The life and crimes of Gotham’s number one threat, the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker, are the stuff of darkly splendid legends. His perchance for mayhem and murder truly knows no bounds as he cuts at the heart of everything culture is built upon.
Be it comic books, cartoons, video games, or movies Joker sits enthroned as the greatest fictoinal villain of all time.
Joker has won over generations of fans by his diabolical whimsy and carelessness for human life.
To him, it’s all a bad joke, all of it. Everything in life is a gag and he’s gonna make people suffer for it.
He makes us laugh while disgusting us at the same time. He can slam a man’s eye straight into a pencil and we’re left in shock. Then we applaud him.
He’s a murderer, a mass murderer, and he’s able to use anything he can get his hands on to spill blood.
He’s playful and he’s homicidal. There’s nothing and no one out there like him.
His trail of multiple massacres runs deep and as far back as his earliest days. Not to mention unlike many other rogues, he continually is reinventing himself and scaring the Hell out of us (Love That Joker) in the process.
This list is a combination of only a few of the definitive (diabolical) moments that stand out in his career of crime.
Crimes, cruelty, and carnage are all on the menu so pray the Bat is on the prowl as we enter Gotham’s seedy underbelly to follow Joker’s blood trail.
When Joker Killed Robin
If Joker has one driving goal it’s to prove that Batman is no better than himself. In Joker’s mind, Batman just hasn’t realized it yet so he pushes the Dark Knight to his limits hoping to break him.
Back in 1988 Joker took things too far by even his own standards in Batman: Death in the Family. This time around Joker beat Robin to a oozing pulp with a crowbar then left him to bleed out on the floor with only the tick-tick-tick of a time bomb to sing the Boy Wonder his final lullaby.
Now, this is sick but I’ve recently learned that originally Joker was going to rape Robin before beating his head into human mashed potatoes. Given the fact that Robin was a minor at the time really ups the creep factor on this one. And…well who knows what happened off-panel?
This mournful event is felt to this very day. It recently served as the catalyst for Rocksteady’s outstanding Arkham Knight, the conclusion to their highly successful Arkham videogames trilogy.
Naturally, there is so much more lore surrounding the murder of Jason Todd and maybe one day I’ll devote a review to the storyline, but suffice it, for now, to say it changed and increased the Batman mythos.
This always stood out to me ever since I was young. In BATMAN (1989) Jack Nicholson takes on the character’s role with impish flair.
Towards the end of the film, Joker’s managed to collect mobs of Gotham’s citizens into narrow streets under the pretense of tossing 20-million dollars at them. Their greed overrules common sense and they gather in the hundreds cheering the man planning to murder each one of them.
Getting a little bit more than they bargained for though their lungs are soon filled with lethal doses of Smylex Gas, the poisonous cocktail handmade by Joker himself to leave the city dead on their feet. Get it? HAHAHAHA!
But during the whole thing, Joker is laughing! Laughing as he slays hundreds of innocent people.
Not to mention that during the entire film he’s trying to steal Batman’s girl, a thing my girlfriend thought was just dastardly.
But yeah that parade scene always stood out to me. Left a heavy impression on my eight-year old mind and clearly summed up what kind of character the Joker was. And to be frank I really loved it a lot.
Crippling Batgirl …And Other Things
Joker’s always targeted those closest to his foes. In this case, he was aiming for Commissioner Gordon by targeting his daughter but, in the process, (and unknowingly) left a bullet lodged in Batgirl’s spine.
As shown in Alan Moore’s seminal story The Killing Joke, Barbara Gordon simply answers a knock at the door and ends up shot. The scene is so simple and truly upsetting. She’s not wearing her Batgirl costume, she’s not in a darkened alleyway, not even out on the streets of Gotham.
She’s home where she should have been safe.
Joker just walks up to the Gordons’ front door and knocks. He could have been the little old neighbor lady down the hall or girls selling some mother fucking girl-scout cookies.
Anyone, it coulda been anyone, but it was the Joker. Gun locked and loaded in his hand and a big smile on his face.
He then strips her naked and takes photo after photo of her bleeding nude body to later rub in her father’s face. Talk about cruel.
Might as well add this too: know how I mentioned that originally Joker was going to rape Robin? Well, Batgirl was crippled and left naked for God knows however long with Joker and his sadism. So….yeah…
Babies and Bullets
Joker had it in for Jim Gordon. He shot the poor man’s daughter and then shot his wife.
Jim’s daughter recovered, his wife wasn’t so lucky. But how he went about killing the woman! So she catches him – waiting – with an armful of babies.
She’s got a gun but now faces a terrible human dilemma. She can’t shoot the man while he’s holding babies.
Seeing her distress – and since his soul is a rotted plumb core – he throws babies at her! While she’s busy, ya know, catching flying babies Joker takes the opportunity to shoot the woman dead.
I think the most shocking moment, in this case, is seeing babies crawling all over the dead woman’s body.
You Get What You Fucking Deserve!
More recently Joaquin Phoenix followed in Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger’s steps and donned the big red smile to wow fans and audiences with his Oscar-winning portrayal of the Joker. This film broke records and floored me as a life-long fan. I would be remiss for not bringing it up.
Early on in the film, Joker makes his first strike when shooting three Wayne-Enterprise employees. True, they were beating him on the subway and it’s arguable he acted in self-defense. That could be said for the first two he shot at least. The third he chases down and shoots in cold blood.
Realizing what he’s done he flees the scene to get as far away as possible. Once he has a moment to himself and is allowed to think about what he’s done – and how three young men are dead now thanks to his hands – he doesn’t show remorse or any regret for what he’s done.
Instead, he dances. He dances as if he’s finally been liberated. And it’s all thanks to violence.
I was sitting in the theater thinking ‘Yeah! That’s exactly what I’d expect out of him.’ He might as well have danced on their graves.
Everything He Does in The Dark Knight Returns, Man
It’s no secret I’ve got a boner for this comic. It’s my number 1 favorite Batman story and I’ve had to buy the TPB twice because of reading it the death.
Frank Miller is why I love Batman to this very day. He took Batman out of the camp and returned him to the shadows.
Maybe someday I’ll do a review on that storyline – because Lord knows there’s so much to explore in it – but for now, suffice it to say Joker steals every single scene he’s in.
From the moment he breaks out of his comatose state at the mere mention that The Bat is back out of retirement (‘Darling,’ anyone?) to his lifeless body in the tunnel of love Joker manipulates and murders his way to a finale that is nothing short of FUCK YEAH AWESOME!
He goes on Letterman and kills the whole audience. He sells poisoned cotton candy to boy scouts. And yes, they die. He takes a Batarang to the eye and still fights. The maniac pushes the Bat and pushes him, and pushes him until Batman almost loses himself and snaps the clown’s neck. He stops himself though proving how unbreakable he truly is.
Joker goes ahead and snaps his own neck and dies side-by-side next to his Darling Bat. Laughing with his last breath as he does so.
I love every moment of it.
Attacking Gotham At It’s Very Soul
What can honestly be added to the searing portrayal of the character by the late Heath Ledger? Ledger makes The Dark Knight what it is and posthumously won an Oscar for the coveted role of Joker.
His Joker was unlike anything we were prepared to see. A ghoulish Hellknight bent on proving that deep down everyone was just as ugly as himself.
He calls himself an agent of chaos and earns the title fairly. The movie begins with him leaving a trail of chaos in his wake and the madness he inspires doesn’t slow down. He’s like a supernatural force sent to destroy all that Gotham stands on.
He marks newly appointed DA Harvey Dent, breaks the man’s soul – while breaking the Batman’s heart – and brings Dent down to his own level.
An action done solely to prove a point. To prove that no one, not even Gotham’s shining White Knight, is above corruption. All it takes is a little push to shove anyone over the edge and into pure madness.
In destroying Dent’s reputation Joker is pulling the heart out of Gotham’s chest.
And he does it with a smile that can never go away.
His favorite weapon? People’s paranoia. He masterfully turns everyday people against one another and once he sets the dominos a fallin’ sits back to watch the (world burn) show.
RIP Heath. We miss the Hell outta ya.
What can make a beautiful young woman in her prime turn away from a prominent career in psychology to a life of crime? Love for the wrong man, or so it was for Harleen Quinzel. Joker played her like a fiddle and brought her down to his demented level.
One version has him throwing her into a similar acid dip that (supposedly) made him what he is today.
In another, she willingly drops herself into the chemical bath to come out as the newly christened Harley Quinn, Joker’s little creation. His very own Eve.
It’s questionable if she enjoys the life of crime or if she only did it out of devotion to her Puddin. It’s easier to accept that she is enjoying herself otherwise hers is a life of tragedy deeper than originally believed.
Her smile is only skin deep and weakly hides the life of pain and abuse that she’s suffered at the vicious hands of the Joker.
And her loyalty to the man was incredible. So much so that she stood ready to let him cut her pretty face off – just for kicks – in Death of the Family.
Broken in mind, in body, and in her heart she gave up everything for the (mad)man she loved.
It’s amazing that she was originally created to just be a sidekick for the Joker and only first appeared on the Batman Animated Series.
She quickly rose as a fan favorite and today has her own comic line and her very own movie. So what if it’s a horrible film, we got a Harley movie! That’s a big step up for a little sidekick character.
The Batman Who Laughs
Again this is very recent but I can’t help but feel nostalgic over this one already. What I mean is it’s like those great moments back when we were young comic readers and they’d release something so epic we just knew it was going to be timeless.
I feel that way over DC’s Batman: Dark Knights Metal where we are introduced to the Dark Multiverse.
DC fans will know all about the Multiverse and how it’s played into Crisis storylines over the years. For many fans Crisis on Infinite Earths was a huge game changer and left them howling for more.
Metal did that for me too. It introduced a brand new Crisis story and it was darker than it’s ever been. If the Multiverse is made of matter the Dark Multiverse is made of dark matter. Anything and everything that could go horrifically wrong can and will do so. It’s hellbent to happen.
In DKM we’re shown Negative Earths where Batman is forced to face his worst nightmares leaving him no choice outside of desperation. This is how the Batman Who Laughs is made.
They say killers aren’t born they’re created. That at least is true in this case.
Joker finally goes too far and the age-long question is answered: what would happen if Batman killed Joker?
Snapping Joker’s neck releases a lethal dose of his toxin – a toxin cleverly hidden in his body and can only be activated once his heart stops – which is inhaled by Batman. It’s just enough to infect the Dark Knight and there’s no curing this one.
This is exactly how Joker planned it.
What we’re given is a Hellish fusion of the two characters: all the brains and brawn of the Bat and the evil cunning and heartlessness of the Joker.
The Batman Who Laughs has a lifetime of both memories, knows both men’s inner secrets, their weaknesses, and proves to be the most violent challenge the Justice League has ever met.
Worlds fall by his hands as he makes his way through the Negative Earths to find his way into ours. Our world only infuriates him, or, at least, it would if it wasn’t all so goddamn funny! All the chances we have that he was denied back on his calamity earth. The last moment God-sends that save us on a daily basis. Little things that were not made ready to him.
It feeds whatever void he has churning in his lost soul.
So he comes to introduce his way of life to us all. And he has an army of Dark Knights at his command and the power of a Demon backing him.
The moment that made this character for me was during a fight he had with Batman. “You know what your downfall is, Bruce?” he says through his ghoulish grin. “You think you’re fighting him, but you’re not. It’s you in here.”
That’s my interpretation of the event at least.
And he doesn’t come off as merely a rehashed ‘evil batman’ kind of character either, nor does he feel like Joker 2.0.
Despite the fact that he’s both characters combined he genuinely feels like his own person. He’s not restrained by being of two minds, in fact, I swear, he’s liberated from them and is his own devil. And he looks like something crawled out of Clive Barker’s kind of Hell.
You’d also think he’d be a one-hit-wonder kinda baddie but he’s already starred in two massive Crisis storylines (Dark Knights Metal, Dark Knights Death Metal) and had his own title story.
Out of all the great many evil things Joker has done I – and bear in mind I’m a life-long fan of the comics and all their incarnations – truly think the Batman Who Laughs is his greatest act of evil.
We’re given a glimpse of a Batman – the legend and the hero we all grew up believing in and loving – who is truly and forever lost without any hope of redemption. One thing that’s been paramount to the Bat’s mythos is his indestructible ability to rise above anything that’s thrown at him.
Batman’s that kid who saw his parents killed in front of him. That tragedy made him train his mind and body to fight for justice and make sense out of a painful world. He’s buried plenty of loved ones since then and had to pull himself out of a wheel chair to don the cape and cowl and bring good back to Gotham.
Point being: nothing has ever being able to take the Bat out. No matter how bad it was. He always rose to the occasion and triumphed over the odds.
But this time Joker really got him. And gave us a Batman who’s lost his soul.
Setting this beast loose didn’t just destroy the world, oh no. This thing isn’t a world killer, he’s a universe slayer. And he’s fucking great at it! It’s not like he wants to rule them. He just wants to see them all burn.
Ultimately the entirety of DC’s comics changed forever after the final conflict with this villain (Death Metal). That’s the hideous strength of this character and partially why he’s become an instant fan favorite.
So that’s it! This is in no way a complete listing and I know there is still plenty out there that wasn’t covered here. We just don’t have enough hours in the day to list all the classic moments from Joker’s criminal career.
These are, however, my personal favorite ones over the years. I strongly suggest watching and reading all the material listed here.
But let us know in the comments below if you’d like more content just like this. A Part 2 or maybe another favorite villain’s list? As always I’m Manic Exorcism and keep checking in here at Nightmare Nostalgia for continual doses of the good ol’ times.