Batman’s Villains – The Joker

Posted: February 8, 2009 in Batman, DC Comics, The Joker
Tags: ,

Here’s a post from my old blog that I have decided to finally bring over here. I first posted this on March 3, 2008, so it may be a little out of date.

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As I have already said in an earlier post, Batman is my favourite superhero. I thought it would be good to chronicle all of Batman’s arch enemies, as he seems to have so many of them. What better way to start this project than to look at the most well known Batman villain, The Joker.

The Joker

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. Until late last year it had been a long time since anyone had 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!!!

Joker Websites
The Joker’s Wikipedia entry
The Joker’s Circus
The Joker @ Comics 101
The Joker’s Realm
My Favourite Joker stories
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
The Joker’s Five Way Revenge – By Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams (Reprinted in
Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told, Batman: Illustrated By Neal Adams Volume 3 & Batman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told)
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)
Legends Of The Dark Knight #50 – By Denny O’Neill & Bret Blevins (September 1993)

Two recent Paul Dini written stories have again made The Joker an interesting villain and foe to Batman. In Detective Comics #826, The Joker is really scary as he takes Robin on a murderous car trip. Also, in the two part story The Siege, that featured in Detective Comics #833 and #834 Joker terrorises both Batman and Zatanna. One recent story that I personally didn’t like but has many fans is Grant Morrison’s prose Joker story in Batman #663.

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