The Joker is one of the most recognizable characters in all of comics, introduced from the beginning till this day as the biggest threat to, antihero, Batman. The Joker is known as a monster by all people because of the unspeakable acts he has done in all his adaptations. Weather you’re talking about Comics, Movies, or TV Shows The Joker has always been portrayed as a monster among men. The comic book version of the Joker can be broken up into 4 different sections; the Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, and the Modern Age. These different ages show how the Joker has evolved, just as we as a society have evolved. Each generation added their 2 cents to what the Joker is and till this day he continues to grow and evolve as a villain of DC Comics. The most recognizable villain is the Joker because his madness is rooted in reality. If you ever say Batman to someone they’re going to think of the Joker and vice versa.
The golden age version of Joker was from 1938-1950. The golden age Joker is known as a deranged serial killer with a sadistic sense of humor. He did some horrible things like burn smiles onto his victims and cut off their faces. The Silver Age Joker was from 1956-1970. The silver age Joker went from being a masked murder to a low life prankster. This change happened because the public thought the golden age of comics was too gruesome for children and promoted violence. This led to comics censoring them self and the Joker becoming a prankster instead of the monster he once was. The Bronze age of comics was 1970-1985. The bronze age brought the median back to a place where it could address social issues and returned comics to its darker roots. The difference between this and the golden age though was the psychology behind the characters. The Bronze Age Joker emphasized his insanity and mental instability instead of being a master criminal or a goofy prankster, this joker was a mentally ill psychopath who choose not to control his actions. The modern age of comics has lasted since 1985 till now, and has doubled down on the Bronze ages dark and gritty imagery. This has been followed by the movie versions of the Jokers as well. Through the 3 different adaptations we have seen all 3-different sides of the Joker. The 1966 Batman movie Joker was the silver age Joker that was just a prankster who was just trying to steal from banks and always being outwitted by Batman. Jack Nicholson’s 1989 Joker portrayal was adapted from the Golden Age of comics. He was a sadistic criminal who kills without a worry and disfigures his victims just like the comics. The Heath Ledger Joker was the Bronze and Modern Age Joker, he was mentally ill and couldn’t live without Batman. He was Psychopathic criminal mastermind and only lived to be the opposition of Batman. The Joker was also adapted to many TV shows and you can see the same 3 different types of Jokers. Some of the TV shows he has been in are Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, and Batman Beyond just to name a few. The most known voice actor has been Mark Hamill, and his gritty voice and villainous laugh has been linked to the animated Joker forever.
These 3 different versions of the Joker also show how humanity has grown; we went from being open to new ideas then wanting to hide the real world and protect our innocence. We ended up at a place where we couldn’t hide it because in today’s world innocence doesn’t exist so we went all out with the Joker. This supports the first thesis of the 7 theses of monsters. Each culture produces its own version of a certain monster and every generation tweaks it to fit what is going on around them. The second theses is what the Joker is great at, always escaping. The Joker can be caught, but even if he is he will get out because he is the yin to Batman’s yang. Without the Joker, you can’t get the best out of the Batman, so if Joker was killed off in the comics Batman wouldn’t have his lifelong protagonist to fight back against. The third theses showed how a monster does not let him or herself fit into any given category. The same is true for the Joker he has so many different versions of himself that you can’t ever tell what is real and what isn’t. In most adaptations, he is shown to lie about many things, like when he is asked about his scars in the movie The Dark Knight, he gives a story on how he did it himself and later he is asked by someone else he comes up with a completely different story. He does this so he can’t have a connection with anybody and no one can see his human side, only the monster he wants to be known as. The fourth theses shows that a monster plays on the idea that going outside the realms of culture on conformity results in the worst forms. Joker shows that individuality is negative and that is what made him a monster. Theses five shows how a monster can stop a person from doing something. Like when Joker announces on live TV who he’s going to kill and where, no one wants to leave the house. Joker also shows that when he’s outside of his comfort zone he can go even more ballistic and cause much more harm, he always wants to be in control like any monster would. The sixth theses shows how sometimes we envy a monster and how we are jealous of them. The Joker is a perfect example of this because the relationship between him and Harley Quinn is often referred to as relationship goals, but if you really look into that relationship you would see how horrible it is and how abusive they are to each other. In some adaptions, it shows the Joker raping Harley Quinn and abusing her, so this shows how some people can be envious of a relationship while still loathing it. Theses seven shows how monsters never go away, they always come back. Weather that be a completely new adaptation or continuation of an old one we can’t let go of these monsters and the story’s we get out of them. This is especially true with the Joker. The three different faces of the Joker show the obsession our society has with a monster like Joker and how we need an antagonist in our lives to function weather that be the goofy prankster, criminal mastermind, or psychopathic criminal.
After researching about the Joker by reading comics and watching many movies and TV shows I have come to a crossroad. On one side, I see the monster the Joker is portrayed to be in these adaptations and I hate him and want Batman to get him every time. On the other hand, though I see the logic behind some of his madness, this is especially true in Heath Ledgers portrayal as the Joker. They did a perfect job in his movie on showing how dark humanity can be towards each other with just one little push. His very first scene shows how he turned his fellow criminals against each other. So, I see the beauty behind the Jokers madness I don’t support it though, because if we all thought of humanity in the cynical way the Joker does we would have all killed each other by now. If you compare the movie Jokers to the comic book counterpart you see the parallels that exist between the two versions. You can see each of the Jokers get represented in the movies by a different actor. To me this shows how much we admire our version of a monster, and how we need that escapism from reality. The Joker can be a realistic character from a universe of flying men and web slingers. That is why people can relate to the Joker and Batman, they are both just humans no special powers or abilities. These two are the embodiment of the struggle with humans, the struggle of good and evil that exits between all of us. The yin yang affect. So, monsters have their place in society to remind us what humanity could be and how we should do everything to prevent it from getting there. But we can’t be enamored by these monsters we created or else we can slip between the lines of reality and fiction and that’s where you get a real-life monster. When those lines get blurred to an individual we can lose sight of what is right and what is wrong. Thus, creating a monster.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory: Reading Culture, University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
This is the article we talked about in class and explained to each other. These 7 theses were used to show how minsters exist in our society, and it was used in my essay to describe the type of monster the Joker is.
Dreyer, Randolph. “Clap If You Believe in Batman the Dark Knight Christopher Nolan (Director).” Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, vol. 45, no. 1, Jan. 2009, pp. 80-81. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1744-6163.2009.00206.x.
This article was a scholarly source and was written by Randolph Dreyer. It explored the madness the Joker had in the movie The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger, who played the Joker, did an amazing job at showing the mental inconsistency’s the Joker has and how far away he is from being human.
The Dark Knight (2008) movie
In this movie Joker was played by Heath Ledger and showed how psychotic the Joker can be while still being something that can exist in this world. This movie helped me realize how much the Joker relied on the back and forth him and Batman have, and how without Batman he didn’t want to play anymore. This showed how for Joker it wasn’t a crime it was fun and a game.
Batman: The Animated Series (1992) TV show
This joker was voiced by Mark Hamill whose voice has become synonymous with the animated joker. His portrayal in the show was how the Joker was methodical and killed with no conscious, but unlike Heath Ledgers Joker, Hamills Joker had all his marbles he just wanted to control Gotham and kill whoever gets in his way.
Public Luna-Tic Number One! (1960) Comic
This Joker was the silver age Joker who wasn’t a sadistic criminal or psychopathic killer he was just a wacky prankster. This showed me how with the times the Joker changed and how he was written into story’s was changed. This change came because the old Joker showed to much violence to the young audience these comics were usually read by.