Although Batman is easily my least favorite superhero of all time (Spider-man sitting in a a very close second place), The Joker is just as easily my favorite villain.
There’s so much brilliance about this character, especially if you take into consideration how much I hate origin stories. The Joker is the man without an origin…or at least without one that sticks. He does tend to have a ton of attempts at telling where he came from, and very few of them match up.
I actually find it amusing how often writers, who have taken a short run at the Batman books, decide to attempt to create an origin for The Joker. Heck, even Tim Burton went for it with his first Batman film. Although I think Jack Nicholson’s Joker definitely deserves some credit in its portrayal, I can’t help but believe that those who would attempt to give The Joker a legitimate origin don’t actually understand the character.
Sure, he likes to play with the idea of origin, give little hints about where he came from (that generally turn out later to be entirely fabricated), give little nods to his actual name, or any number of other things that would give the idea that there was something there before the crazed maniac that we all know, love, and fear; but that’s all part of the brilliance. There is not start to the Joker, he just always was, always there, waiting for Batman, so he could wreak havoc within The Bat’s world.
There’s actually plenty to be said within the standard Joker continuity, for the suggestion that The Joker does not actually exist, that he is purely another piece of Batman’s broken psyche, coming out to battle against that man who has taken on his one man battle against crime. Why not? Batman has shown time and again that he could completely eradicate his city of crime with very little effort, but yet continues to place his enemies within the revolving door sanitarium of Arkham.
This idea that The Joker could be a manifestation of The Bat’s darker self gets even more interesting when you research how frequently comics have ended with the appearance of The Joker’s death, only to have him pop up again in the next issue (or a few issues down the line).
The Joker is best because we simply don’t know anything about him. He could be anything, anyone, and anywhere. And, he has absolutely nothing stopping him from being everyone’s worst nightmare. He’s insane…But his insanity seems mostly focused on Batman..to destroy the life Batman has built for himself. He’s killed Robin, crippled Batgirl, destroyed the Batcave…so many of his efforts have been purely against Batman that one can’t help but wonder…what if Batman really is just The Joker trying to both give The Batman a reason for existence at the same time as giving Bruce a way out of being The Bat.
Of course…that might be a little too much like Fight Club…
Needless to say, The Joker is infinitely cooler than Batman, and infinitely more interesting of a character. Where Batman seems to have absolutely no character development over the years, The Joker seems to be constantly changing, his history an ever-evolving enigma, while his future seemingly unstoppable.
If there’s one reason the Batman comics have continued to exist for these past 75+ years, it’s because of characters like The Joker. Because who doesn’t want to see what the clown prince of crime will come up with next. That probably explains why The Joker appeared in Batman #1 and keeps coming back…. (For the record, Batman’s first appearance was in Detective Comics #27, approximately a year earlier).
Actually, if you take a look there, there’s good reason to believe that Batman might not have continued to exist without The Joker. Around the same time that The Joker appeared in the books, they also introduced Robin…which really sounds like some early attempts to shake things up to make a book more interesting.
Alright, I’m out. Have fun out there!