When you think of Batman’s nemesis the Joker, which Joker do you think of? There’s plenty of versions to choose from. My favorite, for example, is Heath Ledger’s terrifying Joker from The Dark Knight trilogy:
But Joker has been famous long before he returned to our cinema screens. In fact, Joker has been a nemesis of Batman since the 1940s! As Daniel Philips explains on IGN,
Below are the Joker’s many looks over the past seventy years!
The Joker’s facial features – white skin, ruby red lips and green hair – have remained a trademark of the character, as has his signature purple suit. (We love that suit.)
ABC brought Batman to our television screens in 1966 with the zany Batman television show starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin.
In the fifth episode of the first season, “The Joker Is Wild,” actor Cesar Romero stepped into the role of the Clown Prince of Crime. This TV Joker did not differ much from his comic book incarnation at the time, with one bizarre and baffling exception: Cesar Romero refused to shave his mustache for the role. So in each of his eighteen featured episodes, the Joker’s white face paint was applied directly over Romero’s ridiculous facial hair. Seriously. We couldn’t make this up:
Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman gave us Jack Nicholson in the role of the creepy villain. Nicholson clearly borrowed from the Alan Moore Jackman of The Killing Joke, and turned in a wacky yet terrifying performance.
With the success of Tim Burton’s Batman films, Batman fever returned to our television screens with Batman: The Animated Series. (One of my all-time favorite shows.) Artist/producer Bruce Timm borrowed the gothic look of Tim Burton’s movies and took them to even more extremes, adopting a simplistic, “almost cubist take” on Gotham City and its famous inhabitants. Also, THIS Joker was voiced by Mark Hamill, yes as in, Luke Skywalker.
Adhering to Christopher Nolan’s more realistic approach to the Batman mythology, Ledger’s Joker is a believable homicidal maniac, complete with a grin that’s literally cut into his face in jagged scars. Unlike the other iterations of the Joker, Ledger’s Joker’s pale skin also appears to be the result of makeup and not acid scarring. Further driving home the Joker’s terrifying look is that his purple suit seems to have been haphazardly sewn together from a variety of fabrics. The overall effect is powerful and disturbing.
According to The Atlantic, in revamping the part of the Joker for Suicide Squad, actor Jared Leto “was reportedly so committed to the part that he gifted the cast and crew with a litany of horrible items: used condoms, a dead pig, and a live rat. To get into the character’s twisted mindset, he also watched footage of brutal crimes online. ‘The Joker is incredibly comfortable with acts of violence,’ he told Rolling Stone. ‘I was watching real violence, consuming that. There’s a lot you can learn from seeing it.'” Eeeeek. This most up-to-date Joker is the stuff of nightmares.