Mike Matei of Cinemassacre.com appears as the Joker with his cohort James Rolfe in an Angry Video Game Nerd review of past Batman games. He taunts the Nerd, dressed as Batman, when the controls on the older games prove a frustrating challenge for Rolfe, who notably does not have Batman's self-control.
He also made a cameo appearance at the party scene in the 2018 sci-fi film Ready Player One along with Harley Quinn.