The Joker: Mindless anarchist or a product of society?



In the pantheons of superheroes and villains no two characters are more intertwined than Bruce Wayne/Batman and Arthur/Fleck The Joker. Whereas the hero Batman’s birth is a product of loss, The Joker is often given an ambiguous background, which changes and morphs within the confines of our times.

With the introduction of Batman in DC’s 1939 Detective Comics #27, Bob Kane, its creator and artist introduced comic-book lovers to new type of superhero. One without otherworldly super-powers! This character, whilst physically based on ‘swashbuckling’ heroes of the time like Zoro, had a dark backstory, with the loss of his parents being central to his motivations to uphold justice, and with came the need to create a counter-balance! A ying to his yang as it were!

A Joker is born!


With the huge success of Batman’s introduction, it was only a matter of time until he got his own series of comics. In April 1940 a year after Batman was introduced, Batman issue #1 was released to much fanfare! With the release of a ‘Dark Knight’ also came an arch-nemesis, one that would follow this hero through 70 decades of popular culture, becoming arguably the most famous villain in comic book lore!


A character evolution



Ever noticed that nearly everything about the Joker is nearly the opposite, but dig deeper and you will find a lot of similarities! From the bright and colorful costumes, juxtaposed against the monotone of the Batman. Or from the light-hearted, yet warped sense of humor, compared to the brooding attitude of The Dark Knight! Everything about the Joker on the surface is the opposite of what Batman represents!
The Joker was initially played out as a maniac who committed  crime for fun, yet in time he evolved into much more! From the famous comics such as Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke to the most recent movie from Todd Phillips, simply titled ‘Joker’  the villain has found a real depth of character unlike many of his comic-book counterparts. Each new take brings a new side to the character, one that is very much relevant to its time.

During the 1960’s, the first onscreen tv serial take on the character was played by Cesar Romero, a character actor who famously refused to shave his mustache for the role. Hence similar to the comic portrayals of the time, his makeup and costumes were bright, in your face, and even slightly messy. Yet the comical and light portrayal of the Joker and to an extent the Batman franchise as a whole was very much set for a good many years until arguably the 1980’s when a new, darker take on the Batman mythology was created with the release of Frank Miller’s, 1986 masterpiece The Dark Knight Returns.




Often considered as single-handedly reviving comic-books and creating a new genre in its own right; the ‘graphic novel’, this take brought a new Joker who at his advanced age is hellbent on making Batman break the one rule he swore never to break by taking himself down and doing so by creating menace on the streets.
With the smart use of mass media, the portrayal was the first to play on politics and the use of television to spread all sorts of ideas. Very unique for its time. This played perfectly with the Joker's manipulation of the masses and panic when things go wrong. No one is trusted and no one, even Batman seems safe. One page-turner is a must for all fans of the Joker and Batman’s many stories.

Fast forward to 2019, and the latest take on the character was with the release of his first singular outing in the Oscar-winning ‘Joker’. Played by the brilliant Joaquin Phoenix, we see a troubled individual who has grown into a very intense character with a real need for human connections. Whilst the movie certainly takes cues from the classic 1976 Taxi Driver, in reality, one can pinpoint some of Arthur Fleck’s sadness to what many of us feel today with the onset of social media, in the end, whilst he did terrible things, an anti-hero of a sort is born and to an extent, viewers are left kind of rooting for him.

Many ideas have been given to the character over the years, but arguably no other actor embodied the Joker more ferociously than in 2008’s release of the second in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy: the Dark Knight. Here once again we were introduced to a new type of Joker, one who acted without particular reasoning, other than to prove a point. Taking some cues of the social unrest at the time. Nevertheless, The Joker, masterfully played by the great Heath Ledger also played on this notion of ambiguity, by constantly changing the story of how he got his scars. Did he even know himself? Arguably yes, he did and that was part of his fun persona. A near-perfect action movie that took some great cues from heist films such as Michael Mann’s Heat!


So who is The Joker?


Throughout the years, and with the many different takes on The Batman mythology, it is clear that with such a complex hero, also comes a complex villain, a villain of his time that represents the pop-culture and social themes of his time.
The ending of the Dark Knight showed us that Joker sometimes represented the not so great side of us, but humanity always overcomes and in hard times comes together to fight for justice. It is for this very reason that The Joker always remains a great character and fun character to watch whether on comic book pages, on the big screen, or maybe even by displaying the latest DAH or Egg Attack Joker characters from the Beast Kingdom!

So who is your favorite iteration of The Joker? And why? Shout out in the comments below and see you next time!