I know, big one this one, but it would be wrong of me to do this ever increasing series of bat posts and not include the Joker. A crazy mad man, or a crazy genius? Don’t know, well i’ll not be attempting to find out in this post, it would simply take a life time. I’ll instead just review the Joker as best i can… so tell me…
You ever danced with the devil in the pale moon light?
So Joker. The very first official Batman villain staring in the Batman comics issue 1 (1940). Arguments over who wrote the character first have been had for many years and there’s a good chance we’ll never know for sure exactly who was in the first team who came up with Joker. He was originally meant to be Batman’s longer than life enemy, to battle Batman in an epic that can only be ended by the death of one or both of them. Normally, this is a lot of weight for one villain to carry, so many others are created to fill in no critical issues between Batman and Jokers fights and to ease some pressure of this central Villain, but honestly, i think Joker is a strong enough character that he could have carried a whole season, hell, a whole series on his own.
Joker was first written as a crazy, smiling, clown mask wearing homicidal maniac. They wrote him from, literally day one, to have a very dark, murderous and evil outlook on life yet with the persona of an off the chain clown. The idea of his clown look and laugh is probably based on a writers fear of clowns (That Guy will understand), but it was really just to fill in for the fact he wore make up to hide his identity. He was, originally, like he is now in The Dark Knight.
So, what happened in between. Well, children and angry parents happened in between. Apparently, the parents of 1960’s America were more worried for there child’s mental health than in 1940. Quite simply, they didn’t want there sweet innocent little angles reading in a child’s comic book about a dark, demented, evil murderous clown faced psychopath. To be fair though, can you blame them?
So, especially for the T.V. series, they made him more child friendly. For instance, they took away his killing people and gave him laughing gas instead. This is used to paralyses the victim with a huge smile on there face. Paralyzed by the lack of air in there lungs from laughing so hard….. very science based this….
Anyway, they took him down a notch. For instance, they gave him immature gags and jokes to tell. they made him entirely non-fatal and they over-worked on his clown persona, making everything a joke or funny, or at the very least joke orientated. It was sad, it was disheartening, it was practically comic cruelty!
Lucky for older fans, it didn’t last (Just to say, i’m 18 yr’s old, but a dedicated fan), and they slowly but surly bought back Jokers evil. It was slow though. The Golden and silver age’s of Joker were over. From about 1970 to 1983-5, it was the bronze age and even fall of Joker. The comics depicted him to human, to understandable. He’s meant to be a raving lunatic! I think allowing the reader to sympathies with Villains is a good technique in writing and comics when used right, but i don’t think you should ever try it with Joker. Half the fun of his character is trying to understand it, if you do that for the reader, you’r effectively removing some of his loony-ness (forgive the term) and that just takes away from what little there is of Joker for the reader to grasp at. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a hell of a lot of Joker to get through, but only so much is accessible by the casual reader, the sense of mystery to his mind, for me it’s the logic within the madness. I truly believe there’s something about him that attracts us all to look deeper, and doing so maybe into ourselves….
wow, got a bit deep there…. anyway. Finally, in the movie Batman in 1989, directed by Tim Burton, many of you forget, Jack Nicholson played the Joker and finally some ice that had formed over the bronze age of Joker was broken, thank you Tim. Joker was seen to swear, act like a stalker, deface expensive public art and kill people. Kill people! Finally, Joker was back! Admittedly, still with very clown like traits of making everything a joke, but Nicholson’s add lib of when to and how to laugh, was nothing short of perfect. He portrayed the character so well, extending every crime to a fiasco, every death to a laugh and even every movement into hysterics. It was magnificent to watch.
So why…. did Tim feel he had to muck it all up! He gave the Joker a name, a face, even parts without make up on. I hated this. Jack Napier was the Joker; i don’t want to know this….. now the character feels to real, and you’re giving me all the answers; i want to be left to wonder and imagine and to let my own mind try and untangle his. But that wasn’t the worst part, oh no. Not even giving him a catch phrase as well as his laugh was this bad. According to this movie, the Joker killed Thomas and Martha Wayne! WHAT THE FU….
Well, you get the picture. And, above all, Joker dies at the end….
So then, we hit the 21st century and i am impressed with the results. Firstly, what can i say about Heath Ledger except give him a huge round of applause and hope he R.I.P. He managed to the play the part so well, i can’t even put it into words, the suspense he created, the atmosphere. If the Dark Knight had been a stage play, every time he would have been on stage you’r eyes would have been no where else for the entire scene, he was that incredible! If you haven’t yet, you really must watch this movie if you want to call yourself even a slight bat fan, and if not then just to appreciate the magnitude of this one actors performance. He really stole the show.
Next, we have Joker in Arkham Asylum and City. I like it in Asylum as it’s, for once, Joker with the home advantage. Where worse for Batman to be than in the nut house with all his enemy, right. The fact he still comes out on top despite the games…. no wait, this is about Joker. Showing him in his own habitat makes him feel more dangerous, like the genius gone wrong that he really is. City carries on this image really well, in his genius to hide his identity and killing Thalia, he remains a dangerous and crazy individual. I really also like how subtle they kept the joke idea of the Joker. Just Joker teeth and FATAL laughing gas as well as the occasional bad joke. It’s good that they kept some of that, i’m also SO glad they didn’t overuse it.
But the big question is, did Joker die….?
Even the Riddler would have a hard time with that one. Still, so how an i going to score Joker, or Mr. J. as he also goes by. If it was just based on recent performances and portrayals of the role, it would be a 10, no question. Even the recent Arkham animation, Tales from the Asylum; despite also having a non-fatal Joker, he at least talks about killing people and about people he has killed, so that’s a step in the right direction if anything. Still, i have to take into account his three separate creation stories, his apparent real identity and his movie death and previous performance and portrayals.
I have decided, just know actually, to give Joker this score, because he is outstanding in the world of comic, cartoon, T.V. and movie villainy. He is infamous, truly, walk up to any 7 yr old boy (not so much girls) and ask him who Joker is and chances are he’ll know, and it’s been that way since 1940. He represent the idea behind so many other villains in so many other comics. He is always thought off as the classic crazy villain and he’s as dark and twisted as they come. So, he’s a…
That Other Guy