With Joker cementing the Clown Prince Of Crime as comic books best villains once more, I thought I’d give a full character breakdown on Gotham’s most infamous Rogue.
Throughout this, I’m going to be going over everything that you need to know about the character as well as what media you need to check out for the best stories on the character.
There will be some spoilers here and whilst I won’t be discussing any major plot points of the new Joker film, there will be some of the overall arcs touched upon so if you don’t want to know anything then I highly recommend that you turn off now.
With that out the way I just wanna give a huge thank you for clicking this, now let’s get into our breakdown of The Joker.
The Joker Creation
Cast your mind back to 1939, comic book writers and artists Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane have just created Batman, a hero who stands as a darker version of Superman, has become a big success. Though the Dark Knight is more than capable of taking down superstitious and cowardly criminals, he’s yet to meet his match, so the three young creators come up with an incredible foe for his debut entry.
In the pages of Batman Issue One, released April 25th, 1940, Joker is introduced to the world and things would never be the same again.
Based initially on Conrad Veidt’s character in the 1928 film, The Man Who Laughs. Joker was a sadistic and criminal mastermind that smiled gleefully through his crimes.
Over the years, mirroring Batman, the criminal has taken on several different incarnations, mirroring Batman. When The Caped Crusader was played for laughs in the 50s due to the comics code authority, The Joker became a prankster. When things took a darker turn for the Gotham Vigilante, The Joker too became more violent and aggressive and throughout the decades, however, Batman has appeared, the Clown Prince has mirrored him.
The Joker And Batman
This runs deep on a fundamental level to showcase that Batman and the Joker are two sides of the same coin. Batman represents order whereas the Joker represents chaos and the two characters are heavily tied to one another.
Though DC has never set in stone The Joker’s true origin story, one thing has remained constant throughout every incarnation that we’ve had. The Joker, similar to Batman was born out of tragedy. However, whereas Bruce Wayne walked the path of good, potentially due to his resources and wealth, a poor, struggling Joker decided to turn to a life of crime.
The Joker Origin Story
My favorite Origin Story of The Joker comes in the seminal Graphic Novel, The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore, in which we see a down on his luck, struggling comedian has his wife and unborn child killed by a malfunctioning toaster. Drafted into a life of criminal act, Joker is stopped by Batman and falls into a vat of toxins at ace Chemicals which bleaches his skin white and his hair green. Though the origin story that we see play out in it could be the way that the events that lead to his creation happened, the character also states that he prefers to leave his origin story as multiple choice and therefore his true past remains completely enigmatic.
In Batman 1989, Joker takes the form of Jack Napier and similar to the aforementioned version falls into a vat of chemicals, emerging as Gotham’s most unstoppable supervillain.
In 2008, though we never learn his true origin, it’s believed that Joker is an Iraq War Veteran suffering from PTSD that uses his masterful tactics to hold the city to ransom.
In Suicide Squad he’s a ruthless modern-day gangster that pretty much runs the underworld of Gotham and has had many victims including Batman’s closest Ally Robin.
The Unreliable Narrator
In the 2019 movie Joker, Arthur Fleck, a struggling comedian who lives in poverty dons the mantle due to his circumstances and causes an uprising in Gotham against the rich.
Joker is the ultimate unreliable narrator and you could become completely caught up in his origin story only to learn later that this never happened and that the character simply imagined it.
All of the different versions over the years have told different tales about how a man who, similar to Bruce Wayne, had one bad day that depending on how you look at it, made him or broke him.
Batman was able to overcome this perhaps due to his support system, whereas the Joker who probably was isolated, fell deeper into darkness.
Whatever way you slice it though, both are a product of Gotham City.
Joker 2019 Explained
In the most recent telling, Gotham city is a completely corrupt environment and one that lets the rich get richer whilst the poor get poorer. The tight grip of finances cause the city to slash medical and social care and thus Arthur Fleck played by Joaquin Phoenix struggles to get by whilst keeping his mental state in check. He suffers from delusions and ultimately causes an uprising in Gotham that, similar to The Dark Knight Rises, causes Gotham’s wealthy elite to fall.
It’s masterfully told and it beautifully asks the question ‘is this Flecks fault or is a society built in such a way that a character like the Joker emerging is the only logical conclusion?’
In other iterations of the Joker, he arrives after Batman rather than before and showcases the effect that the dark knight has on the city. For example in The Dark Knight Trilogy, the fact that Batman dons a mask in order to fight criminals forces criminals to do the same in order to have some anonymity and thus this causes a rise of masked criminals throughout the city in order to level the playing field.
The Joker himself not only carries out several mass murders but he also seems to relish it, appearing insane, though whether this is all an act is up for debate and over the years many have arrived at slightly different conclusions.
The Joker’s Sexuality
Though throughout the decades his sexuality was rarely touched upon with him pretty much being deemed A-sexual, in Batman The Animated series, the Bonnie to his Clyde was introduced with Harley Quinn, a psychiatrist that he lead astray. Quinn and Joker have been in an extremely toxic relationship over the years that showcases that Joker really doesn’t have any empathy for anyone around him.
He severely beat Harley and though in recent tellings she has left the character, there’s always the chance that he will woo her back.
The Joker’s Weapons
The Joker, similar to Batman, carries an arsenal with him at all times including Giant Guns, electrified rings and a lapel flower that sprays acid on command.
Like Batman he has had his over cars, planes and moreover the decades and whilst he is unable to match the dark knight physically from time to time, he definitely has a weapons case that can compete.
Best Joker Stories
The Joker over the decades has appeared in some absolutely incredible stories that all stand the test of time to this day. Batman 1989 is brilliant, The Dark Knight and Joker are phenomenal but there’s also other entries that are definitely worth checking out such as the aforementioned Killing Joke. Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison, The Man Who Laughs which retells his first encounter with the Dark Knight, Batman A Death In The Family in which the character brutally kills Jason Todd who at the time was Batman’s Robin, Death Of The Family which is sort of a love letter to the Dark Knight and Batman Endgame in which The Joker takes down Batman and The Justice League in brilliant fashion.
If you can only read one though I highly recommend that you check out The Dark Knight Returns, it’s an awesome closing of the book on the character and is outstanding from beginning to end.
In addition to this, it can’t be overstated just how much Mark Hammil did a fantastic job with the character in the animated series as well as the Batman Arkham games and I highly recommend that you pick up the boxset if you want, what in my opinion is, the definitive portrayal.
The Legacy Of The Joker
The Joker, no matter the telling, really is an outstanding character and his legacy will no doubt outlive us all. As of October 2019, Joker is the only comic book villain to ever get an Oscar due to Heath Ledger’s portrayal in the Christopher Nolan film The Dark Knight though there are rumors the Joaquin Phoenix will too be nominated for his portrayal.
The character is one of the most recognisable icons in pop culture and it’s say to say that he is as loved as he is feared. Acting as the perfect opposite to Batman the Joker is an incredible character that still stands the test of time today and can be molded in any way to fit any story. Whether he’s the laughing baffoon or the maniacal mass murderer, the Joker has an appeal to him that keeps fans coming back for more and more.
It really can’t be overstated how brilliant that he is and in my opinion, he’s the best villain ever created.
Now obviously I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Joker and if you agree with me or not. Comment below and let me know!