September 04, 2016 14 min read

The Joker is a fictional character appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. The character was created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson and first appeared in Batman #1(April 25, 1940).

In his comic book appearances, the Joker is portrayed as a criminal mastermind. Introduced as a psychopath with a warped, sadistic sense of humor, the character became a goofy prankster in the late 1950s in response to regulation by the Comics Code Authority, before returning to his darker roots during the early 1970s. As Batman's nemesis, the Joker has been part of the superhero's defining stories, including the murder of Jason Todd—the second Robin and Batman's ward—and the paralysis of one of Batman's allies, Barbara Gordon. The Joker has had various possible origin stories during his decades of appearances. The most common story involves him falling into a tank of chemical waste which bleaches his skin white, turns his hair green, and his lips bright red; the resulting disfigurement drives him insane. The antithesis of Batman in personality and appearance, the Joker is considered by critics to be his perfect adversary.

The Joker possesses no superhuman abilities, instead using his expertise in chemical engineering to develop poisonous or lethal concoctions, and thematic weaponry, including razor-tipped playing cards, deadly joy buzzers, and acid-spraying lapel flowers. Although the Joker sometimes works with other supervillains such as the Penguin and Two-Face, and groups like the Injustice Gang and Injustice League, these relationships often collapse due to the Joker's desire for unbridled chaos. The 1990s introduced a romantic interest for the Joker in his former psychiatrist, Harley Quinn, who becomes his villainous sidekick. Although his primary obsession is Batman, the Joker has also fought other heroes including Superman and Wonder Woman.(1)

Publication History(2)

Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson are credited with creating the Joker, but their accounts of the character's conception differ, each providing his own version of events. Finger's, Kane's, and Robinson's versions acknowledge that Finger produced an image of actor Conrad Veidt in character as Gwynplaine (a man with a disfigured face, giving him a perpetual grin) in the 1928 film The Man Who Laughs as an inspiration for the Joker's appearance, and Robinson produced a sketch of a joker playing card .

Robinson claimed that it was his 1940 card sketch that served as the character's concept, and which Finger associated with Veidt's portrayal. Kane hired the 17-year-old Robinson as an assistant in 1939, after he saw Robinson in a white jacket decorated with his own illustrations. Beginning as a letterer and background inker, Robinson quickly became primary artist for the newly created Batmancomic book series.

 

 

 

Golden Age

The Joker debuted in Batman #1 (1940) as the eponymous character's first villain, shortly after Batman's debut in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). The Joker initially appeared as a remorseless serial killer, modeled after a joker playing card with a mirthless grin, who killed his victims with "Joker venom": a toxin which left their faces smiling grotesquely. The character was intended to be killed in his second appearance in Batman #1, after being stabbed in the heart. Finger wanted the Joker to die because of his concern that recurring villains would make Batman appear inept, but was overruled by then-editor Whitney Ellsworth; a hastily drawn panel, indicating that the Joker was still alive, was added to the comic. The Joker went on to appear in nine of Batman's first twelve issues.

The 1942 cover of Detective Comics #69, known as "Double Guns" (with the Joker emerging from a genie lamp, aiming two guns at Batman and Robin), is considered one of the greatest superhero comic covers of the Golden Age and is the only image of the character using traditional guns. Robinson said that other contemporary villains used guns, and the creative team wanted the Joker—as Batman's adversary—to be more resourceful.

 

 

 

Silver Age

The Joker was one of the few popular villains appearing regularly in Batman comics from the Golden Age into the Silver Age, as the series continued during the rise in popularity of mystery and romance comics. In 1951, Finger wrote an origin story for the Joker in Detective Comics #168, which introduced the characteristic of him formerly being the criminal Red Hood, and his disfigurement the result of a fall into a chemical vat.

By 1954, the Comics Code Authority had been established in response to increasing public disapproval of comic book content. The backlash was inspired by Frederic Wertham, who hypothesized that mass media (especially comic books) was responsible for the rise in juvenile delinquency, violence and homosexuality, particularly in young males. Parents forbade their children from reading comic books, and there were several mass burnings. The Comics Code banned gore, innuendo and excessive violence, stripping Batman of his menace and transforming the Joker into a goofy, thieving trickster without his original homicidal tendencies.

The character appeared less frequently after 1964, when Julius Schwartz (who disliked the Joker) became editor of the Batman comics. The character risked becoming an obscure figure of the preceding era until this goofy prankster version of the character was adapted into the 1966 television series Batman, in which he was played by Cesar Romero. The show's popularity compelled Schwartz to keep the comics in a similar vein. As the show's popularity waned, however, so did that of the Batman comics. After the TV series ended in 1968, the increase in public visibility had not stopped the comic's sales decline; editorial director Carmine Infantino resolved to turn things around, moving stories away from schoolboy-friendly adventures. The Silver Age introduced several of the Joker's defining character traits: lethal joy buzzers, acid-squirting flowers, trick guns, and goofy, elaborate crimes.

Bronze Age

In 1973, after a four-year disappearance, the Joker was revived (and revised) by writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Neal Adams. Beginning with Batman #251's "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge", the character returns to his roots as an impulsive, homicidal maniac who matches wits with Batman. This story began a trend in which the Joker was used, sparingly, as a central character. 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." O'Neil's 1973 run introduced the idea of the Joker being legally insane, to explain why the character is sent to Arkham Asylum (introduced by O'Neil in 1974 as Arkham Hospital) instead of to prison. Adams modified the Joker's appearance, changing his more average figure by extending his jaw and making him taller and leaner.

DC Comics was a hotbed of experimentation during the 1970s, and in 1975 the character became the first villain to feature as the title character in a comic book series, The Joker. The series followed the character's interactions with other supervillains, and the first issue was written by O'Neil. Stories balanced between emphasizing the Joker's criminality and making him a likable protagonist whom readers could support. Although he murdered thugs and civilians, he never fought Batman; this made The Joker a series in which the character's villainy prevailed over rival villains, instead of a struggle between good and evil. Because the Comics Code Authority mandated punishment for villains, each issue ended with the Joker being apprehended, limiting the scope of each story. The series never found an audience, and The Joker was cancelled after nine issues (despite a "next issue" advertisement for an appearance by the Justice League). The complete series became difficult to obtain over time, often commanding high prices from collectors. In 2013, DC Comics reissued the series as a graphic novel.

Modern Age

Although the 1970s restored the Joker as an insane, lethal foe of Batman, it was during the 1980s that the Batman series started to turn around and the Joker came into his own as part of the "dark age" of comics: mature tales of death and destruction. The shift was derided for moving away from tamer superheroes (and villains), but comic audiences were no longer primarily children.

The late 1980s saw the Joker exert a significant impact on Batman and his supporting cast. In the 1988–89 story arc "A Death in the Family", the Joker murders Batman's sidekick (the second Robin, Jason Todd). Todd was unpopular with fans; rather than modify his character, DC opted to let them vote for his fate and a 28-vote plurality had the Joker beat Todd to death with a crowbar. This story altered the Batman universe: instead of killing anonymous bystanders, the Joker murdered a core character in the Batman fiction; this had a lasting effect on future stories. Written at the height of tensions between the United States and Iran, the story's conclusion had Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini appoint the Joker his country's ambassador to the United Nations (allowing him to temporarily escape justice).

Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke expands on the Joker's origins, describing the character as a failed comedian who adopts the identity of Red Hood to support his pregnant wife. Unlike The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke takes place in mainstream continuity. The novel is described by critics as one of the greatest Joker stories ever written, influencing later comic stories (including the forced retirement of then-Batgirl Barbara Gordon after she is paralyzed by the Joker) and films such as 1989's Batman and 2008's The Dark Knight. Grant Morrison's 1989 Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth explores the psychoses of Batman, the Joker and other rogues in the eponymous facility.

 

The New 52

The Joker's first major storyline in The New 52, DC Comics' 2011 reboot of story continuity, was 2012's "Death of the Family" by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo. The story arc explores the symbiotic relationship between Joker and Batman, and sees the villain shatter the trust between Batman and his adopted family. Capullo's Joker design replaced his traditional outfit with a utilitarian, messy, and disheveled appearance to convey that the character was on a mission; his face (surgically removed in 2011's Detective Comics #1) was reattached with belts, wires, and hooks, and he was outfitted with mechanics overalls. The Joker's face was restored in Snyder's and Capullo's "Endgame" (2014), the concluding chapter to "Death of the Family", which featured the deaths of Joker and Batman.

 

Fictional Character Biography(3)

The Killing Joke

Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) built on the Joker's 1951 origin story, portraying him as a failed comedian pressured into committing crime as the Red Hood to support his pregnant wife. Batman's interference causes him to leap into a chemical vat, which disfigures him. This, combined with the trauma of his wife's earlier accidental death, causes him to go insane and become the Joker. However, the Joker says that this story may not be true and prefers his past to be "multiple choice". In this graphic novel, the Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon and tortures her father, Commissioner James Gordon, to prove that it only takes one bad day to drive a normal man insane. After Batman rescues Gordon and subdues the Joker, he offers to rehabilitate his old foe and end their rivalry. Although the Joker refuses, he shows his appreciation by sharing a joke with Batman.

Joker's Last Laugh

In "Joker's Last Laugh" (2001), the doctors at Arkham Asylum convince the character that he is dying in an attempt to rehabilitate him. Instead, the Joker (flanked by an army of "Jokerized" supervillains) launches a final crime spree. Believing that Robin (Tim Drake) has been killed in the chaos, Dick Grayson beats the Joker to death (although Batman revives his foe to keep Grayson from being a murderer) and the character succeeds in making a member of the Bat-family break their rule against killing.

Batman R.I.P./Final Crisis

In the 2008 story arc "Batman R.I.P." the Joker is recruited by the Black Glove to destroy Batman but betrays the group, killing its members one by one. After Batman's apparent death in "Final Crisis" (2008), Grayson investigates a series of murders (which leads him to a disguised Joker). The Joker is arrested, and then-Robin Damian Wayne beats him with a crowbar (paralleling Todd's murder). When the Joker escapes, he attacks the Black Glove, burying its leader (Simon Hurt) alive after the supervillain considers him a failure as an opponent; the Joker is then defeated by the recently returned Batman.

The New 52

In DC's New 52, a 2011 relaunch of its titles following Flashpoint, the Joker has his own face cut off. He disappears for a year, returning to launch an attack on Batman's extended family in "Death of the Family" so he and Batman can be the best hero and villain they can be. At the end of the storyline, the Joker falls off a cliff into a dark abyss. The Joker returns in the 2014 storyline "Endgame", the Joker, believing that Batman has betrayed their relationship, mind controls the Justice League into attacking Batman. The story implies that the Joker is immortal—having existed for centuries in Gotham causing tragedies—and is able to regenerate from mortal injuries. "Endgame" restores the Joker's face, and also reveals that he knows Batman's secret identity. The story ends with the deaths of Batman and the Joker at each other's hands.

Origins

Though a number of backstories have been given, a definitive one has not yet been established for the Joker. An unreliable narrator, the character is uncertain of who he was before and how he became the Joker: "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another ... if I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!" A story about the Joker's origin appeared in Detective Comics #168 (February 1951), nearly a decade after the character's debut. Here, the character is a laboratory worker who becomes the Red Hood (a masked criminal) to steal a million dollars from his employer and retire. He falls into a vat of chemical waste when his heist is thwarted by Batman, emerging with bleached white skin, red lips, green hair and a permanent grin.

This story was the basis for the most often-cited origin tale, Moore's one-shot The Killing Joke. The Joker quits his job as a Lab assistant, becoming a stand-up comedian to support his pregnant wife. Unsuccessful, he agrees to help mobsters with a robbery and dons the Red Hood. The heist goes awry; the comedian leaps into a chemical vat to escape Batman, surfacing disfigured. This, combined with the earlier accidental death of his wife and unborn child, drives the comedian insane and he becomes the Joker. This version has been cited in many stories, including Batman: The Man Who Laughs (in which Batman deduces that the Red Hood survived his fall and became the Joker), Batman #450 (in which the Joker dons the Red Hood to aid his recovery after the events in A Death in the Family, but finds the experience too traumatic) and "Death of the Family". Other stories have expanded on this origin; "Pushback" explains that the Joker's wife was murdered by a corrupt policeman working for the mobsters, and "Payback" gives the Joker's first name as "Jack".

However, the Joker's unreliable memory has allowed writers to develop other origins for the character. "Case Study", a Paul Dini-Alex Ross story, describes the Joker as a sadistic gangster who creates the Red Hood identity to continue the thrill of small-time criminality. He has his fateful first meeting with Batman, which results in his disfigurement. It is suggested that the Joker is sane, and feigns insanity to avoid the death penalty. In Batman Confidential (#7-12), the character, Jack, is a talented criminal who is bored with his work. He encounters (and becomes obsessed with) Batman during a heist, embarking on a crime spree to attract his attention. After Jack injures Batman's girlfriend, Batman scars Jack's face with a permanent grin and betrays him to a group of mobsters, who torture him in a chemical plant. Jack escapes, but falls into an empty vat as gunfire punctures chemical tanks above him. The flood of chemicals (used in anti-psychotic medication) alters his appearance and completes his transformation. The superhero Atom sees the Joker's memory of burning his parents alive (after they find him killing animals) in The Brave and the Bold #31, and Snyder's "Zero Year" (2013) suggests that the pre-disfigured Joker was a criminal mastermind leading a gang of Red Hoods.

The Joker has claimed a number of origins, including being the child of an abusive father who broke his nose and the long-lived jester of an Egyptian pharaoh. As Batman says, "Like any other comedian, he uses whatever material will work"

Powers and Abilities(4)

The Joker has no inherent superhuman abilities. He commits crimes with a variety of weaponized thematic props such as a deck of razor-tipped playing cards, rolling marbles, Jack-in-the-boxes with unpleasant surprises and exploding cigars capable of leveling a building. The flower in his lapel sprays acid, and his hand often holds a lethal joy buzzer conducting a million volts of electricity, although both items were introduced in 1952 as harmless joke items. However, his chemical genius provides his most-notable weapon: Joker venom, a liquid or gaseous toxin which sends its targets into fits of uncontrollable laughter; higher doses can lead to paralysis, coma or death, leaving its victim with a ghoulish, pained rictus grin. The Joker has used venom since his debut; only he knows the formula, and is shown to be gifted enough to manufacture the toxin from ordinary household chemicals. Another version of the venom (used in "Joker's Last Laugh") makes its victims resemble the Joker, susceptible to his orders. The villain is immune to venom and most poisons; in Batman #663 (2007), Morrison writes that being "an avid consumer of his own chemical experiments, the Joker's immunity to poison concoctions that might kill another man in an instant has been developed over years of dedicated abuse."

The character's arsenal is inspired by his nemesis' weaponry, such as batarangs. In "The Joker's Utility Belt" (1952), he mimicked Batman's utility belt with non-lethal items, such as Mexican jumping beans and sneezing powder. In 1942's "The Joker Follows Suit" the villain built his versions of the Batplane and Batmobile, the Jokergyro and Jokermobile (the latter with a large Joker face on its hood), and created a Joker signal with which criminals could summon him for their heists. The Jokermobile lasted for several decades, evolving with the Batmobile. His technical genius is not limited by practicality, allowing him to hijack Gotham's television airwaves to issue threats, transform buildings into death traps, launch a gas attack on the city and rain poisoned glass shards on its citizens from an airship.

The Joker is portrayed as skilled in melee combat, from his initial appearances when he defeats Batman in a sword fight (nearly killing him), and others when he overwhelms Batman but declines to kill him. He is talented with firearms, although even his guns are theatrical; his long-barreled revolver often releases a flag reading "Bang", and a second trigger-pull launches the flag to skewer its target. Although formidable in combat, the Joker's chief asset is his mind.

Supporting Characters

Allies

The Joker's main ally is his love interest Harley Quinn. He has occasionally teamed up with Penguin and Two-Face, but he usually works alone.

Enemies

The Joker being a supervillain has a number of enemies who are superheroes including his archnemesis Batman, Nightwing, Red Hood, Red Robin, Batgirl, Huntress, Batwoman, Superman, Wonder Woman and many more.

 

 

 

TV Series

Batman(1966)

The 20th Century Fox series starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin, as well as Cesar Romero as the Joker, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin, Lee Meriwether as Catwoman, and Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. The series received a lot of positive response by fans and critics of that time.

You can check out the trailer below

Movies

Batman(1989)

The movie was directed by Tim Burton. The movie featured Micheal Keaton as Batman, Jack Nicholson as the Joker, Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale and Micheal Gough as Alfred Pennyworth. The movie performed very well both financially and critically. Jack Nicholson's performance was praised by everyone throughout the world.

You can check out the trailer below

The Dark Knight(2008)

This was the sequel to Batman Begins which was also directed by Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale reprised his role as Batman, Heath Ledger played the Joker and Aaron Eckhart was cast as Two-Face. The movie got extremely positive reviews and performed amazingly at the box office and was nominated for the Oscars. Heath Ledger won the Oscar for best supporting actor.

You can check out the trailer below

 Suicide Squad(2016)

Suicide Squad is the third movie in the DCEU. It was directed by David Ayer starring Jared Leto as The Joker,Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn,Will Smith as Deadshot, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag and many other actors such as Cara Delvinge as Enchantress,etc. Ben Affleck featured as Batman in a cameo role. The movie has mixed reviews by critics but was enjoyed by fans and performed well at the box office.

You can check out the trailer below

 

Animated Series

Batman: The Animated Series(1992)

In 1992 Warner Bros. started Batman: The Animated Series. the show was produced by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski. The series was a big hit and was praised for its darker tone, thematic complexity, artistic quality and modernization of the character. The show aired from 1992 to 1995 and throughout this period, the show won 12 Emmy Awards and was nominated for 12.The series starred Kevin Conroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Mark Hamill as The Joker, Loren Lester as Robin/Dick Grayson, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred Pennyworth, Bob Hastings as Jim Gordon, Richard Moll as Harvey Dent/Two Face, Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn and Adrian Barbeau as Catwoman.

 

 

Notable Comics

Comics Writer(s)

Artist(s)

Batman:A Death In The Family Jim Starlin Jim Aparo,Mike DeCarlo,Adrienne Roy
Batman:The Killing Joke Alan Moore Brian Bollard, John Higgins
Batman: The Man Who Laughs Ed Brubaker Doug Mahnke,David Baron
Joker Brian Azzarello Lee Bermejo
Batman: Death Of The Family Scott Snyder Greg Capullo
Batman: Endgame Scott Snyder Greg Capullo

 

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Sources

1.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joker_%28comics%29

2.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joker_%28comics%29#Creation_and_development

3.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joker_(comics)#Character_biography

4.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joker_%28comics%29#Skills_and_equipment

 


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