Monday, June 26, 2017

Who is the Joker?

He is the Clown Prince of Crime...

The Joker is one of comic's first super villains and since his debut he has gone through many reconstructions and deconstructions as a character. Sometimes, the Joker is a playful and tricky prankster, and other times he is a maniacal and devious killer. It is the adaptability of the Joker that makes him one of my favorite characters.

The Joker is one of the first super villains and comic books and in many ways the Joker is almost the complete opposite of the Batman. Batman is large and masculine. The Joker is thin and feminine. Batman is dark and brooding. The Joker is colorful and carefree. Batman is heroic and noble. The Joker is evil and deceptive. Batman stands for a law and order. The Joker represents crime and chaos.

First appearing in the early 1940's there are conflicting accounts on who created the Joker. Some say that Bob Kane created the character, others say Bill Finger, and there are some who say Jerry Robinson. I don't know for sure who created the character, but I do know that in that first story, the Joker supposedly died by his own hand after a fight with Batman. 

However, at the very end of that story, it was revealed that the Joker survived. This would become very common for the Joker. No matter what or how impossible the situation, the Joker never seems to die...not if the Batman is around.

Yes, the Joker is one of Batman's most reoccurring foes and always changes with him. Batman was a dark detective vigilante in the 1940's while the Joker was a smiling serial killer. In the 1960's, Batman was bright and campy and the Joker became even brighter with ridiculous schemes. Today, Batman is an intelligent and skilled superhero and the Joker is just as brilliant with a chaotic agenda.

In the comic books, no super villain has ever hurt Batman like the Joker. Though he is not as strong as Batman, the Joker has tormented Batman by hurting those close to Batman. The Joker is responsible for the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin, by beating him to death with a crowbar. He also shot and crippled Barbara Gordon, also known as Batgirl, and murdered Commissioner Gordon's wife, Lt. Sarah Essen.

In movies and TV, there have been just as many interpretations of the Joker as there have been of Batman. In the 1989 Batman movie, the Joker was a crazy and flamboyant gangster played by Jack Nicholson. In the 2008 film, The Dark Knight, the Joker was a sociopathic terrorist played by Heath Ledger. And in the 2016 film, Suicide Squad, the Joker was...something, and played by Jared Leto (The Joker was not in the movie long enough for me to have an opinion on Leto's performance).

However, I think that Mark Hamill, who voiced the Joker in many cartoons, including Batman: The Animated Series, and video games, including Batman: Arkham Asylum, know the character better than anyone. For many comic book fans, Mark Hamill's voice and laugh is the true voice of the Joker.

The Joker is a character who is always evolving. For many children, the Joker is a playful and comical supervillain, and for many older fans he is the stuff of nightmares. That is why the Joker is one of my favorite super villains and favorite fictional character.

First Appearance
Batman #1 (1940) 

Stories to Read
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
  • Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (1989)
  • Joker (2008)

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