The Joker is a fictional character, a comic book supervillain published by DC Comics and appearing as an enemy of Batman. Created by Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger and Bob Kane, the character first appeared in Batman #1 (Spring 1940). Often depicted as the archenemy of Batman throughout his comic book appearances, the Joker is portrayed as a master criminal whose characterization has varied from a violent sociopath who kills people and commits crimes for his own amusement, to a goofy trickster-thief. He has also 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. The Joker's real identity is often left anonymous. Throughout the character's long history, there have been several different origin tales; the most common theme depicts 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. The Joker has been portrayed by Cesar Romero in the Batman TV series, Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton's Batman, and Heath Ledger in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. Larry Storch, Mark Hamill and Kevin Michael Richardson have provided the voice for the character in animated form. Wizard's list of the 100 Greatest Villains of All Time ranked the Joker as #1.
- Jack Napier
- The Clown Prince of Crime
- Puddin' (to Harley)
- Mr. J (To Harley)
- Harlequin of Hate
- Ace of Knaves
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: 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 really bad day." The Joker ridicules him as an example of "the average man," a naïve weakling doomed to insanity. The Joker fails in his attempts to drive Gordon insane, because Batman saves the commissioner. Although psychologically 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 the Joker, offering to rehabilitate him. The Joker hesitates and considers the idea, but ultimately refuses, saying it's too late for him and that he's too far gone. The Joker shows his appreciation by sharing a joke with Batman which Batman actually laughs at, suggesting that Batman may have also been driven mad by "one really bad day." 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 keep from having her medical supply thefts exposed, leading to Jason's brutal beating by the Joker 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 one-shot comic Mad Love, Arkham 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. 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. Gordon is shot as she saves one particular baby from falling to the cement floor. 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 York as the country's ambassador, in which position he then threatens to use a neutron bomb to kill everyone in Manhattan 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 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 Island statues, he does not believe that the altered inmates are being appropriately funny. The entire United States 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 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 China. 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; if the Joker can't even erase one man, how can he destroy the universe? The Joker's control shattered, 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, transferring them to the Joker and leaving him catatonic. 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 an immunity to several types of poison by methods of self administration. He then sends Harley Quinn to kill his former henchmen, instructing her use a more lethal version of Joker venom in order to signal his spiritual "rebirth", culminating with another rampage through Arkham Asylum and a failed murder attempt on Harley. 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. Joker later appears as a member of Libra's Secret Society of Super Villains.
Cesar Romero portrays the character in 18 episodes of the 1960s Batman television series. The Joker of this series is characterized by a cackling laugh and comedy-themed crimes that were silly in nature, such as turning the city's water supply into jelly, beating Batman in a surfing competition, and pulling off a bank heist based on a stand-up comedy routine. 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. The Joker is portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the 1989 film Batman. In the film, the character is a narcissistic gangster named Jack Napier who is disfigured when he falls into a vat of chemicals during a confrontation with Batman. His trademark grin is the result of a botched attempt at plastic surgery by a back-alley surgeon to repair a bullet-wound to the face. Driven insane, he launches a crime wave designed to "outdo" Batman (Michael Keaton), who he feels is getting too much press. When Bruce Wayne confronts the Joker, he later recognizes him as one of the muggers who murdered his parents. In the flashback scene showing Napier's murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, Napier is played by Hugo E. Blick. 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. 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. In The Dark Knight (2008) the character is portrayed by Heath Ledger, who told Sarah Lyall of New York Times that he viewed that film's version of the Joker as a "psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy." The role of the Joker put great psychological pressure on Ledger while filming The Dark Knight and took a toll on him. He is the main antagonist of the film and is a terrorist-for-hire who becomes obsessed with antagonizing Batman (Christian Bale). Costume designer Lindy Hemming described the Joker's look as being based around his personality, in which "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. Accordingly, he still leaves his victims with post-mortem smiles throughout the film, but with the use of a knife and make-up rather than chemical manipulation. During the course of the film, he tells conflicting stories about how he acquired the scars, which involve child abuse and self-mutilation. He eschews gag-based weapons common to the character in favor of knives, firearms and an array of explosive devices. Jeff Labrecque writes that Ledger's "seething anarchist Joker makes Jack Nicholson's once-iconic dandy now seem as clownish as Cesar Romero's." As many critics predicted, Ledger has been posthumously nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.
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. Two episodes of the 1972 series The New Scooby-Doo Movies featured a meeting with Batman; the Joker was one of the villains, with Storch reprising his role. The Joker was featured in five episodes of Filmation's 1977 series The New Adventures of Batman, where he was voiced by Lennie Weinrib. His only Super Friends appearance was in the show's final incarnation, The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, where he appeared in both the intro and 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 (played by voice actor Frank Welker). In Batman: The Animated Series, which debuted in 1992, the Joker was voiced by Mark Hamill. In the feature film spin-off Batman: Mask of the Phantasm it is revealed that he was once a hitman for mobster Sal Valestra. His name, like in the 1989 movie, is mentioned as being Jack Napier, but later episodes offer the notion that this is merely an alias and that, like in the comics, his true identity is unknown. Hamill reprises his role in many animated shows in the DC animated universe, such as Justice League, where his most prominent appearance is in the episode Wild Cards, in which he has planted an atomic bomb in Las Vegas and is also planning to unleash the psychic powers of Ace on the entire city to render everyone watching into a catatonic state. The plan backfires, and after a fight with Batman, the Joker is himself rendered temporarily catatonic. A different interpretation of the Joker appears in the animated series The Batman, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. In his first few episodes, he sports a purple and yellow straitjacket, fingerless gloves, bare feet, wild green hair, red eyes, and what appears to be martial arts skills that makes him much different from his predecessors. Later in the series, he adopts the more traditional garb of a purple suit and spats, but still has wild hair and wears no shoes, save one episode. 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. In the animated feature The Batman vs. Dracula, he is transformed into a vampire, with paler clothes, claws, fangs, and supernatural powers.
The Joker appears in numerous Batman-related video games, often being the main antagonist. 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 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. The Joker will also appear in DC Universe Online and Batman: Arkham Asylum, again voiced by Mark Hamill.