The Joker was the alias taken by an unnamed criminal operating in Gotham City. The so-called criminal King of the area, he was the arch-nemesis of Batman and responsible for many tragedies in his life.
Origin & Early Criminal Career
Unlike most foes of Batman, Joker's true identity was unknown to many, including the Dark Knight himself. However, it is presumed he had connections to Ace Chemicals and fallen into the Chemical Vats, bleaching his skin white, hair green and lips red. Becoming a career criminal, Joker built up his own criminal organization, including henchman Jonny Frost, and gained a fearsome reputation around Gotham City. He also had multiple encounters with the vigilante Batman, whom he labeled the Dark Knight his arch-nemesis.
Joker eventually learned of Batman's identity as Bruce Wayne. Though the exact events are unknown, he burnt down the ancestral home Wayne Manor and killed his sidekick Robin, sending vandalized costume to the Dark Knight with the words "Ha Ha Ha Jokes on you Batman" spray painted onto it. After this incident, an infuriated Batman tracked down Joker and smashed his front teeth. To hide the injury, Joker began wearing metal grills in their place and tattooed "DAMAGED" onto his forehead to remind Batman of making him lose control.
At some point, Joker was committed to Arkham Asylum. During his stay, he developed an interest in his psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel. After an unknown amount of therapy sessions, Joker managed to seduce and convince her to help him escape. Organizing his gang to break him out, he then had the gang restrain Quinzel in electroshock therapy. Justifying it as retribution for similar treatment, Joker torture Quinzel with the eletrodes, damaging her brain and driving her insane.
After an unspecified amount of time, Joker brought Quinzel to Ace Chemicals. After having her deliver an oath to help in his criminal endevors, he convinced her to jump into the same vat that created him to become his "Criminal Queen". When Quinzel complied, Joker thought of leaving Harleen to die, but had a change of mind and saved her. As she regained consciousness, Joker kissed her, embracing her as his partner in crime: Harley Quinn. The two would have multiple encounters with Batman from that point onwards. Their relationship also prevented retrobution against Quinzel by other mobsters, such as the Black Mask.
At some point after the battle in Metropolis, Joker met with local gangster Monster T at a local strip club, who planned business with him. During their meeting, Joker noticed the gangster looking at Harley dancing, much to his dismay. Hoping to find his true character, Joker called Harley and offered her to Monster T as part of their deal. When the gangster decline due to intimidation and distrust, Joker became unimpressed and shot him in the head.
Fleeing in the "Jokermobile", Joker and Harley quickly learned that Batman had learned of the incident and was pursuing them in his Batmobile. Whilst Harley shot at the Dark Knight, Joker navigated and traffic to shake off the pursuit. Eventually, Batman ejected from the Batmobile and grabbed the Jokermobile's roof. Despite Harley's protests, Joker drove the car into a nearby river, forcing the vigilante to let go but them to crash. Whilst Batman dove in after them, he managed to escape whilst Batman captured Quinn, leading to her imprisonment at Belle Reve Penitentiary.
Harley was arrested and sent in Belle Reve and was soon to be a member of Task Force X. Meanwhile, the Joker was in a room full of knives, guns, and other bizarre things, feeling sad without his girlfriend and partner in crime, when his henchmen Jonny Frost arrived and said that Harley and other people were missing after going to a "swamp in Louisiana". The Joker said to Jonny to get the car, because they were going for a ride.
The Joker and his men assaulted a Wayne Enterprises factory, where the bombs for Task Force X were produced. Joker showed Dr. Van Crisis, the one behind the explosives, his wife held hostage, which lead the doctor to deactivate Harley's bomb.
After they stole a helicopter, the Joker and his gang began an operation to rescue Harley. Arriving at the rooftop, where the Suicide Squad and Amanda Walller were awaiting Waller's rescue, the Joker and his men opened fire at them with Harley climbing a rope to the chopper. The couple hugged and kissed, but their happiness was short lived as Waller ordered her men to shoot down the helicopter. Joker threw Harley off the air vehicle, but apparently fell victim to the crash.
After he somehow survived the crash, the Joker and his men broke into Belle Reve and rescued Harley. The couple then headed back to Gotham. However, they ultimately broke up for reasons unknown, leaving Harley to fend for herself.
Some time before the events of Knightmare, Joker at some point got his tattoos removed, grew out his hair, and got incarcerated at an unknown prison (presumably Arkham).
After the death of Lois Lane, Superman consumed by rage joins forces with the cosmic-warlord Darkseid who slaughters a vast majority of the Justice League which includes Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Some time later, Earth has become a post-apocalyptic wasteland ruled in tyranny by both Darkseid and Superman. A massive conflict eventually began between Darkseid and Superman's Regime and the Batman and the Justice League's Insurgency. Needing all the help he could get, Batman breaks Joker out of his prison at the cost of Harley Quinn's life and reluctantly enlists him to help him retrieve the Mother Box for Cyborg to construct and power up a cosmic treadmill for The Flash to use to travel back in time and prevent this grim future from happening.
During a confrontation between Superman and the Insurgents (consisting of Batman, Joker, Flash, Cyborg, Mera, Deathstroke), Joker was presumably killed by Superman himself.
Behind the Scenes
Joker was planned to appear in early development stages of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, though in an unknown capacity. It's likely the character would have appeared as either a secondary antagonist or via flashbacks. However, the character was cut out during preproduction, the character being replaced with Anatoli Knyazev.
During production of Suicide Squad, it was decided to include Joker from the start. In original director and writer David Ayer, original drafts featured him as the main antagonist, his goal being to rescue Harley Quinn from Task Force X and bring retribution to Waller. In subsequent drafts, he was relegated to the secondary villain, with the position being taken by Enchantress.
It was also decided to give Joker an appearance similar to modern criminals, particularly with low-level clothing and tattoos. The latter had previously been seen on Frank Miller's version of the character in All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder. The girdled teeth was decided to be included, with Ayer coming to the conclusion Joker would have lost his teeth and smile over the years long battles with Batman. Leto also shaved his eyebrows for the role.
To prepare for the role, Leto researched real-world criminals and psychopaths, particularly those who worked for Cartels or organized crime. Some source also claimed that he slept a night within a prison during it. He also isolated himself from the rest of the cast, listening to 1920s gospel music and reading literature about shamanism. Leto also sent cast and crew members macabre gifts, such as live rat to Quinn actress Margot Robbie, ammunition to Will Smith, Playboy magazines to Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and a dead hog to the entire cast. Viola Davis also claimed he hired "goons" to help him in these.
Leto also claimed that Joker had a much more substantial role in the film, with the footage shown being only "a fraction" of what he had featured in. Some have speculated that Warner Bros. may have interference with production after negative reception to Batman v Superman and cut many of these to lighten the film's tone. Leto did not reprise the role for Birds of Prey, with Johnny Goth serving as a body double. However, archival footage of Joker from Suicide Squad appears in the film.
Leto reprised his role in the director's cut of Justice League. Unlike most of the footage, this was actually new material filmed for the version and based on Zack Snyder's plans for future DC Films. Joker had originally been absent in the films original version, including Snyder's original footage, but was added Joker's appearance was also changed, with his costume changed to a post-apocalyptic appearance and the tattoos being removed.
- Though Leto's performance has been praised, many have been critical of Joker's appearance in Suicide Squad, particularly for the tattoos and looks. The character's presence in the film has also been criticized, some claiming it was only included to set up future Batman and Harley Quinn films. Some have also been critical of the fact that Joker is alive in the Snyderverse films, given that Batman kills criminals and that he is established to have caused more psychological pain than any other member of Batman's rogues gallery.
- Leto's Joker is the first, and so far only, version of the Joker to appear in multiple live-action films, those being Suicide Squad and refilmed Snyder's version of Justice League. Both Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger had appeared in one film each (Batman and The Dark Knight, respectively), though the former would have appeared in the cancelled Batman Unchained.
- There is much contention of the identity of the Robin Joker killed and potentially the timeline. Zack Snyder intended for it to be Dick Grayson, who'd traditionally survived and become Nightwing, and he'd also have acted alone. However, Ayer claimed he assumed Snyder intended for it to be Jason Todd, who'd traditionally died at Joker's hands. Props and promotional material for both films also refer to this being the case. Harley's animated bio also claims that Quinn was also complicit, or potentially responsible, in the act.
- There are several contradictions with accounts of Joker killing Robin, particularly in Suicide Squad. In the film, Joker has the grill and tattoos, which he received after killing Robin, in flashbacks for Harley's origin. However, the film also claims that Harley assisted him in the murder. It is possible that Joker had killed Dick Grayson whilst Harley killed Jason Todd, though this is only conjecture and Snyder has denied any other Robins existing after they were murdered.
- Mobile link