"And now comes the part, where I relieve you the little people of the burden of your failed and useless lives. But as my plastic surgeon always said, If you gotta go... GO WITH A SMILE!"
―The Joker to Gotham's citizens at Gotham's 200th Anniversary Parade before he tries to kill them.[src]

The Joker was the chosen alias of Jack Napier, a mob enforcer whose appearance was radically altered by chemicals and botched plastic surgery. Joker became Batman's first great enemy after he attempted to take control of the city from the mob and committed mass random murders.

Joker and Batman shared a secret past that made them greater enemies than either first realized. Prior to Joker's emergence, Batman was regarded as an urban legend but his attempts to thwart Napier gradually left him more exposed to the public.


Early Life

Born in Brooklyn, Jack Napier came to live in Gotham City. In his school years, Jack proved himself to be emotionally unstable, but was highly intelligent, and showed aptitude in art, science and chemistry. He also turned to a life of violent crime. When he was fifteen, Jack was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. Jack, at one point, implied that he may have also murdered people, including those who were parents, since he was a kid.

In 1963, as a young man of the age of twenty-six, Jack and Joe Chill mugged Bruce Wayne's parents, Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife, Martha.

When Thomas interceded in order to protect his family, Jack stepped from the shadows and shot both him and Martha in cold-blood. Jack then inquired to young Bruce after he stepped out of the shadows with his gun aimed: "Tell me, kid, you ever danced with the Devil by the pale moonlight?". Jack cocked the hammer of his revolver and was about to shoot him, but before he could fire, Chill urged him to leave: "Let's go, Jack!". Jack uncocked his gun, decided to spare the boy, turned to leave, and said: "See you around, kid".

Little did Jack know that his prediction came true — he and Bruce met again in the future.

Grissom's Number One Guy

"He can't run this city without me..."
―Jack Napier to Alicia Hunt about Carl Grissom.[src]

Jack Napier as Carl Grissom's right-hand man.

As Jack aged, he worked his way up in the Mafia ranks, and eventually became the right-hand man of Mob Boss, Carl Grissom. Jack often toyed with a lucky deck of playing cards, which most likely saved his life on one occasion due to a bullet hole that was in between each card and often twirled the cards in small tricks. In stark contrast to his later hilarious attitude, Jack's persona was rather sarcastic and grumpy, and he prided himself on a dignified and handsome appearance.

Jack doubted the competence of Grissom's leadership of the crime family and also snidely retorted to a news broadcast of Harvey Dent's speech about decent people living in Gotham: "Decent people should live somewhere else", as well as heavily implied that he'd kill Dent brutally if the latter even attempted to move in on Grissom.

Jack entered into an affair with Grissom's mistress, Alicia Hunt, which prompted Grissom to set him up to be killed by GCPD Officer, Lt. Eckhardt at Axis Chemicals. When Grissom informed Jack of his entrusted task with stealing incriminating documents from the plant, Jack was toying with his lucky deck again. Jack then turned a random card's face towards him as he inquired "me?". The card happened to be a Joker (which, coincidentally, was the very thing that he later became).

Jack meeting Batman for the first time at Axis Chemicals.

Grissom's plan went awry thanks to intervention by both Batman and Commissioner Gordon and his more loyal police officers. He gunned down Eckhardt and then tried to do the same to Batman. However the Dark Knight deflected his attack and the bullet ricocheted off the factory's machinery, striking him in the face through both cheeks. In pain and in a panic, Jack lost his balance, and fell off the catwalk. Though Batman caught Jack's arm and attempted to pull him back up to safety, Jack's leather glove slipped through Batman's, and he plummeted into the chemical vat below.

Jack survived, and was washed into Gotham Harbor by a drainage pipe. Still submerged, Jack stretched an arm upward through the water's surface, where his lucky deck floated.

Jack reaching for escape from his chemical submersion.

Jack's long chemical submersion permanently wreaked a horrible toll: his hair follicles and nails were turned emerald green, his skin pigmentation was bleached chalk white and his lips were flushed ruby-red.

Becoming the Joker

"Jack? Jack is dead, my friend. You can call me... Joker! And as you can see, I'm a lot happier!"
―The Joker to Carl Grissom, moments before he killed him.[src]

Jack Napier as the Joker in Carl Grissom's Office.

After he saw the horrible result of his chemical encounter, Jack turned to a hack plastic surgeon named Dr. Davis and was particularly desperate to have his facial wounds healed to preserve his prized appearance. Despite an extensive procedure, Davis informed Jack that not only was he unable to reverse the chemical damage to his skin and hair, but due to the extent of the trauma - specifically completely severed nerves - and a lack of effective tools, Davis was forced to resort to a procedure similar to a face lift; stretching the skin of Jack's cheeks over the gashes to hide them, resulting in a permanent rictus grin. At Jack's demand, Davis presented Jack with a mirror to reveal that his carefully maintained appearance had been transformed to that of a clown.

This was unacceptable to the vain mobster, and after moments of reflecting on all that had transpired, Jack lost touch with what little sanity that he had. He began to laugh maniacally and convulsively, then smashed the mirror that he held on the table that held Davis' tools, stumbled out of the room, and laughed into the night.

With Jack's mind completely snapped after he saw his bizarre new appearance, Jack then assumed the new identity of "The Joker". He went directly to Grissom's apartment, revealed his survival, and made clear that he knew that it was Grissom who set him up to die in the first place, especially regarding Alicia as his motive, and also held Grissom up in order to prevent him from reaching for a stowed away gun. Grissom tried to cut a deal with Joker but the crazed mobster killed him as revenge for setting him up and took over his empire. When sitting at his now deceased boss' desk, he picked up a newspaper which read "Winged Freak Terrorizes Gotham's Gangland" and scowled, deciding to get revenge and "outdo" Batman, whom he felt was getting too much press. He said with a smile "Wait'll they get a load of me", and laughed heartily.

The Clown Prince of Crime then engaged in a violent and chaotic crime spree. When Joker tried to present himself in a more "normal" light, he applied various cosmetic products to give himself a more normal-looking skin tone and hair color that resembled his original appearance.

Mob Meeting

During a mob summit with the rest of the Gotham City Crimelords, Jack claimed that Grissom was just in hiding, who then left him to be the acting President, and declared that, starting with Gotham's 200th anniversary festival, their action would be to "run the city into the ground". However, most of the mob bosses, including Antoine Rotelli and Vinnie Ricorso, were suspicious of Jack's apparent orders from Grissom and his constant devilish grin. Rotelli then wondered what would happen if he said "no". Jack then responded with a handshake and that would be it. Unfortunately for Rotelli, Jack meant by that statement that it would be it for Rotelli, as he fried and electrocuted Rotelli with a Joy Buzzer, which horrified the rest of the Mob bosses and with Jack joking about his demise and then laughing at it. Jack then dismissed the mob as his Goons then rushed in and held them at gunpoint. Joker then ordered Bob to tail Alexander Knox to find out more information on Batman, and then decided (by talking to Rotelli's charred corpse as if he were still alive) to "grease" all of the mob bosses at the summit.

Assassination of Vinnie Ricorso

Joker then arrived at City Hall and, after he claimed that the check was written with a dead hand, murdered Ricorso (who claimed that Grissom had landed him with the check with his signature) with his quill pen after he claimed that he was his "Uncle Bingo" and then had his mime faction of his gang open fire. As Napier made his way down the stairs he noticed that Bruce Wayne was the only member of the crowd who not taken cover, unafraid. Joker got in his black sedan getaway car and waved at Bruce as he stared into window.

Following his debut to the public, Bob showed Joker a photo of Vicki Vale he had taken the event. Joker had a strong reaction to her beauty, a striking blonde similar to Alicia. Joker set up a fake date between her and Bruce Wayne.

Smylex Commercial

During this time Joker began to taint some of the raw components of chemicals shipped to beauty companies from the Axis plant. A strange office space was set up in the factory. with a plastic dog next to a common arm chair, mocking domesticity. A large studio room had hundreds of photos taken of dead soldiers stolen from a CIA file where spread across the floor. An elderly scientist, one of the few employees still working at the plant began obeying his wishes. Joker Goons now inhabited the factory and carried the menial labor of loading trucks and operating the gates. A video threat was taped at the plant and interrupted the Action News broadcast when news of the first victims broke.

Incident at the Flugelheim

Joker and his henchmen planned the deaths of patrons and staff of the Flugelheim Museum. A purple gas was released through the ventilation system, killing everyone there apart from Vicki who been given a gas mask by a waiter. Joker was driven to the museum in the Joker Van, where Alicia was left parked outside. As Joker entered the building, he cued Lawrence to blast a song called Partyman on his boombox. The group danced over the corpses and defaced every priceless work of art on their way up the stairs, Joker's goal that evening to deface every vision of beauty that came into view, his final target, Vicki Vale. After sitting at her table he mocked her entire fashion portfolio but praised a photo of a dead civilian from the Corto Maltese Revolution. He offered her the job of photographing his homicidal performance art but she didn't seem very enthusiastic. During this Bob walked Alicia over to table, now unable to stand by herself. Vicki asked about her mask and Napier asked her to show her scarred visage. Joker balked as it startled Vale so much she immediately rose from her seat, realizing the full extent of Napier's intentions. Joker closed in to squirt her face with his Acid Flower, she dodged and threw water in his face. His flesh makeup now ruined, Joker feigned pain, hiding his face and rubbing more makeup off. As Vale attempted to comfort him he looked up to startle her and cackled in her face. Suddenly Batman crashed through the skylight and grabbed Vale away from him. As Joker stepped forward, the Dark Knight held up a Foefie Gauntlet and unfurled the folding gadgetry in his face, creating a zipline from the balcony to the entrance. Joker watched mouth agape as the pair left the building, he could only ponder where one could acquire such "wonderful toys."

Smylex Plan Failed

Later he saw on the news that Batman had been able to figure out how the Joker's products were poisoning people. It had been discovered that Joker had cleverly tainted the chemicals of the products from a mixture of components that would only be poisonous if the products were combined, such as hairspray being combined with lipstick and eyeshadow. Now that Gotham City knew, they were avoiding using the products altogether until safe products would be shipped in. This as well as Batman taking Vicki away from him, made the Joker furious and he vowed to kill the Dark Knight for interfering in his plans.

Reclaiming his Rhubarb

The following day he arrived at Vale's apartment to express his anger of her running off with a "sideshow phony." He presented the mask of Alicia, placing it on the mantle and smashing it after claiming she had jumped out a window. Wildly giggling, suddenly Bruce Wayne appeared. As he approached Joker, Bob pointed his pistol at him on the quickest draw of his life, ready to protect Jack. Joker motioned to Bob and Lawrence to stand down and let Wayne speak. Bruce leaned in and whispered that he know Napier's true identity, he then proceeded to tell a story about a "bad seed" that met an unfortunate end. This culminated in Wayne settling next to the fireplace, grabbing the fire iron and smashing a vase, beckoning Napier come "get nuts" with him.

Napier looked on stone faced, drawing a small derringer he asked if he'd ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight. Bruce asked "What?" in dismay, to which Joker explained he asked that of all his prey before shooting him in the heart. Joker gave a final disingenuous speech to Vale making his way out of the apartment. Joker danced and blew raspberries down the hall as he exited the building.

200th Anniversary Parade

"Sometimes I just kill myself!"
―Joker, prior to his death[src]

Later, Joker sent a live television broadcast, saying that he would reignite the previously cancelled Gotham City's 200th Anniversary Parade against Mayor Borg's wishes who was not prepared to discuss any deals with him. Joker even promised to drop twenty million dollars on the crowd and offered a challenge to Batman to meet him there.

Batman then drove to Axis Chemicals to stop the manufacturing of Joker's poisonous products once and for all. Batman succeeded in destroying the factory and killed most of Joker's henchmen, but Joker escaped in his helicopter, and mockingly told Batman that he wasn't beaten yet.

At the parade, Joker threw twenty million dollars into the crowd as he had promised (the comic adaptation of the film and the novelization as well as a deleted scene revealed that the money was actually fake one dollar bills with Joker's face on them). After that, Joker released a gas form of Smylex out of his Balloons. Batman arrived in the Batwing, took away the balloons, and released them into the night sky, which caused Joker to kill Bob to vent out his frustration. Batman then made a strafing run on the Joker, but Joker shot down the Batwing with an explosive round that was fired from his long barreled gun.

Skirmish of Gotham Cathedral

Joker then took Vicki hostage and led her at gunpoint into the Old Gotham Cathedral. Realizing that an injured Batman was pursing them up the immense staircase, he made Vicki leave behind her high heels and trench-coat possibly to lure him. When Joker reached the bell tower, he used his Acid Flower to disconnect one of the massive bells which fell to the ground and blocked the only entrance to the stairs so they wouldn't be followed by the police. The falling bell narrowly missed the Dark Knight and he continued the pursuit. Joker then ordered three of his goons to attack the Batman on sight while he forced Vicki to waltz. Batman eventually reached the belfry and after he defeated Joker's henchmen, confronted Joker, and vowed to kill him for murdering his parents years ago, although Joker, who had apparently murdered several parents since he himself was a kid, did not know what Batman was talking about and eventually mocked him for how he made the revelation of Joker making Batman first.

The Joker confronting Batman in the Bell Tower at the Gotham Cathedral.

During their confrontation, Batman repeatedly beat up Joker and managed to knock him off the balcony, but Joker reached up with both of his arms and pulled both Batman and Vicki down. Batman and Vicki held on for dear life from a narrow ledge, while Joker insanely taunted them. Joker's helicopter then arrived to get Joker to safety. Batman fired a bolo launcher that then tied Joker's ankle to a large stone gargoyle. The Joker sealed his fate when it broke loose as he refused to let go of the helicopter's rope ladder.

Death and legacy

Unable to break free from the heavy burden of the gargoyle, Joker finally lost his grip on the rope ladder, fell to his death, and hit the Cathedral's flight of steps below hard, which then broke every bone in his body.

The Joker smiling eternally in death.

Ironically, just a few seconds beforehand, Joker said: "Sometimes I just kill myself!" Commissioner Gordon then came upon Joker's body and heard a repetitive laugh which drew him ever so slowly. Gordon then reached into Joker's coat and pulled out a laugh box that was activated by the landing.

Though the madness of the Joker was ended forever, the decline of the Gotham mob and the Joker's initial rise paved the way for the appearance of numerous villains with a similar theatricality to both Batman and Joker, such as Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy while Harvey Dent himself would suffer a horrific incident that would transform him into the villainous Two-Face.

Though his parents were finally avenged, Bruce continued to have bad memories of Jack Napier killing them for the next several years as well as regrets of continuing to be Batman. This eventually led him to get psychiatric help from Chase Meridian, who eventually helped him to overcome his fears and also made him realise that being Batman and helping rid Gotham City from crime was now of his own choosing.


Jack Napier was seen as quite vain, with a penchant for nice suits and Alicia Hunt as his trophy girlfriend. In contrast to Joker, Napier was quite humorless, though when he committed his crimes, he made large smiles on his face (after he murdered the Waynes' or when he enjoyed killing Eckhardt). However, Napier was still equally as psychotic, although not as outwardly, with hints of his psychopathic nature that oozed out when he watched Harvey Dent's speech about making Gotham safe for decent people, noted that "decent people" needed to move elsewhere and also stated he'd "hand [Dent's] lungs to him by now" should Dent even dare try to move in against Grissom, which showed that Napier had no qualms with killing any threats to the mob in an extremely graphic manner. Napier was also not above murdering children, as he was clearly preparing to execute Bruce Wayne on a whim after he murdered his parents and would have gone through with it with zero remorse had Chill not told him to flee the scene. Even prior to killing Grissom upon becoming the Joker as revenge for being set up, 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. Napier's treachery was also retained after he became the Joker, where told his friend, Bob, that he was his number one guy in a very similar manner to how Grissom himself told Jack that right before he sent him off to Axis Chemicals to die, which implied that he may have been planning a similar fate for Bob in the future. While he discussed Grissom and Eckhardt's future within the mob, Eckhardt retorted to Napier that he was: "An A-1 nut boy". After he read Napier's Police File Report, Bruce summed up to the Joker his opinion of what he was before: "Mean kid, bad seed, hurt people (...) he got sloppy, you know crazy, he started to lose it. He had a head full of bad wiring, I guess. Couldn't keep it straight up here. He was the kind of guy who couldn't hear the train until it was two feet from him. (...) Well... he made mistakes. Then he had his lights out!".

Like many criminals before him, Napier was just as terrified of Batman when he first met him. However, after he became the Joker, Napier had absolutely no fear of Batman, and, in fact, not only was he unphased by Batman vowing to kill him, but reminded Batman bluntly that he was the reason why Joker existed, and even when told that he himself had been responsible for Batman's existence, he didn't lose his composure and continued to mock him.

When he sought out surgery after he fell into the vat of chemicals, it was possible that Napier finally lost his remaining sanity upon seeing his new appearance, although he explained to Batman that he tried to get over it. As a result, the Joker was born cackling madly. Joker also was shown to "talk" to Antoine Rotelli's corpse as if he were still alive and was even "told" by him to "grease" the remaining mobsters at the summit, although it was unclear whether he genuinely believed that he was being told that by Rotelli or was simply mocking the deceased mobster, as shortly afterwards, he laughed exhilarated over his own words about how he's "glad that [Rotelli's] dead". Throughout the film, the Joker had skills for using all sorts of gadgets as weapons. Joker killed a mob boss with a quill, another with a supercharged Joy Buzzer, and was frequently seen using an Acid Flower. Also, Joker had a tendency to wear gag chattering teeth so that he could shock the enemy if he was punched in the face long enough to attempt a retaliatory blow, as he attempted to do with Batman in their final encounter.

In addition to his trademark gadgets, the Joker also had a macabre sense of humor, which was both surreal and morbid. The Joker was also quite sadistic, as seen when he shot Grissom and laughed, deliberately disfigured Alicia (it's strongly implied also that he threw her to her death out of a window) and found humor in killing Mob boss, Rotelli. It's also implied that when he killed Grissom, that Joker actually seemed to enjoy death in itself, and not just the deaths of other people, and even went as far as referred to it as "therapy" from his experience. That belief was contradicted near the end of the film, though, when Joker was seen screaming as he fell to his death. However, that might have been because there was no way that he could have survived.

Police Case History Folder

Bruce asked for Alfred to bring him a copy of the GCPD's Case History Folder on Napier. Included were two mugshots, one of Napier from recent years, and one of him from the time period that he murdered the Waynes. The following were known segments of the report. All underscores indicated sections of words or numbers that were currently unverifiable:

Jack Napier - Police Case History Folder

Name: Jack Napier. Sex: Male. Address: 1379 P__ 565, Gotham City. Age: 52.....6778 __: Gotham. Height: 5 ft. 11". __: JN7. __:265-784. __ by: __. __: 2846287.

Assault: AC+D = __ N (8-29-76)

__: AC+D = __ A (2-16-78)

__: AC+D = __ A (11-6-80) Can not prove

Extortion: AC+D = __ J (12-16-81)

Bruce then summarized the remainder of the report. "Jack Napier, assault with a deadly weapon, age fifteen. Results of psychological profile: Violent mood swings, highly intelligent, emotionally unstable. Aptitudes include science, chemistry, and art".


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Behind the Scenes

  • The name Jack Napier, was a play on the word "jackanapes" according to Sam Hamm.
  • Jack Nicholson had ample creative control over the character, which included final say on what the character would look like in the film. However, not all of his decisions won out in the final appearance, as Tim Burton and Make-up Artist Nick Dudman also provided ideas that pleased Nicholson.
  • The Joker, being the murderer of Bruce Wayne's parents, had been Burton's intention with the character since he first joined the film. However, Screenwriter Sam Hamm argued with Burton and managed to talk him out of putting it in. Burton placed the plot back in during Principal Photography because Hamm was not present during filming due to a Writer's Strike.
  • Nicholson got into the habit of signing his Joker gloves and giving them away as gifts to visitors on the set, much to the chagrin of Costume Designer Bob Ringwood. Ringwood then asked Nicholson to cease giving out the gloves and, although he promised that he would, kept doing it. New gloves were constantly being made throughout filming, Ringwood estimated that there must have been hundreds of signed Nicholson Joker Gloves.
  • According to the Wanted Posters that were handed out by Eckhardt at Axis Chemicals, Napier was born in Brooklyn.
  • During the flashback sequence of the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, young Jack Napier was played by Hugo E. Blick.
  • In the flashback for Batman Forever, the young Jack was played by David U. Hodges. In this retcon Napier is not standing near a second mugger.


  • The Joker's Line: "Take thy beak from out my heart" (at Vicki's Apartment) was from Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven. The full line is "Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!" (the "beak" being of the Raven).
  • Nicholson said of his role: "The thing I like about the Joker is that his sense of humor is completely tasteless".
    • In the same interview, Nicholson summed up Joker's mentality thus; “The story says here’s a man plunged into nuclear waste and comes out this other identity, right? So my simple thought on it is the guy is, from then on, shortwired."
  • In the original script for the parade scene, the crowd discovered that all the money that Joker handed out was counterfeit and adorned with his face. This was a follow-up to the Joker's earlier line that he wanted: "My face on the one-dollar bill". The scene still appears in the comic adaptation.
  • In the comics, the Joker was 6'0" - 6'4" (depending on the writer). Jack Nicholson was 5'10" in real life, making this version smaller.
  • The name "Jack Napier" has been carried over as an alias for DC Animated Universe and Batwoman versions of the Joker. It has also been used in several non-canonical comics, including Gotham Noir and Batman: White Knight, and some retellings of the characters origin, albeit as "Jack".
  • This incarnation of the Joker is one of the few versions of who have a fully identified backstory. Various other examples included the DCAU Joker (an enforcer in Sal Valestra's mob, who fell into the vat during a fight with Batman), the Flashpoint Joker (a version of Martha Wayne who was driven insane after Bruce was killed by Joe Chill) and the Batman: Under the Red Hood version (who is shown as the Red Hood in flashbacks, and verbally confirmed by both him and Batman). In Gotham, a character called Jeremiah Valeska is heavily implied to become the show's Joker, thus is giving him a proper origin.
    • In the comics, it was accepted for decades that Joker was formerly a supervillain called the Red Hood, who fell into a vat of chemicals and was disfigured during a confrontation with Batman. This was changed after Alan Moore's Batman: The Killing Joke, which altered details and implied both stories were fabrications caused by Joker's fractured mind. Subsequent writers have taken elements from this Joker's backstory, mainly the name, in their own Joker backstories.
  • This incarnation is also one of only two versions of the Joker to have been involved in the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne and thus responsible for Batman's existence. The other is the incarnation from the film Joker, whose riot during the climax indirectly inspired Joe Chill to kill Thomas and Martha Wayne.
  • Although not explored, Joker was implied to have a chauvinistic/misogynistic streak: his pursuit of Vicki as a lover despite already in a relationship with Alicia, and his comment that Grissom “must be insane” to have betrayed him “over a woman.”
  • That incarnation was one of only two Joker characterizations that was given a deep voice and the only other was The Joker from Batman: Under the Red Hood, as most Joker incarnations were given a fairly high-pitched voice.
  • In some TV airings of the film, the cuts to the final battle removed the attempted helicopter escape and Batman tying a gargoyle to Joker's leg. These made it seem that the hero had managed to kill the Joker by simply punching him.
  • In Batman Unchained, the cancelled sequel to Batman & Robin, the Joker would have returned as a hallucination that was caused by Scarecrow's Fear Gas. Harley Quinn would have also appeared as his daughter, who then tried to get revenge on Batman for his role in his death.
  • In the planned crossover of Batman and Superman named Batman vs. Superman, the Joker would have returned as the murderer of Elizabeth Miller, the wife of Bruce Wayne. That crossover, according with Warner Bros. would have been a stand-alone sequel of Batman & Robin. Leaks of the script suggest that this Joker would have been a clone created by Lex Luthor.
  • The way Joker taunts Batman to fire at him with the Batwing is eerily similar to a moment from the later film The Dark Knight, where its Joker encourages Batman to run him down with the Batpod.
  • During the Arrowverse's Crisis on Infinite Earths event, a newspaper on Earth-89, the designation for the Burtonverse, mentions that Joker has been captured by Batman. This hints that either Napier was resurrected or another person has taken up the identity.
  • He has the highest kill count of any Joker.



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