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The Joker is a fictional character, a DC Comics supervillain widely considered to be Batman's archenemy. He first appeared in Batman #1 (Spring 1940). His creation is the subject of debate, with some sources  saying he was initially conceived by art assistant Jerry Robinson and redesigned by Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger, which Kane consistently denied until his death in 1998.
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 period that fans and historians call the Golden Age of Comic Books, began to be written as a goofy trickster-thief. That characterization continued through the late-1950s and 1960s Silver Age before the character became again depicted as a vicious, sociopathic killer. The Joker has been responsible for numerous tragedies in Batman's life, including the paralysis of Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) and the murders of Jason Todd (the second Robin) and Sarah Essen, Jim Gordon's second wife.
Interpretations of the Joker in other media include Cesar Romero's in the 1960s Batman television series, Jack Nicholson's in Tim Burton's 1989 feature film, and Mark Hamill's in Batman: The Animated Series and other DC Animated Universe shows. The character ranks first in the comics-hobbyist magazine Wizard's list of the top 100 villains. As played by Nicholson, The Joker ranks #45 in the American Film Institute's list of the top 50 film villains of all time.
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 later admitted by Kane in 1970 and 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:
“Bill Finger and I created the Joker. Bill was the writer. Jerry Robinson came to me with a playing card of the Joker. That's the way I sum it up. [The Joker] looks like Conrad Veidt — you know, the actor in The Man Who Laughs, [the 1928 movie based on the novel] by Victor Hugo. [...] Bill Finger had a book with a photograph of Conrad Veidt and showed it to me and said, 'Here's the Joker'. Jerry Robinson had absolutely nothing to do with it. But he'll always say he created it till he dies. He brought in a playing card, which we used for a couple of issues for him [the Joker] to use as his playing card".”
In his initial dozen or so appearances, starting with Batman #1 (1940), the Joker is 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 ("The Joker Returns", also in Batman #1), the Joker 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 escapes capture but suffers 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 kills 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 is 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, rather than a trigger-happy madman. 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 psychopath 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 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 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.
Origin of The Joker
Detective Comics #168 (February 1951) revealed that he had been a criminal known as the Red Hood. While fleeing from Batman, the Red Hood fell into a vat of chemicals, from which he emerged 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 backstory 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, Joe agreed 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 leader appear to be the inside man, allowing the two ring-leaders to escape. The men convinced him to wear it by saying it was out of their concern for his identity. During the planning, police contacted him and informed him that his wife had died in a household accident.
Stricken with grief, he attempted to back out of the plan, but the criminals strong-armed him into keeping his promise. As soon as they entered the plant, however, they were immediately caught by security and a fatal shoot-out followed in which the two criminals were killed. As he tried to escape, he was confronted by Batman, who was investigating the disturbance. In desperation, the engineer leaped over a rail and plummeted into a vat of chemicals. When he surfaced in the nearby reservoir, he removed the hood and saw his reflection: bleached chalk-white skin, ruby-red lips, and green hair. These events, coupled with his other misfortunes that day, drove the engineer completely insane, resulting in the birth of the Joker.
The story "Pushback" (Batman: Gotham Knights # 50-55), supports part of the Moore version when 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.
No recounting of the Joker's origin is exactly definitive, however, as he is 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 appeared at Commissioner Jim Gordon's home one night and shot Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) in the stomach at close range, paralyzing her, and kidnapped the Commissioner. The Joker then stripped Barbara naked and took photographs of her injured body, which he would later show Gordon in his attempt to drive him insane; Joker sought to prove that any man can have "one really bad day" and become just like him. Batman rescued Gordon before pursuing the Joker, eventually cornering him on the rooftop. Batman tried one final time to reach his old foe, offering to rehabilitate him. The Joker refused, but showed his appreciation by sharing a joke with Batman, and the two began to laugh before Joker allowed himself to be taken back to Arkham.
One of the Joker's biggest impacts on Batman's life was the murder of Jason Todd, the second Robin in the story "A Death in the Family". In his search for his long lost mother, Todd eventually found her in the captivity of the Joker. Joker beat Jason to within an inch of his life with a crowbar before blowing up the warehouse they were in. Joker escaped but Batman was left to find the lifeless body of the second Robin, a death that has haunted him since and intensified his obsession with his archenemy.
In "The Devil's Advocate", Joker is convicted of a spree of murders where all the victims were left with the Joker's trademark grin. Though normally his plea of insanity would allow him to escape the death penalty, The Joker instead pleads innocent of the "amateurish" crimes, and is sentenced to death. However, Batman refuses to believe that the Joker committed the crimes because they are uncharacteristic of his arch-nemesis. Batman succeeds in identifying the real killer, who was attempting to frame the Joker.
A psychiatrist eventually begins to ponder that perhaps the Joker is in fact perfectly sane, and faking insanity so as to avoid the death penalty. This psychiatrist is Harleen Quinzel, the future Harley Quinn. As she tries to treat the Joker, he recounts a tale of an abusive father and runaway mother to gain her sympathy. It works all too well; she falls hopelessly in love with him, and allows him to escape Arkham several times before she is eventually caught. Driven over the edge with obsession, she turns into a criminal and the Joker's on and off girlfriend.
In a company-wide crossover, "The Last Laugh," the Joker believed 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 before escaping. He sets the super powered inmates loose on the world to cause mass chaos in their 'jokerized' forms. Meanwhile, he tries to ensure his "legacy" by defacing statues in his image and attempting to impregnate Harley Quinn. The entire United States declares war on the Joker under the orders of President 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 tumour in an attempt to subdue him with the threat of death. Meanwhile, Harley Quinn, angry at Joker's attempt to get her pregnant, is helping the heroes who rescued her to create a cure to the Joker poison and return the super villains to their normal state and eventually comes up with an antidote.
Nightwing eventually catches up with the Joker and, believing that Robin is dead, prepares to take the villain down once and for all. The Joker, happy to end his life by killing the first Robin, faces Nightwing in a physical one on one, a match that Nightwing easily dominates. Nightwing finally kills the Joker, just as Batman and his allies arrive. Refusing to allow the Joker to escape justice, Batman revives the Joker and sends him back to jail. The super criminals are all cured of their Joker venom.
During the events of the No Man's Land storyline, the Joker murders Sarah Essen Gordon, Commissioner Gordon's second wife, by shooting her through the head as she tries to protect infants that he had kidnapped. Even the Joker finds no humor in his actions until Gordon retaliates by shooting Joker in the leg. The Joker begins to laugh, seeing the irony in losing the use of his leg after he paralyzed Barbara Gordon years earlier.
In Emperor Joker, a multipart story throughout the Superman titles, the Joker manages to steal the godlike power of Superman villain Mister Mxyzptlk, albeit temporarily.
During the return of new villain Hush to Gotham City, 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 was cut short when Hush attacked 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 is not quite as crazy as he leads people to believe. Jason attempted to force Batman to shoot the Joker, angered at Batman's refusal to kill the Joker despite what he'd done, but Batman refused, 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, angered at the fact that he was the only villain not to be invited into the new Secret Society of Super-Villains.
One Year Later
In Detective Comics #826, during the holiday season, Joker captured Robin and drove him through the city in a minivan. While driving, Joker aimlessly ran over innocent bystanders, killed a fast food manager in cold blood, and subjected Robin to physical and psychological torture. Eventually, Robin was able to play the Joker by starting a conversation about the Marx Brothers, which distracted Joker long enough for Robin to attempt an escape. Eventually he did, wrecking the minivan in the process. The body of the Joker was never found, so he remained at large.
Batman #655 opens with Joker having poisoned Commissioner Gordon and apparently having beaten Batman to death while disabled children he had taken hostage were forced to watch. He had also shattered the Bat-signal. However, the Batman he had beaten was a fake, an ex-cop in a Batman suit. Moreover, he was not dead, and pulled a gun. Batman was in time to save the Joker, but not before the bullet grazed his forehead. Batman took out his frustration by throwing him into a dumpster.
Batman #663 features the return of the Joker who has had to undergo skin grafting procedures due to injuries sustained during his last encounter with Batman that left him immobile and unable to speak correctly. While in intensive care at Arkham, he sends Harley Quinn to kill all of his old henchman with a new death gas in order to signal his forthcoming "rebirth". Harley lures Batman to Arkham to confront The Joker (who at this point has undergone a mental transformation, subsequently reinventing himself, as first explained in Morrison's Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth), thinking Joker will kill Batman at midnight. This reinvention is referred to as the 'Thin White Duke of Death'. Instead, Joker attempts first to kill, then mutilate Harley Quinn in front of Batman. After a fight between Joker and Batman, Harley shoots the Joker, wounding him. Batman then brings the Joker back into custody. This issue, written in text form by Grant Morrison and illustrated by John Van Fleet, deeply explores the Joker's psyche and expands upon concepts introduced in Batman: The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth Also, unlike most comics, this issue was written in prose format, with the art accentuating highlighted moments within the story.
The Joker's Powers and Abilities
The Joker commits crimes with countless "comedic" weapons (such as razor-sharp playing cards, acid-spewing flowers, cyanide pies, and lethally 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. The Joker is immune to his venom. The Joker is also very skilled in the fields of chemistry, genetics, and computer technology. The Joker can and will use any weaponry available to him, from joke pistols to nuclear missiles.
Joker's skills in hand-to-hand combat vary considerably depending on the writer. Some writers have shown Joker to be quite the skilled fighter, capable even of holding his own against Batman in a fight. Other writers prefer portraying Joker as being physically frail to the point that he can be defeated with a single punch.
The Joker has cheated death numerous times, even in seemingly inescapable and lethal situations. Though he has been seen to "die" through explosions, has been repeatedly shot, dropped from heights and through various other means, 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 could be a harmless clown or a vicious killer, depending on which would benefit him the most. Later, during the Knightfall saga, after Scarecrow 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 Scarecrow with a chair. This suggests that due to his insanity, the Joker literally has no fear, or at least has no hidden demons. In Morrison's JLA title, the Martian Manhunter rewired his own brain in order to think like the Joker, and later briefly rewired the Joker's brain to create momentary sanity. In those few moments, the Joker realized that he had to reevaluate his life. He was returned to his usual self soon afterward.
It is often implied that the Joker was transformed both physically and mentally by the accident in the chemical plant. In various DC Comics Who's Who publications, it has been stated 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, Joker is rendered sane by a nuclear war which 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.
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", 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.
After tricking the fifth-dimensional being Mister Mxyzptlk into giving all of his power to the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker briefly had the ability to alter reality, a power he uses to remake the world and torture Batman until Superman and a chagrined Mister Mxyzptlk return reality to normal.
Character of The Joker
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 Batman 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, he is a textbook example of antisocial personality disorder; in a sense, he is Charles Manson cursed with a clown's grinning face and a grotesque sense of showmanship. 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 perennial standing among Batman's enemies likely derives from the fact that he represents the antithesis of Batman's personality and methods. Batman is generally depicted, even in the campy 1960s television show, as a serious, stoic man who pursues his campaign against crime with utter earnestness and a disciplined, focused mind. In the darker portrayals of the comics, in addition to more recent films and television, the Dark Knight is further depicted as a brooding and humorless avenger who pursues justice as an enigmatic shadow striking from the dead of night. The Joker, by contrast, is symbolized as a killer clown, driven by a disordered mind to pursue destruction and chaos with as much panache as possible. His appearance and actions suggest the bright and garish pomp and circumstance of the circus. Nightwing has stated that he believes the Joker and Batman exist because of each other; that Batman represents order and Joker the chaos that challenges it. Like Superman and Lex Luthor, it has been suggested that Batman and the Joker need each other.
The Joker's victims have included men, women, children, and even his own henchmen. An issue of Hitman in 1996 stated that the Joker had once gassed an entire kindergarten class. In the graphic novel The Joker: Devil's Advocate, the Joker is stated as having 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.
The Joker's obsession with Batman, and vice versa, 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 attempted 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 mutilated himself in order to restore his trademark white skin, green hair, and crimson lips, and resumed his quest to destroy Batman.
* In another issue, the Joker threatened to kill crime boss Rupert Thorne if he uncovered Batman's secret identity. Thorne had Hugo Strange discover Batman's identity, but, when Strange would not tell him who Batman was, had him killed. The Joker, who was also bidding for Batman's identity alongside the Penguin, told Thorne he was lucky Strange took whatever secrets he held with him to the grave; he explained that he was destined to defeat Batman in a manner worthy of his criminal reputation, and that no one else had the right.
* During the Emperor Joker storyline, the Joker was briefly endowed with cosmic powers that allowed him to remake all of reality, but, as Superman realised at the last minute before Joker's use of his powers destroyed reality, the Joker was still incapable of erasing Batman. Superman informed the Joker that this was because the Joker lived in Batman's world, rather than Batman living in the Joker's, reflecting how the Joker defines himself by his opposition to the Dark Knight.
* In the movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Terry McGinnis, the successor to the mantle of Dark Knight, said to the Joker that the only real reason he kept coming back was because he never got a laugh out of the original Batman. The Joker has also said that without Batman, his life is nothing.
* 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.
The Joker is renowned as Batman's most unpredictable foe. 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 dart saying "BANG!", but then, with another pull of the trigger, the dart fires (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 bloodlust, makes Joker the one villain that the DC Universe's other super-villains fear; in the Villains United 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."
Alternate Versions of The Joker
* In Batman: Bloodstorm, the sequel to Batman's fight with Dracula that resulted in him being transformed into a vampire, the Joker took charge of the remaining vampires, convincing them that he was a better leader to them alive and thinking long-term than transformed into a vampire and more concerned with his next meal. Under the Joker's leadership, the vampires killed all of Gotham's major crime families, but this made them easy prey for Batman's daylight allies. In a last stand, the Joker's remaining vampire allies were killed, but the Joker managed to kill Catwoman in the process. Driven mad with grief, Batman broke the Joker's neck and drained his blood, committing his first murder as a vampire. Horrified by what he had done, Batman fled after staking the Joker, but knew that, in his last breath, the Joker had won by turning Batman into a monster.
* In JLA: The Nail, the Joker was given access to Kryptonian weaponry by the altered Jimmy Olsen, using it to kill Batgirl and Robin right in front of Batman. However, Joker loses his concentration when Catwoman intervenes, allowing Batman to escape. Batman, driven to the brink of madness with grief and rage, killed the Joker on the roof of Arkham Asylum. In the sequel, JLA: Another Nail, they have a rematch in Hell.
* In Batman: In Darkest Knight, where Bruce Wayne is chosen as Green Lantern instead of Hal Jordan, he easily averts the accident that initially transformed the criminal who was once the Red Hood into the Joker.
* An alternate universe Gotham City shows what appears to be a sane Joker working as an agent of Planetary, in Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth.
* A female version of the Joker, modeled on Duela Dent, appeared as part of DC's Tangent Comics line in her own one-shot (Tangent Comics: The Joker) in 1997. A superhero, she also appeared as a member of Tangent's Secret Six. The character was popular enough to merit a second one-shot, The Joker's Wild, in the second wave of Tangent Comics one year later.
* In Gotham by Gaslight, Joker makes a cameo appearance. He is a thief who attempted suicide with strychnine when he was about to be apprehended by the police. His failed attempt left him disfigured and insane.
The Joker in Television: Batman (1960s)
With the success of the 1960s television series, the character was brought to the forefront along with the rest of the classic rogues gallery. During that period the Joker, as portrayed by Cesar Romero in 18 episodes, was a goofy, harmless character akin to his comics persona up to that point. The Joker of this series is characterized by a cackling laugh and comedy-themed crimes that were silly in nature, such as having henchmen dressed as court jesters, turning the the city's water supply into jelly, or bank robberies based on stand-up routines. The only reference to his early life is a remark by Batman that, in his youth, the Joker had been a hypnotist. Romero refused to shave his mustache for the role; it is still partially visible beneath his white face makeup.
The Joker in Television: 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.
The Joker in Television: 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 Joker in Cartoons
The Joker was planned to be a 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. His only Super Friends appearance was in The 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).
Batman: The Animated Series offers another version of the Joker's history, primarily in the episode "Beware the Creeper" and in the spin-off movie Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Here he is a former anonymous hit man for the Mafia with ties to the Beaumont family, and later is the person who kills Carl Beaumont. As in the 1989 movie, he is not wearing any disguise when he makes his fateful attempt to rob the chemical factory. In both this animated series and the comic-book series based on it, the Joker believes Batman intentionally pushed him into the chemicals. Unlike in the 1989 movie, however, no attempt is made to connect the Joker with the death of Bruce Wayne's parents (although "Jack Napier" has been mentioned as one of the killers's aliases).
In Batman: The Animated Series, the Joker made the most appearances of any villain in Batman's rogues' gallery. As in his comic-book persona, the Joker in this series is obsessed with Batman; he often says he is the only one who "deserves" to take out Batman, halting those who try or punishing those who he thinks beat him to it.
This version of the Joker combined past elements of his characterzation from the comics in which some episodes show him performing a ridiculous scheme that portrays his comical and less agressive aspects while others show him as socopath willing to murder dozens of people. Like previous depictions,The Joker is shown as a mass murderer as evident in "Mad Love" in which Harley is examining a newspaper with text that reads "Joker still at large, Body count rises." Near the headline a picture is shown in which one can easily spot at least 20 corpses each with the signature Joker smile. Other episode show him possibly murdering people, but it was never stated if the victims indeed died. Mask of the Phantasm also connect him to three murders directly.
The Joker was also featured in the Batman/Superman crossover World's Finest, making a deal with Lex Luthor to kill Superman with a large Kryptonite dragon statue he stole, in exchange for one billion dollars.
The Animated Series version of the Joker also appears in the Static Shock episode "The Big Leagues".
The New Batman Adventures episode "Legends of the Dark Knight" is about three teenagers telling, often contradictory, stories about their conceptions of Batman's exploits. One story features the Joker in a tale inspired by the Dick Sprang comics of the 1950s. This Joker was voiced by Michael McKean.
In the Justice League episode "Injustice for All", the Joker became a member of the Injustice Gang after Copperhead was arrested.
In the episode "Wild Cards", the Joker placed a series of bombs all over Las Vegas, and the Justice League had less than 30 minutes to defuse while they were watched on TV all over the country. However, the Royal Flush Gang (Ace, Ten, Jack, Queen, and King) were sent by the Joker to stop the League. When all but one of the Royal Flush Gang were defeated and all of the bombs were disposed of, the Joker revealed his true plan: to use Ace's powers to drive people crazy just by looking at them. When Batman arrived, however, he pulled the headband that controlled Ace's powers from Joker's coat. Ace, feeling angry and betrayed by Joker, used her powers on him and rendered the Joker catatonic. It is unknown what happened to him after that.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
The Joker is the main villain of the animated film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, in which he returns to Gotham after 40 years, during which he was believed to be dead. The Joker wreaks havoc on the futuristic Gotham leaving its residents terrified, well aware of his legend. It is eventually revealed that the original Joker did die 40 years ago, and that the Joker threatening the city is actually Tim Drake (the second Robin in the "Animated Series" continuity), whose body was being possessed by the Joker's memories and physical appearance due to an implanted chip encoded with his DNA during the time Drake was held captive and tortured. The Joker is eventually killed for good when Terry McGinnis uses the Joker's own electrocuting joy buzzer to overload and destroy the chip removing its hold over Drake. His legacy lives on, through a street gang carrying on his name and image, and even using his remains found on an abandoned mine shaft for initiation to those who are joining the Jokerz.
A very different interpretation of the Joker appeared in the animated series The Batman, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. At first, he sports a purple and yellow straitjacket, fingerless gloves, bare feet (which are white with green toenails), wild green hair, red eyes, harsher voice, and athletic prowess that mark him as different from his predecessors.
Later in the series, he regressed back the more traditional garb of a purple suit and spats, but still had wild hair and wore no shoes, save one episode, where his shoes could elevate to great height. The Joker also moves and fights with a monkey-like style, using his feet as dexterously as his hands, and often hangs from the walls and ceilings (as the series progresses, these abilities do not appear as much). He employs the signature Joker venom in the form of a laughing gas. This version of the Clown Prince of Crime more resembles the campy, comic relief character featured in the comics of the 1950s and '60s. While this interpretation is generally lighter in tone, however, it still exhibits hints of a darker side. One episode in particular closely resembled The Killing Joke: during "The Rubberface of Comedy", he tortured a police officer to prove a point, quoting the comic: "All it takes is one bad day to make a normal man go insane". The episode also featured the building hatred and jealousy that the Joker felt towards Batman as the police focused more on capturing Batman than him ("You mean to tell me you consider this vigilante more dangerous than me, the Clown Prince of Crime?")
Joker in Film: Batman (1989)
The 1989 Batman film, directed by Tim Burton, offered a somewhat different origin for the Joker, portrayed by Jack Nicholson, and at the same time made him part of Batman's origin. The Joker's real name in the movie was Jack Napier, a play on the word "jackanapes" and the surname of actor Alan Napier, who had played Alfred in the 1960s series. Napier, the narcissistic right-hand man of Boss Carl Grissom, was having an affair with Grissom's girlfriend, Alicia Hunt, prompting the jealous crime lord to set his lieutenant up to be killed by a corrupt police officer named Lt. Eckhardt at Axis Chemicals. However, Grissom's plan went awry thanks to intervention by both Batman and Commissioner Gordon. After killing Eckhardt and then catching a ricocheted bullet in the face, Napier tumbled into a vat of chemicals.
Although Napier survived, his hair grew back green, his skin was bleached white, and a botched attempt at reconstructive surgery severed critical facial nerves, leaving him with an eternal "smile." Assuming his new identity as the Joker, he killed Grissom and took over the gangster's empire, engaging in a violent, chaotic crime spree, the motive being to "outdo" Batman, who he felt was getting too much press. He also tried to woo Gotham Globe reporter Vicki Vale. When Bruce Wayne learned about the Joker, he recalled that his parents were murdered by Jack Napier, realizing that the Joker was indirectly responsible for the origin of Batman. In the film, the Joker meets his demise. When during an attempted helicopter escape from Gotham Cathedral, Batman uses a grappling hook to tie Joker's ankle to a large, heavy gargoyle in an attempt to capture him. But Batman has accidentally sealed the Joker's fate when it comes loose. Unable to break free from the heavy burden of the gargoyle, Joker gives up and falls screaming to his death.
Joker in Film: The Dark Knight
A Joker playing card was shown at the end of Batman Begins, where it had been used as a calling card by a costumed criminal who was not explicitly named. Screenwriter David Goyer explained in Premiere magazine that he plans to use the Joker as the main villain for the sequel, The Dark Knight. Warner Bros. officially announced on July 31, 2006 that Heath Ledger would portray the Joker. Director Christopher Nolan has said that this portrayal will be inspired by The Killing Joke, and the character's first two appearances in the comics.
The Joker in Video games
Joker appears in the video game Batman: Vengeance. As the main villain of the game, Joker funds the research of Promethium and sends his men to wreak havok and cause explosions throughout the city. He nearly succeeds in defeating Batman during a confontation 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, The Adventures of Batman & 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 reprised the role of the Joker.
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 a crossover with Dark Horse Comics, 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 but the Joker quickly becomes bored with his power and no challenge. He takes over the Gotham television waves and broadcasts 24/7 destruction. 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 a crossover with 2000AD's Judge Dredd the spirit of the Joker, following a dimension jump mishap, is transported to Mega City One where his disembodied soul 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 is able to possess bodies like the other Dark Judges and his laugh becomes so powerful it causes several skulls to explode. The reign of terror is only brought to an end when Batman and Dredd arrive, capture the spirits of Death, Fear, Fire and Mortis and force the Joker's spirit to return to Gotham, much to his dismay.
In a crossover with Marvel Comics Spider-Man, 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 symbiote 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 favours 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 symbiote 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 webline to steal the viral container from Joker, chasing him into an alley and knocking him out cold.
In a crossover with Marvel comics that also included Batman, The Hulk, and a being known as The Shaper of Worlds, The Joker is recruited to help the Shaper, 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.
Lego, the Danish building toy company, have released a line of licensed products on the Batman theme. The Joker is featured in one set with a purple Joker helicopter, while Batman pilots his Batplane. The Joker's appearance is similar to the standard likeness in the comics. Lego has announced its intention to produce sets featuring sidekick and love interest Harley Quinn soon.
Theme park attractions
There are a few theme park attractions themed to the Joker. The Joker's Jinx, an inverted 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.
* Batman #1 (Spring Issue 1940): "The Joker", "The Joker Returns"
Below are links to other supervillain bios that you might be interested in.
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