|First appearance|| Batman #1 |
Story: "The Joker"
|Created by|| Bob Kane |
Jerry Robinson (concept)
|Origin|| Detective Comics #168 |
The Killing Joke
Batman: Black and White Volume 2
Batman Confidential #7-#12
|Skin color||Chalk White|
|Affiliations|| Injustice Gang/Injustice League |
Secret Society of Supervillains
Club of Villains
|Partner(s)|| Harley Quinn (former) |
|Known alias(es)|| Clown Prince of Crime |
Harlequin of Hate
Ace of Knaves
Grand Mogul of Mountebanks
|Abilities|| Genius-level intelligence|
Complete lack of empathy
Immunity to various toxins
Unpredictability gained from
"super-sanity" levels of insanity
The Joker is a fictional character, a comic book supervillain published by DC Comics and appearing as the archenemy of Batman. Created by baw jaws Batman #1 (Spring 1940).
Throughout his comic book appearances, the Joker is portrayed as a master criminal whose characterization has varied from that of a violent psychopath to a goofy trickster-thief. He is the archenemy of Batman, having 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.
Throughout the character's long history, there have been several different origin tales; they most commonly depict 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.
Wizard magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Villains of All Time ranked the Joker as #1. IGN's list of the Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time List ranked the Joker as #2. He was also named the 8th Greatest comic book character in history by Empire magazine.Joker is the primary antagonist of the seires.
Bill Finger, the co-creator of Batman, brought credited Batman creator Bob Kane a photograph of actor Conrad Veidt wearing make-up for the silent film The Man Who Laughs (1928), and the Joker was modeled on this photograph. Reference was made to this influence in the graphic novel Batman: The Man Who Laughs, a retelling of the first Joker story from 1940.
In his initial dozen or so appearances, starting with Batman #1 (1940), the Joker was a straightforward homicidal maniac, with a bizarre appearance modeled after the symbol of the Joker known from playing cards. He was slated to be killed in his second appearance, but editor Whitney Ellsworth suggested that the character be spared. A hastily drawn panel, demonstrating that the Joker was still alive, was subsequently added to the comic. For the next several appearances, the Joker often escaped capture but suffered an apparent death (falling off a cliff, being caught in a burning building, etc.), from which his body was not recovered.
In the 1950s and 1960s, following the imposition of the Comics Code Authority censorship board, the comic book's writers characterized the Joker as a harmless, cackling nuisance. He disappeared from Batman stories almost entirely when Julius Schwartz took over editorship of the Batman comics in 1964.
Revision by O'Neil and AdamsEdit
In 1973, the character was revived and profoundly revised in Batman stories by writer Dennis O' Neil and artist Neal Adams. Beginning in Batman #251, with "The Joker's Five Way Revenge", the Joker returns to his roots as a homicidal maniac who murders people on a whim, while enjoying battles of wits with Batman. 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."
Writer Steve Englehart and penciler Marshall Rogers, in an acclaimed run in Detective Comics #471-476 (Aug. 1977 - April 1978), which went on to influence the 1989 film Batman and be adapted for the 1990s animated series, added elements deepening the severity of the Joker's insanity. In the Englehart/Rogers story "The Laughing Fish", the Joker is brazen enough to disfigure fish with a rictus grin, then expects to be granted a federal trademark on them, only to start killing bureaucrats who try to explain that obtaining such a claim on a natural resource is a legal impossibility.
The Joker had his own nine-issue series during the 1970s in which he faces off against a variety of both superheroes and supervillains. Although he was the protagonist of the series, certain issues feature just as much murder as those in which he was the antagonist; of the nine issues, he commits murder in seven. The development of the Joker as a sociopath continues with the issues A Death in The Family (Batman #426 - #429) and The Killing Joke in 1988, redefining the character for DC's Modern Age after the company wide reboot following Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Fictional character biographyEdit
Though many have been related, a definitive backstory has never been established for the Joker in the comics, and his real name has never been confirmed. He himself is confused as to what actually happened. As he says in The Killing Joke, "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another... if I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha ha ha!" In Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison, it is said that the Joker may not be insane, but has some sort of "super-sanity" in which he re-creates himself each day to cope with the chaotic flow of modern urban life.
The first origin account, Detective Comics #168 (February 1951), revealed that the Joker had once been a criminal known as the Red Hood. In the story, he was a scientist looking to steal from the company that employs him and adopts the persona of Red Hood. After committing the theft, which Batman thwarts, Red Hood falls into a vat of chemical waste. He emerges with bleached white skin, red lips, green hair and a permanent grin.
The most widely cited backstory, which the official DC Comics publication, Who's Who in the DC Universe, credits as the most widely believed account, can be seen in Alan Moore's 1988 one-shot The Killing Joke. It depicts him as originally being an engineer at a chemical plant, named Jack, who quits his job to become a stand-up comedian, only to fail miserably. Desperate to support his pregnant wife, Jeannie, the man agrees to help two criminals break into the plant where he was formerly employed to get to the card company next door. 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 him and inform him that his wife and unborn child have died in a household accident.
Stricken with grief, he attempts to back out of the plan, but the criminals strong-arm him into keeping his promise. As soon as they enter the plant, however, they are immediately caught by security and a shoot-out ensues, in which the two criminals are killed. As the engineer tries to escape, he is confronted by Batman, who is investigating the disturbance. Terrified, the engineer leaps over a rail and plummets into a vat of chemicals. When he surfaces in the nearby reservoir, he removes the hood and sees his reflection: bleached chalk-white skin, ruby-red lips, and bright green hair. These events, coupled with his other misfortunes that day, drive the engineer completely insane, resulting in the birth of the Joker.
The "Lovers and Madmen" story arc of 2006 (Batman Confidential #8-#12) tells a very different story for The Joker's birth, portraying him as a highly talented yet bored professional criminal named Jack. Upon meeting the Batman, Jack is finally relieved of his boredom, and clashes with the Dark Knight multiple times, eventually gaining his trademark grin when a tossed Batarang slices apart the corners of his mouth. Later on, Batman (whose girlfriend had been badly injured by Jack earlier) sells Jack out to a group of mobsters that he had double-crossed earlier, resulting in Jack being captured and tortured inside an abandoned chemical plant. Though he manages to escape, Jack falls into one of the vats inside the plant, and arises as the familiar white-skinned and green-haired demon that has tormented Gotham for so many years.
- Main article: Joker (Earth-Two)
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.
The Joker was a professional criminal leader who terrorized the streets of Gotham City during the 1940s to the 1960s on the now destroyed Earth-Two. With a career spanning several decades, the Joker had become infamous as one of the primary enemies of the original Earth-Two Dynamic Duo, Batman and Robin. The Joker would continue his attacks on Gotham until age prevented him from engaging in direct physical combat. In his later years, he remained incarcerated at the State Prison for the Criminally Insane.
Very little is known about the Joker's history prior to choosing a life of crime, other than he was a poor man who grew up not wanting to remain poor. His original birth name was never clarified, though some accounts depict it as Joe Kerr though many assume this was an alias and not his actual birth name.
Soon after his recreation and new name, the Joker quickly became a noted criminal entity in Gotham City's criminal underground. He did this when he brazenly challenged Gotham's underworld and police department by announcing his murders and robberies over the radio. Three of his victims: Henry Claridge, Jay Wilde, and Judge Drake were killed with his trademark Joker Venom, and in the case of the former two, their prize jewels stolen. Eventually, Batman and Robin were able to track the criminal down and defeat him.
The murderous clown, however, did not stay in prison long, and returned time and time again to battle the Dynamic Duo. As the years went on, the Joker experienced many changes in his modus operandi; his crimes, which used to almost always involve cold-blooded murder, gradually became less violent and more colorful. Whereas he once viewed Batman as nothing more than an obstacle, he had come to think of the Caped Crusader as his destined arch-foe. His cold, ruthless personality was also gradually replaced with that of a cackling madman.
The Joker would continue to remain an active criminal after Wayne had retired from being Batman. He would continue to engage Gotham City's costumed protectors, Dick Grayson, who became Batman II and Wayne's daughter, Helena (AKA The Huntress), though usually with less frequency than his earlier years. Eventually, however, the Joker would tire of his criminal exploits, probably due to his advancing age and would surrender to prison.
The Joker's last known crime spree was when he learned that Wayne, who had been publicly revealed to be the original Batman, had died. Unable to accept that he had finally beaten his long-term adversary—simply by outliving Wayne—the Joker escaped prison and started up his old criminal exploits to draw Batman out of what the Joker thought was merely Batman's retirement. With Wayne dead, Grayson resumed his identity as the second Batman long enough to convince the Joker that Wayne was still alive and that the battle could resume at a later time. With the possibility of finally directly defeating the original Batman still in existence, the Joker allowed the Huntress to take him back into custody and his own retirement where he plotted out his eventual final battle with Batman. That battle never occurred, as Wayne was dead, and Grayson was never again known to have resumed the identity of Batman after this case, feeling that he had already failed in the role of successor to Wayne despite getting the Joker to peacefully surrender.
It is unknown whether the Joker escaped from prison in any further exploits, but if he did, he was successfully defeated and returned to prison.
The Joker either died from old age before the Crisis on Infinite Earths came to Earth-Two, or he was alive along all people who were on Earth-Two when that Earth was fused with the others in Crisis. Like everyone else of Earth-Two, this Joker was succeeded by his New Earth counterpart, the current Joker. Also like the original Earth-Two Batman, the Earth-Two Joker never met his Earth-One counterpart.
Silver Age/Bronze AgeEdit
- Main article: Joker (Earth-One)
The Earth-One Joker shares many similarities with his Earth Two and New Earth counterparts. Their origins, career history, personalities and physical appearance are nearly identical to one another. The establishment of the Earth-One Joker is the result of retroactive alteration to the character’s established published history (colloquially known as a Retcon). The Joker’s actual first appearance as an Earth-One character is a matter of interpretation as there has never been an actual distinction between when the Golden Age Earth-Two Joker ceased making regular published appearances and when the Silver Age Joker was introduced.
It is commonly accepted that most appearances made by the Joker from the early-mid 1950s until 1986 are attributed to the Earth-One Joker. One of the major differences that distinguishes the Silver Age Joker from the original iteration of the character is the revelation of the latter's Pre-Joker Red Hood identity. The Earth-One Joker never adopted such an identity and was known only as the Joker throughout his entire career, though the 1980s series Who's Who in the DC Universe, despite being about the Earth-One version of the character, also mentioned his "Red Hood" persona, thus making it seem that both Jokers had adopted the image at some point. The Red Hood origin was revisited for the Modern era Joker in Alan Moore's 1989 one-shot special The Killing Joke. It is also unknown how much of the Joker’s Pre-Crisis history survived into his Post-Crisis chronology. While many of his earlier appearances from the 1950s and 60s are likely apocryphal, it is reasonable to assume that many of the Joker stories presented in the 1970s-80s are still considered canon as per current continuity.
Initially, the Joker appeared to be little more than a colorful crook with a penchant for gimmicks (most famously, having made his own utility belt to rival that of Batman's), but as the years passed, his crimes became ever more gruesome, a possible reflection of his own increasingly downward spiral into insanity. The aforementioned "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge!", for example, depicted him as gleefully killing five former henchmen on no more than the suspicion that one of them had sold him out.
Although the Joker preferred working alone (a ubiquitous horde of henchmen not withstanding), he occasionally teamed up with criminal mastermind Lex Luthor, and together they matched wits against the "Worlds Finest" team of Batman, Robin and Superman. The Joker even managed to give the Justice League of America trouble on more than one occasion.
In June of 1985, the dimension-spanning catastrophe known as the Crisis on Infinite Earths resulted in the collapse of the Multiverse. Earth-One and all of its denizens, including the Joker, ceased to exist and were merged into the restructured Post-Crisis continuity commonly known as New Earth.
- Main article: Joker (New Earth)
The New Earth Joker's first encounter with Batman (detailed in the graphic novel The Man Who Laughs) was while he was acting in the identity of "The Red Hood" with a gang of other thugs, committing a robbery in or near the Ace Chemical Processing Plant. He either tripped into a vat of chemicals, or was accidentally pushed in by Batman. He was driven insane by a combination of exposure to the chemicals, and possible brain damage due to oxygen deprivation.
While the Joker's criminal activities have certainly not been limited to the following by far, he has amassed a sizable number of acts that distinguish him from the regular villain population.
In 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. Batman saves the commissioner, and sees that the Joker's plan failed; although 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 ultimately refuses, but shows his appreciation by sharing a joke with Batman, provoking an uncharacteristic laugh.
Shortly after this incident, during "A Death in the Family" (Batman #426-#429), the Joker escapes from Arkham yet again, but finds that the government has confiscated his funds on account of him being a criminal. Left with no choice, he travels to the Middle East to sell a nuclear missile that "a friend of his in the army" had supposedly given to him. Through a series of coincidences, he not only kills Jason Todd, the second Robin (who had been searching for his mother in the Middle East), but is appointed Iran's ambassador to the United Nations. Batman, furious at Jason's murder, tracks the Joker down, and, with the help of Superman, foils his plot to kill the entire United Nations with his Joker Venom. Enraged, the Joker sets off a bomb in the United Nations building and attempts to escape by helicopter, but in the ensuing fight with Batman, is shot multiple times and left alone as the helicopter crashes. Against all odds, he survives this disaster, as his body was never recovered.
During the 1999 "No Man's Land" storyline, the Joker murders Commissioner Gordon's second wife, Sarah Essen Gordon as she shields a group of infants. The Joker is shown frowning in the aftermath of the murder. He taunts 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 realizes that the Commissioner has avenged Barbara's paralysis.
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; by this logic, the Joker would be incapable of destroying the entire universe, since he incapable of doing so to Batman. This breaks the Joker's control, and 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 (which he then transfers into Joker himself, rendering him comatose) so that he can go on.
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 (Black Canary later discovers, however, 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). 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. 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, however, Batman resuscitates the Joker.
In the Under The Hood arc (Batman #635-650), Jason Todd returns to life as a result of Superboy-Prime's tampering with the Source Wall. 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. Batman, however, instead uses a Batarang to cut several veins in Jason's neck, subduing 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.
Salvation Run depicts the Joker as leading one of two factions of supervillains who have been exiled from Earth to a distant prison planet after murdering the first leader Psimon. 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.
During the opening of Batman and Son, Joker is shot in the face by a cop dressed as Batman. In Batman 663, Joker is found by Batman after cosmetic surgery in Arkham but Harley helps him escape. Joker performs more surgery on his face is now left with a permanent smile.
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. He participates in their action, considering it a farce all along (knowing Batman will survive their attempts, which he spitefully reveals to them just when they think their plan has come to fruition) and casually murdering one of the Black Glove´s members before escaping, only to be driven off the road by Damian, Batman´s son. Joker later appears as a member of Libra's Secret Society of Super Villains.
Following Batman's apparent death in Final Crisis, the Joker disguises himself as British journalist/detective Oberon Sexton. Dick Grayson (who takes the original Batman's place by cowl and costume) investigates a series of deaths of members of the Black Glove by the "Domino Killer". He deciphers that the causes of death followed a set routine of jokes, and deduces that Oberon is the Joker. After the Joker is arrested, he is beaten with a crowbar by the current Robin (Damian Wayne); Joker realizes this Robin is Batman's son noting their physical resemblance. He scratches Robin with a paralyzing toxin painted onto his fingernails, and escapes to execute his attack on the Black Glove, unleashing Joker venom on an audience gathered under Professor Pyg. Guided to a climatic confrontation, Grayson and Robin are aided against Joker and the Black Glove by the return of the real Batman, and the Joker is captured.
Powers and AbilitiesEdit
In nearly every incarnation, The Joker is highly intelligent and is skilled in the fields of chemistry and engineering, as well an expert with explosives, and creating deadly traps and other sorts of weapons. In a miniseries featuring Tim Drake, the third Robin, the Joker is shown kidnapping a computer genius, and admitting that he doesn't know much about computers, although later writers have portrayed him as very computer literate.
Joker's skills in unarmed combat vary considerably depending on the writer. Some writers have shown Joker to be quite the skilled fighter, capable of holding his own against Batman in a fight. Other writers prefer portraying Joker as being physically frail to the point that he can be defeated with a single punch. He is, however, consistently described as agile. Joker's skills in combat also differ in the film and television adaptations. In the animated series, the Joker is commonly depicted as a poor fighter but agile, with the exception of The Batman, where he is a skilled fighter. In the film series, he is generally a weak physical fighter, such as in 1989's Batman. In The Dark Knight, however, he is fairly quick, and even manages to gain the upper hand against Batman twice, though each time Batman was distracted.
The Joker has cheated death numerous times, even in seemingly inescapable and lethal situations. He has been seen caught in explosions, been shot repeatedly, dropped from lethal heights, electrocuted, and so on, but he always returns once again to wreak havoc.
Over several decades there have been a variety of depictions and possibilities regarding the Joker's apparent insanity. Grant Morrison's graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth suggests that the Joker's mental state is in fact a previously unprecedented form of "super-sanity," a form of ultra-sensory perception. It also suggests that he has no true personality of his own, that on any given day he can be a harmless clown or a vicious killer, depending on which would benefit him the most. Later, during the Knightfall saga, after Scarecrow and the Joker team up and kidnap the mayor of Gotham City, Scarecrow turns on the Joker and uses his fear gas to see what Joker is afraid of. To Scarecrow's surprise, the gas has no effect on Joker, who in turn beats him with a chair. In Morrison's JLA, the Martian Manhunter, trapped in a surreal maze created by the Joker, used his shape-shifting abilities to reconfigure his own brain to emulate the Joker's chaotic thought patterns. Later in the same storyline, Martian Manhunter uses his telepathic powers to reorganize the Joker's mind and create momentary sanity, though with great effort and only temporarily. In those few moments, the Joker expresses regret for his many crimes and pleads for a chance at redemption.
In an alternate depiction of the Joker called Elseworlds: Distant Fires, the Joker is rendered sane by a nuclear war that deprives all super beings of their powers. In Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #145, the Joker became sane when Batman put him in one of Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus Pits after being shot, a reversal of the insanity which may come after experiencing such rejuvenation. However, the sanity, like the more commonplace insanity, was only temporary, and soon the Joker was back to his "normal" self.
The character is sometimes portrayed as having a "fourth wall" awareness. In Batman: The Animated Series, the Joker is the only character to talk directly into the "camera" and can be heard whistling his own theme music in the episode adaptation of the comic Mad Love. Also, in the episode "Joker's Wild", he says into the camera, "Don't try this at home, kids!" In the Marvel vs DC crossover, he also demonstrates knowledge of the first Batman/Spider-Man crossover even though that story's events did not occur in the canonical history of either the Marvel or DC universe. On page five of "Sign of The Joker" (Detective Comics #476), the second half of the "Laughing Fish" storyline, the Joker turns the page for the reader, bowing and tipping his hat in mock politeness. On the official websites and associated promotional material for The Dark Knight, graffiti characteristic of the Joker can be found. On the website IBelieveinHarveyDentToo.com, hidden among laughter is the message "See you in December", referring to the release of the film's trailer.
On more than one occasion, The Joker has been granted actual superpowers (though often in separate continuities from the maintream DC Universe). In the Elseworlds graphic novel Dark Joker: The Wild, for example, he was portrayed as a powerful sorcerer who lead an immense demon army. The graphic novel Elseworld's Finest also features him injected with a special form of Venom (the strength-inducing drug used by Bane) that had liquid Kryptonite in it, allowing him to go toe-to-toe with Supergirl. The most (in)famous incident where The Joker received superpowers, however, is undoubtedly the aforementioned "Emperor Joker" storyline, where he gained Mr. Mxyptlk's ability to alter reality itself on a whim. As Emperor Joker, he was able to reduce even the Quintessence (widely regarded as the most powerful "cosmic" characters in all of the DCU) into mere caricatures of themselves.
- Main article: Weapons of The Joker
While other villains rely on tried-and-true methods to commit crimes (such as Mr. Freeze's freeze gun or Poison Ivy's toxic plants), Joker has a variety of weapons at his disposal. For example, the flower he wears in his lapel sprays (at any given time) acid, Joker Venom (in gas form), or nothing at all. In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and much earlier in "Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker!" (Batman #321), the Joker has a gun which at first shoots a flag saying "BANG!", but then, with another pull of the trigger, the flag fires and impales its target. His most recurring gadget is a high-voltage hand-buzzer, which he uses to electrocute his victims with a handshake.
His most prominent weapon, however, is his Joker Venom, sometimes referred to as "Joker Juice", a deadly poison that infects his victims with a ghoulish rictus grin as they die while laughing uncontrollably. The venom comes in many forms, from gas to darts to liquid poison, and has been his primary calling card from his first appearance. The Joker is immune to his venom, as stated in Batman #663 when Morrison writes that "being an avid consumer of his products, Joker's immunity to poisons has been built up over years of dedicated abuse".
When the need arises, however, Joker will resort to more "mundane" weapons. He is often shown to carry guns (both pistols and submachine guns) around, as well as a number of powerful yet compact explosives. In The Killing Joke, he is also shown to keep a hidden knife up his sleeve, which can be revealed by pulling on the collar of the sleeve.
Over the years, the Clown Prince of Crime has been seen with a multitude of vehicles. While his original mode of transportation was a rather mundane car, later writers have depicted him with outlandish, over-the-top "Jokermobiles", and even "Joker-Copters".
The Joker has been referred to as the Clown Prince of Crime, the Harlequin of Hate, the Leonardo of the Larcenous Laugh, and the Ace of Knaves. Throughout the evolution of the DC Universe, interpretations and incarnations of the Joker have taken two forms. The original and currently dominant image is of a fiendishly intelligent sociopath with a warped, sadistic sense of humor and a disregard for society's rules. The other interpretation of the character, popular in the late 1940s through 1960s comic books as well as the 1960s television series, is that of an eccentric but harmless prankster and thief. Batman: The Animated Series blended these two aspects, although most interpretations tend to embrace one characterization or the other.
The Joker's victims have included men, women, children, and even his own henchmen and other villains. In the graphic novel The Joker: Devil's Advocate, the Joker is reported to have killed well over 2,000 people. Despite having murdered enough people to get the death penalty thousands of times over, he is always found not guilty by reason of insanity. In the Batman story line "War Crimes", this continued ruling of insanity is in fact made possible by the Joker's own dream team of lawyers. He is then placed in Arkham Asylum, from which he appears able to escape at will, going so far as to claim that it's just a resting ground in between his "performances".
Couple with The Joker's sadism and lack of empathy is his enormous ego, a trait which is present in both of the "main" interpretations of the character. On at least one occasion, he has stated himself to be "the greatest criminal the world has ever known" , and anyone who wounds his pride is sure to suffer. Accordingly, he has imprinted his own face on many of his gadgets, and even, on one infamous occasion, onto hundreds, if not thousands, of fish.
Batman has been given numerous opportunities and some temptation to put the Joker down once and for all, but has relented at the last minute. As an example, in one story line, Batman threatens to kill the Joker, but then has an epiphany in which he says that would make him "a killer like yourself!" Conversely, the Joker has given up many chances to kill the Batman because "[Batman] is just too much fun!" This is a very recurring trait in incarnations of Joker throughout TV shows and movies.
The Joker is renowned as Batman's greatest enemy. His capricious nature, coupled with his violent streak and general unpredictability, makes him feared by the public at large, other DC superheroes, and DC supervillains as well; in the Villains United and Infinite Crisis mini-series, the members of the villains' Secret Society refuse to induct the Joker for this reason, which backfires as the Joker, infuriated at being left out, attacks members of the Society; and ultimately kills the leader, Alexander Luthor. In the mini-series Underworld Unleashed, the Trickster remarks, "When super-villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories."
- Main article: Incarnations of The Joker
- ↑ Detective Comics #475