This supervillain is one that has become one of the most famous and twisted comic book characters of all time. Since his debut, the Joker became Batman’s arch-nemesis and gained a huge fanbase all around the world. To this day, the Joker is a still major part of pop-culture, with a brand new movie about him still in the theaters. One question that remains is, who is he? Let’s take a look at some facts about this complex and terrifying character.
This supervillain was created by a few people who combined their talents to make this iconic comic book character. Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson all contributed to the creation of the Joker. The character made its first-ever appearance in the debut issue of the comic book Batman in April of 1940 that was published by DC Comics. The Joker is portrayed to be a criminal mastermind with a seriously warped and sadistic sense of humor. Not to mention he is a psychopath as well. However, the character became a goofy prankster in the late 1950s as a response to a Comics Code Authority regulation. In the early 1970s, the character returned to his darker roots.
Wasn’t Meant To Stay
You might not have known this, but originally, the Joker wasn’t meant to stay. He was supposed to be nothing more than a temporary enemy to the Dark Knight. In fact, the writers planned on killing him after just one appearance. Thankfully, he was spared by editorial intervention and became the most iconic clown villain. The editor in charge saw the potential in the character and ordered that an additional frame be added that shows the clown coming back to life. And the rest, as they say, is history.
During the past 80 years since the Joker was created, he’s had a number of possible origin stories. While none of them have been confirmed as the main one, the most common story involves him falling into a tank of chemical waste that bleaches his skin white, turns his hair green, and turns his lips bright red. The resulting disfigurement is what finally drives him insane.
Interestingly enough, the Joker has no superhuman abilities. Instead, he uses his expertise in chemical engineering to develop poisonous or lethal concoctions and thematic weaponry. Some of his more known weapons include razor-tipped playing cards, deadly joy buzzers, and acid-spraying lapel flowers. At times, he works with other Gotham City supervillains like the Penguin and Two-Face, as well as groups like the Injustice Gang and Injustice League. However, these relationships usually don’t last due to the Joker’s desire for chaos.
Voiced By Luke Skywalker
Due to Batman’s success, the 1992 TV series, Batman: The Animated Series, was created. Voiced by none other than Mark Hamill, the Joker had the darker tone of the comics in stories that were appropriate for young kids. Hamill ended up voicing the clown prince for 20 years in everything from the series to spin-off films, video games, and amusement-park voiceovers.
Superman Punched Him
While Batman has vowed never to kill the killer clown, Superman did no such thing. In the “Injustice: Gods Among Us” comic series, the Joker tricked Superman into thinking he had killed Lois Lane. Naturally, Superman did what any rational Kryptonian would do: he punched a hole right through the Joker’s chest, killing him instantly.
Things aren’t very simple when it comes to the Joker. With that said, it’s difficult to begin explaining the character with a fact about his name and background. It just so happens that his identity is unknown. Throughout all the comics, his real name has never been revealed. All his personal records are nonexistent, making him all the more dangerous and creepy.
The Man Who Laughs
There were a few major things to inspire the Joker’s character, mainly his appearance. The main thing that inspired his creators was a 1928 film named “The Man Who Laughs” which is based on a novel by Victor Hugo. In the book, the main character is sentenced by the king to have his face surgically disfigured to a permanent grin for crimes committed by his father. If you take a look at the photo of this character, you’ll see just how close it is to the Joker we all know now.
The earliest on-screen adaptation of the Joker was in the 1966 TV series Batman, and its film adaptation, Batman. The character was then played by Cesar Romero. In 1989, a darker version of the Joker – played by Jack Nicholson – was debuted in Tim Burton’s film, Batman. The movie went on to earn over $400 million at the worldwide box office. This role was a defining performance for Nicholson and was even considered to overshadow Batman’s. One film critic said the audience had to remind themselves at times not to root for the Joker.
Suicide Squad Set
Seeing as playing the Joker seems to have somewhat of an effect on the actors, Warner Bros. wasn’t taking any chances with Suicide Squad. They hired a therapist to be on the set during the making of the movie. A lot of people believe it was because of the toll playing the Joker took on Heath Ledger, but it hasn’t been confirmed.
Locked In A Hotel
Speaking of Heath Ledger, his take on the Joker truly made waves in the entertainment industry. He was known to stay in character with full makeup on set, and his ability to get into the mind of the Joker is seen many times throughout The Dark Knight. The role required Ledger to go to some seriously dark places, so before filming began, he locked himself in a hotel room and then his apartment for a month so he could feel totally isolated.
A Clockwork Orange
When he was researching the part of the Joker, Heath Ledger got loads of inspiration from Stanley Kubrick’s movie, A Clockwork Orange. The movie had a big influence on Ledger’s acting choices for the Joker. The main character, Alex DeLarge, was a gang leader who was a lot like the Joker in his love of chaos. The gang would inflict horrible acts on unsuspecting citizens just for the fun of it.
According to both the Joker and the Riddler, a woman named Jeannie is said to be the wife of the man who later became the Joker. She was carrying an unborn child when she was in a household accident. Neither she nor the baby made it out alive. This tragedy might just be one major reason why the Joker went insane.
Can you imagine Robin Williams playing the Joker? Well, as it turns out, it almost happened. Williams was considered for the role in Tim Burton’s Batman, only it didn’t work out. It’s a shame since it would have been an awesome character for him. At the time, Williams made it clear that he was more than interested in the part. Fast forward to an interview with him in 2006; He went on to describe how he’d take on the part: “Well, you want to do a different Joker. You know, if they do Arkham Asylum, it would be amazing. Arkham Asylum is one of the greatest, nastiest comic books ever. It’s truly, it’s like the Marquee de Sade on that level, and wonderfully damaged and quite tragic.”
Jared Leto Creeped Everyone Out
One of the more recent portrayals of the Joker was by Jared Leto in Suicide Squad. His take on the role resulted in a younger and more punk Joker. Leto truly gave this role his all – some might say he might have given too much. While on set, he stayed in character, and as a result, creeped out all his co-stars. He sent Margot Robbie, who was playing Harley Quinn, a live rat and a love letter, while the rest of the cast got a dead hog.
High Body Count
The Joker has the highest body count in the DC universe. From ramming people’s heads into pencils to shooting his victims point-blank in the face, the Joker has done his fair share of killings. According to 1996’s The Joker: Devil’s Advocate, he’s got a body count of over 2,000 people. Considering the book was released 23 years ago, it’s safe to say that the numbers are probably much higher now. Keep in mind that these are only known kills. How many of his own people has he bumped off for a laugh? What about the people he killed that were never found? All we know now is that the Joker was spared the death penalty only because of his insanity.
The Joker might be many things: a murderer and a thief, to name a couple. However, the one thing he isn’t is a Nazi. In the 1997 DC/Marvel crossover special Batman/Captain America, Red Skull hires the Joker to steal an atomic bomb for him. The clown prince evades the superheroes chasing him down and delivers the bomb to Red Skull. However, he’s horrified to discover that his employer is a Nazi. In one of his greatest lines ever, he says, “I may be a criminal lunatic, but I’m an American criminal lunatic!” The Joker then battles the Red Skull on the plane and allows Captain America and Batman to arrive and take over the plane before it reached Washington, D.C. That’s right, the Joker actually helped save America that one time.
Jared Leto played the Joker in Suicide Squad, as we know, and his performance didn’t exactly convince the doubters that he was fit to fill in Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson’s shoes. To be fair, he didn’t get all that much screen time to convince us, so let’s try to reserve judgment until we see him step into the role again. However, Leto was actually the second choice – after Ryan Gosling. Gosling turned down the role since he was unwilling to sign a deal with an option for multiple films.
Christopher Nolan’s First Choice
In Hollywood, directors don’t often get the castings that they want in movies. At times, there are scheduling conflicts or monetary agreements. So, when all the stars align and everyone gets what they want, it’s a big deal. Despite the fact that Heath Ledger initially was reluctant to take the role of the Joker, he eventually caved after the director, Christopher Nolan, convinced him. Unfortunately, Ledger didn’t live to see the lasting impact and magnitude of his performance. He passed away before the film’s release.
Most recently, the role of the Joker went to Joaquin Pheonix, who played the iconic character in its first stand-alone movie. The actor went on a grueling diet to prepare for the role and lost a whopping 52 pounds (23.6 kilograms). According to Vanity Fair, the actor worked with a doctor who’s helped him in the past to lose and then gain back weight for a role.
Arthur Fleck’s, AKA the Joker’s, role was created with Joaquin Pheonix in mind. In late 2017, Pheonix received the movie script and even had his own mother take a look and help him decide if to take the role or not.
Batman: The Killing Joke
The movie’s storyline was based on the graphic novel, Batman: The Killing Joke. Otherwise, the movie didn’t reference any other Batman comics. The director, Todd Phillips, co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver in 2016, and by early 2018, they had Joaquin Pheonix signed on as the lead character.
The Joker’s makeup in this movie was purposefully made to look ‘antique’. His lips were made a reddish-brown to look like the color of blood. According to the head of makeup, Nicki Ledermann, “even his slanted smile is a metaphor that everything is not perfect. Maybe it’s funny — maybe it’s not.”
In the comics, it’s heavily hinted that the Joker is well aware of who Batman is and what his true identity is, only he doesn’t care. One example that leads fans to believe the Joker knows Batman is Bruce Wayne is when he targeted someone close to Bruce: Alfred. A lot of fans speculate that the Joker seems to think that Bruce Wayne is a mask for Batman, rather than the other way around. Another interesting theory is that despite the fact that the Joker knows Batman is Bruce Wayne, he would be bored to death if either persona were harmed.
Paralyzed Facial Nerves
Part of the character’s original concept is his famous eerie grin. One of the reasons for it is to make him all the more menacing. The technical reason for it is that the Joker’s facial nerves are paralyzed. This makes him appear as if he’s perpetually grinning. This expression is called a ‘Rictus Grin’.