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Joker (comics)

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All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day. You had a bad day once. Am I right? I know I am. I can tell. You had a bad day and everything changed. Why else would you dress up like a flying rat?
~ The Joker's famous monologue to Batman in The Killing Joke.

The Joker is a fictional character and the main antagonist in the Batman comic books, TV shows, movies, video games and other media. He is the archenemy of Batman, having been directly responsible for numerous tragedies in Batman's life, including the death of Robin (Jason Todd , formerly the 2nd Robin, currently The Red Hood) and the paralyzing of Barbara Gordon (Oracle, formerly Batgirl), and was generally one of the most infamous of Gotham's criminal elements. In the comics, the Joker is portrayed as a master criminal whose characterization has varied. The original and currently dominant image is of a highly knowledgeable psychopath with a twisted, sadistic sense of humor.

His most prominent origin story was that he fell into a tank of chemical, which bleached his skin white, turned his hair green and turned his lips bright red, giving him the appearance of a clown.

He was portrayed by Cesar Romero in the Batman television series, Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton's Batman, voiced by Mark Hamil in the DC Animated Universe, the three Rocksteady Arkham Games, as well as the incarnation from the animated adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke, portrayed by Heath Ledger in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, and Jared Leto in the DC Extended Universe. He is one of the most iconic and recognized villains in popular media, having been ranked #1 on Wizard's list of the 100 Greatest Villains of All Time.

His manipulative mind allows him to control the city with the press of a button. He is shown to have a high level of knowledge and is able to comprehend various scientific tasks. The Joker will often claim he never has a plan, but this menace often has a plot drawn out long before he meets the protagonists. His crazed grin, evil, clown-like appearance and sadistic practical jokes all make the Joker one of the most diabolical villains of the Batman franchise and of all time. He is also one of Batman's greatest adversaries, a dangerous foe to the Justice League, and Batman (Terry Mcginnis)'s greatest foe.


A year after Bob Kane first introduced Batman to comics, DC Comics requested a new villain for the hero. Kane, along with Batman's co-creator Bill Finger, started working on ideas and they came up with one villain: The Cat. However, they were in need of a second villain and after a suggestion by their frequent collaborator, Jerry Robinson, Kane and Finger developed the idea for the Joker. They developed the idea after the character on the 1928 film “The Man Who Laughs”, when actor Conrad Veidt played the part of a mute man with his disfigured face in a permanent smile. On his first appearance, Joker was a psycopathic maniac who murdered for pleasure, but in the original script, he was killed off on his second appearance, in which he accidentally stabs himself as he rushed at Batman. However, DC Comics feared that they would run out of ideas for villains if they kept killing them and after an editorial edict, a final scene was arranged in which the Joker was shown to be alive and ever since, he has remained a major villain in the DC Universe.[1]

The Joker in the 1940’s was shown merely as a no-name spree killer/mass murderer and later a criminal prankster. There was only one short origin story in 1951, written by the Joker's co-creator Bill Finger in "Detective Comics #168" in which Joker first was the criminal known as "Red Hood".[2] Years later, in the 1980’s that same origin story was expanded by Alan Moore which showed a de-Jokerised version of an engineer. The engineer, destined to become the Joker quit his job to become a stand-up comedian, only to fail miserably. Desperate for money and with his wife Jeannie heavily pregnant, the engineer turned to two criminals to help him out. Helping the criminals to break in involved the engineer to dress up as the Red Hood. This was made as an excuse by the criminals to say that they wished to protect his identity. However, they failed to mention the history of the Red Hood.

Red Hood

The Joker as the Red Hood

“In this version of the story, the Red Hood persona is given to the inside man of every job (thus, it is never the same man twice); this makes the man appear to be the ringleader, allowing the two criminals to escape. During the planning, police contact(ed) him and inform(ed) him that his wife and unborn child have (had) died in a household accident.”

The engineer, distraught at the loss of his wife and unborn child, tried to back out of the plan, but he was strong-armed into continuing. The plan was doomed from start to finish. When they entered the plant, their cover was immediately blown and a shoot out with security guards ensued. In the resulting melee, the two criminals were killed and the engineer escaped, only to run into Batman, who happened to be investigating the disturbance.

The engineer, so frightened by the appearance of a “black demon,” jumped over the railings into a vat of chemicals in order to escape from Batman. His attempted escape was successful, but the chemicals bleached his skin and turned his hair green. The unfortunate events of the day, coupled with the hideous reformation, resulted in the Joker becoming completely insane.


Losing his sanity.

This is just one of three origin stories suggested by writers in The Batman Universe. The true story is unclear due to the fact that the only man who knows what really happened (that being, The Joker) is an unreliable source. The Joker even says to Batman after a battle between the two:

“Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another. If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple-choice!”

Another origin is suggested by Alex Dini says that the Joker was, in fact, a mob enforcer who worked his way up the Gotham criminal food chain until he led a powerful criminal faction. Dini then suggests that the Joker created the Red Hood personality to commit small-time crimes, since he reveled in “dirty work”. This resulted in an inevitable “path crossing” with Batman.
Batman Vol 2-37 Cover-2 Teaser


There are so many strategies employed by the Joker that there can often be no discernible pattern to his attacks. For instance, The Joker often uses his lapel either to shoot his "Joker gas", or to shoot nothing at all. Other times The Joker has pointed guns at others with a label saying "bang", yet as "Infinite Crisis" has proven, The Joker can also be extremely sadistic. As such, this makes The Joker a very dangerous opponent indeed due to his unpredictable mind.

Emperor Joker

Emperor Joker

Emperor Joker

In a special mini-series that ran through several issues of Superman, the Joker tricked the reality-warping imp known as Mister Mxyzptlk into giving him his powers. This resulted in the Joker becoming a god and transforming the entire world into a sick amusement-park style nightmare dedicated to his own madness. Despite all of the Joker's vast power in this special storyline he had a weakness in the fact that his relationship to Batman had reached a point where he could not exist with him, a kind of psychological "vicious cycle" deal in which for all his hatred of the Dark Knight, the Joker could not kill him as the two had become interlinked as characters: in short without Batman there was no Joker. Superman used this knowledge to his advantage and ultimately defeated the omnipotent Emperor Joker as a result - the Joker has never obtained such godlike power again.


In the mini-series Underworld Unleashed, The Trickster remarks, "When super-villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories". As far as truth about Joker’s personality, one word sums him up… unpredictable. One day, the Joker may be a harmless clown, to others he can become a crazed super-killer.

Various psychologists in Arkham Asylum have tried to diagnose, though unsuccessfully, the nature of the Joker's mania. It has been stated that he tests positive for all of the clinical markers for both sociopathy and psychopathy although given his unpredictability and volatile nature, the joker would be closer to a psychopath. It is believed that a combination of trauma of falling into the chemicals that changed him and the chemicals affect on his system that twisted the Joker into what he is which is partially supported by the fact that the Lazarus pit temporarily cured him of insanity and the pit is known for it's healing properties.


At his most harmless, the Joker is still a menace and will endanger lives with no regard for the harm he causes. At his worst, the Joker would be best described as a living nightmare. A creature whose only purpose is to bring pain and death for his own perverse amusement.


Even the Joker proves his patriotism to his country!

In addition to this, the Joker is one of the few villains attributed with killing one of Batman's sidekicks (the other being Black Mask). The Joker beat Robin/Jason Todd to death in the comic "A Death in the Family". For any Batman villain, killing a Robin is almost the peak of villainy. Only two Robin’s and one Batgirl have ever been maimed or killed at the hands of supervillains.

He also indicates that all it takes is one bad day for even the nicest most upstanding of people to go insane, citing his own experiences, as well as claims that life is all "one big joke" and that the only sensible way to live is either by being insane or by living without rules, strongly implying that he is a nihilist.

However, even the Joker has his standards. During a DC/Marvel crossover, while Joker is working with the Red Skull, he thought he was wearing a costume. However, when the Red Skull revealed himself as a REAL Nazi, the Joker was horrified and in the end, he fights him as he was about to drop a bomb on Washington DC. In addition, he allegedly holds disgust at stealing kids' college funds, as evidenced by his telling Warren White (who had recently gotten sent to Arkham Asylum via the insanity plea to get out of a prison sentence) such, as White had been sentenced for skimming funds and making people broke.

Holy Musical Batman

He was only mentioned by name by the Penguin and Sweet Tooth. The Clown Prince of Crime was supposed to be the main villain in the show, but instead, Sweet Tooth, portrayed by Jeff Blim, replaced him.


  • Real Name: Unknown
  • Known Alias: Jack Napier, Jack White, Joe Kerr, the Clown Prince of Crime, the Harlequin of Hate and the Ace of Knaves among others.
  • Occupation: Professional Criminal
  • Base of Operations: Gotham City
  • Eyes: Green
  • Hair: Green
  • Height: 6' 0" ft
  • Weight: 160 lb
  • First Appearance: Batman #1 (Spring, 1940)

Relationship with Harley Quinn


The Joker and Harley, on the cover of Batman: Harley Quinn.

Previously known as Dr. Harleen Quinzel, a perky, ambitious young psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, Harley is now employed as the Joker's hench-wench/ girlfriend. The relationship began when Harleen took on the Joker's case at the asylum, becoming his doctor. During the short time she was his psychiatrist, the Joker wooed and subsequently manipulated her into breaking him out of Arkham. Her obsessive love is what keeps her with him; the Joker is often abusive (physically and emotionally) towards her, taking out his anger on her and taking advantage of her. It is speculated that over the years the Joker developed some kind of fondness for her; however, most believe he keeps her around for the sadistic pleasure he gets from abusing her. She is elemental in many of his schemes, and he occasionally demonstrates a jealous possessiveness of her.

Another story is that when she took on the case of the Joker in the Asylum, he told her that her name reminded him of the French acrobat Harley Quinn, thus where she got the name. The next day, when she went into her office, she found a rose on her desk from the Joker. she grew fond of him over the next few weeks. He later broke of Arkham and she was worried sick. When The Joker was dragged back to Arkham by The Batman covered in cuts and bruises, Harley Quinn left Arkham, went and bought her suit, broke the Joker back out of Arkham and swore a vengeance against Batman for hurting her 'Puddin.'


  • The Joker's first name is nearly revealed and apparently begins with "Ja--" However, before Melvin Reipan is about to mention the name, the Joker shushes him, saying "We don't use that name anymore, remember? I'm Cousin Joker now.".
  • The Joker arguably has the largest individual body count in the DC Universe (galactic rulers and planet destroyers aside), having killed over 2,000 victims in his career. While Mongul, Cheshire, and Black Adam have devastated entire cities, Joker probably has killed more in a single act, ranging from traditional knives and explosives to his lethal electric joybuzzer and his signature laughing gas.

External links



  1. Joker's Creation
  2. Detective Comics #168

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