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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.||„|
|~ The Joker|
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 and manipulative criminal with a twisted and sadistic sense of humor. His most prominent origin story was that he fell into a tank 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.
His manipulative mind allows him to control the city with the press of a button. He is shown to have a high level of knowledge and is able to comprehend various scientific tasks. The Joker will often claim he never has a plan, but this menace often has a plot drawn out long before he meets the protagonists.
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.
- He was portrayed by the late Cesar Romero in the Batman television series.
- Jack Nicholson - who also portrayed Jack Torrance in The Shining, Jimmy Hoffa in Hoffa, Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in A Few Good Men, and Frank Costello in The Departed - in Tim Burton's Batman, whose real name is Jack Napier.
- He is voiced by Mark Hamill in the DC Animated Universe, the three Rocksteady Arkham Games, as well as the incarnation from the animated adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke
- He was portrayed by the late Heath Ledger in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight - who also portrayed Tony Shepard in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
- He is portrayed by Jared Leto - who also portrayed Angel Face in Fight Club and Niander Wallace in Blade Runner 2049 - in the DC Extended Universe.
- He is voiced by Zach Galifianakis in The Lego Batman Movie.
- Jerome Valeska, a character modeled after the Joker, is portrayed by Cameron Monaghan in Gotham.
- Jeremiah Valeska, the twin brother of Jerome, who after becoming infected by a toxin that drove him insane and made him the real Joker.
- Joaquin Phoenix - who also portrayed Commodus in Gladiator - will portray the character in a Joker centered origin movie, in which his real name will be Arthur Fleck.
A year after Bob Kane first introduced Batman to comics, DC Comics requested a new villain for the hero. Kane, along with Batman's co-creator Bill Finger, started working on ideas and they came up with one villain: 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 character on the 1928 film “The Man Who Laughs”, when actor Conrad Veidt played the part of a mute man with his disfigured face in a permanent smile. On his first appearance, Joker was a psychopathic maniac 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 and after an editorial edict, a final scene was arranged in which the Joker was shown to be alive and ever since, he has remained a major villain in the DC Universe.
The Joker in the 1940s was shown merely as a no-name spree killer/mass murderer and later a criminal prankster. There was only one short origin story in 1951, written by the Joker's co-creator Bill Finger in "Detective Comics #168" in which Joker first was the criminal known as "Red Hood". Years later, in the 1980’s that same origin story was expanded by Alan Moore, 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 and with his wife Jeannie heavily pregnant, the engineer turned to two criminals to help him out. Helping the criminals to break in involved the engineer to dress up as the Red Hood. This was made as an excuse by the criminals to say that they wished to protect his identity. However, they failed to mention the history of 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 contact(ed) him and inform(ed) him that his wife and unborn child have (had) died in a household accident.
The engineer was distraught at the loss of his wife and unborn child, so he tried to back out of the plan. However, the criminals strong-arm him into keeping their commitment to them. When they entered the plant, their cover was immediately blown and a shoot out with security guards ensued. In the resulting melee, the two criminals were killed and the engineer escaped, only to run into Batman, who happened to be investigating the disturbance.
So frightened by the appearance of a "black demon", the engineer jumped over the railings into a vat of chemicals in order to escape from Batman. His attempted escape was successful, but the chemicals bleached his skin and turned his hair green. The unfortunate events of the day, coupled with the hideous reformation, drove the engineer insane and resulted in the birth of the Joker.
This is just one of three 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 after 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 is suggested by Alex Dini says that the Joker was in fact a mob enforcer who worked his way up the Gotham criminal food chain until he led a powerful criminal faction. Dini then suggests that the Joker created the Red Hood personality 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.
Joker was seemingly given a more solidified origin in the New 52. In this continuity, the man who'd become Joker was once leader of the Red Hood Gang; a group of criminals that used senseless violence to commit crimes. Eventually their members were pick 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, and the remaining gang members 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. 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 their are various origins for the mad man.
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.
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 serial-killer.
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' affect 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. 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 Robin’s 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 implying that he is a nihilist.
However, even the Joker has 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 is 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. Sarah Essen Gordon tried to rescue them, but he disarmed and killed her during her attempt. He found no humor in her death, frowning as he walked away and promptly surrendering to the police.
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.
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.
In Video Games
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
The Joker serves as a minor villain and playable character in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.
In the Joker's MK 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.
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.
- Main article: Joker (Injustice)
He appears in the videogame Scribblenauts: Unmasked, as the third antagonist.
Early Appearances on Older Systems
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'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.
- 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.
- The Joker fought the sadistic serial killer clown Sweet Tooth in DEATH BATTLE & won.
- The Joker was set up to be the main antagonist in Injustice: Gods Among Us, but was killed off to make way for Superman to take over; he is still, however, the posthumous villain of the story.
- This incarnation is by far one of the most cruel and sociopathic versions of the Joker to be seen.
- The Joker in this game (both the normal and Regime version) was voiced by Richard Epcar, who was also the Joker's voice actor in Mortal Kombat vs. DC universe. Coincidentally, both games were made by NetherRealm Studios.
- In Kano's MK 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 made a cameo at the party scene in the 2018 sci-fi film Ready Player One along with Harley Quinn.
Non Playable Villains