Now don't get me wrong, I love the Joker. But I don't consider him an awesome villain or even in my top villains. I like him as character not as villain. You see insane villains who only work to cause chaos.... are simply that; chaos. There motivation is simple and uninspiring. Sure he wants Batman to break his rule but that's only a by product, he's having way too much fun destroying and killing. His uninteresting motivation is what takes away from him feeling very villainous. Only when Joker has moments of sanity is he ever interesting as a villain. Sorry to say this but... I'm not one of those folk that believe Batman can't exist without the joker, or that joker is the antithesis to batman. I'm more a fan of villains with a clear devious motive; Lex Luthor for example believes he is the apex of human kind and that superman is taking that away from him, so he'll be willing to use his massive fortune and intellect to correct that. Anyways I'm off my soap box, what are your thoughts?
I don't really like insane villains
I could agree with this to some extent, but on the other hand, you have no one else who really pushes the heroes to that edge if it was not for these types of characters. The Joker is perhaps the worst person to use for your example, if you look at what he alone has done to not only Batman but the people around Batman he has perhaps been one of the most devastating and driving forces to Batman's character.
In Death Of The Family, they had a real chance to show this but DC deiced to dive out at the end and almost make the entire arc pointless. The only way these types of characters work is if you make them dark and dangerous enough that the heroes they our facing are so scared of what they will do next they question how to deal with them or even their own morals.
The idea that Joker is insane is somewhat questionable. What exactly makes him insane? How is he insane? etc etc. The way he is written, chances are he could be completely sane. Just... evil.
While I do see where you are coming from with other villains having a clear defined motive, I have to disagree. I think the undefined blurred motive is part of my obsession with him. As some one pointed out earlier, the Joker has impacted, severely, more people than any other villain (in Gotham any way). While many people try to claim it's due to him being over used, yet I don't see any one complaining about Loki being a pivotal character in three marvel movies, I don't think it's the case at all. The Joker is a good tool for any Batman story. His undefined mentality, back story, and questionable insanity, allows a writer to mold him any way they see fit. This is the reason I think he defines Batman if that makes any sense. He's the opposite end of the spectrum, matching Batman beautifully. Batman functions on rationality and the understanding of criminals. Talk about a wrench in the gears.
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