Who is Batman's archenemy

A grimace turns 80: Batman's archenemy is celebrating a milestone birthday

A grimace turns 80: Batman's archenemy is celebrating a milestone birthday

Probably the most famous comic villain of all time is celebrating a milestone birthday on April 25th. We take a look back at his beginnings and his transformation from trickster to evil psychopath.

80 years ago the comic artists Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson created what is arguably the most notorious super villain in the world. In 1940, in “Batman # 1”, the superhero of the same name met one of his future most stubborn opponents - the Joker. In its basic features, the appearance of the always smiling clown is based on the character of Gwynplaines, who was embodied in the 1928 film "The man who laughs" by Conrad Veidt. Gwynplaines was disfigured as a child and has always smiled ever since.

While it is often assumed that the Joker was portrayed as a joker in its beginnings, the opposite is more the case. Until 1942 he was a serious and, above all, deadly opponent. In his early years he already showed the first traits of the psychopath he would one day become.

Infantile jokes with Batman

It was not until 1943 that the Joker acquired a much more harmless image. He was demoted to a joker who drove his infantile jokes with Batman until the 1960s. The portrayal of actor Cesar Romero in the TV series from 1966 is based on this joker. Also in Jack Nicholson's Joker from 1989 you can find some of the facets of this joker. At the same time, however, he is also the first to show the psychopathic traits of the character. Because from 1970 the Joker got visibly violent qualities and he showed more and more his joy in killing. During this time of his transformation he is also made responsible for two tragedies in Batman's life: on the one hand the murder of the second Robin, Jason Todd, and on the other hand the paraplegia of the Batgirl Barbara Gordon.

In addition to Romero and Nicholson, Mark Hamill also had a great influence on the image of the Joker. The actor, known as Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films, was the Joker in the animated series that was televised in the early 1990s.

Master of Transformation

In the 90s, the Joker was also given an assistant for the first time, in the form of Harley Quinn, a former psychologist. She wears a harlequin costume to match her lover's appearance. Your relationship with the Joker is a love-hate relationship, because he doesn't shy away from hurting or killing you. Regardless of that, she keeps coming back to him. From the mid-2000s onwards, under the direction of the Scottish comic artist Grant Morrison, the Joker was increasingly gaining its image as a “super-schizophrenic” who was constantly “recreating” himself. With this development of the Joker, the authors seemed to provide an answer to its innumerable changes over the years.

The most gruesome Joker to date can be found in the series "Batman: Death of the Family" published from 2012. The Joker can completely remove his face and wear it as a mask from now on. The skin is stretched so that it creates an even grotesque grin. There is practically nothing left of the former joker.


The joker in film and television

Batman Series (1966)

Cesar Romero

One of the first Jokers to appear in the TV series in the 1960s Batman pranced across the home screens. For the role, Romero refused to shave off his trademark mustache. In many scenes you can still see the whiskers painted over with white paint. His joker still borrowed a lot from the earliest comic depictions.

Batman (1989)

Jack Nicholson

Let's face it, with that cast Tim Burton got in Batman don't do much wrong. Nicholson shows us the classic version of the DC villain, albeit a little more macabre and malicious than Romero. It wasn't the most profound representation, but the dance interlude to Prince “Partyman” is and remains legendary.

The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger

After the rather macabre funny jokers Romero and Nicholson followed in The Dark Knight the darkest Joker to date. No one believed that Heath Ledger, who died in 2008, could portray the DC villain. In 2009 he was posthumously awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. His Joker was the first to have only white paint on his face and did not suffer an accident from an acid bath. His identity and past also remain in the dark. In the film, he tells several variants of how he got the distinctive scars on the corners of his mouth.

Suicide Squad (2016)

Jared Leto

Unfortunately this joker happened. Neither the film nor Jared Leto's portrayal was convincing. The attempt to interpret the Joker as a kind of tattooed pimp went badly.

Joker (2019)

Joaquin Phoenix

Perhaps the most tragic portrayal of the always laughing clown. With joker director Todd Phillips managed to arouse compassion for the notorious psychopath. Joaquin Phoenix ’performance was also awarded an Oscar in 2020. While some parallels to Heath Ledger's Joker are scattered in the film, Phoenix shows a rawer, more vulnerable Joker. He holds up the mirror to the audience, uncensored and merciless.