There’s no disputing the fact that the Joker has and always will be Batman’s main rival and the most iconic villain in the DC Comics universe. So many different writers and actors have put their own spin on the Joker, and it has allowed for some excellent entertainment over the years as the villain has remained far from dull. 2019 will see Joaquin Phoenix take his turn as the Clown Prince, and this offering from Todd Phillips will be a dark and sinister retelling of the Joker’s origin. A lot of comic book fans remember a time when the Joker was a bit more humorous, though. Aren’t these fans due some service as well?
The Joker has been around for nearly as long as the Caped Crusader and appeared in the first ever Batman comic published in 1940. In the years that followed, the smiling evil genius became so notorious that there are few people who aren’t familiar with him. In fact, the Joker and his image has often been used as a way of selling films or games in recent times. For example, when Warner Bros. Pictures was promoting Suicide Squad in 2016, Jared Leto’s Joker featured predominantly in the advertising campaign as a way of drawing viewers in. In the end, he was in it for a short amount of time and a lot of his scenes were cut.
The Joker’s name and themes have also been used as a way to market games to mass audiences. There are various slots such as Epic Joker, which use the character’s name as a draw even if they don’t necessarily feature his image. The Batman: Arkham series was immensely successful, and that was in part down to Mark Hamill’s award-winning turn as the Joker.
Despite being world-renowned and instantly recognisable, a lot of modern-day Joker fans don’t know about how the character originally started out in the comics. When Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson created the Joker, they originally intended for him to be killed off in his second appearance. But seeing as fans liked the character so much, he stuck around and became Batman’s main antagonist. He started out as a homicidal maniac, but soon transformed into a hilarious and goofy trickster.
One of the earliest portrayals of this version of the Joker was by Cesar Romero in the 1966 television series Batman. Because this performance was so well received, a lot of people’s earliest memories of the Joker are of his humorous rather than homicidal side.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the more recent manic portrayals of the Joker, and Heath Ledger’s turn in the Dark Knight was particularly impressive. That being said, it would be nice to sometimes see versions of the Joker that hark back to the time when he first appeared on television screens. Maybe this is something that the movie industry bigwigs could look into in the years ahead.