Animated Joker, Part 1 (of 2) Author: Ricky Church (Follow: @RICHARDCHURCH16)
June 4, 2015
While The Joker has appeared very few times in live action throughout his 75 year history, he has appeared in several animated incarnations of Batman. Not only that, but Joker more often than not appears in the most number of episodes in a Batman show than any other Batman villain. Because of this, young children who are not old enough to see BATMAN í89, THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) or the upcoming SUICIDE SQUAD probably have a higher chance of being introduced to The Joker through animation than live action. The Jokerís animated appearances cannot go understated for this reason.
To help celebrate Jokerís 75th anniversary, hereís a look back at his animated history and the voice actors who played him.
The Adventures of Batman (1968 Ė 1969)
The Jokerís first appearance in animation was in the Filmation series The Adventures of Batman voiced by Larry Storch. In this series, much like the comics and 1966 Batman television series, he was a relatively harmless prankster who committed robberies and wished to defeat Batman through his wits and numerous gags.
The Joker in THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN
Perhaps the most significant aspect of this Joker was a crossover with Scooby-Doo a few years later in 1972. In these two crossover episodes, Batman and Robin teamed up with the Mystery Inc. gang to foil Joker and Penguinís plots. Larry Storch once again reprised his role as The Joker, as did the actors for Batman, Robin and Penguin.
The Joker in SCOOBY DOO
The New Adventures of Batman (1977)
Filmation made another Batman cartoon where Adam West and Burt Ward actually reprised their respective roles as Batman and Robin. Despite being returned to his darker, psychopathic roots in the comics, The Joker was still presented as the trickster criminal throughout his appearances. This time, Lennie Weinrib voiced the Clown Prince.
The Joker in THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN
The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians (1985 Ė 1986)
In this Justice League themed show, The Joker made only one appearance as the leader of the Royal Flush Gang. In this episode, Joker was acting as an agent of the intergalactic tyrant Darkseid to defeat the Justice League. Joker was in fact masquerading as Ace, a member of the Royal Flush Gang, until Batman deduced his true identity. In this appearance, voice actor Frank Welker starred as The Joker. Welker is famous for several voices in a large number of childrenís shows throughout the 80s and 90s, most notably Dr. Claw in Inspector Gadget, Fred in Scooby-Doo, and most notably Megatron in Transformers among other countless cartoons. Welker even voiced Darkseid in The Super Powers Team.
The Joker in The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians
The DC Animated Universe (1992 Ė 2006)
The Jokerís most prominent and famous era in animation came during the 90s and early 2000s throughout several shows, all of them connected to each other in the DC Animated Universe. Starting with Batman: The Animated Series, The Joker was voiced by Mark Hamill, famous for portraying Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars trilogy, throughout its 14 year run.
Incarnations of The Joker from the DCAU
Unlike previous animated incarnations, The Joker was a mix of his prankster criminal and homicidal madman self. In his very first appearance, Christmas with The Joker, The Joker escaped Arkham Asylum with the use of a rocket powered Christmas tree and pied Batman in the face, but also had no problem raining rockets down on Gotham City or derailing a train full of civilians. This trend would continue throughout Batman: The Animated Series as he showed no qualms about killing people when he needed to. He also had a substantial role in the animated film Mask of the Phantasm, where part of his origin was revealed as well. It was also in this series that Joker gained his very own sidekick, and semi-love interest, in Harley Quinn, a former psychiatrist he manipulated into helping him escape and fall in love with him.
As the DC Animated Universe expanded, Joker would come into conflict with Superman and the Justice League, often outwitting them until Batman intervened. His legacy even extended, no pun intended, beyond Bruce Wayneís time as Batman in the direct-to-DVD feature Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker. Set 40 years in the future of the DCAU, a young street kid named Terry McGinnis had taken up the mantle of Batman as heís trained by an elderly Bruce Wayne. When The Joker mysteriously reappeared not a day older than when he and Bruce last met, Terry must uncover the dark secret of Batman and Jokerís final confrontation in the past in order to defeat their greatest foe.
One thing that is notable about the DCAU Joker is Mark Hamillís commitment to voicing the character throughout that entire time. Hamill brought a gleeful villainy to the role, displaying a massive amount of charm, goofiness and fun. When he had to go evil, though, he went very dark and showed just why exactly The Joker is Batmanís number one foe. It should also be added Hamillís distinct Joker voice earned him the opportunity to voice him in live action in an episode of Birds of Prey and the Arkham video game series. Mark Hamill is a man who truly loves and understands the importance of The Joker.
The Batman (2004 Ė 2008)
In this series focusing on a rookie Batman in his formative years, The Batmanís depiction of Joker wasÖ slightly weird. This Joker sported a very long, wild mane of green hair, ran around barefoot and fought in a Monkey Kung Fu style, many times actually going toe-to-toe with Batman in a fight. He also didnít wear his trademark purple suit, but a yellow and purple straightjacket and fingerless gloves (this somewhat changed though as the series went on).
The Joker from THE BATMAN
The Joker in this series was still homicidal from time to time, but was much more goofy when compared to Mark Hamillís previous interpretation. However, Joker was still obsessed with Batman, believing them to be two sides of the same coin in a fight of order and chaos, comedy and tragedy. This didnít stop him from becoming upset when the police were more concerned with capturing a vigilante than the Clown Prince of Crime. In this iteration, Joker was also responsible for turning Batmanís closest and oldest friend into Clayface, essentially ruining that manís life. Prolific voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson voiced him in this series and its direct-to-DVD movie Batman vs Dracula.