After killing Bruce Wayne's parents which inspired him to become the Batman as a teenager, mobster Jack Napier fell into vat of chemicals years later which turned his skin chalk white and dyed his hair green. His bizarre appearance caused his mind to snap and turned Jack into the Joker, a narcissistic anarchist with a love of art and murdering people as horrifically as possible.
Appearing in the top grossing and critically acclaimed 1989 Batman feature film, he was portrayed by Jack Nicholson. His defining performance helped redefine the superhero movie genre and paved the way for future superhero films as well. Jack Nicholson's Joker also inspired the look of the Clown Prince of Crime in the 1992 Batman: The Animated Series.
The Joker is a major supervillain in the DC Comics, first appearing in Batman #1 which was published on April 25, 1940. Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson are credited as being responsible for his creation. He has been considered to be THE principal arch-nemesis to the Dark Knight for decades and the most recognizable as well as being widely considered to be one of the greatest supervillains of all time as the Clown Prince of Crime.
Like his nemesis who uses bats, the Joker employs his own symbolism revolving around clowns, comedy, playing cards and his warped and sadistic sense of humor and mad genius have made him a potent adversary for the Dark Knight Detective along with his bleached white skin, shocking green hair, and macabre death head's grin make him one of the most visually distinctive.
The Joker has been a defining part of the mythology and history of the Batman for decades ever since his appearance. For the most part, he has never had a definitive origin story.
The Joker's identity is a mystery and at times, he has claimed various different versions which are contradictory. Some indicate that he was a failed comedian forced into a life of crime; others state that he was a former Gotham hoodlum turned crime boss who hid behind a veneer of respectability and high-priced lawyers; another history indicates that he was abused by his father with a runaway mother which turned him into a life of crime; while yet another origin proclaims that he was a brilliant but sadistic genius.
The Joker admits that even he doesn't know for sure which is real and which is false but typically all of his stories involve the Batman and the Ace Chemical Plant where he was being pursued by the Dark Knight only to to fall into a vat of chemicals. The strange mixture would turn his skin chalk white, dye his hair green, and cause his facial muscles to be pulled into a fixed rictus. Some stories have indicated that the shock of his new bizarre appearance caused him to lose his mind while others suggest that the Joker is actually sane but like his archnemesis who cultivates his reputation to make criminals superstitious and fearful of him; the Joker does the same by employing bizarre and convoluted campaigns to make himself appear to be insane but is actually a carefully cultivated mask of randomness and unpredictability.
Among his more memorable heinous acts have included murdering of Jason Todd, the second Robin; paralyzing Barbara Gordon by shooting her in the spine, ending her career as Batgirl; and murdering Commissioner Gordon's second wife Sarah Essen.
The Joker has made numerous frequent appearances in various films, animated cartoons, and television series starring the Batman over the decades.
Born in Brooklyn, Jack Napier's family ultimately came to live in Gotham. In his school years, he proved himself to be emotionally unstable and highly intelligent, showing aptitude in art, science, and chemistry; but he preferred a life of violence and crime. By the time he was fifteen, he was already convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.
As a young man, he and his friend Bob mugged a wealthy socialite, Dr. Thomas Wayne and his family. When Thomas Wayne tried to intervene to protect his family, Jack brutally shot him and Martha. He also would have finished off young Bruce as well but the approaching presence of police officers, resulted in Jack running off and left the highly traumatized Bruce behind which would ultimately inspire him to become the masked vigilante known as the Batman.
As an adult, Jack was inducted into the Gotham Mafia where he rose up the ranks, becoming the number one enforcer of Boss Carl Grissom. He was well known for his ruthlessness and brutality despite his urbane personality and was well known for his fondness for cards, particularly playing with his lucky deck. Jack became increasingly ambitious and viewed himself as Grissom's natural successor while others such as the corrupt Police Lieutenant Max Eckhardt viewed him as a sociopath. Jack also entered into an affair with Alicia Hunt, Grissom's trophy girlfriend which prompted Grissom to have Jack executed and inadvertently led Jack Napier's transformation into the psychopathic Joker.
Personality and Traits
Before his transformation into the Joker, Jack Napier was rather vain who liked dressing in nice suits and the finer things in life. He was disdainful of everyone else, even his superior Boss Carl Grissom and enjoyed snidely commenting on him behind his back. Napier was also hugely ambitious and unafraid of voicing his opinions as well as his future plans to assume Grissom's place in the natural course of time. He was also mildly phobic about chemicals and wary about their fumes.
His relationship with Alicia Hunt was mainly superficial, in part because she looked nice and was also Carl Grissom's girlfriend. He also had a very limited sense of humor and tended to be snarky and grumpy with a habit of playing with his lucky deck of cards. The only thing he apparently enjoyed was killing and hurting people which was the sole thing that brought a smile to his face.
A ricocheting bullet sent glass fragment into his face, permanently damaging them and his immersion into strange mix of chemicals resulted in turning his skin chalk white and turning the follicles of his hair green. Attempts at limited surgery at repairing his facial disfigurement instead caused his cheek muscles to be stretched taut and created a permanent stretched out grin. All of these factors combined gave him a truly bizarre appearance which caused his mind to snap, turning him into the Joker.
As the Joker, he sees the world as a truly macabre joke and seeks to make everyone else view as he does. In that fashion, he employs a variety of gadgets and gimmicks as tools and weapons from a razor sharp quill; a supercharged joy buzzer; and a flower that squirts acid. His most frequent weapon however is a weaponized chemical that he has dubbed "Smylex" which causes to start to laugh uncontrollably before dying. A bizarre side effect also causes their cheek nerve muscles to pull taut, causing them to have a rictus death grin.
He has proclaimed that he realized that life is transitory, but death is permanent and that it is his job to make it as artistic as possible.
Both as Jack Napier and the Joker, he demonstrated an extremely high intellect as well as talents in art, science, and chemistry as well as extreme cunning and ruthlessness as a criminal mastermind.
- This version of the Joker is the sole one who has a specifically identified real name and origin. Although many incarnations frequently use his connection with the Batman and his fall into a vat of chemicals that created him, the true identity of the Joker has never actually been verified and several possible and contradictory "stories" relating to his exact background have been revealed.
- The name of Jack Napier has been used as a possible alias for the Joker on several occasions in both the comics and animated cartoons. According to Burton, it was intended to be a play on the word "jackanapes" which is an Old English term for a impudent, foolish child who resembles a monkey.
- It was intended that Jack Nicholson would have made a reappearance as the Joker; albeit in a flashback scene in the fifth installment in the Burton/Schumacher Batman Franchise tentatively named as Batman Triumphant. It would have been accompanied with the revelation that one of the main villains in the movie, Harley Quinn was his biological daughter who sought revenge on Batman for his role in her father's death. However, disappointing sales and scathing reviews of Batman & Robin led to the cancellation of Batman Triumphant and Nicholson's reappearance as the Joker.
- Although Jack Nicholson was first approached about the part of the Joker, he was hesitant over accepting the role which caused Warner Brothers to approach Robin Williams who accepted the part. Afterwards Warner Bros. went back to Nicholson and told him that if he didn't accept the part, Robin Williams would be the Joker and Nicholson decided to accept the role and they promptly released Williams. Williams was furious over being used in such a manner and refused to have anything more to do with the Batman Franchise and Warner Brothers even though he was subsequently offered the role of the Riddler in the 1995 Batman Forever film.
- "You ain't got no future, Jack! You're an A-1 nut boy, and Grissom knows it." ―Lt. Max Eckhardt to Jack Napier prior to becoming the Joker; Batman
- "Jack? Jack is dead, my friend. You can call me... Joker! And as you can see, I'm a lot happier!"
- "If you gotta go...GO WITH A SMILE!"
- "Batman?! Batman?!! Can somebody tell me what kind of a world we live in where a man dressed up as a bat gets all of my press?! This town needs an enema!"
- "Wait till they get a load of me!"
- "Haven't you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?"
- "Do I look like I'm joking?"
- "I have given a name to my pain, and it is Batman."
- "New and improved Joker products! With a new secret ingredient: Smylex. Now, let's go over to our blind taste test. Uh-oh. He don't look happy. He's been using Brand X. But with new and improved Joker brand, I get a grin again and again. That luscious tan, those ruby lips, and hair color so natural, only your undertaker knows for sure. I know what you're saying: where can I get these fine new items? Well that's the gag. Chances are, you've bought 'em already! So, remember, spread a little sunshine, and put on a happy face!"
- "Sometimes I just KILL myself!"
- Joker (Adventures of Batman)
- Joker (Batman: The Brave and the Bold)
- Jester (Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths)
- Joker (Legoverse)
- Joker (Batman: Assault on Arkham)
- Bob the Goon (Buronverse)
- Carl Grissom (Burtonverse)
- Alicia Hunt (Burtonverse)