- "It's not about money, it's about sending a message; everything burns!"
- ―The Joker[src]
The Joker was a psychopathic anarchist, nihilist, and criminal mastermind (self-professed "agent of chaos") who rose to power in the criminal underworld by thrusting Gotham City into turmoil, and drew Batman ever closer to crossing the line between hero and vigilante. Heath Ledger, the actor who portrayed The Joker, described him as a "psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy".
The Joker was highly proficient in psychological manipulation and strategic planning, able to adapt himself to any situation of varying intensity and difficulty, and turn it to his advantage. His appearance was defined by colorful custom clothing, his face sporting smeared clown makeup over a gruesome Glasgow Smile. With his eccentric fashion statement and menacing visage, The Joker offered a unique blend of style and sick comedy to his crimes and misdeeds.
Origin and Early Life
- "You can't rely on anyone these days. You gotta do everything yourself. Don't we? That's okay. I came prepared. It's a funny world that we live in. Speaking of which, you know how I got these scars?"
- ―The Joker[src]
No one knew who the Joker really was. Little could be confirmed regarding his early days before he turned to a life of crime. Despite being captured twice, no traces of the Joker's true identity could be found - no matches on fingerprints, dental records, or DNA within the GCPD's Databases. As police commissioner James Gordon himself said; "nothing...no name, no other alias."
The Joker's own testimony, while seeming true when it came to making and carrying out threats, was at times contradictory, as he gave conflicting accounts of past events in his life; in particular how he got the scars of his characteristic Glasgow Smile. One of Joker's anecdotes was of his supposed extremely abusive and alcoholic father, and stated that after his father attacked his mother with a knife, the blade was next turned on the young man, and hence created his mutilated smile. The fact that the Joker later referenced his father and his hatred of him to a party guest when he crashed Harvey Dent's fundraiser, implied there was an element of truth to that account.
Another story that The Joker told was one concerning his gambling wife. She implores him that he shouldn't worry so much, that he "should smile more". That advice went overhead when her face was carved by enforcers of Loan Sharks, and the couple realized they didn't have enough money to pay for surgery. In a desperate effort to assure his wife that he didn't care about the damage to her appearance, Joker took a razor to his cheeks and made his Glasgow Smile match hers. Instead, horrified by this act and new image, his wife leaves him, which further damages his already fragile and disturbed psyche. It wasn't revealed to what degree those stories held the truth if any.
Some psychological profiles of The Joker suggested that he was insane to such an extent that he reinvented both his identity and history on a daily basis. It was therefore possible that, while neither story was true, The Joker genuinely believed them both as he told them. However, these psychological profiles cannot be confirmed, and so cannot truly define the social enigma that was The Joker. He presumably was going to tell Batman the third version of his scar story as he was about to kill him, but ultimately did not get the chance to do so, as Batman stopped the Joker by launching his wrist blades at him, retorting "I know how you got these!"
In a report filed by the GCPD, three theories were presented for the Joker's origin and identity; the first was that the Joker was institutionalized as a patient at Arkham Asylum. He was then released/escaped along with the other Arkham Asylum patients during Ra's Al Ghul's and Scarecrow's reign of fear, and at the time in an even worse condition (perhaps due to Scarecrow's terrible methods). This may also explain why most of Joker's Henchmen were identified as some of the Arkham escapees. However, that theory was debunked on the basis that Joker's identity had no match in any records. The second theory was that the Joker worked as a disgruntled employee for the Haley Brothers Circus, which was documented to have connections with the mob, lending credence to the Joker's obsession with clown-related paraphernalia and themes. The third theory that was presented was that the Joker served as a soldier or some form of military operative until he was discharged because he suffered from PTSD, which explained his cool demeanor and familiarity with weapons, as well as his devastating effectiveness in various forms of combat. The third theory is further supported by his cynical anecdote to Harvey Dent about social order and control; if a truckload of soldiers is blown up, nobody seems to care...but a threat made on the mayor's life, it causes an uproar.
- "Now, take this guy. Armed robbery, double homicide. Got a taste for the theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card."
- ―James Gordon to Batman[src]
Shortly after the death of Ra's Al Ghul, Batman discussed with Lieutenant James Gordon the effect that Batman had made on Gotham City since his appearance. Gordon then revealed that a criminal with "a taste for theatrics" had recently committed a double homicide and an armed robbery and left behind a Joker playing card as a "calling card." Gordon also warned that just as escalation occurred in terms of the police force against crime, so might the scale and style of criminality change in reaction to Batman's appearance.
Sometime later, the Joker orchestrated the theft of a large shipment of Ammonium Nitrate from the Gotham Docks. The explosive chemical was then saved for storage at the Gotham General Hospital and on two passenger ferries sometime later.
- "I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you...stranger."
- ―Joker to the Manager of Gotham National Bank[src]
Several months later, a group of bank robbers, (Grumpy, Happy, Dopey, Chuckles, Bozo, and a Bus Driver) under the direction of the Joker, robbed Gotham National Bank which was used as a money-laundering front for Gotham's mafia families. The clown mask-wearing robbers whittled down their own numbers within minutes in a series of calculated betrayals. Finally, only "Bozo" remained, who revealed himself as the Joker to the Manager of Gotham National Bank, who had earlier confronted the robbers with a shotgun. In addition, largely because he couldn't resist appearing on-camera, Joker also deliberately unmasked himself in front of a surveillance camera and posed. The Joker then escaped with the bank's cash in a yellow school bus, concealed his identity by driving within a convoy of other school buses, and also left the Bank Manager at the mercy of a gas grenade that was stuck in his mouth.
Dealing with the Mob
- "If you're good at something, never do it for free."
- ―The Joker[src]
Shortly following the bank robbery, crime boss Sal Maroni mentioned the Joker's recent theft of Mob-owned cash to his fellow crime leaders at a business meeting, dismissed him as a threat, and said that he was a "nobody" who wore a "cheap purple suit and make-up." The Joker, who overheard that comment and the plan that was presented to the Mob by Chinese mobster, Lau, arrived unannounced at the meeting while he faked a laugh, as he saw their "so-called plan" as a bad joke. He also corrected Sal's comment of his suit being "cheap", and implied he used the money he stole from them earlier to create the suit (or as he put it, "You ought to know. You bought it."). The mobsters were at first unwilling to hear Joker out, and Gambol, one of the crime lords who seemed to take the most dislike for the Joker, sent one of his henchmen to throw him out by force.
The Joker then unexpectedly performed a magic trick by making a pencil "disappear," embedded the pencil in the table, and shoved Gambol's henchman head-first into the pencil where it indeed disappeared inside the man's head, which instantly killed him. The Joker also mentioned that his suit wasn't cheap and that they ought to know that since they bought it, which meant that he had used the money that he stole at the start of the film and bought his suit. Joker then proposed that it was Batman's interference that had resulted in idealistic politicians like Harvey Dent rising in popularity, and offered his services to kill him for half of all the money that Lau, a corrupt Chinese accountant, took away from Gotham in order for safe keeping. Joker also warned the Mob that Lau would betray them if he was arrested and claimed to know a squealer when he saw one. While the Bratva mobster, The Chechen, and Maroni were interested, Gambol, angered by the Joker's lack of respect, attempted to attack him, which forced Joker to reveal his insurance policy: several grenades that were hidden under his coat and allowed him to make a quick escape.
- "Why so serious?"
- ―The Joker mocking Gambol[src]
Frustrated, Gambol then put a bounty on Joker. The Joker later took revenge that night and had his men come to Gambol, who then claimed to have killed the Joker. In a bit of unintended tragic irony that regarded the fate of his actor, the Joker's 'dead' body was brought inside in a garbage bag before he attacked Gambol and told him the origin of his mouth scars as a way of psychological torture and intimidation. Then, when Gambol was most terrified and shaken, Joker killed him with his knife. Then, with the remains of Gambol's men, who were overpowered and at his mercy, Joker took a pool stick, broke it in half, which made it spear-like, and said that there was only one spot open at the moment in order to join his "team", threw the piece of sharp stick at the middle of Gambol's scared men and has his gang, which was made up mostly of mentally-ill and unstable vicious crooks who escaped from Arkham Asylum who seemed to have taken the Joker as their leader, made Gambol's men fight to the death with the stick until only one was left, and advised them to "make it fast".
The Joker's Threat
- "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! We are tonight's entertainment. I've only got one question. Where is Harvey Dent?"
- ―The Joker to Harvey Dent's party guests[src]
Eventually, after he realized that Batman had retrieved Lau from Hong Kong and that the police had struck a deal with Lau to testify against the Mob, Maroni and the Chechen relented and finally hired Joker to kill Batman. The Joker first kidnapped a Batman Impersonator, filmed his murder, and hung the body, complete with white make-up and Joker Scars, outside Mayor Anthony Garcia's office. In the murder tape that he sent to the Media, the Joker viciously mocked Brian Douglas (Batman Impersonator) as well as terrorized him to the point of leaving him absolutely frozen and weeping, as well as taunted his beliefs and his actions. Then, when he has finished humiliating and terrifying Douglas, Joker gave Gotham an ultimatum: Batman must take off his mask and turn himself in to the authorities, and, every day that Batman refused to do so, he would murder innocent people day after day. As a result of Batman not turning himself in, the first major victims were Janet Surillo, the judge who presided over Dent's indictments, and Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb, the former via car-bomb and the latter via acid into the Commissioner's scotch, respectively.
Later, the Joker and his gang stormed a fundraiser at Bruce Wayne's Penthouse, using Michael Wuertz as his bargaining chip, in order to kill Harvey in person. When Joker was unable to get the guests to tell him of Dent's location, he decided to settle for killing them off. Joker then attempted to threaten a not-intimidated guest whom he noted bored a resemblance to his own hated father, to which Rachel Dawes then intervened. Suddenly, Batman appeared and fought with Joker. Joker only managed to escape by throwing Rachel out of a window, who Batman then leaped after and saved.
The killings then continued with two innocents and an attempt on the Mayor's life at a Memorial for Commissioner Loeb. The Joker appeared in public without his makeup, impersonated one of the Honor Guards, as well as had most of his gang impersonate the rest of them. In order to further ensure that the GCPD was kept on its toes, the Joker also placed a sniper rifle on the windowsill of an apartment room, as well as a timer to release the blinds for the GCPD sharpshooters to shoot at anyone who was hapless enough to be caught in the trap. Afterward, Joker, still disguised as an Honor Guard, shot his rifle at Garcia and Gordon was apparently killed when he leaped in front of Garcia. As a result, Batman told Dent to call a press conference so that he could reveal his identity and stop the killings. In a surprise move, Dent instead claimed to be Batman himself and was subsequently arrested.
While Dent was transported, the Joker and his gang attacked the caravan of police vehicles and attempted to kill Dent with a machine pistol, a shotgun, and even a rocket-propelled grenade. Joker and his men managed to destroy nearly all of the GCPD vehicles in the convoy, but, when he attempted to destroy the armored car that carried Dent, Batman intercepted his RPG, at the cost of the Batmobile (Batman detached part of it in the form of the Batpod). After he realized that Dent wasn't Batman, Joker broke off his pursuit and attempted to ram the Batpod instead: Batman managed to dodge him and then capsized the Joker’s eighteen-wheeler by use of his cable launchers.
Batman then bore down on the Joker (who goaded Batman to kill him by screaming "HIT ME!") but stopped short of ramming him at the last second, which then forced him to crash. Joker then prepared to unmask Batman but Gordon, who had faked his death to keep his family safe, stepped behind him, held a shotgun to his head and said: "We got you, you son of a bitch." The Joker was then successfully jailed at the GCPD, and, as a direct result, Gordon was then promoted to Commissioner by the Mayor. Joker also did a sarcastic clap for the newly-promoted Commissioner Gordon.
Assault on Gotham
- "I don't want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no...no you complete me."
- ―The Joker during Batman's interrogation[src]
With the Joker in custody, Gordon and Batman believed that his madness was over but became alarmed when they were informed that Harvey was missing. Desperate, Gordon let Batman interrogate Joker for information, but Joker seemed unshaken by the pain. Instead, Joker gleefully told Batman his view of people as selfish and violent, who only needed a little pressure before they descended into madness. Joker also admitted that he could never kill Batman and considered him his only equal. Harvey's kidnapping was part of a test to see if Batman would save him or Rachel, whom Joker could tell that Batman cared for. When Batman started intimidating him, the Joker then told Batman where Harvey and Rachel were located; however, Joker "knew" that Batman would choose Rachel and tricked Batman into saving Harvey instead and gave him Harvey's location and told him that it was Rachel's, and vice versa. After most of the police were gone, the Joker took his guard hostage and escaped by detonating a phone-activated bomb that he had surgically planted in the stomach of Kilson who was arrested with him, with Lau in tow. After he failed to save Rachel, Gordon came to the realization that it was a setup and that Joker had planned to get caught in order to get Lau.
Harvey and Rachel each awoke tied to chairs with barrels of explosive material that surrounded them and a speakerphone that was hooked up to the other's location. Rachel then confessed her love for Harvey and agreed to marry him. Harvey fell on the floor and his left side was then completely immersed in Turpentine. Batman arrived, but found Harvey instead of Rachel. Batman then realized that Joker had lied about Rachel and Harvey's whereabouts in order to further crush Batman's morale. Batman then rescued Harvey as the building exploded, disfiguring half of his face. Unfortunately, Gordon was unable to get to Rachel before the explosion, and she was killed. At the hospital, Harvey was driven to madness by grief, and blamed Batman, Gordon, and the Joker.
- "I'm a man of simple tastes: I enjoy dynamite, gunpowder, and gasoline...and you know the thing they have in common? They're cheap. [...] All you care about is money. This town deserves a better class of criminal, and I'm gonna give it to 'em. Tell your men they work for me now. This is my city."
- ―The Joker to the Chechen while burning a pile of money[src]
The Joker later met the Chechen in a container ship with Lau and was given his reward: half the Mob's smuggled money, which Joker then doused with gasoline, and set alight with the Chechen's cigar, with Lau on top of the burning money pile. Joker then betrayed the Chechen and took control of his men. He then declared that Gotham deserved a "better class of criminal" - one that was unmotivated by money or power but who committed crimes purely for fun. That corresponded with something that Alfred said to Bruce earlier in the film:"Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn". However, the Chechen, horrified by the exact scope of Joker's plans, refused to have any part in him while he denounced him as a "freak," which caused Joker to order his men to cut the Chechen up into little pieces and feed them to his dogs to see "how loyal a hungry dog really is" before he stated that his motives, far from being about money, were about spreading a message: "Everything burns."
- "I had a vision, of a world without Batman. The Mob tried to ground a little profit and the police tried to shut them down, one block at a time. And it was so... boring. I've had a change of heart. I don’t want Mr. Reese spoiling everything, but why should I have all the fun? Let’s give someone else a chance. If Coleman Reese isn't dead in sixty minutes, then I blow up a hospital."
- ―The Joker threatening to blow up Gotham General Hospital[src]
The Joker then made a call to a news program where Coleman Reese threatened to go public on the news with information about Batman's identity. Reese was interrupted by the Joker who then stated that he had changed his mind and believed that Gotham would to be too boring without Batman. To in order to "give others the fun," Joker then threatened that if someone didn't kill Reese in sixty minutes, he would blow up a hospital. Gordon then abandoned his ambush on the Joker and focused on evacuating all of Gotham's Hospitals.
Contact with Harvey Dent
- "Introduce a little anarchy - upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I'm an agent of chaos. And you know the thing about chaos - it's fair."
- ―The Joker persuading the disfigured Harvey Dent[src]
During the mass evacuation, the Joker disguised himself as a nurse and entered the hospital room of Harvey. Joker then first apologized to Dent and maintained that he was not responsible for Rachel’s death. The Joker then introduced Harvey to his view of the world that his time in Gotham had introduced him to, that people, or "schemers" as he called them, were the truest form of evil in the world, as it was they who laid out the plans of society, including when human lives were expendable.
In order to prove his argument, Joker pointed out that if his threats were aimed at 'gangbangers' or 'soldiers', then people wouldn't really care as society trained them to see the death of such people as acceptable. Thus, Joker then turned the disillusioned Harvey against society and against the "schemers" who put his and Rachel’s lives in danger, namely the corrupt cops who kidnapped them, as well as the "schemers" who viewed Rachel's life to be expendable: Batman and Gordon.
After he gave Harvey a gun, the Joker advised Harvey to break away from the law that failed him and turn to chaos, which the Joker described as the only truly fair system, as the fate of everyone would be only decided by chance, without the interference of the flawed laws of Man. Harvey then responded by flipping his coin to decide Joker's fate, which gave him the same chance that Rachel had. Soon after Harvey left, Joker detonated Gotham General Hospital, skipped merrily away down the street, before he paused and noticed that most of the explosives hadn't gone off, before he tapped the detonator again, which then exploded the remaining explosives. Joker and his men then stole one of the nearby evacuation buses and kidnapped the TV reporter and his crew who were inside.
- "Tonight, you're all going to be a part of a 'social experiment.'"
- ―The Joker[src]
The Joker publicly declared that Gotham would become his by the end of the night. He then told people that they could leave, but that anyone who left by the tunnel or the bridge would discover a "surprise," which lead many fleeing Gotham citizens to avoid those two routes. As a result, two ferries sailed from the harbor that night: one was full of ordinary civilians, and the other was full of criminals. However, before their departure, Joker had arranged for both boats to be loaded with explosives, and provided with the detonator to the bombs on their counterpart's ferry, at which point he hijacked the ferries' PA system and explained the rules of what he referred to as a "social experiment:": The Joker, would blow up both boats if one didn't choose to destroy the other by midnight, or if anyone tried to escape, which would kill everyone on board.
Batman discovered not only the Joker's location at an unfinished skyscraper, but that the majority of his "gang" were actually the people that he had kidnapped earlier, who wore clown-masks with unloaded guns that were taped to their hands, and that the people, who were dressed as hostages were the actual criminals. Batman was then forced to fight not only the Joker's Henchmen but the SWAT Teams as well in order to save the hostages. Eventually, Batman confronted Joker and, after the mad clown sarcastically claimed that he's "so thrilled" that Batman made it, initiated a final battle between them (with Joker using a metal bar and a knife), also siccing Rottweilers that formerly belonged to the Chechen on Batman to gain more of an advantage. Joker managed to get the upper hand, including temporarily disabling his vision, and pinned Batman under a scaffold. He then gleefully waited as the ferry's deadline neared, and was visibly disappointed when both groups of passengers refused to kill the other in order to save themselves: The civilians had voted to blow up the other ferry but could not bring themselves to actually do so, while Ginty stepped forward and, after he took the detonator, threw it out of a window, and said that the cops should have done that from the start. As the deadline passed, Batman asked Joker if he was trying to prove that everyone was as ugly as him deep down and bluntly informed him that he was alone in both his corruption and insanity. Before he could detonate both ferries, Batman knocked the detonator out of Joker's hand with his shooting wrist-blades, threw him over the edge, and also cited right before he threw him off, in reference to Joker's scar stories, that he knew how he got his other scars. The Joker then laughed hysterically as he fell to his death, but Batman, who refused to kill him, instead caught him with his Grapple Gun and left him hanging for the GCPD to capture.
The Ace in the Hole and Defeat
- "Madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push."
- ―The Joker final words to Batman following his capture[src]
With that act, Joker acknowledged that Batman really was incorruptible but that Harvey was no longer the "White Knight;": Joker had unleashed the scarred man on the city. Joker then stated that Harvey was his "ace in the hole" in his plan to show the people of Gotham that everyone was corruptible and thus, undo Harvey's work before his transformation into Two-Face. Batman then angrily left the Joker dangling helplessly as he laughed maniacally and was then approached by the SWAT Team at gunpoint.
Though the Joker was neither seen nor mentioned, his prediction of the citizens of Gotham was proven correct as Gotham shunned Batman in the wake of Harvey's death. Joker's prediction about civilized people's code being a 'bad joke' was also proven true, as Gotham fell into chaos in the wake of Bane's 'liberation', and the citizens 'eat each other' as he had predicted, by way of homes being looted and Scarecrow's kangaroo court.
The film's novelization referenced the character and left his ultimate fate ambiguous:
- "Now that the Dent Act had made it all but impossible to cop an insanity plea, it had replaced Arkham Asylum as the preferred location for imprisoning both convicted and suspected felons. The worst of the worst were sent here, except for the Joker, who, rumor had it, was locked away as Arkham’s sole remaining inmate. Or perhaps he had escaped. Nobody was really sure."
- ―Greg Cox's novelization of The Dark Knight Rises
The Joker was the personification of chaos, anarchy, death, destruction, nihilism, and madness. However, the Joker himself claimed to not be insane, but rather "ahead of the curve". This proved to be at least partially true, as the Joker was a competent strategist who could easily get inside people's heads, predict their actions, and plan accordingly. He was able to plan out the events of The Dark Knight and also improvised when he needed to, showing a high level of intellect and knowledge. He had no problems getting underneath people's skin, and could easily manipulate people into corruption. In addition to that, Joker was also skilled at appealing to mentally unstable people (whom he used as free help and for sections of his plans that required expendable assets) and manipulated them with promises that he would make their mental problems go away. For example, when Joker planted a bomb inside the stomach of Kilson, he told him that he would "make the voices go away and replace them with bright lights, like Christmas" ('bright lights' being a metaphor for the bomb Joker buried in Kilson's stomach). That extreme scenario of cruelty, sadism, and precision proved that this Joker was more in the realm of a sociopath than insanity as he was neither delusional nor did he lose his grip on reality. On a related note, Joker also had some irritation when he was referred to as a "freak" or another term that implied that he's deficient, which was best demonstrated twice, both times with members of the Mob: The first time was with Gambol, where, when he called Joker a "freak" in response to his remark about "a guy like me" during his speech, which Joker ended up expressing some irritation before he got to his point quickly, and the second time was with the Chechen, where Joker was angered enough at the Chechen's reference to him as such that he promptly had him ordered cut up and fed to his own dogs in response upon taking over his criminal organization. Despite that, however, Joker had little problem acknowledging that he was crazy upon being defeated by Batman, insofar as his belief in him and Batman not being much different from Gotham itself in terms of sanity (or lack thereof).
Joker subscribed to a nihilistic philosophy (he even briefly paraphrased German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche when he stated to the Bank Manager what he "believed" in) and was obsessed with the limits of morality, while he also was described as having "zero empathy;" the two may have came together that reflected the Joker's doubts about the depths of human morality, based on his belief that "When the chips are down; these civilized people, they'll eat each other." He was also masochistic and immune to pain, as demonstrated when Batman threw the Joker around the room, attacked him, and demanded the locations of Rachel and Harvey: Joker took the assault with pleasure as, under multiple occasions, he laughed while he was beaten by Batman. A similar display of his masochistic nature and his immunity to pain was demonstrated when Rachel Dawes, in an attempt to defend herself shortly after Joker gave his second "scar story," gave him a quick knee-jab into his groin, he laughed it off and then admitted that he "liked" the fact that she had a "little fight" in her while he approached her.
Joker did not care for the people who worked for him; when one of his minions got electrocuted in his attempt at removing Batman's Mask, Joker laughed hysterically and then kicked him. Joker then mocked him by making noises similar to that of someone being electrocuted, before he spit on him and resorted to his attempt at removing Batman's mask himself. That, along with the same henchman, who was later revealed to have had a wired bomb that was surgically implanted inside him, showed that Joker had no problems inflicting pain upon people who worked for him. Along with being extremely sadistic through psychological torture, physical pain, and intimidation, the Joker also seemed to have no care for his own safety or survival, such as when he was told Batman to run him over with the Batpod (as well as briefly cursed under his breath when Batman decided to crash the Batpod instead of running him over), and when Batman threw him off the skyscraper to his supposed death and did nothing but laugh (both was due to the Joker believing that he would 'win' by provoking Batman into proving him right by forcing the Dark Knight to commit murder.) Joker seemed genuinely upset when Batman didn't kill him, to the point where he admitted his defeat and referred to Batman as "incorruptible" after their last fight. Similarly, when Gambol attempted to have the Joker killed during a Mob meeting, Joker revealed that he had wired himself with explosives and anticipated the possibility that he'd be gunned down during that meeting. During his interrogation at the hands of Batman, while he taunted him about how the latter had "nothing" at his disposal to break him, Joker strongly implied that Batman's only option for dealing with him was to murder him. That proved that Joker absolutely didn't care about himself and his life at all, only his desire to spread chaos and anarchy and proving that all men could be corrupted if they were pushed hard enough.
The most notable example in his utter lack of self-preservation was when, at the hospital, when Joker gave Harvey a gun, forcibly pointed it at his head, and gambled his life on the chance that Harvey would adopt his philosophy of anarchy. Though, subtly, Joker kept his finger in front of the hammer of the gun, which kept it from firing prematurely. It was most likely that Joker would remove his finger when Harvey would have fired the gun as Joker was shown on multiple occasions that he did not care about himself at all. In addition, when Harvey gave Joker the coin's options and told him that he would die if the coin landed on the bad side, Joker said: "now we're talking!" in a slightly enthusiastic tone.
Joker exhibited various symptoms of an antisocial personality and blatantly disregarded laws and social norms far beyond standard deviant behavior. The Joker also had a low level of inhibition and a relentless drive to disturb the status quo: He was driven by something other than greed, as he complained that the criminals of the Mob were just seeking a profit and that the city deserved "a better class of criminal," namely himself (it was heavily implied, especially with his declaration that he intended to spread the message that "everything burns," that his motivation and idea for a better class of criminal was to cause chaos simply for the sake of chaos itself). While Joker attempted to take control of the city by recruiting Mob henchmen, he appeared to hold his philosophy of chaos higher than himself: he described himself as merely an "agent" of chaos (in his speech to convince Harvey to let go of his beliefs so that he could prove in his ultimate plan that even the noblest of men could sink down to the Joker's level). Despite the fact that Joker never cared about money (as evidenced by his burning of the Mob's money that he earned to recover Lau from the MCU and stated that his actions weren't "about money."), he did see some use of money; he used the money that he had stolen from Gotham National Bank and created his custom suit, acquired his equipment and weaponry, and hired others to form his own gang as the Mob's agents were simply used as a means by Joker to gain control of Gotham's infrastructure and cripple the Mob's power. When Batman interrogated him, Joker casually said that without Batman he'd have to "go back to ripping off mob dealers," which showed how little he actually cared about them.
Joker was also shown to be very literal in his word usage, which allowed him to carry out his crimes and even betrayed his minions while, at the same time, he technically kept his word. The last trait was especially evident when Joker turned on the Mob after he retrieved their money: When the Chechen angrily told him that Joker himself was a man of his word when Joker revealed that he planned to set the cash on fire, Joker confirmed that he indeed was that and made it clear that he only intended to burn the half of the money that he got from retrieving Lau. Joker did it often enough that his trademark was claiming that he was "a man of his word."
Joker has a facial tic where he repeatedly makes chewing motions with his mouth with some licking, presumably caused by his scars.
The Joker was a quite tall man (though his hunched posture made him appear slightly shorter than Batman), who was dressed in a custom-tailored purple suit that consisted of an elegant, purple coat and matching pin-stripe pants that were kept up by suspenders rather than a belt. Underneath it, Joker wore a light grey jacket, a green vest, and a light grey patterned shirt. Joker was almost always seen wearing chalk-white makeup on his face, which consisted of dark face-paint that blackened the spaces around his leering brown eyes, green hair-dye that was spread all over unkempt greasy brown hair, and a red slash of lipstick that was smeared all over a thin mouth with two gruesome scars that were lined at the corners that resembled a Glasgow Smile, which further implied his unstable psyche. According to Happy and Dopey, Joker's use of clown makeup was meant for use in psychological warfare akin to warpaint, and that was at least one reason why he was given the moniker of "The Joker."
During the course of the film, the Joker only removed his make-up once (when he disguised himself and his men as part of the Honor Guard in their attempted assassination of Mayor Garcia at Commissioner Loeb's Funeral), which revealed a twisted and demonic-looking face that was more frightening than with the clown makeup, with sleep-deprived dark circles around the eyes, completely yellow-stained teeth and dirty/dry skin from wearing makeup for long periods of time. Obviously, Joker's extremely poor groomed appearance was linked to his nonexistent care for himself and his life.
Abilities and Skills
The Joker was a genius at planning and improvising criminal activities: He was incredibly intelligent and calculating and always stayed one step ahead of everyone else, including Batman and the GCPD. Joker's unique (if rather disturbed) worldview, as well as the complete mystery that surrounded his identity also gave him something of an edge. Having no connections, friends, former identities or family to be traced back to made Joker very difficult to predict, track down, or even understand. Joker was also shown to be a fearless, and unpredictable fighter, who took on Mob henchmen and cops with ease and showed how lethal he was with many forms of weaponry such as shotguns, RPGs, machine pistols, handguns, explosives, and knives. While he used guns on many occasions, the Joker expressed his preference for knives because "guns are too quick" according to him
The Joker was even capable of holding his own against Batman and trapped him near the climax of the film (although he had assistance on both occasions when he fought Batman). One explanation for his fighting skills might have to do with his sadomasochist personality: Joker didn't really fear physical damage to himself like a normal person did, and, even when brutally injured, laughed at his own pain. His casual insensitivity to pain, and his extreme fearlessness, let Joker take risks that a normal person couldn't even attempt, and most people just didn't see his attacks coming, i.e. walking into a room full of mobsters and casually using a 'magic trick' that impaled a pencil into one of their heads. The Joker's obliviousness to danger made him invulnerable to what was usually Batman's greatest weapon in combat: his ability to frighten low-level thugs.
In Other Media
The Joker's attack on the bank was mentioned in the final Gotham Tonight special episode.
The Joker was mentioned in Greg Cox's novelization of the The Dark Knight Rises. With the Dent Act, it became nearly impossible for criminals to use the insanity defense during trial, meaning that they went to Blackgate Prison rather than Arkham Asylum. The Joker, however, was not one of Blackgate's prisoners, which led some in Gotham to speculate that he was the last remaining inmate at Arkham Asylum. The Joker's whereabouts were never publicized, which left the possibility that he had escaped by the time of Bane's revolution: "The worst of the worst were sent to Blackgate, except for the Joker, who, rumor had it, was locked away as Arkham's sole remaining inmate. Or perhaps he escaped. Nobody was really sure."
Behind the Scenes
The origins of the Joker were left deliberately ambiguous. Christopher Nolan and his co-writer, Jonathan Nolan, suggested Joker's first two appearances in 1940's issues of Batman as crucial influences.
"The Joker we meet in The Dark Knight is fully formed...To me, the Joker is an absolute," Jonathan Nolan explained. "There are no shades of gray to him — maybe shades of purple. He's unbelievably dark. He bursts in just as he did in the comics... We never wanted to do an origin story for the Joker in this film [because] the arc of the story is much more Harvey Dent's; the Joker is presented as an absolute. It's a very thrilling element in the film, and a very important element, but we wanted to deal with the rise of the Joker, not the origin of the Joker."
The late Heath Ledger described the Joker as a "psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with no empathy". Nolan wanted to work with Ledger on a number of projects in the past, but was unable to do so. When Ledger saw Batman Begins, he realized a way to make the character work consistent with that film's tone, and Nolan agreed with his anarchic interpretation. To prepare for the role, Ledger lived alone in a hotel room for a month, formulated the character's posture, voice, and psychology, and kept a diary, in which he recorded the Joker's thoughts and feelings to guide himself during his performance. While he initially found it difficult, Ledger was eventually able to generate a voice that did not sound like Jack Nicholson's take on the character in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman film. Ledger was also given Batman: The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth to read, which he "really tried to read [...] and put it down". Ledger also cited inspirations such as A Clockwork Orange and Sid Vicious, which were "a very early starting point for Christian Bale and I. But we kind of flew far away from that pretty quickly and into another world altogether." Ledger added, "There’s a bit of everything in him. There’s nothing that consistent. There are a few more surprises to him."
Before Ledger was confirmed to play the Joker in July 2006, Paul Bettany, Lachy Hulme, Adrien Brody, Steve Carell, and Robin Williams publicly expressed interest in the role. On not being invited to reprise his performance as the Joker, Jack Nicholson remarked that he was "furious". In turn, responding to his initially-controversial selection to play the Joker, Ledger stated publicly, "It would not matter who is chosen to play the [Joker]. [...] In any film, there is always someone who does not like you and I am secure in my choices and my record. But I know at the end of the day you are never going to please anyone 100 percent…I refuse to carbon copy a performance. That would not be a challenge and it would be mocking Mr. Nicholson, whom I have much respect for." Though a unique portrayal, that Joker interpretation maintained much of his comic book personality, such as his refusal to kill Batman, his view that people's morals were easily derailed, and Two-Face's origin story in the film mirrored the themes and plot of The Killing Joke, as well as his unreliable memory.
On January 22, 2008, after he had completed filming The Dark Knight, Ledger died from an accidental prescription drug overdose, which lead to intense press attention and memorial tributes. In March 2008, four months prior to the film's scheduled release, Larry Carroll reported that "like Batman himself, Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Director Christopher Nolan find themselves shifting gears between being secretive, superheroic and fighting back a deep sadness."
"It was tremendously emotional, right when he passed, having to go back in and look at him every day," Nolan recalled. "But the truth is, I feel very lucky to have something productive to do, to have a performance that he was very, very proud of and that he had entrusted to me to finish." All of Ledger's scenes appeared as he completed them in the filming; in editing the film, Nolan added no "digital effects" to alter Ledger's actual performance posthumously. Nolan dedicated the film in part to Ledger's memory, as well as to the memory of technician Conway Wickliffe, who was killed during a car accident while he prepared one of the film's stunts. According to Nolan, had Ledger not died, part of the plot for the sequel would have had the Joker standing trial for his crimes.
The Joker's scruffy and grungy make-up was intended as a reflection of his "edgy" character. Costume designer Lindy Hemming described the Joker's look as reflecting his personality—that "he doesn't care about himself at all"; she avoided designing him as a vagrant but still made him appear to be "scruffier, grungier", so that "when you see him move, he's slightly twitchier or edgy." Nolan noted, "We gave a Francis Bacon spin to [his face]. This corruption, this decay in the texture of the look itself. It's grubby. You can almost imagine what he smells like." In creating the "anarchistic" look of the Joker, Hemming drew inspiration from such counter-cultural artists as Pete Doherty, Iggy Pop, and Johnny Rotten.
Ledger described his "clown" mask, made up of three pieces of stamped silicone, as a "new technology", which took much less time for the make-up artists to apply than more-conventional prosthetic that usually required—the process took them only an hour—and resulted in Ledger's impression that he was barely wearing any makeup at all. Rumors about the character's design spread after The Dark Knight's release, with many who made connections with Tim Burton's character, Beetlejuice, due to the similar make-up design between the two characters. The irony of the rumor was that Beetlejuice was originally played by Michael Keaton, who played Batman in the 1989 movie and its 1992 sequel, Batman Returns. Many fans suggested that the Joker would have reappeared as the tertiary antagonist in The Dark Knight Rises if Ledger didn't die in 2008. In the film, in respect of the memory of Ledger, the Joker wasn't seen or mentioned.
- The Joker's facial scars and hairstyle were inspired by Lee Bermejo's design of the character, though John Van Fleet was the first artist to ever depict the character's trademark evil grin as facial scars.
- The Joker was the only major antagonist in the trilogy who wasn't tied to the League of Shadows, although his actions were indirectly responsible for Bane successfully engineering a revolution in Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises.
- Elements of Joker's character were referenced with Jerome Valeska in Gotham, who was largely derived from various versions of the Joker as a whole. In particular, after his birth father Cicero the blind fortune teller bluntly makes clear that Jerome being his son was the only reason he helped Jerome cover up the latter's matricide in contempt, Jerome says "My father... Well, I'll be damned.", with the first part having the same delivery as the beginning of the first of Joker's infamous scar stories, "My father... was a drunkard and a fiend."
- Similar to his version in The Batman, he corrupts a law official (Harvey Dent) and turns him into Two-Face similar to how the Joker turned Ethan Bennett into Clayface in The Batman.
- Heath Ledger directed both homemade videos that The Joker sends to GCN. The first video involving the fake Batman was done under writer, producer, and director Christopher Nolan's supervision. Nolan thought Ledger had done so well with that sequence, he felt there was no need for him to be there when it came time to film the scene where reporter Mike Engel reads Joker's statement. He put his trust in Ledger and let him do whatever he wanted, ultimately pleased with the result after he saw the outcome.
- Similar to Ra's al Ghul and Bane, the main antagonists of the trilogy's other installments, the Joker's real name was never revealed and was only known by his alias.