Quote1.png A lion doesn't pass judgement on a gazelle. Cancer doesn't pass judgement on a brain. I've been saying this all along. Evil doesn't exist. There are only actions. We got to the same place--the top of the food chain--just on different paths. Mine was more fun. Quote2.png
The Joker src

The Joker is a homicidal maniac and the archenemy of Batman. Though his precise origin is unknown even to him, he is known to have been forced to swim through a vat of chemicals which turned his skin white, his hair green and left his face permanently locked in a rictus grin.

Multiple Possible Origins

The Joker suggested many possible origins for how he came to be, though, due to his unreliable nature, many of the details are contradictory and thought to be untrue. He has said that he doesn't think of his past as multiple choice, but more "choose-your-own-adventure".[3]

  1. One of the Joker's favorite theories was that he lived with his murderous Aunt Eunice. An abusive guardian, she bathed him with bleach, resulting in irreparable brain damage as well as the drainage of all pigmentation from his skin.[4]
  2. When he was an active criminal, the Joker taunted multiple patients in Arkham Manor with his "true" origin story, usually feeding into their delusions. He told Ephram Snow that he was the Devil himself, having visited Snow fifteen years before the Joker's first official appearance to encourage the man to abduct and murder little girls to bring them back to Hell.[5]
  3. He told Cordelia Doe that he was secretly an android that was abducting and replacing people with perfect android copies so he could build himself a new body.[3]
  4. He made Morton Wales believe he was an evil clown that visited Gotham in the early 20th Century that went from factory to factory making people laugh until they died. Allegedly, the townspeople burned the clown to death on the plot of land that would one day become Ace Chemical Processing Plant. Joker told Morton that he didn't really die in the fire and that, every time someone laughed in Gotham, he got stronger - adding to Morton's irrational fear of laughing.[6]
  5. Joker told a man named Cassidy, a former soldier, that he was the first in a long line of soldiers trained by the US Government to become part of their secret Batman army. Batman was not one person, but a squad of hundreds of men secretly trained to oppress society. The Joker had defected, becoming the Batman army's greatest threat, in an effort to save the American people from their supposed heroes.[7]
  6. Dr. Mahreen Zaheer allegedly analyzed every source of information she could access to assemble Joker's true origin. She claimed the Joker's real named was William Distal. When he was four years old, his sister went missing and his parents were so frightened by the experience they abandoned him. He grew up in multiple foster homes until he ran away when he was 16. During the Zero Year, he faked his death, leaving some of his blood on an unidentified body, to start his life anew. However, this story, too, was put into question, because the Joker claimed to have fabricated most of Zaheer's evidence to "cheer her up".[3]

Even before becoming the Joker, his DNA was not available on any records to confirm or deny any of these stories.[8]

Known Origin

However, despite the inconsistencies in his story, some parts of the Joker's backstory were confirmed to be true.

Before becoming the Joker, he was a failed stand-up comedian with a wife named Jeannie. Jeannie was pregnant with their first child, but due to his difficult life he started becoming erratic and mentally imbalanced. Jeannie, fearing for both her life and the life of their unborn child, went to the police, who helped her fake her death and move to Alaska to escape her husband. The man who would become the Joker was informed that his wife and child had died, forcing him to experience "one bad day".

Many years later, Jeannie continued to live in Alaska in peace with her son, neither she nor the Joker knowing where they had landed in life. Bruce Wayne, who had encountered the comedian before he became the Joker, was aware of her true fate and kept it a secret in order to protect her and her son. Because of this, he was also forced to keep Joker's true name a secret.[9]

Red Hood Gang

 

Main article: Batman: Zero Year

The Joker began his criminal career as "Red Hood One," the leader of the Red Hood Gang, comprised of blackmailed individuals from the middle and upper classes of Gotham that the Red Hood kept under his sway. With the ideology of pointless violence, the gang dared the authorities to try and catch them all.[10] He first faced off against Bruce Wayne when the returned billionaire-turned-vigilante rescued some hostages from the madman.[11]

Having been tipped off by Edward Nygma, the Red Hood sent his gang to kill Bruce Wayne, catching the billionaire in an explosion in his brownstone. Taunting Wayne as he lay dying, Red Hood One added insult to injury by shooting two bullets through a portrait of Wayne's deceased parents before leaving the future vigilante to his injuries.[10]

As the tales of the urban legend known as the Batman rose in the wake of Wayne's attempted assassination, the ranks of the Red Hood Gang began to slowly dwindle bit by bit, each member caught one by one. Having discovered Red Hood One's plan, Wayne blew the gang's cover at Ace Chemical Processing Plant where the criminals were planning to steal flesh-eating chemicals. Realizing the jig was up, the Red Hood Gang led an assault there against the Batman and the GCPD.

Red Hood One becomes the Joker

Red Hood One becomes the Joker

Though Red Hood One attempted to escape in a helicopter, Batman fired his grappling line around his enemy's ankle, yanking him from the aircraft and sending them both plummeting through the weakened roof of the chemical plant. Almost falling into a vat of chemicals, Red Hood One was caught by Batman, who attempted to save the criminal's life. Claiming this moment to only be the beginning, the gang leader broke free of his savior's grasp and plummeted into the chemicals below.

Despite Batman's prediction that the chemicals were enough to kill him, the man's body was not recovered.

Soon after Red Hood One's disappearance, the body of a man named William Distal was found discarded and covered in lye. Though the GCPD were aware that Distal had at one point acted as Red Hood One, the lye made it impossible to tell when he had been murdered - as early as Batman's first appearance, as late as the fight within ACE Chemicals, or any time in between. Thus, the man who fell in the acid could have been Red Hood One for an indiscriminate amount of time.

The man who fell in the acid did survive, having had his skin turned pale white and his hair green. The man reappeared sometime later, unhinged with criminal insanity, calling himself the Joker.[12][13]

Creating More Jokers

 

The Joker claimed, not long after this transformation, he hatched a plan to create more people like him, to spread his chaos farther than he could do alone.

Using the same chemicals that transformed him, the Joker infected multiple other people, also turning them into Jokers, too. However, of his experiments, only two survived. Unclear on who was the original, there were now three near-identical men calling themselves the Joker.

Allegedly, the three Jokers, delineating between themselves with their nicknames: the Criminal, the Clown, and the Comedian, would alternate their positions, terrorizing Batman for years. They kept their origin a secret, never making it clear that the Joker's inconsistent personality and seeming omnipotence was because the mantle was shared by three separate people.

The Criminal, cold and calculated, tended to target Batman the most early in his career.

The Clown seemed most active a a few years into Batman's career.

And the Comedian apparently was more prominent later in Batman's career. [9]

First Year

Not long after "the Zero Year", the Joker resurfaced and quickly made a name for himself in the city; his first attempted crime was trying to poison the Gotham Reservoir, an act that Batman successfully stopped.[13]

According to Batman himself, despite the lack of confirmed information on the Batcomputer, he had pieced together the Joker's true identity within a week of his first attack. [9]

After Batman took on an apprentice with his first Robin, Joker began thinking several steps ahead and orchestrated events he believed would lead to Grayson's replacement. Setting his sights on the young Jason Todd, the Joker faked Jason's parents' deaths to force the boy to believe he was an orphan and follow a path that would lead him to becoming Batman's next sidekick.

The War of Jokes and Riddles

Joker vs. the Riddler

Joker vs. the Riddler

Near the conclusion of Batman's second year as a vigilante, Joker found himself with the unique inability to laugh, thought to be caused by his continued inability to beat the Bat. Going on a chaotic killing spree of comedians, the Joker was tracked down by the Riddler, who had broken free after a year in prison, to offer that the two work together to fight Batman. Joker didn't find this offer funny though and shot the Riddler in the stomach, instigating what would later be known as "the War of Jokes and Riddles".[14]

The Joker and Riddler both recruited every villain in Gotham they could to fight in their war, which raged through Gotham for weeks, accumulating numerous civilian casualties. Batman, unable to simultaneously stop both sides, was forced to focus on one and chose to defeat Joker's side first. With Riddler and Batman's combined efforts, Joker's army was picked off until only Kite-Man remained, who they knew they could use to find Joker and end the war.[15]

In the final confrontation, the Riddler revealed that the entire plot of the war was orchestrated by him as a means to make Joker laugh, and Batman, unable to control his rage over how many deaths were caused in service of such a ridiculous motive, attempted to stab Riddler with a knife. In a surprise twist, the knife was stopped only by Joker, saving two of his enemies and regaining his ability to laugh.[16]

Other Early Crimes

The Joker's notoriety continued to grow to the point that he operated his own gang of henchmen in Gotham. At some indiscriminate point early in the Joker's criminal career, he and his gang terrorized the Gotham Zoo, killing its employees. While there, a baby gorilla caught the Joker's attention, and the clown killed its mother to raise it as his new sidekick. Naming the gorilla Jackanapes, Joker and his "son" terrorized Gotham until, on a mission to kill a Gotham City councilwoman for trying to close the Gotham Zoo, Jackanapes fells into a river and seemingly drowned. The Joker was unfazed at the death of his son, instead insisting he get a refund for the swimming lessons he purchased. [17]

Meanwhile, the Joker was in and out of Arkham Asylum constantly. In one of his stays at the asylum, the madman actually managed to seduce his psychiatrist into letting him escape and join him as his criminal accomplice Harley Quinn.

One of Joker's early plans drew the attention of the Gotham Gazette and, in particular, one of their journalists Tommy Blackcrow. Trying to investigate the clown that he clearly underestimated, Blackcrow was captured by Joker and, still undaunted, proceeded to tell the madman that he's probably the way he is because he doesn't have any friends, a comment that Blackcrow later regretted when Joker took it upon himself to make the journalist his best friend.[18]

At some point, Joker, as well as Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman, was contacted by the Designer - a new criminal in Gotham who volunteered to make their wildest schemes a reality. Though the other criminals bought into it, the Joker, however, caused the whole deal to fall apart and seemingly killed the Designer, and the villains burned down his base to leave no trace.[19]

As years passed, Joker's crimes became more violent and personal, such as torturing and paralyzing Barbara Gordon and even killing the second Robin. Again and again, Batman defeated Joker and sent him to Arkham, but his crimes had now hit much closer to home.

Faces of Death

 

Years later, the Joker is a homicidal killer being hunted by Gotham's police force. After a skirmish with Batman, the Joker is caught and taken to Arkham Asylum. There, the Dollmaker pays him a visit, which the Joker seems to have been expecting. The two have cordially arranged this meeting, and the Joker has assigned his visitor with a special task: he has the Dollmaker cut off his face and pin it to the wall.

Afterward, the Joker is assumed dead by virtually everyone except Batman and hundreds of mourners have surrounded the GCPD building in a mock vigil, calling for Joker's face to be returned to them, and Batman's head too. Soon afterward Harley Quinn learns of her Puddin's "death" and betrays the Suicide Squad by orchestrating a mass prison break at Belle Reve Penitentiary. Afterward, she travels back to Gotham City, turning herself in at Gotham City Police Headquarters all in the hopes of stealing back the Joker's face.

Death of the Family

 

The Joker made his return to Gotham City a year after his disappearance. He infiltrated the GCPD headquarters, killing the lights, slaughtering several cops and making his presence known to Gordon. In the following days, he reenacted some of his earliest crimes such as publicly announcing his intention to poison the mayor, with each crime having some morbid twist to it.

Joker resurfaces, wearing his dismembered face

Joker resurfaces, wearing his dismembered face

After using Harley Quinn to distract Batman, the Joker went after anyone who has a connection to Batman. In order, he vanquished Batgirl, Catwoman, Robin, Nightwing, Red Robin and Red Hood. Joker brought them all to Arkham Asylum.

By the time Batman came, Joker had his defenses ready and lured the Dark Knight into his trap. Batman complied, hoping to learn more of his adversary's plans. Joker placed the entire Bat-Family on a large table, with bandages around their faces. He claimed he had removed their faces as Dollmaker had removed his. He also explained that he had instructed Dollmaker to remove his face to show that under his grin, there was only more grin. He left them and set the scene on fire.

Batman broke free. He liberated his allies and discovered their faces were still intact. He caught up with Joker, and the fight was short. Batman taunted him, claiming to have discovered who the Joker was before his chemical bath. Not wanting to hear it, Joker jumped off the cliff.[20]

In the pit, Batman would later learn, was a pool of the element Dionesium, which had the supernatural ability to heal the Joker's dismembered face skin and grant him superhuman healing, which he would later incorporate into his next plot against the Bat. Also in the cave, Joker discovered the cave painting of a bat that he wouldn't realize the significance of until even later.[21]

Eric Border

Soon after his supposed death off the cliff, Joker reappeared, but disguised as a new orderly at Arkham Asylum. Using pigmentation to conceal the pale skin on his new face and muscle relaxant pills to suppress his constant smile, Joker adopted the name "Eric Border" - "Eric" being a combination pun of the Norse and Gothic words "Eternal" and "Prince" respectively, and "Border", which is a homophone of the archaic word "bourder" meaning "jester".[3]

Befriending Dr. Mahreen Zaheer, Joker worked in Arkham, formulating his plan for return. In his new identity, the criminal kept to his roots by playing a dark prank on his new friend Dr. Zaheer by encouraging her to write a book about the "true" origin of the Joker. The clown falsified documents and paid people off in order to construct another origin story that could only potentially be true.[22] As part of his dark prank, the Joker gave each of four inmates a different origin for himself (a demon,[23] a robot,[5] a man from another time,[6] and a soldier who was the first in an army of Batmen created by the government,[7]) with a path through Gotham that eventually leads to the publisher of Dr. Zaheer's book where the fifth inmate has Dr. Zaheer tell them her story.

Endgame

Shedding his Eric Border identity almost a year after adopting it, Joker came back with an endgame in mind for Batman. Unlike his last dastardly plot, the clown made clear that he was no longer playing; he intended to make this his final dance with the Bat.

The Joker returns for one final fight

The Joker returns for one final fight

Drugging the Justice League using a new and extremely potent Joker Venom, the madman sent Batman's superhero allies after the vigilante, forcing Batman to single-handedly fend off the entire Justice League.[3] Wasting no time, Joker infected the entire city with the same virus, turning them all into laughing homicidal maniacs. Revealing that he knew Batman's secret identity, Joker then singled out some of Batman's closest allies, putting a hatchet into Commissioner Gordon's chest[7] and cutting off Alfred's right hand with a meat cleaver. After a gruesome parade in the middle of Gotham, Joker made his way down into the depths of Gotham to his Dionesium pit, where he fought Batman in a duel to the death. With both eventually severely wounded and Joker's own supply of Dionesium neutralized, Batman and the Joker died together, side by side, under the streets of Gotham.

The Dionesium, despite having thought to been destroyed in the cave's collapse, managed to still revive both Bruce and the Joker, healing the scars on their bodies but also robbing them of their memories. The man who was once the Joker—his skin and hair turned back to normal—returned to society and started a new life at a butcher shop.[24] Months later, Bruce, also living a normal life without the knowledge that he was once the Batman, met the former Joker in the park, who had intended to kill himself that night but eventually backed down.[25]

A short time later, after Bruce used a machine in the Batcave to return all his memories of being Batman, the insanity of his former life seeped back into the reformed Joker's mind, causing him to return to his normal Joker self.

Metal

With all his memories back, the Joker began investigating a conspiracy behind a cave painting he had found when he was first revived by the pool of Dionesium. Batman, following the same mystery and thinking the Joker might hold a clue, captured him and detained the clown for weeks in a secret wing secluded in the Batcave.

When Hal Jordan and Duke Thomas began following the clues to Bruce's investigation, they accidentally released the Joker from his Batcave prison. The Joker, ranting about the conspiracy he had stumbled upon and not wanting the mystery to be solved, tried to smash Batman's progress before escaping into the night.[21]

However, despite the Joker's effort, Batman continued his investigation, which lead to the invasion of the Dark Multiverse. Batman accidentally played right into a trap set for him and released the evil deity Barbatos and the Dark Knights.

In the final confrontation against the Batman Who Laughs, Batman and Joker teamed up together, with the rationale being the only thing the evil Batman couldn't anticipate was his counterpart teaming up with his greatest foe.[26] They were successful; the invasion was stopped and the Batman Who Laughs was incarcerated in the Hall of Justice.

Marriage, Doom, and Suicide

Or forever hold your peace...

Or forever hold your peace...

Batman, weary from all his adventures, proposed to Catwoman, who accepted. However, after months of anticipation for the event, the wedding was crashed by the Joker, who convinced Catwoman not to marry Batman because happiness is Batman's greatest weakness.[27]

Joker would later join the Legion of Doom and torment the Justice League with the rest of the team's greatest rogues.[28] However, he would eventually leave the team on bad terms.

At one point, Joker, revealing that he actually did learn the location of the Batcave years ago, snuck into the hero's lair and shot himself in the heart to activate the same toxin in his system that Jokerized the Batman Who Laughs on his world.[29] Alfred successfully resuscitated the Joker, saving him from the brink of death - though he admitted he didn't necessarily want to.[30] Batman was temporarily infected and began transforming into a monster just like the Batman Who Laughs, but he managed to cure himself before the toxin could take hold.

Doomsday Clock

Watchmen and the search for Doctor Manhattan

Watchmen and the search for Doctor Manhattan

When heroes and villains from an alternate universe came to this Earth searching for Doctor Manhattan, the two criminals Marionette and Mime caught the attention of the Joker - whose henchmen believed the two were intruding on their boss' clown schtick and were, in turn, slaughtered by the visitors. The Joker, however, was pleased by his multiversial guests and escorted them through Gotham as the city erupted in riots.[31]

Joker brought the villains to the Riddler's secret League of Villainy, a group of criminals meant to team up and discuss the supposed "Super Theory", a conspiracy about the US government's involvement in the creation of superheroes.

However, Marionette and Mime were captured by the Comedian, who was also searching for Doctor Manhattan. Though the Comedian threatened to kill one of them, the Joker shocked the man unconscious with his joy buzzer, exclaiming his intention to find Doctor Manhattan as well.[32]

The clowns tortured the Comedian for information on Doctor Manhattan, but he didn't have much evidence to offer. Their paths crossed over with that of Batman, Rorschach and Ozymandias, with Joker even getting caught in the fight between the latter two as tensions escalated.[33]

Once Manhattan was found, the man was convinced by Superman's unwavering goodness to fix the damage he had caused to both universes. History was altered once again.

Joker War

 

Main article: The Joker War

Joker, once again with the knowledge that Batman was Bruce Wayne, initiated another endgame plot against the hero. At this time, Joker took on a new sidekick to help him with his plans - a woman he called Punchline.

Together, the clowns imitated plans concocted by a villain known as the Designer from earlier in Batman's career by pretending the master criminal was still alive, using a chemical that temporarily reanimated corpses. Batman was distracted defending the city as the Joker's real plan was set into motion. By the time that Batman had uncovered that the real Designer had been dead the whole time, Joker had connivingly stolen Bruce Wayne's entire fortune and company and planned to use it against him in a final gambit for the city.

Another personal attack

Another personal attack

Joker organized a mass riot of his cronies throughout Gotham to further distract Batman while he himself wasted Bruce's fortune on things like jokerized limos and gold chain necklaces. The Bat-Family came together and organized a counterassault to get the city under control, even teaming up with Harley Quinn, eager for revenge against the Joker.

Joker, to further hurt Batman, tried to brainwash Dick Grayson into becoming his sidekick. Dick, who was still suffering from amnesia at the time and was more vulnerable to persuasion, temporarily worked with the Joker as Dicky-Boy. However, Dick's full memories returned to him, and he abandoned the Joker to once again become Nightwing. [34]

When Batman finally confronted the Joker at his headquarters at ACE Chemicals, the hero found that the Joker had revived Alfred Pennyworth's corpse using the zombie formula. The Joker was disappointed that Bane had wasted the opportunity to kill Alfred in front of Bruce and sought a do-over. Joker, wearing his own version of the Batsuit, used Batman's extensive (and expensive) gadgets against him in the climactic fight, but, as soon as he got the upper hand, the villain was surprised by a bullet to the eye from Harley Quinn.

Quinn went rogue and attached bomb vests to both herself and the Joker, and Batman was forced to decide who he had time to save. Though the Joker was positive Batman would pick him, the Bat chose Harley, leaving the Joker to die in the scenario he had gotten himself into.

With the Joker's plan foiled and the city once again under control, Batman returned to the site of the battle and found that the Joker's bomb vest had been defused. He assumed the villain had used his gadgets to get out at the last minute and went into hiding.

Powers

  • Unique Physiology: Due to his chemical submergence, Joker has gained beyond-average advantages over normal humans as well as further exposure has tainted his physiology.
  • Cheating Death: The Joker has an uncanny ability to cheat deadly situations, including before his transformation into the Joker, when he was still Red Hood One.[12]
  • Regeneration: Joker's spine contains the chemical compound Dionesium within it. This allows Joker to recover from injuries at an accelerated rate. He was able to regenerate his face after it was cut off, and instantly heal from a lethal gunshot.[7]

Abilities

Weaknesses

Equipment


  • Joker was created by Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger, and Bob Kane, first appearing in Batman #1. However, in the Prime Earth continuity, Joker first appeared as part of the New 52 DC Universe in Detective Comics (Volume 2) #1 by Tony S. Daniel.
  • Joker (Prime Earth) appears as The Joker (Prime) a playable character in the Infinite Crisis video game.
  • The canonicity of Batman: Three Jokers Vol 1 has been subject to debate, with both DC Comics and its talent being inconsistent with whether it took place on Prime Earth or not. For more information, see the Notes section here.
    For our purposes on this website, we have decided to include Three Jokers as being within mainstream canon and, due to the complexities of chronicling the activities of each separate Joker, have decided to funnel their shared activity into this singular Joker page.
  • Of the multiple other men the original Joker transformed during Three Jokers, their delineating nicknames are as follows:[9]

Related

Footnotes


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This character is or was a member of the Legion of Doom, a team of supervillains culled together for the purpose of conquering the world and defeating the Super Friends, in any of its various incarnations. This template will categorize articles that include it into the "Legion of Doom members" category.

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This character, team or organization, is or was primarily an enemy of the Batman, or the Batman Family as a whole. This template will categorize articles that include it into the category "Batman Villains."

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This character, team, or organization, is or was primarily an enemy of Batgirl. This template will categorize articles that include it into the "Batgirl Villains category."

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