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Infographic: The Many Incarnations of the Joker Through the Years

For almost as long as Batman has been around to save helpless civilians, the Joker has always there to spread chaos and despair in the city of Gotham. These two characters are so entwined that in every version of the Batman (here), there has always been a Joker to come along with it. After all, you can’t have a superhero without his arch-enemy. And in the 75 years of his existence, there have been many different interpretations for the Clown Prince of Crime. While he has been portrayed as a psychopath in most of these incarnations, his appearance and origin has changed time and time again. Trying to list all the versions of this character would take more than a couple of pages, so we have compiled a few of his most noteworthy incarnations that have appeared throughout his long history.

Joker Through The Years Infographic

Silver / Golden Age Joker     

The very first appearance of the character was in the debut issue of the Batman comic book, issue #1 in 1940. The Joker was created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Bill FInger, based on a picture of Conrad Veidt from the silent film The Man Who Laughs. He was depicted as a psychopath and a criminal mastermind with a twisted sense of humor. Incidentally, the Joker was supposed to be killed off in the first issue through a stab in the heart, but it was later changed so that the Joker has survived the encounter.

1960’s Television Joker

The 1960’s television series of Batman was a campy and lighter interpretation of the comic, so it was also no surprise that the Joker would be more of a trickster and less of a psychopath. Joker was introduced in the 5th episode of season 1 titled “The Joker is Wild”. Cesar Romero was supposedly the first choice for the role, but it is unknown as to why creator Bill Finger chose him. Although he accepted the role, Romero refused to shave his moustache for the show, so the face paint was applied over his facial hair for the 18 episodes that he appeared in.

1970’s Joker

In the 70s, writer Denny O’Neil along with artist Neal Adams steered the Joker away from being a campy trickster into a darker and more terrifying Joker. Unlike before, the Joker was now portrayed as a gruesome murderer who enjoys his acts of crime. Along with the change in personality was the change in appearance, with the Joker depicted with a sleeker body and more prominent cheek bones and a longer jaw. This version of the Joker first appeared in Batman #251 (September 1973).

The Dark Knight Returns Joker

The Dark Knight Returns was a stand-alone story set in a near future, dystopian Gotham City released in the 1986. Writer and artist Frank Miller reimagined the Joker as a more muscular and bulky character, unlike the thin and sleek design of the 70s. This in turn made the Clown Prince of Crime much scarier than before. The Joker was introduced during the 3rd volume of the story.

The Killing Joke Joker

In 1988, only two years after the Dark Knight Returns, another version of the Joker was featured in “The Killing Joke” (1988). Writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland explored the Joker’s origin and how he came to become the villain we know now. The two set out to humanize the Joker and show the readers his previous life as a stand-up comedian. Despite being crazier than ever, the Joker was drawn with more realistic features.

Batman 1989 Joker

The Joker made his first big screen appearance in Tim Burton’s Batman film back in 1989. Jack Nicholson portrayed the character with the classic pale skin, green hair, and fixed grin. In the film, Joker was a mobster who was transformed into what he is now due to falling into a vat of chemicals during an encounter with Batman.

Batman: The Animated Series Joker

The Joker came back to the small screen through Batman: The Animated Series, during its second episode titled “Christmas with the Joker” (1982). Writer Paul Dini and artist Bruce Timm depicted Joker with a streamlined body and sharp features to fit the gothic style of the city of Gotham. The Joker was voiced by Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, who gave the Joker with a trademark laugh that’ll give anyone the chills when they hear them. This design of the Joker was later carried on to other animated shows including Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited.

The Dark Knight Joker

In 2008, the sequel to Cristopher Nolan’s Batman film was released, and fans were anxious to see the late Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. Despite the criticism of fans during the announcement of his casting, Ledger delivered what most consider the most terrifying version of the Joker yet on the big screen. His version of the Joker was an anarchist without a plan and a homicidal maniac who enjoyed killing just for the fun of it. He also had a fixed grin which was the result of his many scars on the face. Unfortunately, Heath Ledger died before the movie was released, but his thrilling performance resulted in many posthumous awards.

Arkham Series Joker

The Joker was a prominent character in Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Series of video games. His first appearance was in the first game Arkham Asylum, where he was featured as the main antagonist for Batman. Mark Hamill returned to voice the character in Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequel Batman: Arkham City, but stepped down in the next few games due to the strain it put on his voice. The Arkham series is said to have revitalized Batman games, and it has become a successful video game franchise ever since.

Suicide Squad Joker

A new version of the Joker, played by Academy Award winning actor Jared Leto, will appear in 2016’s Suicide Squad, a film set in the DC Cinematic Universe that will feature the biggest villains in the DC Universe. The film’s Joker has a much more radical change to his appearance. Although he maintains the pale skin and green hair, this Joker also has tattoos all over his body and a grill on his teeth. This movie will also be the first big screen appearance of Joker’s partner in crime Harley Quinn. From the looks of the trailer, it seems like the movie will explore the origin of how Joker turned Dr. Harlene Quinzel into her villain alter ego Harley Quinn.

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