Not much--indeed, virtually NOTHING--is known about the Joker's early life. On one occasion, he was implied to have been a high school dropout. In addition, Batman once noted that he was a well-known hypnotist before he turned to a life of crime.
Intelligent and creative, yet totally amoral, the Joker engaged in a wide variety of crimes throughout his life and clashed with Gotham's law enforcement—especially Batman and Robin—on numerous occasions.
As a career criminal, the Joker was no stranger to incarceration within Gotham State Penitentiary. Though he made daring escapes from the institution on several occasions, and managed to get lawfully released from it on several others by feigning reformation, he would always find himself returned to its confines by Batman and Robin.
Utility Belt Caper
One of the Joker's earliest crime sprees began with an ingenious escape from Gotham State Penitentiary, facilitated during a softball game in the prison's exercise yard. Once free, the Clown Prince of Crime immediately set out to rob Gotham Museum of its new jewel collection, but was quickly foiled by Batman and Robin, and barely managed to evade capture. Attributing this defeat to Batman's gadget-laden utility belt, the Joker decided to create a utility belt of his own.
The belt, and the gadgets that it contained, soon proved a wise investment for the Harlequin of Hate. The Joker's next two heists at a performance of the opera I Pagliacci and at a warehouse storing valuable African masks saw him hold his own against Batman and Robin before making clean getaways. In the former case, the Joker even came within a hair's breadth of unmasking the duo. Soon, public confidence in Batman and Robin plunged, and crime rates soared across Gotham City.
Drunk on victory, the Joker sought to finish off the Dynamic Duo at the launch ceremony of the S.S. Gotham, where Batman was to perform the christening. The Clown Prince of Crime tampered with the vintage champagne bottle, leaving a bottle that would release paralyzing gas when smashed. On the day of the launch, the Joker's plan went off seemingly without a hitch; the gimmick bottle soon rendered both heroes helpless, and the Joker and his gang were able to swoop in and kidnap the Dynamic Duo.
A gleeful Joker brought the paralyzed heroes back to his hideout and eagerly televised his victory, threatening to have the heroes executed unless his demands were met. Soon after, however, he was treated to a rude surprise; the Dynamic Duo were up and about, having caught on to the Joker's ruse shortly after they had been handed the bottle. Batman had noticed that the the new bottle's cork was not discolored with age, as that of a true vintage bottle would have been. Knowing this, the heroes had taken antidote pills before smashing the bottle, and had been faking helplessness the entire time. The heroes then quickly defeated the Joker and his men, and returned them to the penitentiary.
Back to School
Some time after the utility belt caper, the Joker was released from the penitentiary, but quickly returned to his old ways. The Harlequin of Hate soon created a series of remote-controlled gadgets to carry out his schemes with. Among these gadgets were several vending machines rigged to deposit money, which the Joker planted inside Woodrow Roosevelt High School, as part of a gambit to tempt students into joining his gang with promises of easy wealth. The other machines, meanwhile, were stationed inside various businesses across Gotham, and assisted the Joker's men in committing ordinary robberies.
The Joker's antics soon attracted attention from Batman and Robin, attention that the Harlequin of Hate encouraged, to the point where he openly attended an anti-crime lecture being given by Batman at Woodrow Roosevelt. Soon enough, the arch-criminal's promises of easy living snared one of Woodrow Roosevelt's most prominent students--Susie, the school's cheerleader captain. With Susie's help, the Joker was able to succeed in carrying out the next stage of his plan, stealing the answer key to the Nationwide Pre-College Exam. As a pleasant bonus, Susie even earned the confidence of Batman and Robin, whom she quickly lured into the Joker's latest deathtrap.
A sudden blackout, however, foiled the Joker's plan--two electric chairs rigged to a one-armed bandit and designed to electrocute the two if the machine turned up three lemons, which it did--seconds before it could slay the Dynamic Duo. Frustrated, but left with no other options, the Joker was forced to flee, and Batman and Robin resumed their investigation. Shortly afterwards, the lawmen pinpointed Susie as one of the members of the Joker's gang, and Robin, in his civilian guise of Dick Grayson, attempted to infiltrate the Joker's gang through the cheerleader. The rest of the Joker's gang, however, quickly saw through the ruse and informed the Clown Prince of Crime. Upon learning of the incident, the Joker deemed Susie a weak link in his gang, and sought to dispose of the cheerleader by giving her a "gift" of perfume that had secretly been poisoned. Batman and Robin, meanwhile, were fed a false lead that led them to another of the Joker's traps.
Confident that he had neutralized every potential liability, the Joker went on with the final stage of his plan. The Harlequin of Hate tricked Woodrow Roosevelt's basketball team into picking up his stolen answer key, and promptly snapped an incriminating photograph of the scene. With the picture, the Joker intended to frame the team as cheaters, and get Woodrow Roosevelt disqualified from an upcoming game. In doing so, the Joker hoped to hand victory to the opposing school, as he was gambling a large sum of money through a bookmaker nicknamed Pete the Swede on Woodrow Roosevelt losing. Unfortunately for the Joker, Batman and Robin intervened, having outwitted his trap and saved Susie from the poisoned perfume; out of gratitude for saving her life, Susie had testified to the Joker's scam. (The Bat-Duo had switched the copies of the test answer key for fakes, which negated the cheating frame-up.) His plans scuttled, the Joker attempted to flee, but was apprehended once more.
A Royal Deception
Joker returned to menace Gotham City once more—this time, committing a series of bizarre robberies with no discernible purpose, with he and his gang "stealing" a hole from the golf course at a prominent country club and holding up a fur salon for the sole purpose of stealing a woman's hairpin. With his "loot," the Joker managed to stage a much more impressive crime: kidnapping Gotham City's latest visiting royalty, the Maharajah of Nimpah. During the kidnapping, Batman and Robin, having deduced the Joker's intentions from the customary taunting message delivered to police headquarters, arrived on the scene. The Dynamic Duo quickly pursued the Joker and his men, but were soon foiled when the Joker's getaway van, which was covered in folding mirrors to enable it to blend completely into the background, seemingly vanished into thin air. The van was marked as belonging to "Gayfellow Cleaners Services," and bore the slogan, "Let Gayfellow take you to the Cleaners."
Though baffled, Batman and Robin eventually found another of the Joker's deliberately-planted clues at the scene of the crime: a tiny model of the getaway van. The model contained a written note from the Joker, from which the Dynamic Duo managed to deduce the location the Joker's latest hideout. Upon rushing into the hideout, however, the lawmen soon found themselves falling into another one of the Joker's traps. The Joker promptly sealed his adversaries inside an airtight chamber, into which he poured generous quantities of poison gas. By placing their backs together and scaling up the chimney's walls, the two were fortunately able to avoid the rising toxic clouds, and a flabbergasted Joker realized far too late that they had managed to outwit him.
Escaping the roof via a nearby zip-line, Batman and Robin then paid a visit in their civilian identities to the Ferguson Novelty and Magician Supply Company, which they had carefully sussed out was a front operation for the devious trickster's schemes; sure enough, as Bruce discovered by cleverly refracting the shop's two-way mirror with a special prism, the Maharajah was there, being held captive in the basement storeroom. Returning that night after their reconnaissance, the Dynamic Duo surprised the Joker and his men, but were impeded when the Joker set off his "Defense Panel" switch to "repel the invaders." Under cover of fireworks and paper streamers, the Joker escaped in the ensuing fight, and the Maharajah was nowhere to be found. Bruce expressed surprise, at one point, that there had not been any protests from the Maharajah's government, but he was interrupted before he could complete the thought.
His foes neutralized for the moment, the Joker promptly rang the Commissioner's office, where he delivered his ransom demands to the Caped Crusader through a phone relay; half a million dollars, which the Maharajah himself had offered to pay with a personal check... and which Batman had to sign off on the next morning, or else the deal was kaput. Loath though he was to participate in such a malevolent scheme, Batman reluctantly acquiesced for the sake of the rotund royal's well-being, and the two met the next day at the bank to initiate the trade. As the Maharajah rambled on, money in hand, Batman carefully drew a long dart and stuck it deep into the pompous pest's leg, exposing his fat as mere padding. Tearing away the sawdust and pillows beneath his robes in the sudden brawl, the duo exposed the Maharajah as none other than the Joker in disguise. He had been impersonating the other man the entire time, hoping to gain both a hefty sum of money and Batman's humiliation in the bargain. Batman had been suspicious that there had been no protests of the Maharajah's kidnapping from the Nimpah government, and discovered the real Maharajah had actually been away on a hunting trip. Deflated in more ways than one, the crooked clown was quickly re-imprisoned.
At some point afterwards, through unknown circumstances, Joker and three of Gotham's other premiere costumed criminals—The Penguin, The Catwoman, and The Riddler—chose to harness their talents as a combined group. Headquartered in Ye Olde Benbowe Taverne and calling themselves the "United Underworld" in a cruel parody of their intended target, the United World diplomatic organization, they plotted to use a dehydrating machine to reduce its bickering Security Council to powder, so as to demand a hefty ransom for their safe restoration. Whatever further nefarious plans the group had were not explained, though Batman anticipated the worst: since each villain was a major threat in their own right, all four assembled could only mean, exponentially, that the target was at minimum complete world domination.
Contrary to the harmonious image their name suggested, the four often squabbled pettily among themselves when bored or discouraged, unable to control their individual egos or criminal habits. The Joker chafed at the Penguin's bossiness when on board his submarine, and mocked him and the Riddler for their methods, but the Clown Prince's own gregarious gimmicks made him an even greater annoyance; after prompting the two to shake hands in peace when their tempers began to flare, he zapped them both with a pair of electrocuting joy buzzers, cackling that a "joke a day keeps the gloom away." Still, despite these puckish pranks, even the Joker recognized the need for cooperation, agreeing that it would be a pity for the gang to dissolve when they were so close to pulling off, as he put it, "the greatest criminal coup anyone ever dreamed of."
Part of the Underworld's scheme involved maintaining the deception that the device's abducted inventor, Commodore Schmidlapp, was still on his yacht, fog-bound off the Great Banks of Newfoundland; the Joker was the one tasked with bringing the hoodwinked Commodore his afternoon tea, and took much delight in pretending to be a steward. When Schmidlapp pointed out the criminal's chalk-white face on one occasion, asking why a sailor would have such a "ghastly pallor," the Joker claimed he had merely spent too much time below decks to get much sea air.
The crooked clown would go on to take an active part in all of the group's major capers: he launched the submarine's torpedoes during their naval battles with the Bat-Boat, helped to subdue and kidnap Bruce Wayne as bait for Batman (riding a special purple jetpack umbrella to, and away from, the scene of the crime), and blindfolded the playboy to lead him through the Taverne's back corridors to "Miss Kitka." When the time came for the assault on the convened United World Security Council, it was the Joker who wielded Schmidlapp's dehydrator and turned the uncomprehending delegates to dust. On two of these occasions, he wore a pink domino mask, though what effect—if, indeed, any—it might have had in concealing his identity was unclear.
In the Underworld's final confrontation with the Dynamic Duo, the constant shelling of their sub with Bat-Charges caused Joker to panic and order the craft to come up near Sandy Nose; upon breaking the surface, he gleefully called the gang's pirate goons to arms when Batman and Robin attempted to board. After a hard-fought battle, the Ace of Knaves, beaten soundly and soaking wet, was tied to the side of the submarine with his comrades as a present for the Coast Guard, putting an end to the United Underworld for good.
- Hand-to-Hand Combat (Basic): The Joker was adequate in hand-to-hand combat for a man of his size. Though he was seldom a match for Batman and Robin in a fair fight, he was incredibly resourceful in combat and certainly not above resorting to sneak attacks and other tricks.
- Genius Level Intellect: The Joker's intellect more than made up for his combat skills (or lack thereof).
- Smoke-Bomb Softball: Specially-designed softball that exploded into smoke when struck. Used to in conjunction with the giant spring to concoct an escape from the Gotham State Penitentiary.
- Gigantic Spring: Coiled spring secretly built in Gotham State Penitentiary's machine shop; hidden beneath the softball pitcher's mound in the penitentiary's exercise yard. Activated once the smoke-bomb softball went off, springing the Joker over the penitentiary's walls.
- Comedian Statues: Specially-rigged busts of the Joker himself and four legendary comedians (Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, Ernie Kovacs, and W.C. Fields) planted in Gotham Museum's Comedian Hall of Fame. These busts (complete with pedestals) could hide full-grown men inside, allowing the Joker and four of his henchmen to bypass the museum's security.
- Utility Belt: Meant to mimic Batman's utility belt; contained several pouches that stored the Joker's own set of gadgets.
- Smoke Bomb
- Replica Utility Belt
- Paralyzing Gas Cork
- Trick Streamers: Ordinary-looking but unbreakable party streamers, usually deployed during battle to tie up enemies. Tend to be hidden up the Joker's sleeves.
- Sneezing Powder: Typical prank item that induced uncontrollable sneezing. Tended to be thrown in opponents' faces during battles as a distraction tactic.
- Rigged Vending Machines: Vending machines gimmicked to dispensed coins and valuable stocks & bonds instead of refreshments. Positioned inside Woodrow Roosevelt High School as a way of undermining student morale.
- Shackle-Dispensing Vending Machine: A vending machine meant to entrap Batman and Robin. Shot out shackles when a coin was inserted, cuffing the captive's legs to the machine. A hidden nozzle at the top sprayed knockout gas, sealing the captive's fate.
- Squirting Flower: Fake flower attached to the top buttonhole of the Joker's jacket; connected to a hose that allowed it to squirt water, knockout gas, etc.
- One Endless Night: A half-pint bottle of—according to the Joker—high-grade Canadian perfume. Its contents were laced with poison, as it was meant to discreetly execute Susie the cheerleader.
- Funny Ray: A remote control-like device that emits a ray which would neutralize the gadgets in Batman's and Robin's utility belts for at least an hour.
- Magic Box & Key (Formerly)
- "John Doe & Sons" Moving Van: A special van designed to hold captives in the Electric Chair/Fruit Machine Combo deathtrap. To power the deathtrap, it has a line that could be connected directly to Gotham City's power main. The van's dashboard also contains a trick microphone that allows the Joker to disguise his voice when speaking to captives.
- "Gayfellow Cleaners" Van: A van that has its exteriors outfitted with folding mirrors. When on a monochrome environment (such as a golf course), the mirrors can be deployed to cover the van with reflections of the surroundings, turning the van invisible.
- Flying Saucer
- Hand Buzzer: Typical prank item hidden in the palm of the Joker's glove. Allowed him to stun others with a simple handshake.
- Rigged Jukebox: A jukebox containing a double-barreled shotgun mounted on a turret, planted inside a Gotham bistro and operated via remote control from the Joker's hideout. Inserting a coin caused the turret to reveal itself and sweep the gun back and forth, intimidating bystanders so a robbery could be conducted. Also contained a speaker for the Joker to taunt his victims through.
- Electric Chair Fruit Machine Combo: A pair of electric chairs connected to a slot machine. It dispensed fifty thousand volts of electricity into the bodies of the victim(s) when all three reels on the machine landed on the "Lemon" symbol.
- Drowning Chamber: A re-purposed smokestack from the Katz, Katz, & Katz Refinery. Once the victims are locked inside, deadly gas is pumped into the confined space. The walls are almost perfectly smooth, without footholds of any sort; the only opening is fifty feet above the base. The gas itself was more dense than air, and could be evaded by two people climbing it with their backs against each other.
- This version of the character is exclusive to the continuity of the television series Batman, its tie-in comic book series, related live-action movie and animated movies, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face. It is an adaptation of the Joker. The original character was created by Jerry Robinson, Bob Kane, and Bill Finger and first appeared in Batman #1.
Behind the Scenes
This incarnation of the Joker was portrayed by Cesar Romero, an American actor of Cuban-Italian descent. Prior to Batman, Romero had performed as a dancer as well as an actor for thirty-odd years, most famously as "Latin Lover"-type characters in a variety of films, as well as Duke Santos in the original Ocean's Eleven.
Though Romero was nearly sixty at the time he was offered the role of the Joker, he infused the role with a powerful enthusiasm. Adam West, who played Batman, would later note, to Jeff Rovin, in Back To The Batcave, "Cesar Romero brought an enormous amount of energy to the role. His piercing eyes, his laugh...I dunno how he did it, because he wasn't 22!"
Romero, rather (in)famously, refused to shave his mustache for the role of the Joker, even though the character had always been (and still is) portrayed as clean-shaven in the comics. As a result, the makeup that Romero wore to imitate the Joker's chalk-white skin tone was applied directly over the mustache, leaving the mustache partially visible during filming.
Though Romero wore a green wig to mimic the Joker's traditional hair color, the lighting on the show's sets often resulted in the Joker's hair appearing other colors (orange, yellow, etc.) when filmed. Romero would later go on to state, to Joel Eisner in The Official Batman Batbook, that the wig bothered him more than any other part of the Joker's costume, as it was glued to his forehead and tended to give him headaches.
According to the notes of series producer William Dozier, Romero was not the first choice for portraying the Joker; several other actors, including José Ferrer and Gig Young, had been considered. Romero himself was perplexed as to why he was considered for the role, commenting, "Why Dozier wanted me I'll never know." Dozier's wife Ann, according to Romero, believed that Dozier had been inspired by one of Romero's previous roles.
- In the 2016 animated film, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, the Joker was voiced by Jeff Bergman.
- It should be noted that one weapon the Joker did NOT use on the series was his most famous one from the DC Comics, his infamous Joker Venom, which kills its victims by making them literally die laughing and leaves their corpses with rictus grins.
The 1966 Batman series's incarnation of the Joker marked the first time that the character was depicted in non-comics media, setting a standard for future depictions of the Clown Prince of Crime, especially where live-action works were concerned. (It is believed to have been Ben Nye Sr., a 20th Century Fox Television in-house manipulative cosmetologist, who designed the makeup format he used on Romero for the Joker.) Romero's seemingly-boundless energy, shrieking laugh, and many creative deathtraps left a powerful impression on many audiences at the time, and continues to be remembered fondly even today, decades after the series had ended. Even the mustache that remained so conspicuously visible on Romero's face during Batman's filming has achieved a certain level of fame, becoming accepted by many as the most recognizable element of this particular incarnation of the Joker.
- According to a slide in the episode "The Joker Goes to School", the Joker stands 6'6". In real life, Romero stood 6'2".
- The Joker appeared in nineteen episodes of Batman (in addition to the theatrical film), tying with the Penguin for most commonly-appearing villain on the show.
- 49 Appearances of Joker (Batman 1966 TV Series)
- 17 Images featuring Joker (Batman 1966 TV Series)
- 9 Quotations by or about Joker (Batman 1966 TV Series)
- Character Gallery: Joker (Batman 1966 TV Series)
|Batman Villain(s) from the 1966 series |
This character, team or organization, was primarily an enemy of the Batman in either the 1966-1968 television show, related 1966 film, tie-in comic book series or the animated movies. This template will categorize articles that include it into the "Batman (1966 TV Series) Villains category."