Let's Get Honest About The Joker

Few comic book villains have achieved the same level of fame as Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime. Debuting back in the very first issue of Batman, the Joker has been written in a variety of ways. He’s been a crime boss, a prankster, a sadistic comedian, an agent of chaos, and the self-proclaimed archnemesis of the Dark Knight. Many people love to see this villain appear in a Batman story in any medium. But why is that? Why are so many people fans of this violent lunatic who has committed so many acts of cruelty? That’s what I want to explore. To figure out the root causes of this adoration to see why, in some respects, this character has earned this kind of attention. But more importantly, explain why he ultimately should still be despised.

When it comes to the Golden Age of Comics, it’s easy to see how Joker became popular. Visually, he was a good contrast to Batman. And his constant smiling while committing crimes made us want to see him be defeated even more. In the Silver Age, Joker was turned into a sillier version of himself. He was still a criminal, but his schemes were more outlandish and were more in keeping with his clown persona. He was a prankster with a mean streak! Highly entertaining to watch but still satisfying to see the Caped Crusader stop Joker in his tracks. Any current reader could look back on comics from either era and be amused by Joker’s antics.

However, once we move past the Silver Age, we see the clown be written with more thematic focus. The Joker took more interest in using his plans to point out the hypocrisy of the world and made fun of how society constantly fails to be what it promises to people. Such as when Joker brutally murdered Jason Todd but then was offered a job within the Iranian government. Then with The Killing Joke where we got a potential origin for Joker, this character became the personification of Nihilism. There is no deeper meaning to life, it’s all just one big joke. That all it takes to turn you into someone like him is one bad day.

It is through this perspective we get a clear picture of his relationship with Batman. Bruce Wayne is meant to represent order while Joker is meant to be an agent of chaos. Doing things because he feels like it. Killing and causing damage just for the sake of it. More recent years have tried to show us that Joker’s viewpoint is valid to an extent. As many comic readers grew into adulthood, I think we all realized just how crazy and incomprehensible our real world can be. I can only speak for myself but I can confirm that I’m often depressed and frustrated with what I see on the news. And I think some people - at least in the fictional DCU - see Joker as someone who can help them make sense of their suffering. When he wants to be, he can be quite charming. It’s how he managed to get Harleen Quinzel to fall in love with him. It’s how Alexis Kaye became convinced that acting like him is the only sane thing to do in an insane world. As for us in the real world? We tend to applaud when he points out the very real ways the world has failed us and we get behind him when he calls out those in authority. There is a lot of anger right now and the Joker lets us know it’s justified.

When you look at him with a modern-day lens, it makes sense why he has so many fans. However, it is important to remember that even if you want to tear down society and burn it to ash, you can still be a moral person. And the Joker is not that. He kills his henchmen just because they might talk too much. He tricks a woman into falling in love with him just for his benefit, leading to years of abuse and punishment. He takes naked pictures of a father’s bleeding daughter, wounded from a bullet the Joker fired at her while taking away the use of her legs, just to try and push him over the edge. There isn’t a person alive that he sees as an actual living being worthy of life. The Joker is a narcissist who keeps coming back to Batman just so he can break his mind and soul. Whatever the Joker might have said to get you to empathize or sympathize with him is a complete lie. The Joker is cruel, twisted, unfeeling, and pathetic. He might have been broken by one bad day. But Batman has survived MANY bad days and remains who he is. While I have criticized him for many decisions, I will always respect The Bat for holding onto the ideals he stands for, as opposed to descending into the pit and becoming unrecognizable.

With all of that said, we are left to answer one question…

Here is where I stand on the Joker. I enjoy him strictly as a villain, which is what he was always meant to be. His characterization at times might touch on real issues that reflect our real world. And there are alternate versions/takes on the character that slightly lean toward a more sympathetic light. But in the end, the Joker is a reprehensible figure who will say anything to distract you from the reality of who he is. A monstrous figure who thinks he’s more important than he is. The curtains have fallen on his performance, it’s time to kick him off stage.

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he used to be a great villain but im so bored of him constantly showing up that i no longer pay attention to if hes a interesting dude anymore

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I honestly want to see Simon Hurt take the spotlight a bit as the insane archenemy to Batman. He’s just as sadistic as the Joker except he’s a lot smarter, charismatic, and plus he’s got that Immortality thing going for him.

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I like when the Joker is used mostly as an agent of chaos to counter Batman’s order. A lot of Batman’s rogues reflect an aspect of his with a twist or have some flaw/trigger that Batman can take advantage of. In general, I don’t think the Joker falls nicely in line with either group, which makes him a flexible villain with lots of room for creativity.

That said, the Riddler is my favorite Bat villain, when done well. He is a bit problematic when the creative teams struggle showcase his intelligence or to make his riddles compelling/interesting.

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I like to think Joker is a representative figure of what we as humans fear, which is a killer clown who will literally kill everyone around him in extreme torturous ways just for his enjoyment. I’ll use Heath Ledger’s Joker as an example because his is the best example: realistically if the Joker was real, which is how his performance felt for audiences, we would all be terrified of even going outside if we lived in Gotham. As people we know that we are supposed to get up everyday, make ends meet, spend time with our loved ones and that is what we do in life. We are to be kind, peaceful, and make the most of every moment. The Joker doesn’t do any of that. He walks into a room and you know that there will be little to no survivors in the situation, and if there are then they will most likely be traumatized for life.

I guess in a way Joker represents death, but moreso gruesome death. We all have the hope that when we do eventually pass, it’s peaceful, in our sleep in a nice warm bed when we are old, but with the Joker around, a person’s lifespan is heavily reduced down to seconds or minutes depending on how long his “performance” is. Not to mention that he is a literal killer clown, which is a common fear of most people.

Not to derail this, but look at people’s fascination with Harley. I won’t go too deep into it because there are already topics for that, but if you think about it, she is one of the few that got up close and personal (and intimate) with him and lived to tell the tale, even if he’s tried to kill her on numerous occasions. Isn’t that at least a little interesting knowing that she is one of the few that slipped away from this figure of death and managed to survive?

Sorry if this post was all over the place. I guess talking deep about the Joker is chaotic like him, but I kinda pin it close to the same way people who enjoy true crime. It’s dark and morbid but there’s just something that draws us in.

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I’m going to make mine quick.

I’m just tired of seeing him everywhere. I remember when I was watching The Batman, and when the Joker shows up at the end of the movie, my reaction to it was more like “Oh, I know where they’re going with this. Ok”. My excitement for Joker’s future did not linger with me, in fact I forgot he was in it because I just didn’t care.

I’m not really hyped for Joker 2, I feel its a little unnecessary. I remember being a kid and I was a bit freaked out by the Joker when I first saw The Dark Knight. I was barely 7 or just turned 8, and then of course you get older and I still find this version of him scary, because in a sick and twisted way, he was right. He made a lot of good points and if you really look at it, Batman still lost at the end of that movie no matter how freaking hard he tried to prove Joker wrong.

I feel that can’t be done anymore. Yeah, the Joker film did speak about mental health and the many problems of society, but there’s a little part me that feels they didn’t dive as deep into that as they should have. It was clever but it felt simple at the same time.

I want to see someone new that can really challenge Batman. Batman vs Joker just feels outdated.

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I personally think Two-Face is underrated and underused, the fact that I haven’t heard any good Two-Face recommendations being proof of this. I loved his stories in The Long Halloween and The Dark Knight Returns. He has a pretty great backstory: Harvey Dent was part of a dynamic trio with Batman and Gordon until the strain, the mental issues, and the disfigurement drove him mad. The tragedy of it all is that Batman still thinks that Harvey’s still in there somewhere.

Seriously, he should be up there with Bane, Joker, and Ra’s al Ghul since his enmity with Batman is more personal compared to the aforementioned villains. He’s right there with Thomas, Martha, Jason, and Barbara as one of Batman’s biggest failures (yes I know it’s outdated) and Batman still cares for him. The biggest threat Two-Face presents is to Harvey Dent.

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Hehehe

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I guess my problem with Joker, especially right now. Is using him a little too much to the point his rivalry with Batman has felt like punching a clock and incredibly run of the mill. Like in Joker War their was a high point where Batman leaves joker to die and Joker in Harley’s words knows that now.

Yet when a proper confrontation between the two finally happened again. Only now Batman has Zur-En-Arrh making him embrace his darker impulses, what actually happens? Zur-En-Arrh actually dealt a killing blow? No, but rather just break the guy’s back and locked him up. Why? If things were different then Batman, under the control of Zur, would have killed Joker. I really enjoy their rivalry, but it’s got to do something radical or stay on the down-low for a long time for me to care again.

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Same. Back then I was too young to even realize that The Dark Knight was a movie, and I genuinely thought that the news was reporting a killer clown out and about. I think because the news was covering Heath Ledger’s passing and they showed clips of TDK, hence why I thought it was a real news report.

I was about 6 or 7 at the time.

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Oh, I agree that he can suffer from overexposure. Honestly, a lot of Bat events have felt repetitive to me in recent years, Joker War being one of them.

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