Created by – Bob Kane, Bill Finger & Jerry Robinson
1st Appearance – Batman #1 – 1940
Real Name – Unknown
Nicknames – The Clown Prince of Crime, The Harlequin of Hate
Hideouts – The Ha Hacienda
Significant Others – Harley Quinn
The Joker is one of Batman’s oldest rogues having debuted in Batman #1 in the spring of 1940. In that intial story The Joker dies, yet he also returned in another story later in the same book. This is something that happened many times over the years. One thing that you could guarantee is that if The Joker had died, he would sooner or later turn up again alive and as deadly as ever. (He even survived the electric chair!)
The Joker has gone through many transformations over the years. In the 1940s he was a murderer and criminal who just happened to look like a clown. He was perhaps Batman’s most cold blooded foe and had no hint of being insane.
By the 1950s he had changed into a prankster who would commit crimes using some gimmick or giant prop. This lasted up until 1965 and beyond, and is the way that the character was portrayed in the 1960s TV show featuring Cesar Romero.
By the 1970s The Joker returned to being a cold blooded, calculating murderer. This is perhaps best seen in 1973s The Joker’s Five Way Revenge story in which the Joker eliminates possible stool pigeons, who caused him to be jailed. During this portrayal The Joker was seen as being slightly insane, yet over the next 33 years his insanity has continued to grow. The Joker now is seen as a completely insane and unpredictable foe rather than a cold blooded killer. This is best shown in 1977s The Laughing Fish, where The Clown Prince of Crime tries to copyright fish that have been poisoned by his Joker Venom, only to be thwarted because fish are a natural resource that can’t be copyrighted.
By the 1980s Joker became stark raving bonkers, but it was also during this decade that he struck his two greatest blows against the Batman. Firstly he crippled Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl, by shooting her in the spine in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joker. A year of so later came The Joker’s greatest achievement when he killed Robin (Jason Todd) in the A Death In The Family storyline. (Of course the Brainiacs at DC have decided to bring Jason Todd back!!!) There was also The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller’s very over-rated tale. (Year 1 is so much better!!!)
Nowdays Joker is portrayed in a variety of ways. It has been a long time since anyone has written his character properly, with the worst portrayal in the 2005 War Crimes story. (Bill Willingham should never again be allowed to write a Batman related story) In this story the Joker seemed to be gay for Batman, trying to pick up the caped crusader everytime he opened his mouth. (The Joker should not be calling Batman “Sweetie”!) He has also acquired a ‘girlfriend’ in Harley Quinn, who he seems to spend most of his time trying to kill!!!
The Killing Joke – By Alan Moore & Brian Bolland
The Man Who Laughed – By Ed Brubaker & Doug Mahnke (Graphic Novel now out of print. May be found on Ebay!)
A Death In The Family – By Jim Starlin & Jim Aparo
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – By Frank Miller
The Laughing Fish – By Steve Englehart & Marshall Rogers (Reprinted in Batman: Strange Apparitions)
Batman: Dark Detective – By Steve Englehart & Marshall Rogers
The Man Behind The Red Hood – By ? & Sheldon Moldoff (Reprinted in Batman in the Fifties)
Mad Love – By Paul Dini & Bruce Timm (Reprinted in Dangerous Dames & Demons)
Laughter After Midnight – By Paul Dini & John Byrne (Reprinted in Dangerous Dames & Demons)
This One’ll Kill You Batman – By Denny O’Neil & Dick Giordano (Reprinted in Batman in the Seventies)