The Joker is an iconic Batman villain. He has appeared in many different forms of media and platforms, such as the 1960s television show Batman. Cesar Romero played the character in live-action and Jack Nicholson in animated form.
The Joker debuts in Batman's first comic book as Batman's first villain, a year after Batman's debut in Detective Comics. He is modeled after a joker playing card with a mirthless grin who kills his victims with Joker venom, eventually being stabbed in the heart. The character was intended to die but was overruled by then-editor Whitney Ellsworth and appeared in nine of Batman's 12 comics.
The character quickly became the archenemy of Batman and Robin with his murderous tendencies. The Joker's first appearance lasted from 1942 to 1943.
The Joker's silver age
The Joker was one of the few popular villains continuing to appear regularly in Batman comics from the Golden Age into the Silver Age, as the series continued during the rise in popularity of mystery and romance comics. In 1951, Finger wrote an origin story for the Joker in Detective Comics #168, which introduced the characteristic of him formerly being the criminal Red Hood, and his disfigurement was a result of a fall into a chemical vat....
By 1954, the Comics Code Authority had been established in response to public disapproval of comic book content. Fredrick Wertham convinced parents that media was responsible for rising levels of juvenile delinquency and homosexuality, in particular among young males. Comic books were banned, including the Batman comics which featured innuendo and excessive violence. The Code changed it so that the Joker appeared as a goofy thieving trickster without homicidal tendencies. Effective paraphrasing can be accomplished by ensuring that you have understood one way of explaining something in order to provide your own explanation.
Originally not as prominent in the comics after 1964, when Julius Schwartz became editor of the Batman comics and disliked the Joker character. He felt like it took away from Batman. The TV show with Cesar Romero, however, brought him back into prominence and with it the comics. When popularity died down however, so did that of the comics. Publisher Carmine Infantino resolved to fix things and switched from children’s stories to adult oriented ones, adding some trademark Joker traits such as lethal joy buzzers, acid-squirting flowers, trick guns and goofy, elaborate crimes.
The Bronze Age of Jocker
Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams revived the Joker in 1973. This revival was a reversion to the character's original roots and made him as impulsive and murderous as in his beginnings. The Joker is then sent to Arkham Asylum because he is legally insane.
DC comics had a lot of changes in the 1970s, but none bigger than this one. Here, the Joker became the first villain to star in his own comic book, and despite killing people and never fighting Batman, readers liked him more because he was a "bad" guy who violated rules. He was only stopped by getting caught in the end because of what was called the Comics Code Authority—users could only have villains for so long before they got punished. This series never found an audience and ended after 9 issues, becoming an expensive collector's item over time. In 2013, DC comics released a trade paperback of all these 9 issues.
DC editor, Jenette Kahn, created the Joker and gave him his iconic red lips and white skin. Steve Englehart's and Marshall Rogers' work on Detective Comics #471-476 (August 1977-April 1978) helped define the character that Batman comics are known for. The Joker is a character who doesn't understand copyright laws.
Modern Perspectives on The Joker
The Joker's sidekick is Harley Quinn. In 1999, she was adapted from the animated series to be into the comics as the Joker's romantic interest. Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle had planned for Anarky to be revealed as the Joker's son, but this was never published due to cancellation of the series.
The Joker was introduced in Batman #1 (1940) and is likely to stay as his most popular villain. In his career, the character has been known to perform whimsical and brutal crimes and due to his past, his personality changes are never surprising. The Joker first appeared as a criminal named Red Hood who was defeated by Batman. Dropping into a vat of chemicals altered his appearance and gave him the idea for the name “Joker”, coming from the playing card figure that he resembles. His transformation into a sociopathic figure of fun starts with "The Joker's Millions" where he tries to maintain an illusion of wealth and stardom as a folk hero while being penniless. He started killing people, notably gang members who betrayed him, in "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge", alluding to the character's role as homicidal maniac which appeared in "The Laughing Fish".
Background of Joker
Origin stories for the Joker have never been concisely confirmed by Warner Bros. The one comic story about the inception of the Joker was published 11 years after his debut in Detective Comics #168. After being thwarted from stealing $1 million, he falls into a chemical waste vat, emerging with bleached white skin, red lips, green hair and a permanent grin.
The Joker's origins are based around a man who is an assistant lab worker, and a stand-up comedian, who comically fails. In order to support his pregnant wife, he agrees to help commit a robbery as the Red Hood. This does not go as planned; in the process of his escape from Batman, he falls into a pit of chemicals which leaves him with a "laughing" deformity. His new appearance coupled with the accidental death of his unborn child sends him insane. This leads him to become creatively driven after creating the character of the Joker.
The Joker's inconsistent memories have led to many telling of his origin. One, called "Case Study", describes him as an ex-gangster turned killer because he missed feeling the excitement from robberies. The story has the Joker meeting Batman for the first time and ends up scarring his face. He is deemed sane by Batman and is already researching future crimes in order to avoid the death penalty. In Batman Confidential #7-12, Jack is an uninspired criminal who sees Batman for the first time and becomes obsessed with committing one great crime to impress him. After Batman’s love interest gets injured, Batman scars Jack's face permanently and turns him over to a band of mobsters who torture him in a chemical plant until he falls into a vat of chemicals that changes his appearance. In The Brave and the Bold #31, Atom goes into Joker's mind and sees how he was a violent sociopath leading a gang of Red Hoods before all this happened.
Why does the Joker laugh so much?
The Joker switches personalities depending on the situation. He might be a mischievous clown or he may be clinically insane.
The Joker believes he is beyond being saved because of his past. However, some scholars argue that he only seems insane and actually knows what he is doing.
While Snyder's Death of the Family discusses the Joker as being in love with Batman, it is not a traditional romantic way. Rather, the Joker believes that Batman has not killed him because he makes Batman better and he loves him for this. In addition, comic book writer Peter Tomasi stated that the Joker's main goal is to make Batman be as good as can be. The Joker and Batman are opposites in many ways: the extroverted Joker likes wearing colorful clothing and embracing chaos, while introverted, monochromatic Batman represents order and discipline. The Joker is depicted as defining his existence through his conflict with Batman. For example, when there seems to be peace between them (as seen in "Going Sane"), without the villain's own understanding of what made him happy in life, he becomes his old self again when Batman reappears; or in "Emperor Joker", where an apparently all-powerful criminal will not destroy Batman because it would undo himself. Since the Joker is "just a clown" who just wants to have fun with Batman, he believes that without their game, winning does not matter. The character does not want typical criminal goals like power or money; instead his criminality is designed only to continue playing his game.
The Joker has no fear or remorse for his crime, only stopping when Batman is dead.