Off My Mind: The Importance of the Joker to Batman's Character

  • 63 results
  • 1
  • 2
Posted by G-Man (18919 posts) - - Show Bio

Yesterday we mentioned the unfortunate news of the passing of Jerry Robinson, the creator of the Joker. As it was pointed out, it's hard to imagine Batman comics without the Joker. Besides being the World's Greatest Detective, Batman is known for having an incredible rogues gallery. His classic villains have stood the test of time and there aren't many other characters that can compete with the level of villains that Batman has.

The Joker has been a complex character and has seen numerous incarnations over the years. His full origin has never officially been told and the Joker himself even claims he's not sure what his true story is. He has killed so many since his debut, we may never know what his official kill count is. He is also the only villain that has managed to strike Batman so close to home.

What many are not aware of is the fact that the Joker was originally intended to die in the issue he first appeared in. If a last minute editorial decision hadn't been made, the Joker could have been long forgotten. Life without the Joker might make Batman's life a lot easier but he also wouldn't be the hero he is today without him.

When the Joker first appeared (in BATMAN #1), he was a pure killer. He would announce his upcoming crime and who he would be killing, knowing he could get away with it. After several murders, Batman finally decided to go to the home of the next announced victim to put a stop to the Joker.

The Joker escaped and Batman noted, "It seems I've at last met a foe that can give me a good fight!" The deaths continued and Batman and Robin almost became victims themselves. Eventually Joker was caught and sent to jail.

In that same issue (which also featured the first appearance of Catwoman and another appearance by Hugo Strange in separate stories), the Joker made his return. Picking up after the first story, Joker was in prison and made his escape, possibly killing two guards.

Eventually, Batman and Robin caught up with him (I lost track of how many others were killed due to the Dynamic Duo's slow response time). There was a fight, Joker tried to stab Batman with a knife but Batman "side steps, the killer clown stumbles forward into the building, driving the knife into his own chest!" This was how the Joker was originally intended to be killed off.

What ended up happening is as the Joker was taken away in an ambulance, the doctor on board was surprised to find Joker was still alive. Guess Batman wasn't too thorough in his examination. They just watched as he lay there with a knife to his chest and made no attempt to save him.

It's hard to believe that the original intention was for the character to be killed off. Who would've thought a killer in a purple suit with the face of a clown would go on to become Batman's biggest nemesis. Besides all the countless murders he's committed, he also killed Commissioner Gordon's second wife, Sarah Essen, shot and violated Barbara Gordon, killed Jason Todd, which lead to his return as a bit of a mess, and so on.

None of Batman's other villains really compare to Joker. You have your occasional Mr. Zsasz, who is another psychotic killer, but not on the same level as Joker. Joker is the villain that keeps Batman on his toes. He might even be the one thing that Batman is actually afraid of. He has defeated him over and over but for someone that prides himself on always having a contingency plan, that doesn't always apply to the Joker. When the Joker breaks out of Arkham, you never know what you're going to get. Sometimes he'll commit sillier crimes while other times he can be downright scary.

If it wasn't for the Joker, Batman might have become too comfortable with his average foes. The Joker always brought something new. This is one reason why Batman never killed him, despite all the pain and misery (and death) he's caused everyone. They're complete opposites but do have some things in common. Batman can't cross that line and he would also try to preserve Joker's life if it was in danger. They're different sides of the same coin.

But if Joker had died all those years ago and wasn't resurrected in a typical comic book way, Batman wouldn't be the same hero he is today. The Joker is part of his motive and inspiration to rid the world of evil. Joker is the reason there's a need for Batman. A hero is defined by their enemy. The greater the enemy, the greater the hero is. If Batman didn't have Joker, who would would be his number one foe? Penguin? Mr. Freeze? The Riddler? Captain Calamity? Current BATMAN writer, Scott Snyder, said the following last night:

Because the truth is, my opinion, the Joker is the greatest villain of all time. Not just in comics - in everything.

I'll say it again, Batman wouldn't be the hero he is today if it wasn't for the Joker.

#1 Posted by CrimsonTempest (305 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't think Batman would BE Batman if Joker were to indeed die way back then. In many ways, Joker defines Batman in not just stories, but in merchandise as well. Would The Dark Knight be as big of a hit if there was no Joker? Would Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Mark Hamill's career after Star Wars, anything that Joker has been involved in, be just as good as it is now? Regretfully, no.
 
With that said, Joker is too invaluable to kill off. Rest in peace, Jerry Robinson.

#2 Posted by Rabbitearsblog (6028 posts) - - Show Bio

I definitely agree that the Joker is the main villain that defies everything that Batman stands for in heroics. The Joker is probably the most sadistic villain out of all the other villains in the Batman universe and without him, Batman would have the dark side of villainy that the Joker brings in each story.

#3 Posted by EscGamer (125 posts) - - Show Bio

joker is the best comic book villain out there hands down. he's unpredictable he does things with no real goal in mind and he's still a human, no powers what so ever. when villains try to scare each other they tell joker stories or so i heard.

#4 Posted by Saren (25125 posts) - - Show Bio

.....maybe if the Joker died, Killer Croc would be Batman's number one villain. That's how it should be.

Moderator
#5 Posted by TheMess1428 (2176 posts) - - Show Bio

I think they should put together a big Batman event again and make it basically the death of the Joker. Later on, they should bring him back in the same epic fashion. But the concept is to make it a big deal. A really big deal.

#6 Posted by entropy_aegis (15460 posts) - - Show Bio

@CitizenBane said:

.....maybe if the Joker died, Killer Croc would be Batman's number one villain. That's how it should be.

LOL

#7 Posted by jubilee042 (1345 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rabbitearsblog said:

I definitely agree that the Joker is the main villain that defies everything that Batman stands for in heroics. The Joker is probably the most sadistic villain out of all the other villains in the Batman universe and without him, Batman would have the dark side of villainy that the Joker brings in each story.

#8 Posted by Herx (372 posts) - - Show Bio

If the Joker died back then batman probably wouldn't have become such a popular character as he is today, left in the anls of time with past heroes of the golden and silver age. Sure batman has a load of fantastic rouges in his rouges gallery but as far as i can remeber (which isnt much) during Batmans original debute not many of them were as twisted as ol' mista J, and many of them didnt even exist untill much later.

#9 Posted by Phaedrusgr (1667 posts) - - Show Bio

@EscGamer: I'll agree with you on almost everything, but I'll disagree on one particular point. Joker has a goal, he adores social-political chaos. He loves being feared and since Batman is his arch-enemy, he's in love with Batman, actually he is in love with messing around with Batman. So, to sum up, I could say his goals are: chaos, fear, Batman and all these with a "good" punch line.

#10 Posted by RainEffect (3240 posts) - - Show Bio

Oh shut the hell up Jason. No one can take whatever you say seriously when you wear a mask underneath a mask.

#11 Posted by Wowlock (258 posts) - - Show Bio

There is no doubt that Joker is the Greatest nemesis of Batman. In fact, after playing the Batman games, it showed me the importance of Joker once again .

As it has been said '' A man is defined by the quality of their enemies '' and by God Joker defined Batman.

At the end of Arkham City, Joker actually dies, along with Hugo Strange and Talia ( but she can always come back with Lazarus pit ) It was an impactful moment and made me wonder what will happen if they want to continue on this and how they can top this off.

#12 Posted by MooseyMcMan (135 posts) - - Show Bio

@Wowlock said:

Well, part of the reason they did it (I think anyway) is because Mark Hamill said he was done voicing Joker, so they didn't want to continue that direct storyline without him. At least I think that's how it happened. Maybe it was the other way around.

#13 Posted by pspin (894 posts) - - Show Bio

They should make a Joker copycat villain who is all the ruthless killing of the Joker without all of the craziness he has, that would be a truly frightening villain for Batman to face.

#14 Posted by Eyz (3042 posts) - - Show Bio

The good ol' crazy creepiest Joker!

#15 Posted by soccersss (537 posts) - - Show Bio

@pspin:

Batman has dealt with ruthless psychopaths before so it shouldn't be something new. what separates joker from the rest is his insanity fused with an unbelievable sickening brilliance and his unhealthy obsession with Batman.

The Joker pushes Batman to his limits and he is also the one man that can push Batman over the edge.

#16 Posted by Renegade_X (42 posts) - - Show Bio

@CrimsonTempest said:

I don't think Batman would BE Batman if Joker were to indeed die way back then. In many ways, Joker defines Batman in not just stories, but in merchandise as well. Would The Dark Knight be as big of a hit if there was no Joker? Would Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Mark Hamill's career after Star Wars, anything that Joker has been involved in, be just as good as it is now? Regretfully, no. With that said, Joker is too invaluable to kill off. Rest in peace, Jerry Robinson.

There are characters who, since their 1st appearance, just wouldn't be the same if they weren't around! The Joker is the BEST Example. He's the reason batman fights his fight. If he died, then what would become of Batman? & Vice versa! They need each other to be what makes them who they are!!!!!!!

#17 Posted by StarKiller809 (1213 posts) - - Show Bio

It's sad to see the creator of the Joker pass. I really didn't know that the Joker was suppose to die in the debut issue. I just know that DC Comics is looking back and say that it was a great idea. A great article.

#18 Posted by Superguy0009e (2265 posts) - - Show Bio

the joker is batman's opposite

he had a bad thing happen to him, he thought that made life meaningless

batman lost his parents, made sure it never happened to anyone else

#19 Edited by The Stegman (26086 posts) - - Show Bio

THE JOKER, the scariest freakin villain around.

Early "Dark Knight" Film Concept

#20 Posted by Scarbearer (745 posts) - - Show Bio

If there was no Joker... hrm.. then I think Batman wouldn't have found a true nemesis long enough to keep his title selling as strongly as it did. He'd probably have ended up like poor Martian Manhunter, an incredibly rich character that people like and want to read about because of his history, but one that couldn't seem to carry a solo series as well and ends up being defined by the ensemble casts he's a part of.

#21 Posted by Azrael66 (277 posts) - - Show Bio

Joker is essential. No villain in the history of comics has been so effective at fleshing out his nemesis' character while enhancing his own. The Clown Prince of Crime is the end-all be-all villain that we want all other villains to be like. Plus, he has given many adults around the world an irrational fear of clowns.

#22 Posted by Pokeysteve (8690 posts) - - Show Bio

If the Joker had died in his first appearance imagine how happy the Gordons would be. The only reason Joker is Batman's #1 is because he doesn't have it in him to get rid of him permanently. Not necessarily killing him either. You'd think after the first thousand murders the genius would have thought of something.

I always thought Bob Kane created Joker. I wonder what it was like for Robinson to see his creation grow and evolve over the years. Must have been amazing.

#23 Posted by JonesDeini (3501 posts) - - Show Bio

I think Batman has a big enough and healthy enough rogues gallery that the removal of the Joker wouldn't be a deathblow. Now, that being said, it would certainly be a immeasurable loss. Without the Joker as Bruce's arch nemesis I could easily see R'as filling that role. I've also always thought of Bane as an excellent perversion/inversion of Batman and all he represents as well. All of Bruce's rogues represent a different aspect of the character and in concert I think each could carry some of the weight that the Joker's absence would've created.

#24 Posted by mattydeNero (526 posts) - - Show Bio

One of the many things this website does and has done is keep you thinking and at times alter your opinion of some characters. Changes in where they stand as a hero or villain; how powerful the character is; or in this case--the importance of characters that have stood through the test of time.

Joker has always had Batman's number. He's still out there. I don't read Detective Comics, but I have a friend that does. I'm not sure what is going on with Joker at this point but it sounded weird. That aside, he's still standing and Batman still doesn't know what Joker is going to do. Now granted, Bats knows his all of his rogues but Joker is the one that he has to go to a special place for mentally. Some villains Batman preps for physically, some mentally, but Joker always hammers Bats with both equally some how. I definitely agree with this article 100%. I just wish DC would spread him out more. Give Joker to Lobdell in one of his books, all I'm saying.

#25 Posted by thecomicscove (164 posts) - - Show Bio

The Joker truly is a great villain, and in the hands of a capable writer, is the best at exposing the flaws and strengths of Batman's mission. Jerry Robinson left the world a great character.

#26 Edited by fodigg (6136 posts) - - Show Bio

Joker is a great inversion of Batman because he calls to light a core problem with Batman's character: he's incredible serious all the time while running around in his pants dressed like a bat. He's such a straight-laced badass but with this odd twist that putting Batman in unusual situations is hilarious almost in and of itself. Various webcomics have put out some gems.

Joker is someone who is terrifying but also gets the joke. He's perfect. They complement each other so well that this is what makes them inseparable, but it doesn't really matter who came first. They are both better at what they are because of each other.

#27 Posted by The Lobster (1512 posts) - - Show Bio
@Wowlock said:

There is no doubt that Joker is the Greatest nemesis of Batman. In fact, after playing the Batman games, it showed me the importance of Joker once again .

As it has been said '' A man is defined by the quality of their enemies '' and by God Joker defined Batman.

At the end of Arkham City, Joker actually dies, along with Hugo Strange and Talia ( but she can always come back with Lazarus pit ) It was an impactful moment and made me wonder what will happen if they want to continue on this and how they can top this off.

There are plenty of hints in Batman Arkham City to what is going to happen in the third Batman video game, you just got to know where to look. 
#28 Edited by kfhrfdu_89_76k (3653 posts) - - Show Bio

A thought provoking article.

@RainEffect:

= )

"Scott Snyder, said the following last night:

Because the truth is, my opinion, the Joker is the greatest villain of all time. Not just in comics - in everything."

Well said Mr. Snyder. Even if he wont read this one.

#29 Posted by Doctor!!!!! (1886 posts) - - Show Bio

The Joker his the Yin to the Batman's Bata-yang (Ha ha), You can't have one with out the other, or the universe will explode or implode.

#30 Posted by dan1509 (179 posts) - - Show Bio

@CrimsonTempest: You literally said everything that I was about to say :p

#31 Posted by Enyeez (2 posts) - - Show Bio

mark hamill and heath ledger were some of the best things to happen to the joker, and batman.

Batman is not the same without the joker.

#32 Posted by Boggleman (2 posts) - - Show Bio

I totally agree without The Joker there wouldn't be a Batman The over the years have become more than just a mainstay in comics and other media but an icon. What I would like to see is an a cross origin story between Batman and and The Joker showing the importance of their rivalry.

#33 Posted by Rixec (378 posts) - - Show Bio

Batman needed the Joker. If Batman was the light of Gotham (go with it people) then Joker was his dark shadow.

#34 Posted by Joygirl (19955 posts) - - Show Bio

Great article. :D and that dark knight concept pic, was... whoa. Very spooky. Almost too spooky. The empty dead eyes do it.

#35 Posted by Mega_spidey01 (3078 posts) - - Show Bio

batman and the joker  are tragedy and chaos 
same thing with superman and lex luthor.

#36 Posted by TheCheeseStabber (8062 posts) - - Show Bio

If the Joker had died in the 1st issue the Batmans Number 1 villain would be Calendar Man ;D

#37 Posted by Silver Knight75 (1131 posts) - - Show Bio

@TheCheeseStabber: I disagree and would think either Ra's Al Ghul or Hugo Strange would be up for greatest enemies after Joker

#38 Posted by The Impersonator (5620 posts) - - Show Bio

@The Stegman said:

THE JOKER, the scariest freakin villain around.

Early "Dark Knight" Film Concept

Yep. He sure is.

#39 Posted by Bruce Vain (1781 posts) - - Show Bio

:)

#40 Posted by RedOwl_1 (1664 posts) - - Show Bio
Batman can't cross that line and he would also try to preserve Joker's life if it was in danger

Like in The Joker: Devil's Advocate, that comic taught me what justice really means

#41 Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus (6836 posts) - - Show Bio

Batman I believe would have been softened in his superhero career had the Joker died off too early or had never been a part of the crusade to begin with. Its doubtful to say how he could have conditioned himself without the Joker, but its clear that this adversary is one of the most popular enemies ever to be written comics and in print media in general. Hell, he is arguably one of the greatest supervillains of any medium and has stood the test of time in showing himself to be the very epitome of the villainous bad@$$. Heroes are only so good as their villains, and as Ledger-Joker said to Bale-Batman in the Dark Knight..."you complete me." So very true...

#42 Posted by TheCheeseStabber (8062 posts) - - Show Bio

@Silver Knight75: ik i was making a Joke ;D actually i think it might be Scare Crow Two Face area so it could circle more around corruption and hatred while going into mental states and fear

#43 Posted by Judai (7 posts) - - Show Bio

If good exists its polar opposite must exist for Batman its the Joker also what makes a good hero is good main villain and Joker is just a man for the job.He plays such big role on Batmans character so many things his done to Dark Knight which makes him the man he is today Jasons death,Barbaras paralyzation and many other things.

Joker is what makes Batman the hero he is today he is a perfect villain his a devil in mans form so many good stories wouldnt have beeen written unless it would be for the Joker.

#44 Posted by Suprman (442 posts) - - Show Bio

Joker is indeed a great villain, definitely one of the greatest pop culture has ever had. Without him Batman really wouldn't be who he is. Other Villains such as Riddler, Scarecrow, and Mr. Freeze, although great villains, have patterns and at this point, even the low rent cops in GCPD know them. Joker, however does not have a set method, or a pattern. I've never been convinced that Joker is insane, I believe he's a guy who just wants a laugh and has a VERY different sense of humor than most people. That's why he's unpredictable, who want's to tell the same joke over and over.

#45 Posted by Sylver (1554 posts) - - Show Bio

Joker's incredible. He's so different and so perfect because he defies all logic and all norms for villains. You can't predict or make another of him b/c there's no pattern :-) In-genius!

#46 Posted by arcanineryu2 (70 posts) - - Show Bio

ive always said that main arch-villains are just as important as their heroes when it comes to saving the world, and joker has to be the best example. after all how many times has batman saved the world from aliens or other villains, just anything that doesn't have to do with the joker.

now ask yourself, if batman hadn't been fighting joker all these years, would he really have been strong enough, smart enough, or determined enough to succeed all those times when it seemed that defeat was assured? probably not.

so joker may be a homicidal maniac who's killed thousands, but by this logic he's actually SAVED BILLIONS.

all that time being an unpredictable killing machine with a sole focus on batman has made joker into the best sparring partner batman ever had. and do you think its penguin that keeps batman ready at a moments notice? heck no, thats jokers job, and who keep's batman from ever killing anyone? why joker and his constant pestering of course! without joker as a constant reminder of what batman had to lose, and nothing makes you more defiant than someone always telling you no.

i wonder if this is one of the reasons why batman is so reluctant to make any more permanent solutions to the joker and other villains.if he knows that the world often rests on his shoulders, and the only way he could be prepared when an extra-terrestrial or alternate dimension threat comes along is to be in a constant war with supervillains, because the slightest hint of going soft could spell doom for entire country's, worlds, or even universes. i wonder if he knows this, but doesn't want to admit it, if this is one of the reasons why he's so adamant of having someone to replace him (hence all the robins, batgirls, and batman inc.) .

#47 Posted by Wattup (646 posts) - - Show Bio

Without Joker, we wouldn't have Harley Quinn (the animated version, not the comics one). That would make me sad.

I still remember her first episode (Joker's Favour) and when Batman captures her. She says, "Oye, beauty school's lookin' pretty good right now." 8 )

#48 Posted by allison_scag (41 posts) - - Show Bio

The Joker represent to Batman what he can become if he ever stepped the boundaries of his code and became a murderer.

#49 Posted by clemj (817 posts) - - Show Bio

@Silver Knight75: that's right but i'll add the Riddler

#50 Posted by Piquedram (10 posts) - - Show Bio

Hello G-Man! I really like this article you wrote about Joker.

I'd love to ask for your permission to translate it into Chinese in order to introduce Batman and Joker to my friends in China.

Hope you can allow me to do it:) Thx very much!

This edit will also create new pages on Comic Vine for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Comic Vine users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.