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"My friend.....your luck is about to change."
―Carl Grissom to Jack Napier.[src]

Carl Grissom was the most powerful crime lord in Gotham City prior to Batman's emergence and was also partly responsible for the origin of the Joker.


Carl Grissom was the most powerful crime lord in Gotham City, running his own crime syndicate, with some or even most of the GCPD on his payroll, including Lieutenant Eckhardt. When the recently-elected District Attorney Harvey Dent began to make connections between Grissom and Axis Chemicals, Grissom panicked, and knew that the evidence that was stored at the plant was enough to have him either sent to prison for life or sentenced to the death penalty.


Carl Grissom speaking to Jack Napier.

Grissom also found out from Lt. Eckhardt that his mistress, Alicia Hunt, had an affair with his second-in-command, Jack Napier. Grissom put a plan into motion that would solve all his problems at once, ordering all evidence extracted from the plant long before holding a mock mob meeting on the matter. Grissom was able to convince Napier to oversee the extraction, despite his rank in the organization. Grissom sent them to crack an empty safe at Axis Chemicals. Before the group departed, Grissom reminded Napier to bring his "lucky deck" of cards, and placed it in his hat. After leaving his office Grissom chuckled to himself that Napier's luck was about to change, he called Eckhardt and ordered a police raid on the factory, with specific orders to kill Napier on site. The plan failed when Commissioner Gordon intervened to take Napier in alive as a potential witness. Eckhardt himself was shot in the chest and killed by a vengeful Napier. Immediately afterwards, Napier was confronted by Batman. After painfully having a ricocheted bullet through his cheeks whilst fighting Batman, he lost his footing and plummeted over a railing, where he fell into a chemical vat. Commissioner Gordon issued a statement to the Gotham Globe that Napier committed suicide by leaping into the acid as a cover story. Reading this left Grissom to believe that he was dead, much to his delight.


During an evening in the following days, Grissom had a visit from Napier, who inexplicably survived the ordeal. Grissom feigned relief, but Napier, armed with his revolver, scoffed at him, playing wise to his moves as he approached Grissom. Grissom also subtly attempted to reach for his gun, but Napier told him not to even bother reaching for it. Grissom then tried to reason with Napier by offering to cut a new deal, but Napier refused and instead revealed his new identity: The Joker, with white skin, green hair, and a widened and permanent red grin. Grissom was horrified by the sight. Declaring himself to be "a lot happier", the Joker fired a shot at Grissom's chest, causing the crime lord to cry in pain as he stumbled, before having a second shot fired on his heart, killing him as he fell into his chair. Joker then proceeded to randomly fire his remaining four bullets at Grissom's corpse, jumping gleefully and laughing manically through each shot before running out. With Grissom dead, Joker seized control of his empire.


After Grissom died, Joker tried to manipulate the mob kingpins into believing that Grissom was in hiding and that Grissom left him in charge. Rotelli was suspicious of the Joker because of his bizarre grin and did not want to take orders from him. As a result, Joker electrocuted Rotelli to death with his joy buzzer and then, the following day, he assassinated Vinnie Ricorso on steps of City Hall when Ricorso tried to use law and manipulation against the Joker by filing a false affidavit that stated that Grissom had instead handed Ricorso all of his operations. As for Alicia, she would fall to her death later on, which was implied to be either suicide from the macabre lifestyle that Joker introduced her to, or murder (as Joker now had affections for the photojournalist Vicki Vale instead of her). Grissom's death would be avenged when the Joker fell to his death from a helicopter while trying to escape from Batman.

Despite his death, Grissom's indirect creation of the Joker would pave the way for numerous crimelords who were inspired by Joker's theatricality such as Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and Poison Ivy.

A department store chain CEO named Max Shreck, who was quite similar to Grissom, would try to take advantage of the new era by working with the Penguin to terrorize the city in a bid for Penguin to become mayor so that Shreck's power plant could be approved. Similar to Grissom, Shreck would be responsible for the creation of Catwoman, who was almost as unstable as the Joker, and then meet his death at the hands of Catwoman in cold blood similar to how Grissom died at the hands of the Joker.

Following Shreck's death, the final remaining mob boss left in Gotham was Sal Moroni, who accidentally created Two-Face in an attempt to kill him in court under the belief that he was secretly a murderer targeting the remnants of the criminal underworld. Moroni was presumably convicted of his actions, as they were witnessed inside a courtroom full of law officials.


According to the novelization, Carl Grissom enjoys the finer things in life, such as his mistress Alicia Hunt, whom he felt looked so good hanging from his arm and his penthouse, which had the best view in Gotham City in Grissom's opinion.

Grissom had an excellent relationship with Jack Napier, prior to his transformation to the Joker, until Grissom learned from Lt. Eckhardt that Napier was having an affair with Alicia behind his back. Napier mentioned that Grissom was a tired old man who "couldn't run the city without [Napier]", which indicated that he was treacherous against his boss and was content with waiting until the mob boss died before he could take over the mob. Enraged, Grissom worked with Eckhardt to engineer a scheme to have Napier assassinated by removing the records connecting Axis Chemicals to his empire and sending Napier to Axis Chemicals to steal the evidence before Harvey Dent could. Grissom knew his employees that well as he anticipated Napier would suggest to break into Axis Chemicals, take the records, and manipulate the public into believing it was industrial espionage. Grissom is an expert manipulator as he was able to hide his anger towards Napier and manipulate him into falling for a trap.

It seems unclear what Grissom's relationship with Alicia was beforehand, but Grissom did treat her as if she was property and was very controlling towards her. According to the novelization, Grissom gave Alicia permission to go shopping. Although Grissom forgave Alicia for her infidelity, he did not forgive Jack out of jealously which is why Grissom engineered the scheme to have him killed. Alicia somewhat feared Grissom as she knew Grissom would have Jack assassinated if he ever learned about the affair, indicating that Grissom and Alicia knew each other that well. Despite this, Grissom did love Alicia which is why he always bought her expensive presents.

According to the novelization, Grissom had guilt in setting Jack up to die only for that guilt to dissolve quickly since Grissom felt this was something he had to do. When Napier turned out to be alive and succumbed to insanity because of his disfigurement, Grissom tried to manipulate Jack by feigning relief that he was alive only for Napier to play wise to Grissom's moves. Grissom expressed anger at Jack for his affair with Alicia that his life wouldn't be worth spit. When Grissom realized Jack wasn't intimidated by him, Grissom tried to bargain for his life only for Napier, now calling himself the Joker, to refuse and gun him down in cold blood.

Behind the Scenes[]

  • Grissom is based on Rupert Thorne and was previously identified as such in earlier drafts of the script by Tom Mankiewicz. In that version Thorne sent Joe Chill to murder Thomas Wayne, who ran against Thorne for City Council. When Sam Hamm was hired, he "normalized" the name and removed the Wayne murders connection. Hamm also changed Silver St. Cloud to Vicki Vale for similar reasons.
  • Similar to Max Shreck, Grissom was not adapted from on any particular character from the comic books, but shared many similarities with him, such as playing a role in the rise of the film's primary villain and then becoming the villain's target.
  • The Grissom Syndicate may have influenced the creation of the Falcone family in Frank Miller's 1988 Batman: Year One, a mobster that occupies the same space in Batman's early career. Hamm's script had been floating around since 1986 and influenced DC creators in significant ways before the movie was even made at Jenette Kahn's behest.


Screen Captures[]

Production Photos[]

Sawyer/Lehmann slides[]

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