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The Joker is a fictional character, a comic book supervillain published by DC Comics and appearing as the archenemy of Batman. Created by Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger and Bob Kane, the character first appeared in Batman #1 (Spring 1940).

Throughout his comic book appearances, the Joker is portrayed as a master criminal whose characterization has varied from that of a violent psychopath to a goofy trickster-thief. He is the archenemy of Batman, having been directly responsible for numerous tragedies in Batman's life, including the paralysis of Barbara Gordon and the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin.

Throughout the character's long history, there have been several different origin tales; they most commonly depict him as falling into a vat of chemical waste, which bleaches his skin and turns his hair green and his lips bright red, giving him the appearance of a clown. He also suffers a mental breakdown from the trauma of this transformation, which turns him into a psychopath.

The Joker has been portrayed by Cesar Romero in the Batman television series, Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton's Batman, and Heath Ledger in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, which posthumously earned Ledger an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Larry Storch, Mark Hamill, Kevin Michael Richardson and Jeff Bennett have provided the voice for the character in animated form.

As one of the most iconic and recognized villains in popular media, The Joker was ranked #1 in Wizard's list of the 100 Greatest Villains of All Time. He was also named #2 in IGN's list of the Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time List, was ranked #8 in the Greatest Comic Book Characters in History list by Empire (being the highest ranking villain on the list) and was listed as the fifth Greatest Comic Book Character Ever in Wizard Magazine's 200 Greatest Comic Book Characters of all Time list, also the highest villain on the list.

Fictional biography

Though many have been related, a definitive back-story has never been established for the Joker in the comics, and his real name has never been confirmed. 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! Ha ha ha!" In Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, written by Grant Morrison, it is said that the Joker may not be insane, but has some sort of "super-sanity" in which he re-creates himself each day to cope with the chaotic flow of modern urban life.

The first origin account, Detective Comics #168 (February 1951), revealed that the Joker had once been a criminal known as the Red Hood. In the story, he is a chemical engineer looking to steal from the company that employs him and adopts the persona of Red Hood. After committing the theft, which Batman thwarts, he falls into a vat of chemical waste. He emerges with bleached white skin, red lips, green hair and a permanent grin.

The most widely cited backstory, which the official DC Comics publication, Who's Who in the DC Universe credits as the most widely believed account, is featured in The Killing Joke. It depicts him as originally being an engineer at a chemical plant who quits his job to become a stand-up comedian, only to fail miserably. Desperate to support his pregnant wife, Jeannie, he agrees to help two criminals break into the plant where he was formerly employed to get to the card company next door. 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 him and inform him that his wife and unborn child have died in a household accident.

Stricken with grief, he attempts to back out of the plan, but the criminals strong-arm him into keeping his promise. As soon as they enter the plant, however, they are immediately caught by security and a shoot-out ensues, in which the two criminals are killed. As the engineer tries to escape, he is confronted by Batman, who is investigating the disturbance. Terrified, the engineer leaps over a rail and plummets into a vat of chemicals. When he surfaces in the nearby reservoir, he removes the hood and sees his reflection: bleached chalk-white skin, ruby-red lips, and bright green hair. These events, coupled with his other misfortunes that day, drive the engineer completely insane, resulting in the birth of the Joker.

The story "Pushback" (Batman: Gotham Knights #50-55) supports part of this version of the Joker's origin story. In it, a witness (who coincidentally turns out to be Edward Nigma) recounts that the Joker's wife was kidnapped and murdered by a corrupt cop working for the criminals in order to force the engineer into performing the crime. The Joker attempts to find the corrupt cop who committed the murder, but is beaten badly by Hush and expelled from Gotham before this takes place. "Payback" also shows pictures of the pre-disfigurement Joker — identified as "Jack" — with his wife, giving further support to this version.

The Paul Dini-Alex Ross story "Case Study" proposes a far different theory. This story suggests that the Joker was a sadistic gangster who worked his way up Gotham's criminal food chain until he was the leader of a powerful mob. Still seeking the thrills that dirty work allowed, he created the Red Hood identity for himself so that he could commit small-time crimes. Eventually, he had his fateful first meeting with Batman, resulting in his disfigurement. However, the story suggests that the Joker remained sane, and researched his crimes to look like the work of a sick mind in order to pursue his vendetta against Batman, able to evade permanent incarceration via insanity defense. Unfortunately, the written report found explaining this theory is discovered to have been written by Dr. Harleen Quinzel, aka Harley Quinn, the Joker's insane sidekick/lover, which invalidates any credibility it could have in court.

The most recent origin retelling is featured in the second arc of Batman Confidential (#7-12), which re-imagines him as a gifted hitman. This origin once more states his name as Jack, and eliminates the Red Hood identity. Bored with his work, Jack becomes obsessed with Batman, and crashes a museum ball to attract his attention. In doing so, he badly injures Lorna Shore (whom Bruce Wayne is dating). An enraged Batman disfigures his face with a batarang as he escapes. In retaliation, Batman sells Jack out to mobsters whom he had crossed, who torture Jack in a disused chemical plant. Turning the tables, Jack kills several of his assailants, but falls into an empty vat. Wild gunfire punctures the chemical tanks above him, and the resultant flood of toxins alters his appearance to that of a clown.

Publication history

Creation

The Joker's first appearance in Batman #1 (Spring 1940)


The credit for creation of the Joker is disputed. Kane responded in a 1994 interview to claims that Jerry Robinson created the concept of the character:

Robinson, whose original Joker playing card was on public display in the exhibition "Masters of American Comics" at the Jewish Museummarker in New York Citymarker, from September 16, 2006 to January 28, 2007, and the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlantamarker, Georgiamarker from October 24, 2004 to August 28, 2005, has countered that he created the Joker to be Batman's larger-than-life nemesis when extra stories needed to be written quickly for Batman #1 and that he even received credit for the story in a college course. Regarding the Conrad Veidt similarity, Robinson said:

Golden Age

In his initial dozen or so appearances, starting with Batman #1 (1940), the Joker was a straightforward homicidal maniac, with a bizarre appearance modeled after the Joker playing card. He was slated to be killed in his second appearance, but editor Whitney Ellsworth suggested that the character be spared. A hastily drawn panel, demonstrating that the Joker was still alive, was subsequently added to the comic. For the next several appearances, the Joker often escaped capture but suffered an apparent death (falling off a cliff, being caught in a burning building, etc.), from which his body was not recovered.

From the Joker's first appearance in Batman #1, 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 his first appearance, the character leaves his victims with post-mortem smiles on their faces, a modus operandi that has been carried on throughout the decades with the concept of the character.

In Batman #1, he challenges Gotham's underworld and police department by announcing over the radio that he will kill three of Gotham's most prominent citizens: Henry Claridge, Judge Drake and Jay Wilde. Batman and Robin investigate the crimes and find the victims' bodies stricken with a perpetual grin upon their faces. The Joker traps Robin and is prepared to murder him with the same deadly Joker venom, but Batman rescues Robin and the Joker goes to prison. (This story is retold in the 2005 graphic novel Batman: The Man Who Laughs.) He escapes in his following appearance, and throughout his publication history effortlessly escapes from any imprisonment in order to plague Batman and Gotham.

In the story "The Joker Walks the Last Mile", the Joker is sentenced to die in the electric chair, but escapes by faking his own death. Double Jeopardy prevents the prison from executing him a second time. Free from jail, the Joker pretends to be a good Samaritan, but soon returns to his criminal ways.

In his final appearance in the Earth Two continuity, the Joker learns that Bruce Wayne, who had been publicly revealed as Batman, has died. Unable to accept that he had finally beaten his long-term adversary — simply by outliving him — the Joker escapes from prison and wreaks havoc to draw Batman out of what the Joker thinks is merely retirement. Dick Grayson acts as the second Batman long enough to convince the Joker that Wayne is still alive. The Joker allows the Huntress to take him back into custody to plot out his final battle with Batman.

Silver Age

In the 1950s and 1960s, following the imposition of the Comics Code Authority censorship board, the comic book's writers characterized the Joker as a harmless, cackling nuisance. He disappeared from Batman stories almost entirely when Julius Schwartz took over editorship of the Batman comics in 1964. The Joker from the 1960's Batman TV Show is one of the best known characterizations of this Joker.

The establishment of the Earth-One Joker is the result of retroactive alteration to the character’s established published history (colloquially known as a Retcon). It is commonly accepted that most appearances made by the Joker from the early-mid 1950s until 1986 are attributed to the Earth-One Joker. One of the major differences that distinguishes the Silver Age Joker from the original iteration of the character is the revelation of his Pre-Joker Red Hood identity.

The Joker’s actual first appearance as an Earth-One character is a matter of interpretation, as there has never been an actual distinction between when the Golden Age Earth-Two Joker ceased making regular published appearances and when the Silver Age Joker was introduced.

In June 1985, after the intertitle Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity was put into effect, the Multiverse continuity was discontinued. Earth-One and all of its denizens, including the Joker, were merged into the restructured Post-Crisis continuity commonly known as New Earth.

Revision by O'Neil and Adams

In 1973, the character was revived and profoundly revised in Batman stories by writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Neal Adams. Beginning in Batman #251, with "The Joker's Five Way Revenge", the Joker returns to his roots as a homicidal maniac who murders people on a whim, while enjoying battles of wits with Batman. O'Neil said his idea was "simply to take it back to where it started. I went to the DC library and read some of the early stories. I tried to get a sense of what Kane and Finger were after." Writer Steve Englehart and penciler Marshall Rogers, in an acclaimed run in Detective Comics #471-476 (Aug. 1977 - April 1978), which went on to influence the 1989 movie Batman and be adapted for the 1990s animated series, added elements deepening the severity of the Joker's insanity. In the Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers story "The Laughing Fish", the Joker is brazen enough to disfigure fish with a rictus grin, then expects to be granted a federal trademark on them, only to start killing bureaucrats who try to explain that obtaining such a claim on a natural resource is legally impossible.

The Joker had his own nine-issue series during the 1970s in which he faces off against a variety of both superheroes and supervillains. Although he was the protagonist of the series, certain issues feature just as much murder as those wherein he was the antagonist; of the nine issues, he commits murder in seven. This interpretation of the character continues with the issues A Death in the Family and The Killing Joke in 1988, redefining the character for DC's Modern Age after the company wide reboot following Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Post Crisis

In Batman: The Killing Joke, the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon (then known as Batgirl and in later comics as Oracle), rendering her a paraplegic. He then kidnaps Commissioner Gordon and taunts him with enlarged photographs of his wounded daughter being undressed, in an attempt to prove that any normal man can go insane after having "one bad day." The Joker ridicules him as an example of "the average man," a naïve weakling doomed to insanity. Batman saves Commissioner Gordon, and sees that the Joker's plan failed; although traumatized, Gordon retains his sanity and moral code, urging Batman to apprehend the Joker "by the book" in order to "show him that our way works." After a brief struggle, Batman tries one final time to reach his old foe, offering to rehabilitate him. The Joker ultimately refuses, but shows his appreciation by sharing a joke with Batman, provoking an uncharacteristic laugh.

The Joker murders Jason Todd, the second Robin, in the story A Death in the Family. Jason discovers that a woman who may be his birth mother is being blackmailed by the Joker. She betrays her son to the Joker to keep from having her medical supply thefts exposed, and the Joker savagely beats Jason with a crowbar. The Joker locks Jason and his mother in the warehouse where the assault took place and blows it up just as Batman arrives. Readers could vote on whether they wanted Jason Todd to survive the blast. They voted for him to die, hence Batman finds Jason's lifeless body. Jason's death has haunted Batman ever since, and has intensified his obsession with his archenemy.

In the (non-continuity) one-shot comic Mad Love, Arkham Asylum psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel ponders whether the Joker may in fact be faking insanity so as to avoid the death penalty. As she tries to treat the Joker, he recounts a tale of an abusive father and runaway mother to gain her sympathy. She falls hopelessly in love with him and allows him to escape Arkham several times before she is eventually exposed. Driven over the edge with obsession, she becomes Harley Quinn, the Joker's sidekick/girlfriend.

During the events of the No Man's Land storyline, the Joker murders Sarah Essen Gordon, Commissioner Gordon's second wife, during a confrontation over kidnapped infants. The Joker is shown frowning in the aftermath of the murder. He surrenders to Batman but continues to taunt Gordon, provoking the Commissioner to shoot him in the kneecap. The Joker laments that he may never walk again, and then collapses with laughter as he "gets the joke" that Gordon has just avenged his daughter's paralysis. While in transit back to Arkham, however, he takes control of the helicopter transporting him, and flies off to Qurac, where he becomes part of the government and helps to speed the country's decline into war with its neighbours. He is subsequently sent to New Yorkmarker as the country's ambassador, in which position he then threatens to use a neutron bomb to kill everyone in Manhattanmarker if the United Nations doesn't withdraw its forces. Power Girl and Black Canary of the Birds of Prey capture him, however, and Barbara Gordon tricks him into telling them how to stop the attack, after which the Joker is sent to 'the Slab' "with the rest of the supercreeps."

In Emperor Joker, a multi-part story throughout the Superman titles, the Joker steals Mister Mxyzptlk's reality-altering power, remaking the entire world into a twisted caricature, with everyone in it stuck in a loop. The Joker entertains himself with various forms of murder, such as killing Lex Luthor over and over and devouring the entire population of Chinamarker. The conflict focuses on the fate of Batman in this world, with the Joker torturing and killing his adversary every day, only to bring him back to life and do it over and over again. Superman's powerful will allows him to fight off the Joker's influence enough to make contact with the weakened Mxyzptlk, who along with a less-powerful Spectre, encourages Superman to work out the Joker's weakness before reality is destroyed by the Joker's misuse of Mxyzptlk's power. As time runs out, Superman realizes that the Joker still cannot erase Batman from existence, as the Joker totally defines himself by his opposition to the Dark Knight; by this logic, the Joker would be incapable of destroying the entire universe, since he is incapable of doing so to Batman. This breaks the Joker's control, and Mxyzptlk and the Spectre manage to reconstruct reality from the moment the Joker disrupted everything, but Batman is left broken from experiencing multiple deaths. Superman has to steal Batman's memories so that he can go on.

In a company-wide crossover, Last Laugh, the Joker believes himself to be dying and plans one last historic crime spree, infecting the inmates of The Slab, a prison for super criminals, with Joker venom to escape. With plans to infect the entire world, he manipulates the super-powered inmates to allow a jailbreak, and sets them loose to cause mass chaos in their "Jokerized" forms. The Joker is not cheered as, using the example of vandalized Easter Islandmarker statues, he does not believe that the altered inmates are being appropriately funny. The entire United Statesmarker declares war on the Joker under the orders of President Lex Luthor; in response, Joker sends his minions to kill the President. Black Canary discovers that Joker's doctor modified his CAT scan to make it appear that he had a fatal tumor in an attempt to subdue him with the threat of death. Harley Quinn, angry at the Joker's attempt to make her pregnant without marrying her, helps the heroes create an antidote to the Joker poison and return the super villains to their normal state. Believing Robin had been eaten by Killer Croc in the ensuing madness, Nightwing eventually catches up with the Joker and beats him to death. To keep Nightwing from having blood on his hands, Batman resuscitates the Joker.

In their attempt to destroy Batman, Hush and the Riddler convince and manipulate several other villains to help. Part of this includes fooling Bruce that his childhood friend Tommy Elliott is the latest victim of the Joker. This brings Batman to the brink of murdering the Joker; he is only stopped when former GCPD commissioner Jim Gordon talks him down by reminding him that by killing the Joker, Batman would become just another killer, and Jim refuses to let the Joker ruin Batman's life like that.

In the Under The Hood arc (Batman #635-650), Jason Todd returns to life. Angry at Batman for failing to avenge his death, he takes over his killer's old Red Hood identity, abducts the Joker and attempts to force Batman to shoot him.

At the conclusion of Infinite Crisis, the Joker kills Alexander Luthor, hero of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths and villain of Infinite Crisis for being left out of the Society.

In Batman #655, a deranged police officer impersonating Batman shoots the Joker in the face, leaving him physically scarred and disabled. After having undergone extensive plastic surgery and physical therapy, The Joker reappears in Batman #663 with a drastic new appearance, now permanently fixed with a Glasgow smile. While in intensive care at Arkham, the Joker develops a new, more lethal variant of Joker Venom, instructing Harley Quinn to use it to kill his former henchmen to signal his spiritual "rebirth". He then goes on a rampage through Arkham, attempting to murder Harley (her death being the final "punchline" of his rebirth) before being stopped by Batman. These events ultimately lead to the Joker's association with the Black Glove and his attempt to murder Batman

Salvation Run depicts the Joker as leading one of two factions of supervillains who have been exiled from Earth to a distant prison planet. In issue six of the series, Joker engages Lex Luthor in an all-out brawl for power. Just as he gains the upper hand, however, the planet is invaded by Parademons; The Joker helps fight off the invasion and later escapes along with the rest of the surviving villains via a teleportation machine.

After returning to Earth, Joker is yet again a patient in Arkham Asylum. Batman visits him to ask him if he knows anything about the Black Glove, but Joker only responds by dealing a Dead man's hand. During routine therapy, Joker is met by a spy for the Club of Villains who offers him a chance to join them in their crusade against Batman. He participates in their action, considering it a farce all along (knowing Batman will survive their attempts, which he spitefully reveals to them just when they think their plan has come to fruition) and casually murdering some Black Glove members before escaping in an ambulance, only to be driven off the road by Damian, Batman´s son.

Joker returns, seemingly repaired, as a member of Libra's Society during Final Crisis, and again in Gotham City Sirens, trying to kill Harley Quinn for her "abandoning" him for Bruce Wayne, actually Hush. However it was revealed that it was in fact his old sidekick Gaggy impersonating him.

During the events of the Last Rites story arc, the Joker is mentioned and shown several times in Batman's past experiences as his history is explored. He is also shown entering the funeral service for Batman in Neil Gaiman's Whatever Happened to The Caped Crusader? story.

Powers and abilities

The Joker commits crimes with comedic weapons such as a deck of razor-sharp playing cards, an acid-spewing flower, cyanide pies, exploding cigars filled with nitroglycerin, harpoon guns that utilize razor-sharp BANG!-flags, and a lethally electric joy buzzer. His most prominent weapon is his Joker venom, a deadly poison that infects his victims with a ghoulish rictus grin as they die while laughing uncontrollably. The venom comes in many forms, from gas to darts to liquid poison, and has been his primary calling card from his first appearance. The Joker is immune to his venom; in Batman #663, Morrison writes that "being an avid consumer of his products, Joker's immunity to poisons has been built up over years of dedicated abuse".

The Joker is portrayed as highly intelligent and skilled in the fields of chemistry and engineering, as well an expert with explosives. In a miniseries featuring Tim Drake, the third Robin, the Joker is shown kidnapping a computer genius, and admitting that he doesn't know much about computers, although later writers have portrayed him as very computer literate.

Joker's skills in unarmed combat vary considerably depending on the writer. Some writers have shown Joker to be a skilled fighter, capable of holding his own against Batman in hand-to-hand combat. The main reason for this is not because he is a skilled and trained fighter like Batman, but because his fighting style is random, chaotic and unpredictable. He has also been depicted as an unfair or tricky fighter such as pulling out knives or guns in a fistfight, kicking opponents in the groin, and rolling a handfull of explosive marbles on the ground to trip up the Flash. Other writers prefer portraying Joker as physically frail to the point that he can be defeated with a single punch. He is, however, consistently described as agile. Joker's skills in combat also differ in the film and television adaptations.

The Joker has cheated death numerous times, even in seemingly inescapable and lethal situations. He has been seen caught in explosions, been shot repeatedly, dropped from lethal heights, electrocuted, and so on, but he always returns once again to wreak havoc.

Over several decades there have been a variety of depictions and possibilities regarding the Joker's apparent insanity. Grant Morrison's graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth suggests that the Joker's mental state is in fact a previously unprecedented form of "super-sanity," a form of ultra-sensory perception. It also suggests that he has no true personality of his own, that on any given day he can be a harmless clown or a vicious killer, depending on which would benefit him the most. 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 him with a chair. In Morrison's JLA, the Martian Manhunter, trapped in a surreal maze created by the Joker, used his shape-shifting abilities to reconfigure his own brain to emulate the Joker's chaotic thought patterns. Later in the same storyline, Martian Manhunter uses his telepathic powers to reorganize the Joker's mind and create momentary sanity, albeit with great effort and only temporarily. In those few moments, the Joker expresses regret for his many crimes and pleads for a chance at redemption.

In Elseworlds: Distant Fires, the Joker is rendered sane by a nuclear war that deprives all super beings of their powers. In Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #145, the Joker became sane when Batman put him in one of Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus Pits after being shot, a reversal of the insanity which may come after experiencing such rejuvenation. However, the sanity is only temporary, and soon the Joker is back to his "normal" self.

The character is sometimes portrayed as having a fourth wall awareness. In 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. Also, in the episode "Joker's Wild", he says into the camera, "Don't try this at home, kids!" 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. On page five of "Sign of The Joker", the second half of the "Laughing Fish" storyline, the Joker turns the page for the reader, bowing and tipping his hat in mock politeness. On the official websites and associated promotional material for The Dark Knight, graffiti characteristic of the Joker can be found. On the website IBelieveinHarveyDentToo.com, hidden among laughter is the message "See you in December", referring to the release of the film's trailer.

Character

The Joker has been referred to as the Clown Prince of Crime (or Chaos), the Harlequin of Hate (Havoc), and the Ace of Knaves. Throughout the evolution of the DC Universe, interpretations and incarnations of the Joker have taken two forms. The original and currently dominant image is of a fiendishly intelligent psychopath with a warped, sadistic sense of humor. 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. Batman: The Animated Series blended these two aspects, although most interpretations tend to embrace one characterization or the other.

The Joker's victims have included men, women, children, and even his own henchmen and other villains. In the graphic novel The Joker: Devil's Advocate, the Joker is reported to have killed well over 2,000 people. Despite having murdered enough people to get the death penalty thousands of times over, he is always found not guilty by reason of insanity. In the Batman story line "War Crimes", this continued ruling of insanity is in fact made possible by the Joker's own dream team of lawyers. He is then placed in Arkham Asylum, from which he appears able to escape at will, going so far as to claim that it's just a resting ground in between his "performances".

Batman has been given numerous opportunities to put the Joker down once and for all, but has relented at the last minute. As an example, in one story line, Batman threatens to kill the Joker, but stops himself upon realizing that such an act would make him "a killer like yourself!" Conversely, the Joker has given up many chances to kill the Batman because the Joker defines himself by his struggle with his archnemesis.

The Joker is renowned as Batman's greatest enemy. While other villains rely on tried-and-true methods to commit crimes (such as Mr. Freeze's freeze gun or Poison Ivy's toxic plants), Joker has a variety of weapons at his disposal. For example, the flower he wears in his lapel sprays (at any given time) acid, poisonous laughing gas, or nothing at all. In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and much earlier in "Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker!" (Batman #321), the Joker has a gun which at first shoots a flag saying "BANG!", but then, with another pull of the trigger, the flag fires and impales its target (in the edited version of Return of the Joker, the gun shoots Joker gas). His most recurring weapons is a high-voltage hand-buzzer, which he uses to electrocute his victims with a handshake, as well as his iconic Joker Gas/Joker Venom, which will either cause a victim to become paralyzed, comatose, or even die, depending on the strength of the particular batch. What all versions share however, is that the effects are always preceeded by hysterical fits of laughter, as well as a frozen grin. His capricious nature, coupled with his violent streak and general unpredictability, makes him feared by the public at large, other DC superheroes, and DC supervillains as well; in the Villains United and Infinite Crisis mini-series, the members of the villains' Secret Society refuse to induct the Joker for this reason, which backfires as the Joker attacks members of the Society, and ultimately kills the leader, Alexander Luthor. In the mini-series Underworld Unleashed, the Trickster remarks, "When super-villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories."

Alternate versions

Another Joker appeared in the DC Comics imprint Tangent Comics, a line set in on an alternate earth. The heroes have the same names (The Flash, Batman, etc.), but their histories and powers are vastly different. This earth is now listed as Earth-9.

The Joker of this Earth is a female hero who uses her array of jokes and comical devices to mock the tyrant Superman's authority. This Joker is actually three women: a student named Mary Marvel, an entrepreneur named Christina Zabundu, and a reporter, Lori Lemaris. Mary is eventually captured by the evil Superman and tortured into giving up the names of the other two before she is killed. Lemaris is sent to prison, but Christina's fate is left unknown. Later, Lemaris reclaims the mantle of the Joker in order to take down Superman.

Planetary/Batman presents the Joker as a field agent for Planetary working under Richard Grayson named Jaspar. He has a habit of giggling when he's nervous, but appears harmless. However, Elijah Snow mentions not liking how Jasper "touched himself" when he saw photos of crime scenes.

The Joker makes a cameo appearance in the Elseworld graphic novel Gotham by Gaslight as a serial killer who tries to kill himself with strychnine, leaving him with a permanent grin.

The one version of the Joker from an alternate Earth is called the Jokester. He appears as a hero battling Owlman, a villainous version of Batman.

A slightly altered Joker makes an apparance in Frank Miller's non-canon series, All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder. As in Dark Knight Returns, another Miller series, this Joker has a Nazi henchwoman called "Bruno".

In the 1990 graphic novel Batman: Digital Justice created by Pepe Moreno, an artificial intelligence calling itself the "Joker Virus" takes over a futuristic, technology-dependent Gotham City in the late 21st century and claims to be the reincarnation of its creator, the original Joker. Batman — in this version, the grandson of Commissioner James Gordon — stops the virus with help from another A.I.: the Batcomputer, as programmed by the long-dead Bruce Wayne.

Another graphic novel, called simply Joker focuses on the character in a more gritty, realistic version of the Batman mythos.

In the alternate future of The Dark Knight Returns, the Joker has been comatose since the retirement of Batman, and the return of his arch enemy being shown on TV once again rouses the Joker from his comatose state. This version of the Joker is shown to be far more muscular and large than his normally lanky appearance.

In Batman: Nosferatu, The Joker appears as The Laughing Man, a monstrous cyborg created by the experiments of the depraved Dr Arkham who functions as an assassin of his creator. This version of the Joker ironically ends up creating this worlds Batman after an assassination attempt on Bruce Waynes counterpart.

In other media

Live-action

Batman (TV series)

Cesar Romero portrays the character in 22 episodes of the 1960s Batman television series. The Joker of this series is characterized by a cackling laugh and comedy-themed crimes, such as turning the city's water supply into jelly and pulling off a standup comedy-themed bank heist. In one episode they had a surfing contest between Batman and Joker. Romero refused to shave his distinctive mustache for the role, and it was partially visible beneath his white face makeup. Romero reprises his role in the 1966 film Batman. A parody of Batman, Joker has his own "utility belt" and "Jokermobile". On the show Joker teamed up with Penguin and Catwoman. In the movie he is teamed up with both of them and the Riddler as well. The only information on his past life is a remark by Batman that Joker had been a hypnotist in his youth.

Batman (film)

The Joker is portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the 1989 film Batman. In the film, the character is a gangster named Jack Napier, the right-hand man of crime boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance). Napier is disfigured during a confrontation with Batman (Michael Keaton) in which he is shot in the face by a ricochet from his own pistol and falls into a vat of chemicals. His trademark grin is the result of a botched attempt at plastic surgery. Driven insane by his reflection, he kills Grissom and takes over his gang, launching a crime wave designed to "outdo" Batman, who he feels is getting too much press. He describes himself as a "homicidal artist" who makes avant garde "art" by killing people with "Smylex" gas, which leaves its victims with a grotesque grin. When Bruce Wayne confronts the Joker, he later recognizes him as the mugger who murdered his parents. The Joker kidnaps reporter Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) and attempts to massacre all of Gotham City, but Batman foils his plan. As the Joker is about to escape in a helicopter, Batman ties a grappling hook onto the Joker's leg and attaches it to a stone gargoyle; the Joker falls to his death when the gargoyle breaks loose of its moorings.

In the flashback scene showing Napier's murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, Napier is played by Hugo E. Blick.

Nicholson's performance was well-received; Newsweek's review of the film stated that the best scenes in the movie are due to the surreal black comedy portrayed in this character. In 2003, American Film Institute named Nicholson's performance #45 out of 50 greatest film villains. Tim Burton says he wanted to kill the Joker at the end of the film, because he thought having the villain come back would be too unrealistic.

OnStar commercials and Birds of Prey

During the OnStar "Batman" ad campaign, the Joker appears in one commercial, played by Curtis Armstrong. Roger Stoneburner makes a cameo appearance as the character in an episode of Birds of Prey. Mark Hamill, who voiced the Joker in various animated shows throughout the 1990s, provides the Joker's voice in the scene, and he is the only one of the two actors to be credited.

The Dark Knight

In the 2008 film The Dark Knight, the Joker is portrayed by Heath Ledger, who told Sarah Lyall of New York Times that he viewed that film's version of the character as a "psychopath, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy." In this film, he is a bank robber targeting mob banks, whom Gotham's Mafia families later hire to kill Batman (Christian Bale). It is gradually revealed that he desires to upset social order as an anarchist and he comes to define himself by his battle with Batman.Costume designer Lindy Hemming described the Joker's look as being based around his personality, in that "he doesn't care about himself at all." She avoided his design being vagrant, but nonetheless it is "scruffier, grungier and therefore when you see him move, he's slightly twitchier or edgy." Unlike most incarnations, where his appearance is a result of chemical bleaching, this Joker sports a Glasgow smile, and accentuates it through unevenly applied white, black, and red make-up (he also has dyed green hair). During the course of the film, he tells conflicting stories about how he acquired the scars, which involve child abuse and self-mutilation. He mostly eschews gag-based weapons common to the character, in favor of knives, firearms, and an array of explosive devices. In the film the Joker is responsible for the death of Batman's childhood sweetheart Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and the creation of Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart).

Ledger's portrayal of The Joker was widely praised by both fans and critics. Jeff Labrecque writes that Ledger's "seething anarchist Joker makes Jack Nicholson's once-iconic dandy now seem as clownish as Cesar Romero's." On February 22, 2009, Ledger posthumously won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. He was the fourth actor to be nominated for the portrayal of a comic book character, and the first to win.

Animation

Filmation series

The Joker appeared as a recurring villain in the 1968-1969 Filmation series Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder, played by voice actor Larry Storch. Storch reprises his role for two crossover episodes of the 1972 series The New Scooby-Doo Movies. He also appears in five episodes of Filmation's 1977 series The New Adventures of Batman, where he was voiced by Lennie Weinrib. The Joker makes an appearance in the final incarnation of Super Friends, The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, in the episode "The Wild Cards", which features a version of the Royal Flush Gang. The leader of the group, Ace, turns out to be a disguised Joker (voiced by Frank Welker).

DC animated universe

In Batman: The Animated Series, which debuted in 1992, the Joker is played by voice-actor Mark Hamill. In the feature film spin-off Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, it is revealed that he was once a hitman for mobster Salvatore Valestra. A later episode reveals that he went on to start his own gang with the first target being the Ace chemical plant, where Batman foils the robbery and knocks The Joker into a vat of acid. His name, like in the 1989 movie, is mentioned as being Jack Napier several times. It most notably appears on his police file in the episode "Joker's Wild". However later episodes suggest that it may simply be his primary alias. The Joker also appears in the series' follow-up, The New Batman Adventures, and features prominently as the main villain in the one-hour Batman/Superman crossover episode, World's Finest, in which he travels to Metropolis and makes a deal with Lex Luthor to kill Superman in exchange for one billion dollars..

Hamill reprises his role in several animated shows in the DC Animated Universe. His most prominent Justice League episode is "Wild Cards", where he plants a multitude of bombs across Las Vegasmarker and televises the Justice League's attempts to find and disarm them in a mockery of reality television. To add drama to the broadcast, he pits the League against the Royal Flush Gang, which in this version consists of five superpowered teens. The bombs turn out to be a ruse to attract viewership so Ace, a psychic, can render everyone watching the broadcast insane. The plan backfires when, during a fight with Batman, Ace turns her powers on the Joker, rendering him temporarily catatonic. He also appears in the episodes, "Injustice for All" and "A Better World", the latter of which features an alternate world in which the Joker has been lobotomized by Superman and is now the superintendent of Arkham Asylum. The Joker also appeared in the TV show Static Shock.

The Joker, again voiced by Hamill, is featured in the DCAU film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, mysteriously returning to Gotham after having been presumed dead for decades. It is revealed in a flashback that the Joker and Harley Quinn kidnapped Robin (Tim Drake) and tortured him, turning him into "J.J." — an insane, miniature version of the Joker — and ordering him to kill Batman. Drake ultimately kills the Joker himself by shooting him with the deadly "Bang" flag gun (in the edited version, Drake accidentally electrocutes him offscreen by pushing him into a puddle near an electric cable). In a twist, the future Joker is actually Tim, the Joker having implanted a microchip in Drake which contained his memories and personality. The new Batman (Terry McGinnis) ultimately destroys the chip, and thus, apparently taking the Joker with it, and saves Tim.

The Batman

A different interpretation of the Joker appears in the animated series The Batman, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. This incarnation sports a purple and yellow straitjacket, fingerless gloves, bare feet, wild green hair, and red eyes. The Joker also moves and fights with a Monkey Kung Fu-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). His appearance becomes somewhat refined later in the series, where he adopts the more traditional garb of a purple suit and spats, but he still has wild hair and wears no shoes, save one episode. He employs the signature Joker venom in the form of laughing gas. In the animated feature The Batman vs. Dracula, he is temporarily transformed into a vampire with paler clothes, claws, fangs, and supernatural powers.

Krypto the Superdog

In the TV show Krypto the Superdog, The Joker's trained pet hyenas are of the main villains. The Joker himself does not appear in the show, but is mentioned on various occasions.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold

In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a heroic counter-part of the Joker known as Red Hood appears in the episode "Deep Cover for Batman". The Joker made his debut on the show in the episode "Game Over for Owlman", a continuation of "Deep Cover", and is voiced by Jeff Bennett. Batman has no option but to team up with Joker to stop Owlman's crime spree. Joker makes an appearance in "Legends of the Dark Mite" along with the Penguin and other Batman villains. Joker appears in the teaser to "Hail the Tornado Tyrant!" when he is being tailed by Batman and Green Arrow during a series of robberies. He is captured after his car's many means of propulsion are destroyed by the combined efforts of the heroes. Joker also appears in the episode "Death Race to Oblivion" as one of Mongul's racers. He creates tough obstacles for Batman and the others until after he is out of the race. He occassionally provides a play-by-play of the race while doing so. He is transported to a cell with the other losing villains and later put in a green cell created by Guy Gardner's power ring. His appearance and personality is very similar to the Silver Age version, as drawn by Dick Sprang.

Scooby-Doo

Joker appeared in two episodes of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, voiced by Larry Storch. In both episodes, he teams up with The Penguin and runs afoul of Batman, Robin, and the Mystery Inc. gang.

Video games

The Joker appears in numerous Batman-related video games, often being the main antagonist. In Batman: Vengeance, based on Batman: The Animated Series and starring its voice cast, including Hamill as the Joker, he and Harley Quinn mastermind a plan to destroy Gotham City once and for all using an explosive, flammable compound consisting of Joker Toxin and a new substance called Promethium. The Joker is a playable character in LEGO Batman: The Video Game, where he leads a group of villains in a mission to spread Joker toxin to all of Gotham City. Game Informer writes that "this game is filled with cool playable characters ... Nightwing, Joker, Killer Croc, Bane, Harley Quinn, and Man-Bat only scratch the surface of the game's catalog of great characters." He has dual Uzis, and can kill enemies using a lethal joybuzzer, which can also be used to power generators. He has a helicopter with a grappling hook. He leads a group of villains consisting of himself, Harley Quinn, the Mad Hatter, the Scarecrow and Killer Moth. His plan is to fill Gotham cathedral with his laughing gas and then blow the cathedral up to spread the gas all over Gotham. An unlockable alternate version of the character has the tropical costume worn by the Joker in Batman: The Killing Joke.

He is also a playable character in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe voiced by Richard Epcar, in which he sports an array of magically endowed trick (but often lethal) weapons and fatalities and (storywise) he is also reasonably stronger due to the rage caused by the merging universes. Once he realizes that, he breaks from the mission Lex Luthor gave him and goes after Batman. He also easily defeats Sonya Blade and interrupts a fight between Deathstroke and Kano so he can finish Kano himself. Later in the story, the Joker turns on Deathstroke just for the fun of it and defeats him as well.

Mark Hamill reprised his role of the Joker for the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum, in which Joker is the main villain. In the game, he takes over Arkham in an elaborate trap set for Batman and spends most of the game watching Batman with the use of the Asylum security cameras, taunting him as he makes his way through the island.

Joker is set to appear in DC Universe Online.

See also



Footnotes

External links




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