The Joker was Batman's deadliest arch-enemy who was ruthless, eccentric, cunning and extremely dangerous. He tried every despicable trick to take over Gotham City, make a profit and ruin Batman's life emotionally and physically.
The Clown Prince of Crime had no pity for anyone he forced to take part in his nefarious schemes either by blackmail or deception and was especially unkind to his henchgirl and lover Harley Quinn, such as manipulating her to amuse himself. He also escaped death several times after his defeats with Batman, until his final eventual death many years later.
Born around the year 1948, Jack Napier started out as a young enforcer working for the mob triad of Salvatore Valestra, Buzz Bronski, and Chuckie Sol. At one point early on, before his future accident, he and Bruce Wayne caught a glimpse of each other. One of his last jobs took place in Europe on the Mediterranean Coast. His target was Carl Beaumont, a businessman who had fled the states after the mob bosses discovered he'd embezzled a fortune.
Years later, the man formed his own gang and staged their first robbery at the Ace Chemical Plant. It was during this heist that he first encountered Batman. It's unknown whether the man was pushed or simply fell, but he did fall off a catwalk and into a drainage vat of chemical waste that washed him out into the river. The chemicals had an adverse effect on him: they dyed his hair green, his skin was bleached white, and his lips were stretched into a permanently stained red grin, giving him the appearance of a clown. All this snapped the crook's already twisted mind and sadistic nature, giving birth to the Joker. Vowing to show the world the triumph of his comic genius, the career of one of history's most dangerous psychopaths began.
Clown Prince of Crime
- "Where is he? He's never been this late before. There's a certain rhythm to these things. I cause trouble, he shows up, we have some laughs, and the game starts all over again. [...] Without Batman, crime has no punchline!"
- ―The Joker after Batman's supposed "death"[src]
The Joker's plans have little prejudice. Although he has shown particular delight in playing his jokes on the most ordinary, innocent victims, like mild-mannered salaryman Charlie Collins, he is just as dangerous to Gotham's highest level officials, Commissioner Gordon or Mayor Hill. But the Joker has had his share of provocations. The Joker was one of three villains alongside Penguin and Two Face to travel to Yucca Springs on an invite from Hugo Strange, who claimed to know the identity of Batman. Ex-businessman Cameron Kaiser deliberately made his newly built casino resemble the Joker's look to draw the villain out, hoping that the Joker would destroy the building so Kaiser could collect on the insurance and get out from under the project's ruinous cost overruns.
Depending on the joke, his plans can range from small-scale to global. On one occasion, the Joker tried to con his way to a local comedy trophy by using the Mad Hatter's mind control chips on the event's judges. Another time, the Joker stole a nuclear warhead and almost successfully set it off on the residence of Mayor Hill.
A frequent inmate of Arkham Asylum, the Joker was often psycho-analyzed, at one point by Dr. Harleen Quinzel. After one session, the Joker fooled Dr. Quinzel as he painted himself as a misunderstood soul crying out for the world to accept him. Quinzel soon found herself in love with the Joker, and broke him out of Arkham. However, a combination of Joker's ego and Quinn's obsessive love and affection towards him tends to push the Joker's buttons. The Joker constantly alternates between physically and verbally abusing Harley to treating her with an unusual kindness that he displays for nobody else. Nonetheless, no matter how many times the Joker throws Harley out, he always winds up wanting her back.
Sometime later, the Joker was hunted by the Phantasm due to his ties to the Valestra Mob group. He also ended up disposing of Sal Valestra after the latter foolishly requested his help in stopping the Phantasm. He later injected Arthur Reeves with Joker Toxin, and finally confronted both Batman and the Phantasm, actually Andrea Beaumont, the daughter of the man whom he murdered a long time ago, at the World of Tomorrow. When defeated and at the mercy of Andrea while the theme park was burning to the ground, the Joker couldn't help but laugh, which eventually made Andrea let him go after seeing that he simply was not sane anymore.
- "She almost had me, you know. Arms and legs chained, dizzy from the blood rushing to my head. I had no way out other than convincing her to call you. I knew your massive ego would never allow anyone else the 'honor' of killing me. Though I have to admit, she came a lot closer than you ever did... Puddin'."
- ―Batman to Joker on Harley Quinn[src]
Batman shuts down the Joker's Gotham operations on a routine basis. But on a few occasions, the Joker really has gone bankrupt. One such instance caused him to travel to Metropolis, where he briefly allied himself with Lex Luthor to kill Superman for one billion dollars. The Joker planned to use 'the Laughing Dragon', a collector's item actually made of Kryptonite. Joker's plans fell apart when Batman deduced what the antique was made of and headed to Metropolis. Consolidating his losses, the Joker kidnapped Luthor and hijacked his experimental LexWing assault vehicle. Joker returned to Gotham a month later, still bankrupt. He surprisingly received a $250 million inheritance from his ex-gangland rival, Edward "King" Barlowe. Joker immediately spent the first million on various pursuits, such as hiring a defense team to wipe his criminal record clean. However, the Joker was duped. The majority of the money was counterfeit and the IRS had assessed him a tax bill for the full $250 million, which the Joker could not dispute without an embarrassing admission that he'd been tricked. Desperate, the Joker tried to steal a routine money dispersal from the Gotham Mint without using any of his trademarks. Batman intervened again, and the Joker returned to Arkham. Trying to jump over the ship, Joker was stopped from doing so by Batgirl, who told him it would be pointless to go after the money that went over board. However, crying, the Joker said "I want to go with it," implying he was sad enough to commit suicide.
During the seven-year anniversary of his first attack on Gotham, the Gotham Insider made a live report on the Joker from the Ace Chemical Plant. The Joker, however, made an unexpected appearance and attacked the news crew. Reporter Jack Ryder was doused with the Joker's toxin, then shoved into a drainage vat. Ryder transformed as well, but the combination of the chemicals and the laughing gas pushed Ryder further. Fashioning himself into a crazed vigilante known as the Creeper, he went on a rampage to get revenge on the Joker. Somewhere along the line, the Joker was saved and Batman sedated the Creeper.
- "Whew! Is it just me, or is there something going on between those two? Will Green Lantern ever admit to his feelings? Will Hawkgirl ever stop sublimating her passions with that BIG HONKING MACE?! Will true love conquer all? Not on my show!"
In another routine shut out, the Joker was forced to move his enterprises outside of Gotham. This time he chose Dakota City in Michigan. The Joker planned on forming a metahuman gang from the local mutants known as "Bang Babies". However Batman, Robin, and Dakota's own resident hero Static teamed up and escaped the Joker's death trap, arresting the Clown Prince of Crime in the process.
Years later, the Joker wound up in Metropolis. He was just in time to meet Lex Luthor's Injustice Gang. Lex Luthor, remembering his past alliance with the Joker a few years earlier, simply ordered him to leave. But after some persuading (which resulted in the Joker knocking out Grundy), the Ace of Knaves successfully conned his way into staying in the group by providing his expertise on Batman. His one condition was this: after the Justice League was successfully destroyed, the Joker was promised Batman. Using a tracker, the Joker had obtained, the Injustice Gang captured Batman and imprisoned him. The Joker started to try and convince Luthor to kill Batman whilst they had the chance though Luthor refuses. The Joker is later seen with Ultra Humanite and Lex as they try to deactivate the defensive system on Batman's belt which they do so successfully and find a communicator and key to the Justice League's space ship. Luthor then sends the other members of the team to the ship, which was being guarded only by the Martian Hunter, to plant a bomb on the League's headquarters and call them back. However, the League survived and went after the Gang. Joker cut his losses and attempted to kill Batman, but it seemed Batman had manipulated the situation throughout the endeavor.
At the same time, in the Justice Lord's alternate reality world of lobotomized super villains, the Joker's pacified counterpart became the curator of Gotham City's newly refined Arkham Asylum.
The Joker tried to form a metahuman gang once more. He discovered and entered a secret government compound dubbed Section 12. At the time, it was under the supervision of the Cadmus Project, a federal initiative to procure defenses against the Justice League in case they ever went rogue. Joker arrived at the facility and killed the staff using his Joker Venom. He then freed their captives and fashioned them as a card deck hand, dubbing them his 'Royal Flush Gang'. During his time at the facility, the Joker also came across some of Project Cadmus' secret technology, and discovered a microchip that allowed it's user to copy their DNA onto it and when placed on another living host, could transform the being into an exact replica of the original copy. Rather than use the technology early, the Joker decided to save the technology for another time.
The Joker with his new team then left the facility before purchasing air time on several networks under the moniker of "Gwynplaine Entertainment" and broadcast a live feed of Las Vegas. The Joker secretly planted several dozen high explosives all throughout the city. Though the Justice League manage to disarm the bombs, the bomb stunt was merely to attract viewers throughout the world. The real plan was to use the powers of the Gang's fifth member, Ace, who could drive people insane just by looking at them in person or on TV. The Joker then transmitted Ace's thought waves across the air to render everyone under a mass psychosis. Batman confronted the Joker alone, and despite almost being driven insane by Ace's powers and receiving vicious beatings from Joker, managed to reveal to Ace that the Joker held on to a special headband used to nullify Ace's powers by Project Cadmus. Ace, in anger, used her power on the Joker and temporarily incapacitated him, rendering him temporarily catatonic.
The Final Joke
Years later, as he was deciding that the game between he and his nemesis was growing old, the Joker devised one last scheme, directed at Batman and his "family." The Joker kidnapped Robin (Tim Drake) while the Boy Wonder was alone on patrol. For three weeks, in the former Arkham Asylum, the Joker systematically pressured and brainwashed Robin. After several serum injections and shock torture, Robin revealed all his secrets to the Joker. He then dressed Robin as a crude version of himself, renamed him "J.J." (Joker Junior), and drove him insane, completing the "makeover". During the time Tim was imprisoned by Joker, Joker implanted the microchip he had recovered years before from Cadmus and planted it into Tim Drake's spine as the final part of his plan. The microchip had Joker's DNA on it and Joker had only truly implanted the chip on Drake in order for his legacy to continue far into the future, knowing that he would die one day no matter what he tried to do.
Joker also planned on using J.J to deliver the death blow to Batman and his allies. The Joker even went far enough to document Robin's torture and show it in the operating theater to Batman. While succeeding in enraging Batman, Joker delivered a knife to Batman's knee, crippling him. However, not even the Joker could fully turn Robin, and rather than shoot Batman and "deliver the punchline", Robin shot the Joker.
- "That's not funny... That's not... "
- ―The Joker's last words[src]
Though he was buried deep beneath Arkham, Joker's last bid tainted the trio and further engineered its end. The Joker, Batman's greatest enemy, after so many years of fighting, was dead.
In an alternate TV version, the Joker tosses over a laughing gas gun to Tim and tells him to "make [Batman] one of us." Slowly, Tim snaps out of it and throws the gun away, bringing relief to Batman and making the Joker angry. He tackles the Joker, shoving into the shock treatment room and some water containers. The Joker then slips, accidentally turns on an electrode, and electrocutes himself. His scream can be heard outside by Batgirl. He is also never seen stabbing Batman in the knee or crippling him in any way; he merely punches him with the "other hand."
Despite his death, Joker's legacy as a criminal mastermind and homicidal maniac would live on for years. Whilst the people of Gotham were relieved at the Joker's final and ultimate defeat, they still feared his destructive legacy. Years later several groups of criminals called Jokerz started appearing around the globe, honoring the Clown Prince of Crime's legacy. One of the gang's members, Ghoul (who coincidentally would be the member of the Jokerz gang that would serve the newly revived Joker.) stated that there are 9,453 active Jokerz that are divided into approximately 200 separate groups.
- "Hello Gotham, Joker's back in town!"
- ―The Joker[src]
Though it seemed not even death itself could restrain the Joker. The microchip that the original Joker had implanted on Tim soon began to activate itself automatically, transforming Drake into the crazed Clown Prince of Crime. According to Joker, any lingering memories were chalked up as bad dreams by Drake. Over time, the Joker's subconscious awakened and began to assume control of Drake's body.
Over the course of forty years, the Joker plotted his return using Drake's body. He was amazed and upset at how some much had changed in his absence with a new Gotham City, new rules and even a new Batman, but he was more determined than ever to make his comeback.
With Drake's knowledge of communications, Joker staged a series of corporate thefts utilizing a sub-group of Jokerz which had formed in his absence, proving how influential he had become. With the technology, Joker created a satellite jammer and hijacked control of a Hyperion class defence satellite orbiting the planet. Joker then revealed himself to Bruce Wayne at a party during his return to Gotham.
The new Batman, (Terry McGinnis), managed to stop Joker from killing Bruce, but Joker escaped. After a time, Terry deduced Drake had some connection and decided to confront the Joker. However before he could reach Joker's hideout, Joker tested the new Batman by chasing after him using his satellite to send a powerful laser at the Batmobile whilst incinerating a small part of Gotham. After stopping the beam, the new Batman tracked Joker down to his hideout (an abandoned Candy Factory called the Jolly Jack) and confronted Tim. Tim started to remember how he killed the original Joker and started to act strange; when Tim accidentally mentioned the new Batman's real name, he transformed into the Joker. After explaining how he survived, Joker and Batman fought.
In the skirmish, the electric joy buzzer that Joker was using gets knocked out of his hand and falls into the wiring of the jamming system, redirecting the satellite's laser straight to Joker's hideout. Batman stranded Joker within the compound and fought him one on one, with Joker proving to be a powerful opponent in their physical clash as he knew every move of the original Batman family.
Noting Bruce's advice that the Joker liked to talk, Batman taunted the Joker, saying he had only returned because he could never make the original Batman laugh, mocked Joker's origin and derided him as pathetic for his lame material and obsession with the original Dark Knight. He then really pushed Joker's buttons when he mockingly laughed at him.
This greatly enraged Joker and he managed to knock Batman off-balance with a pair of Joker bombs, trapping Terry under a pile of rubble and removing his mask before he started strangling him. Joker then ordered Terry to laugh before he died and when the crazed clown got closer in order to hear Terry better, Terry used Joker's own joy buzzer and electrocuted him. The surge destroyed the microchip, restoring Tim Drake to normal and ending the threat of the Joker once and for all. After so many years of waging a one-on-one war, Batman had finally won after a long struggle and the Clown Prince of Crime was laid to rest forever.
Abilities and Equipment
Throughout the years, the Joker used a wide variety of instruments to exact his comedic homicides. His equipment included razor-sharp playing cards, guns (of the trick and real variety), joy buzzers (which electrocuted the victim), and a wide variety of laughing gases (which incapacitated the victim with laughter). In contrast with Batman’s equipment, most of his weapons were designed to be lethal. Most famously, the Joker had an acid flower attached to a lapel on his suit. This flower emitted a wide variety of chemicals, depending on the situation and the Joker's mood. Laughing gas and acid were popular variants, but the possibilities were limited only to the Joker's mind.
Despite the state of his greatly warped mind, the Joker was a brilliant planner, and never seemed to run out of schemes. Often, the Joker's plans were related to comedy, though at the same time, were extremely dangerous, resulting in him being feared wherever his schemes took him. The Joker could lie easily, and was remarkably skilled at making up tragic stories that were capable of tricking people into believing that he was simply misunderstood, or in Harley Quinn's case, practically taking pity on him and making her determined to help him in any way possible. His stories were known to have no limits, varying from a brutal and violent father, to a runaway mother.
The Joker was a downright sadist, and always seemed to take pleasure in frightening, assaulting, and even killing even the most innocent people. His greatest delight, on the few occasions it came, seemed to be beating Batman to a pulp, as demonstrated when Ace used her mind warping powers to weaken Batman allowing the Joker to beat him senselessly. By the time of his death, the Joker had left his mark on the world, varying from Gotham, to Metropolis, and even Las Vegas.
The Joker also seemed strangely resistant to death, constantly surviving and coming back from things - including long falls, explosions and even being psychically mind-wiped, to name a few (the last one being possibly explainable by the complexity of his own mind) - that should by all rights have ended his career, until he finally died in Terry McGinnis' era.
Originally, the Joker possessed little more than average physical strength, albeit enough to regularly hold his own against Batman. However, upon inhabiting the mind of Tim Drake, he acquired the training, conditioning, and knowledge of the original Bat-Family.
The Joker owns two pet laughing hyenas, named Bud and Lou, after Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.
Behind the Scenes
Originally Tim Curry was cast in the role, all season one episodes were animated based on his vocal performance. When Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm decided to replace Curry, Mark Hamill was chosen after showing enthusiasm while playing the role of Ferris Boyle. Voice director Andrea Romano fought against replacing Curry, as she didn't see anything wrong with what he was doing and knew the difficulty of firing celebrity voice actors. The exact reasoning about what was unsatisfactory about Curry's performance remains unclear. In the Batman: Animated book, Paul Dini remarked that he missed the "chaotic mood swings" found in his performance.
Along with the rest of the cast, the Joker underwent a revamp when the show transitioned into The New Batman Adventures. The Joker's change was relatively minor; however, he lost his trademark red lips, his hair was almost black, and his eyes were turned black. The main difference in costume is that the traditional green shirt replaces the orange based on Jack Nicholson's costume at the show's inception. This model was later slightly updated for Batman Beyond and Justice League.
- Mark Hamill has said since 1998 that he will stop voicing The Clown Prince of Crime. He recently voiced the iconic character in 2018's LEGO DC Super-Villians video game.
- This version of the Joker was referred to as "Jack Napier" in earlier episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, but was later retconned as having no known real name in The New Batman Adventures.
- "Joker's Favor"
- "Be A Clown"
- "The Last Laugh"
- "Fear of Victory" (Cameo)
- "The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne"
- "Dreams In Darkness" (Hallucination only)
- "Almost Got 'Im"
- "Christmas with the Joker"
- "Joker's Wild"
- "The Laughing Fish"
- "The Man Who Killed Batman "
- "Harley and Ivy "
- "Fire from Olympus" (Cameo)
- "Riddler's Reform" (Cameo)
- "Make 'Em Laugh"
- "Holiday Knights"
- "Joker's Millions"
- "Legends of the Dark Knight"
- "Old Wounds"
- "Beware the Creeper"
- "Mad Love"
- "Lady-X" (Cameo on portrait)
- "Strategery" (Cameo as doll)
- "Baby Boom" (Cameo as wax statue)
- "Catsitter" (Cameo)
- "Shriek" (picture on a most wanted poster)
- "Joyride" (skeleton seen in Jokerz Cave)
- Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
- "The Big Leagues"
- "Injustice For All"
- "Only a Dream, Part I" (dream sequence)
- "Wild Cards"
- Joker's Wild
- Dreams In Darkness
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm the novelization states that Jack Napier was 35 in the flashback scenes of the movie. The flashbacks are set 10 years before present day, making The Joker 45 years old in 1993 (when Mask of the Phantasm takes place), setting his birth around 1948.