"The Joker's Top 10" (Part 1 of 2) Author: Ricky Church (Follow @RICHARDCHURCH16)
December 22, 2014
In the pantheon of super villains, none are more famous (or infamous?) than The Clown Prince of Crime himself, The Joker.
Over the years he’s become an icon all to himself, his popularity completely independent from Batman’s. There’s a reason, after all, why Joker has his own 75th Anniversary book all to himself. The mainstream audience doesn’t need to be told who The Joker is because he’s become so recognizable thanks to a various number of mediums.
It’s extremely easy for fans to talk for hours about why they love The Joker and his never-ending battle with Batman; as well as their various interpretations of the character. Much like Batman, The Joker’s got a long list of great moments throughout his 75 year run so narrowing down his 10 best moments hasn’t been an easy task. It’s a lofty goal, but nevertheless, here are the 10 best moments of The Harlequin of Hate in comic books, television, video games and film.
Honorable Mention: "The Joker’s Reveal" (ENDGAME)
SPOILERS below for those who have yet to read ENDGAME!
Batman writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo had been teasing fans for months with their latest story, simply titled ENDGAME. DC, in a move quite unlike themselves, decided to shroud this storyline in mystery by withholding cover art and solicits for good reason; BATMAN #35 revealed Batman under attack by his fellow Justice League members and discovered it was none other than The Joker who brainwashed them all.
The real kicker, however, comes in BATMAN #36, as Batman discovers Joker had been hiding in plain sight for the better part of a year all along, complete with a new face. His return comes with a terrifying declaration: The Joker is breaking up with Batman, ending their long “friendship” with the promise of more terrifying things to come.
While the most recent Joker moment is indeed a crazy and awesome one, it is an honorable mention simply because ENDGAME is only two issues into its six issue story (at the time of this op-ed was written). We can rest assured there are many more scene stealers from Joker during this story.
10) "Fighting Superman" (EMPEROR JOKER)
Myxzpltk, an imp from the Fifth Dimension who frequently torments Superman, got bored with the usual game he plays with the Man of Steel and decided to shake things up a bit by giving Joker a tiny bit of his power. Unfortunately, as Myxptlk says in his own words, just because Joker is crazy doesn’t mean he isn’t smart. The Joker tricks the imp into giving him 99% of his power and reshapes the world into his image. One of his personal pleasures is killing Batman, only to resurrect him, each and every night in new and inventive ways.
It’s not often fans see The Joker up against someone other than Batman and this story, the climax in particular, proved to be a treat. One would think Batman has the best handle on The Joker’s psyche, but Superman comes to recognize the most fundamental aspect of the villain’s character almost as well as The Dark Knight: even in a world where The Joker is supreme, he’s still reliant on his connection with Batman as he can’t bring himself to kill his archenemy once and for all. Superman is able to take advantage of this in order to defeat Joker and set the world right.
9) "The Joker Escapes From Prison" (“THE JOKER IS WILD”/BATMAN '66)
Though The Joker in the 1960’s BATMAN television series isn’t the one everyone loves, nor the one originally created, it is a very famous interpretation of the character and the one which was presented in the comics at the time. The Joker had shifted away from his homicidal tendencies to become a trickster criminal, setting out to make fools of Batman and Robin. Caesar Romero’s performance throughout the series is an enjoyable one and has the historic distinction of being the first time Joker was brought to life in live action.
The first season episodes “Joker is Wild/Batman is Riled,” – which was recently reviewed on BOF by Sean Gerber – introduces Joker to the mainstream audience during a baseball game in prison. The warden believes The Joker has reformed thanks to his methods and is nearly ready to be put back into society. Unfortunately, The Joker tends to play the long con and literally springs his way out of prison by use of a high sprung coil hidden under the pitcher’s plate. It is a great introduction to the character and what he’s capable from inside prison. Romero’s performance throughout the series also heightened The Joker’s popularity within the mainstream audience during a time when he hardly appeared in the comics, thanks to Batman editor Julius Schwartz’s dislike of the character.
8) "Love" (DEATH OF THE FAMILY)
The Joker began his time in DC’s New 52 line with a bang as he let a new rogue, the Dollmaker, cut his face off, pinning it to the wall as a proclamation for Batman to solve. He disappeared for a year and when he finally returned in the pages of Scott Snyder’s epic DEATH OF THE FAMILY, it was a sickly sight to behold as he strapped his face back on by utilizing hooks and straps. More terrifying, however, was his targeting of Batman’s allies, including the faithful butler and father figure Alfred Pennyworth.
In his warped mind, The Joker viewed the Bat-family as a source of weakness for Batman. They dragged him down, hindering him from becoming the true Dark Knight the city, and Joker himself, needed him to be. He was doing Batman a favour not just as a friend, but out of love.
There’s a great moment in DEATH OF THE FAMILY where Snyder proves his understanding of Batman, The Joker and the history they share. The opening page of BATMAN #15 is a full drawing of The Joker’s face (drawn masterfully by Greg Capullo) where Batman talks about how The Joker’s pupils never change. They never dilate in anger or shock, but always unnaturally remain pinpoints of hate. It is not until the closing of the chapter when Batman reluctantly admits to himself that when he stares The Joker down, those pupils expand the tiniest fraction with love.
It’s a moment which perfectly exemplifies the unique relationship these two characters share. Joker does a lot of creepy and evil things throughout DEATH OF THE FAMILY, but the way he views Batman as a loving best friend, despite everything to the contrary, is downright chilling.
7) "The Joker’s Death" (BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY)
In ARKHAM CITY, the rivalry between Batman and The Joker is put to the test as The Joker is slowly dying after the events of ARKHAM ASYLUM, the first game in the ARKHAM franchise. He poisons Batman with the same toxic formula that is killing him, hoping Batman will find a cure for them both or, if not, they’ll die together. Batman does develop a cure for them, but due to Joker’s own rashness and desire to hurt Batman, his vial of the cure is destroyed, leaving him precious few moments of life left with his long time foe.
Killing The Joker was an incredibly risky and bold move Rocksteady took, especially in the sequel to their massively successful entry in the ARKHAM franchise. It worked incredibly well for a number of reasons though. First, the entire story of ARKHAM CITY built up to this moment so it didn’t feel like a twist for the sake of one or for shock value. Secondly, the last line Batman says to The Joker, “You want to know something funny? Even after everything you’ve done, I still would have saved you” is incredibly poignant; Batman even sounds remorseful as he watches The Joker die.
Which brings up the last point: Batman and Joker veterans Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill once again voice their respective characters in both of Rocksteady’s ARKHAM games and Mark Hamill has stated this was his final time voicing the Clown Prince of Crime. For someone who voiced The Joker for nearly 20 years in a variety of mediums, he certainly went out on top.
6) The Joker Eulogizes Batman (BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES's “The Man Who Killed Batman”) BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES was a groundbreaking series for the Caped Crusader and is critically acclaimed for raising the bar of animated television that both kids and adults could enjoy. It launched Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill’s long careers of voicing Batman and Joker respectively. When it comes to The Joker in this show, he has many scene stealing moments thanks to Hamill’s fantastic voice work. One scene which stood out for children everywhere was Joker’s eulogy for Batman when our hero was thought to have died.
Batman’s ‘death’ came about as the result of an accident by Sidney Debris, a hapless wannabe gangster who everyone thought was weak. Once Batman is believed to be dead, he gains immediate respect and admiration, his weak persona believed to be a mask to lure his enemies into safety before he takes them out. Unconvinced, however, that the bat is truly dead, The Joker stages a robbery in the hope to lure Batman out. When Batman doesn’t show up to stop him, he completely stops the robbery, ordering everything put back because “without Batman, crime has no punchline.”
What happens next elevates The Joker’s villainous status for young children, opening the door into the mind of the Clown Prince’s psyche. Joker actually holds a funeral for Batman and eulogizes him, admitting that while he dreamed of being the one to kill Batman, he always wanted to thank him for turning him into The Joker and all the ‘fun’ they’ve shared. His last act is to lock Sid in Batman’s coffin and roll it into the very same vat of acid which made him while Harley Quinn sings Amazing Grace on her kazoo. It’s a great character defining moment which changes the way a 6 year old child views the Batman/Joker rivalry.