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The Joker - Batman's Enemy Number One

Updated on September 1, 2016
Heath Ledger as the Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight.
Heath Ledger as the Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight.

The Clown Prince of Crime

Batman has had many memorable enemies in his long illustrious career fighting crime, ask most non comic book fans to name an enemy of say Superman and they will be hard pushed to name more than one, usually Lex Luthor, and yet ask them about Batman villains and they easily quote you the names of Two Face, the Riddler, Cat Woman, Penguin and Bane and of course probably the most well known bad guy in comic books the Joker.

Birth of the Joker

The creative origin of the Joker is debatable, first appearing along with Catwoman in Batman # 1 ( Spring 1940 ) the credit for creating the Joker is disputed between Batman creator Bob Kane and artist Jerry Robinson but both acknowledge writer Bill Fingers contribution, the story goes that Robinson showed Kane an idea he had for a character based on the look of a Joker on a playing card that he owned, Kane remarked that the Joker on the playing card looked like the actor Conrad Veidt in the film The Man Who Laughed and thus the Jokers look was born. From his first appearance the Joker is a psychotic murderer and still over 70 years later, the Clown Prince of Crime is at large in the Death of the Family arc in DCs New 52 Batman comics.

Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs looking very similar to the familiar appearance of the Joker.
Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs looking very similar to the familiar appearance of the Joker.

The Origin Of The Joker

The Jokers origin story has been told in comic books numerous times. The best known and most widely accepted story though appears in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's graphic novel The Killing Joke. In this novel the Joker is an unsuccessful stand up comedian desperately trying to support his heavily pregnant wife, the Joker gets forced into a plot by two hoods to let them enter the chemical plant he formerly worked at to enable them to enter and rob the card factory next door. During the planning of this operation the young comedian is informed by the police that his wife has died in an unfortunate household accident, grief stricken he tries to pull out of the robbery but is forced by the crooks to keep his commitment. The robbery turns out to be a complete disaster, almost immediately the would be robbers are met by security and a shoot out ensues, the two hoods are gunned down and the comedian finds himself confronted by Batman who has been alerted to the scene. To escape capture by Batman the terrified Joker jumps into a waste vat and is swept through a pipe leading to outside, to his horror he finds that chemicals in the vat have bleached his skin chalk white, his hair green, his lips a shade of ruby red and left him with a permanent rictus grin on his face.The trauma of this disfigurement compounded also with the loss of his wife and unborn child sends the comedian completely insane and marks the birth of the Joker.

The cover of Alan Moore's The Killing Joke.
The cover of Alan Moore's The Killing Joke.

The Harlequin of Hate

During the 1960s due to restrictions on what material comic books could print, the Joker became a far more harmless character than he is portrayed today, more of the cackling nuisance and practical joker that we see in the famous TV series, in the 1970s writer Denny O'Neil and artist Neal Adams took the reigns on the Batman comic and the Joker became the homicidal maniac that we know today. The Joker has been responsible for numerous tragedies in Batman's life including killing the second Robin ( Jason Todd ), paralyzing Barbara Gordon ( Batgirl ) by shooting her in the spine and the murder of Jim Gordon's wife ( Sarah Essen ).

Weapons of the Joker

The Joker has many weapons in his armory most notably his own chemical invention Joker Venom, victims who come into contact with this deadly poison in either its liquid or gas form are left for dead, dying with a sardonic smile on their face.

The Electric Joy Buzzer is worn on the Jokers hand in the form of a ring and discharges a lethal electric current into anything in which it comes into contact, obviously it is unwise to shake hands with the Joker.

Explosive Toys are one of the Jokers favorite weapons such as exploding teddy bears or soldiers, he also has a penchant for sending exploding presents that usually have his face on the front.

The Joker is a master at throwing Razor Sharp Playing cards that he can use to great affect.

Harpoon Gun, this is the gun that famously releases a flag with the word BANG written on it, unfortunately with a second pull of the trigger the gun releases a deadly harpoon.

The Jokers Laughing Gas is a deadly nerve toxin that leaves the unfortunate victims giggling themselves to death.

An early Joker apearance.
An early Joker apearance.

Yin And Yang

It has often been asked by comic book fans why Batman does not just kill the Joker, anyone who is familiar with the nature of Batman will know that Batman's idea of justice is about balance and not revenge, believing that criminals should be apprehended and made to serve their time as punishment for their crimes and hopefully changed, but also it is hard to believe that DC would be prepared to lose a major character from their universe if Batman were to end the Jokers life. The Joker is arguably the most popular villain in comic books, between the Joker and Batman is the never ending battle between good and evil, two sides of a coin, opposites attracting to make a story that continues to fascinate readers worldwide.

Harley Quinn

Dr Harleen Quinzel was originally the Jokers court appointed psychotherapist but he soon captivated her and turned her on to his own brand of lunacy. Dr Quinzel soon became the murderous moll and lover of the Joker ,Harley Quinn. The Joker would soon tire of Harley and at one point attempted to shoot her in a rocket into space. Harley has always had a fascination for the Joker and pursues her own criminal career, often teaming up with the Joker when the mood suits her, usually until he resorts to striking her.

Harley Quinn
Harley Quinn

The Joker On Film And In Other Media

The Joker has featured in many animated Batman series and has been voiced by Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame, Brent Spiner of Star Trek The Next Generation and Lost actor Michael Emerson. On the big screen Jack Nicholson portrayed the character in Batman ( 1989 ), Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight ( 2008 ) and Caesar Romero in the 1960s TV series Batman.

Caesar Romero as the Joker in the Batman TV series.
Caesar Romero as the Joker in the Batman TV series.


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    • nuffsaidstan profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Thanks Mike

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 

      5 years ago from London

      Cool hub mate! Always nice to trace the origins of popular culture's icons!

    • nuffsaidstan profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      I think it is the villains in Batman that make him such a popular character similar with Spider-man.

    • Geekdom profile image


      5 years ago

      Great History! I particularly enjoyed the list of Joker Weapons. Batman is known for his "woderful toys" but his villains rarely get the same attention. Except for the Penguin and his umbrellas.

      Interesting +1


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