Joker Venom has been a part of the Joker's arsenal since the very start of his criminal career. In his early years, the Clown Prince of Crime would most often use the Joker Venom as an indirect, long-distance means of murder, but later came to embrace it as a close-range weapon
Joker Venom is a chemical compound, most typically used by the Joker, that forces the human body to smile and/or laugh uncontrollably. In its most common form, it kills within seconds of exposure and affixes the victim's jaw muscles into a grotesque rictus grin.
Joker Venom has been a part of the Joker's arsenal since the very start of his criminal career. In his early years, the Clown Prince of Crime would most often use the Joker Venom as an indirect, long-distance means of murder, but later came to embrace it as a close-range weapon as well. The venom is effective in both gas and liquid form, allowing it to be delivered through a wide variety of mediums, including aerosol sprays, darts, balloons, food and drink, and — perhaps most commonly — the Joker's boutonnière flower.
After his year-long absence from Gotham, the Joker began using a new variety of Joker Venom that left victims with a frown instead of a grin. He used this variety on the GCPD officers while he retrieved his face.
The Joker himself is immune to most if not all strains of Joker Venom (a possible side-effect of his own constant exposure to and abuse of his chemical weaponry).
Pre-Crisis, the origins of Joker Venom are never elaborated upon, and the Joker is implied to have created the deadly compound himself. Post-Crisis, its chief inventor is Melvin Reipan, a relative of the Joker's possessing a savant-like knowledge of chemistry; after Melvin's death, the Joker apparently learned how to reproduce the poison himself.
Effects and Characteristics
Any contact with Joker Venom tends to be almost instantly fatal; as they expire, victims are often seized by uncontrollable spasms of laughter (an effect that may stem from the venom hyperstimulating the laughter functions of the brain, in the process asphyxiating all breathing). The final death throes invariably lead into an oversized rictus grin, possibly with the victim's hair and skin tone also discolored to resemble the Joker's own.
Less commonly, victims of Joker Venom may experience vivid hallucinations and/or become violently deranged. While this at first appeared to be a peripheral side-effect, the Joker later focused several variants of the venom around "Jokerizing" civilians, fellow supervillains, and even superheroes such as the Justice League.
The Joker has also designed several variants of Joker Venom that only kill after a set number of hours, or even paralyze non-lethally, but these are used very sparingly.
The S.T.A.R. Labs 1993 Annual Report states that Joker Venom is "a hellish mixture of hydrogen cyanide and Strychnodide (a strychnine derivative), the toxin causes immediate cessation of heart and brain functions. As a side effect, the victim's muscles contract in such a way as to severely tighten and discolor the victim's skin, especially in the facial area. This leaves the victim's corpse permanently scarred with a clown-like grin in tribute to his killer. Since the Joker Venom is just as deadly if absorbed through the pores as it is if inhaled, the Joker occasionally releases it in gas form throughout the central heating/cooling vents of a building."
- At least one strain of Joker Venom has been shown to be effective post-mortem, able to produce the iconic rictus grin even if injected into someone already dead.
- Joker Venom has also been used in other capacities. Maxie Zeus was known to have diluted it and mixed it with Ecstasy, marketing it as a drug called "Chuckles" which became popular at raves. One news-magazine referred to Chuckles as the worst drug epidemic since crack in the late '80s.
- According to Tim Drake, there are more than fifty different strains of Joker Venom.
- Batman fears slipping into the desire to murder the Joker as he fears the Joker is outfitted with a variant of Joker Venom to poison the one who killed him.
- Tim Burton's Batman refers to it as Smylex, a name later given to a brand of toothpaste in the Burton-directed Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.
- The exact formula for Joker Venom was the subject of a two-page gag feature in Joker: Last Laugh Secret Files and Origins #1, which meticulously censored all the actual ingredients out of its text.
- Joker Venom may have inspired the "Dust of Death" wielded by Marvel supervillain Red Skull. The Dust's creator, Steve Englehart, was a noted fan of Golden Age Batman stories who would go on to write Batman: Strange Apparitions.
- This connection was directly addressed in Batman and Captain America, where the Joker and Red Skull attack one another with their respective poisons. Due to their similar compositions, they prove mutually ineffective, as each man had already inoculated himself against his own poison.
Links and References
- Batman #1
- Batman #251
- World's Finest #156
- Batman #426
- Batman #663
- Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #50
- Batman: The Man Who Laughs
- Joker: Last Laugh #1
- Batman (Volume 2) #35
- DC Technical Manual: S.T.A.R. Labs 1993 Annual Report
- The Brave and the Bold #111
- Batman: Cacophony #1
- Detective Comics #880
- The Batman Who Laughs #1