** WARNING: THIS POST IS DARK **
Why a disclaimer? It's about The Joker after all and this weekend we will be seeing his origin movie on the big screen. Why is this a big deal? The Joker is not just any ordinary comic book character. He's one of the most complex, messed up, and insane characters in history. He has no rules and kills for fun.
What has made the Joker an interesting character is that he has no "true" origin. The Joaquin Phoenix movie on October 4th is nothing that we have seen from the comics. Certain elements from other Joker-focus comics and movies are influencing the direction of the film but ever since his debut back in April of 1940, there has never been one that has said "this is his origin within the Batman continuity".
There have been stories from one-off graphic novels, movies, and flashbacks but nothing concrete. However, over the eight decades of the character he has been played by countless actors, voiced by people that will make your eyes open wide, and had some of the most shocking moments. Below are a few moments from movies that are based on the comics, but remember, this is the Joker, so it's a little disturbing. Last warning.....
The Joker Has One Bad Day
The year was 1988. DC Comics gave comic book author Alan Moore (Watchmen and V for Vendetta) the keys to making an origin for the Clown Prince of Crime. It was called The Killing Joke. The theme of this one shot graphic novel was "how can a bad day influence a person".
Before the birth of The Joker, he was an unnamed engineer who decided to quit his job and becomes a full time stand up comedian. It doesn't go very well. Because of that, he's late on his rent, other bills, and has to support a wife who is pregnant with their first child. Desperate for money, he is recruited by two criminals who are planning a robbery of a factory and need his input. In order to keep his identity hidden, he puts on a costume and calls himself The Red Hood (named after the giant helmet he has to wear)
Right before the robbery takes place, he learns his wife and unborn child have died due to an accident at their apartment. Devastated, he still goes through the planned robbery. He runs into Batman and the Red Hood falls into the pit of acid and washes out in the river. Because his day was so bad, he looks at his reflection, starts laughing, and thus the birth of the Joker.
That was the cliff note version...in 2016 it finally became a movie. Take a look at the origin!
And yes, that was Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker who voiced the Joker in this movie and for the animated series in the 90's.
A year later....Tim Burton's Batman was released in theaters. Jack Nicholson took on the role. It was a blend of Cesar Romero from the 1960's Batman series and the dark version that was from the comics. After this scene he and Batman got into an epic battle. Seriosuly, Joker stood there while Batman flew the Batwing at him. You can watch the movie for that. For now, enjoy him jamming out to the Prince song Trust.
Joker Is Great At Story Telling
At the end of Batman Begins we saw Lt. James Gordon hand over a Joker card to Batman. Three years later in 2008, The Dark Knight came into every ones lives and set the bar extremely high for what a comic book and superhero movie should look and feel. This time, the Joker would be center stage. No origin, just a whole movie between Batman and his greatest enemy. Aside from the epic performance by Heath Ledger (at first was an odd choice but now he's considered the best) this movie demonstrated the multiple origins that has been mentioned in the characters history and of course shows that all he cares about is turning the world upside down into chaos. Oh...I should mention, Health Ledger earned an Oscar for this role.
He Is The Reason Barbara Is In A Wheel Chair
This is the real last warning because going forward we look at how messed up the Joker is and how he doesn't care what he does to anyone!
Taking a trip back to The Killing Joke story again, he is the reason Barbara Gordon's career as Batgirl ended. In order to drive her father, Commissioner Gordon, insane The Joker arrives and shoots Barbara leaving her paralyzed from the waste down. She lives, but this also drives Batman to his breaking point.
As tragic as this is, after Barbara recovers and adapts to her new life, she takes on the name Oracle and aids Batman from the sidelines.
He Caused A Death In The Family
1988 was a real dark year. Along with The Killing Joke and the development of the Tim Burton Batman film for Warner Brothers, in the comics (and within the main continuity) the Joker killed Robin. Not Dick Grayson....this was the second Robin, Jason Todd. After Dick grew up (OK...get your mind out of the gutter, but yeah, I laughed when I typed that) and took on the role as Nightwing, Batman found another troubled youngster and took him under his wing. Jason Todd was a very different Robin. He was a smart-ass, rougher, and argued with Batman over the way criminals should be handled. Readers did not care for this version of Robin, so in 1988 they were given a choice. In the four issue series A Death in the Family Jason Todd is looking for his birth mother oversees but runs into the Joker. Knowing Batman can't save him, The Joker ties up Jason and beats him with a crow bar to within an inch of his life. To make matters worse, the Joker then blows up the building. Readers were given a number to call on the back of the comic. One number for if Jason should live and another for if he died. The results would be in the next issue. When the next comic arrived on shelves we learned Robin's fate. Batman arrives and finds Jason in the Robin costume...dead. The Joker won.
This is reminder to Batman that he failed to prevent his partners death. This also started to raise the question "should Batman kill the Joker?"
He Ruined Tim Drake's Life
The Joker from Batman: The Animated Series is voiced by Mark Hamill and is consider the best version of the character. In the direct-to-DVD movie Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker we saw the Clown Prince of Crime return to Neo-Gotham to take on an elderly Bruce Wayne and his protege Terrence McGinnis who is now Gotham's new Dark Knight.
When the Joker returns Bruce Wayne is puzzled, REALLY puzzled. The thing is...you don't see Bruce Wayne get like that. At this point, The Joker knows of Bruce Wayne's days as Batman. How? In a flashback, The Joker kidnaps Tim Drake, the second Robin of the animated universe, and brainwashes him to become a mini-Joker thus revealing all the secrets of the Bat. It's by far one of the most mind-blowing moments for the series and Batman doesn't hold back.
It concludes here....but be warned, it's kind of disturbing.
In a lot of ways this moment from Return of the Joker mirrors what happened in A Death in the Family.
- The Joker attacks and kidnaps Robin
- Gets a good laugh torturing someone
- It's part of his master plan to drive Batman to his breaking point
the only different is the Joker ends up dying. Was this dark? YUP! As the movie progressed it demonstrated this: even though the Joker was presumed dead (he returned thanks to nano-technology) this act made a long lasting effect on the whole Bat family. To start, Bruce forbade Tim to be Robin and even went as far as never having another sidekick again. It ruined his relationship with Barbara, driving her to leave Batman's side, and because of Joker stabbing him in the leg, also caused the future limp that we see Bruce Wayne have when we get to Batman Beyond. All of that done by the Joker directly and indirectly.
He Brainwashed Someone To Love Him
Before Harley Quinn was the Joker's right hand gal, she was known as Doctor Harleen Quinzel and worked at Arkham Asylum doing a research case study on the Joker himself. Most know this from Suicide Squad but its origins are from Batman The Animated Series. It's more in depth and shows that Harleen actually cares about the guy rather than just going along with his plans. While in sessions The Joker tells her about his childhood (again, made up) and convinced her that Batman is the true reason he lashes out. She falls for it and eventually busts him out of Arkham thus beginning their crazy game of psychotic love.
Of course there is one moment where Batman actually DOES kill the Joker. It is in the Frank Miller story The Dark Knight Returns
This is one intense fight, viewer discretion!
After reading and watching everything The Joker has done, do you think Batman was right to kill him all along or just continue to beat him up so he lives in a body cast for the rest of his life?
By killing The Joker, it breaks Batman's number one rule. No killing. Batman could, in fact, he has come close, but by not ending this clowns life it shows Batman is the better man and can't be turned or break any of his morals like the rest of humanity. He's done a lot to push Batman over the edge, someday maybe he will or maybe the Joker will get the best of him and end his life. After 80 years their on going feud has no end in sight.
I think another thing to explore is this: do we NEED a Joker movie? Can you have the character on screen without Batman? There's something to say about that. The Joker isn't like any other comic book villain or character out there. He's insane and has no endgame. As Alfred said to Bruce in The Dark Knight "some men want to watch the world burn"
A few months ago I took a dive into whether or not we should have a movie or not. Take a listen to the Geek Freak of the Week Podcast to find out the answer.
Joker comes out Friday October 4. Get ready to smile!