Is there anyone who hates Batman?
The Joker's Past: Eternal Mystery?
Everyone knows him, the iconic DC villain and Batman antagonist. Even those who have no idea about Batman can do something with their name and roughly know what he looks like. He is angry. He has green hair. His smile - or better: grin - never ends. His jokes are mostly fatal. We are of course talking about the joker! And although every child (big and small) knows him, one has to ask: do we really know the Joker?
Why is he the way he is? What was his childhood like? How did he become a wild card? What is actually his real name? You will see that there are no consistent versions of its origins. In fact, in most of the stories, not even Batman with his forensic superlab has the slightest inkling of which dark corner the Joker has crept out of. Nonetheless, we dug out a few details from various media that condense the picture of its genesis a little. Or cause complete confusion. Oh, make your own picture ...
Comics: From Fool to Abused Child
The Joker already made his debut appearance in a Batman comic from 1940. Yet another forty-eight years passed before anyone dared to address his past. We're talking, of course, of Alan Moore's legendary story The Killing Joke, which has now reached its very own iconic post among fans. The plot in a nutshell: The Joker wants to prove that anyone can go insane if they only have one bad enough day.
The Joker himself had this bad day, as various flashbacks demonstrate. At a young age he was an ordinary man with no money, but a pregnant woman. Since his career as a comedian was unsuccessful, he agreed to a deal: Masked as Red Hood, he led a few crooks to the site of a chemical company for which the Joker himself had once worked. For fear of the gangsters, he did not abandon this plan even when his wife suddenly died in an accident. But that was not all. During the course of the assignment, there is an escape from Batman and the police, which accidentally drops the nameless comedian into a container filled with toxic chemicals. The toxic substances bleach his skin and color his hair green. The traumatic shock over the physical transformation and the death of his wife and unborn baby finally trigger the madness in him.
Although the Joker continues to play a leading role in the Batman comics, decades again pass after The Killing Joke in which no one dares to go into the story of how it came about. Andy Kubert's comic Give the Monkey Sugar, which was published with the band Batman - Forever Evil Special # 1, provided a glimpse into the Joker's childhood in 2013. However, this story makes a wide berth around The Killing Joke. Because here the white skin of the Joker is explained by the fact that his aunt Eunice reaches for the bleach to clean him! At the same time, as a young boy, he was regularly beaten up by both her and his classmates. Grown up in the meantime, the Joker steals a monkey from the zoo that he calls Jackanapes (for example: cheeky badger). This could be a reference to the Batman movie, but more on that later. In any case, this story is not assigned to the mainstream continuity and instead pushed aside by fans as an entertaining Elseworld story. The secret of the joker is kept.
Films: from petty crook to mystery
In 1989, Tim Burton gave us not only the first (real) Batman film, but also a new genesis of the Joker. The script gives us the full name of the clown prince of crime for the first and last time: Jack Napier. This is an allusion to the word "Jackanapes" and even if this name has not generally caught on for the Joker, it has been referred to as Jack again and again since then. By the way, Burton's film is also the only story that makes the Joker the murderer of Bruce Wayne's parents. While these are usually shot by a man named Joe Chill after going to the theater, for once it is Joker's younger self who pulls the trigger.
In the film, Jack Napier, played by Jack Nicholson, first appears as the right-hand man of the underworld boss Grissom. Because of an affair with Grissom's girlfriend, Jack is set up as a punishment. He is assigned to break into a chemical plant while both the police and Batman have been informed without his knowledge. In the general chaos, Jack falls into a basin full of chemicals, survives it, but is physically transformed into the Joker we know through plastic surgery.
Christopher Nolan's film The Dark Knight turns out to be very different from Burton's elaborate explanation for the development of the Joker. The Joker played here by Heath Ledger remains entirely mysterious and inscrutable. His past becomes all the more confused because he tells very different stories about how he got his scars. Version 1: His alcoholic father wanted to "put a smile on his face". Version 2: The Joker inflicted the scars on himself to prove his love for his disfigured wife. Screenwriter Jonathan Nolan reveals that neither of the two genesis stories is likely to be true. The consequence of this simple idea of a lie is considerable. Because the background of the Joker was hardly discussed before this film, it has now developed into an open secret. You don't know how the joker came about. And that's exactly what makes it exciting.
Series: From the hypnotist to ... what actually?
The Batman television series of the 1960s gave the Joker a lot of appearances without ever going into his past life. The clown prince portrayed by Cesar Romero remained just a more or less harmless comedy figure. The only exception to the Joker's past is a remark by Batman that he used to be a hypnotist.
The Animated Series offers a bit more, the story of the origin of the Joker coinciding with that from the cartoon Batman and the Phantom: In both cases, the Joker proves to be a former hitman for a criminal organization who, while trying to rob a chemical plant, fell into the well-known Pelvis falls. The self-confidence of this Joker is so enormous that it seems to go beyond the scope of fiction. In contrast to the other characters, the Joker is the only one who speaks directly into the camera, as if he were aware that his world is not real. This also helps to make the Joker appear particularly mysterious. However, nothing was invented about the history of its origins.
The new Gotham series, on the other hand, is surprisingly innovative. Producer Bruno Heller has admitted that the second season will, among other things, revolve around the genesis of the Joker. It was also publicly announced that the Joker even made a small appearance in the first season. Most fans assume that this is the young circus employee Jerome Valeska. After killing his mother, he met his biological father for the first time in the interrogation room. The shock over it makes him burst into a diabolical laugh that reminds a little bit of the Joker ...
As far as the film Suicide Squad is concerned, there are increasing suspicions that director David Ayer could incorporate the genesis of the Joker into it. This is achieved in particular by the photos of Jared Leto as the Joker, which evoke clear associations with the comic The Killing Joke. Certainly there are some fans who are looking forward to the venting of the "Joker Secret" with expectant curiosity. But disappointment can also be expected in such a case. An empty vessel like the past of the clown prince is automatically filled with many imaginations. It's not unlikely that there is a connection between the Joker's nebulous past and its overwhelming popularity. We hope that it will not lose its mysterious flair.
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