"Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn." - Alfred Pennyworth<p><br>
"Remembering's dangerous. I find the past such a worrying, anxious place. "The Past Tense," I suppose you'd call it! Memory's so treacherous. One moment you're lost in a carnival of delights, with poignant childhood aromas, the flashing neon of puberty, all that sentimental candy-floss... the next, it leads you somewhere you don't want to go. Somewhere dark and cold, filled with the damp ambiguous shapes of things you'd hoped were forgotten. Memories can be vile, repulsive little brutes. Like children, I suppose!" - The Joker<p><br>
First off, let me just state that the Joker is a sick freak. Whenever I read about his murderous exploits, I'm not impressed, I'm disgusted. Everything that he does is repulsive, and he is the single most irredeemable character in the DCU. Whatever was once a man inside him is now gone, only to be replaced by this disturbing mockery of a human being. And yet, it's all of that that makes the Joker one of the greatest villains in the medium's history, and my sixth favorite comic-book character.<p><br>
The Joker is the prototype for the 'psychopathic killer' school of supervillains. Any villains with the whole laughing butcher schtick owes at least some modicum of tribute to the Mistah J. The Clown Prince of Crime is the one who popularized the idea of the insane mass-murderer without morals in comic-books, and it's that same personality that makes the Joker so terrifying and effective as a villain. The Joker is like an ordinary serial killer turned up by several hundred notches. Frighteningly intelligent, entirely apathetic to human suffering, and willing to do anything to get under Batman's skin. Whatever his incarnation; whether it's the humorous trickster from BTAS, the scarred killer from RIP or the anarchic terrorist from TDK, two aspects of the Joker always remains the same. He's a murderer to the bone, and unquestionably insane. There is nothing even resembling a normal person inside his fractured subconscious, and human lives mean less than the dust of the earth to him. In a way, one could say that the reason why the Joker is such a scary and formidable threat, is that there's always the remote possibility that someone 'like' him might exist in our world.<p><br>
But insanity alone isn't enough to qualify a villain into comics' halls of infamy. The other dimension about the character that ranks him so high on my list is his ever-changing personality. The Joker, for all his sick and depraved plans, has charm. If he was devoid of that characteristic, he'd just be another mass-murdering psychopath, but the perverse humor and sick jokes brought by greats like Hamill, Ledger, Moore, and Morrison have made the Ace of Knaves so much more than some other generic villain. The character's macabre comedic timing has elevated him from a gimmick to the Devil himself. He exudes presence in every panel and scene that he appears in, and his name alone rings volumes in the DC Universe. Then there's the twisted relationship he has with his beloved, the Batman. The two sides of a coin, one dark and one light, one serious and one smiling, the two enemies have been at it for years. There is arguably no greater rivalry in all of comicdom than that between the Knight and his Jester. As the Joker himself puts it: "You can't kill me without becoming like me. I can't kill you without losing the only human being who can keep up with me. Isn't it ironic?! I could never kill you. Where would the act be without my straight man?"<p><br>
And let's not forget his feats, and the great stories that have been told with this twisted idea of a character. The brutal crippling of Barbara Gordon and the psychological torture of Commissioner Gordon in The Killing Joke, where the Joker scarred two of Batman's closest friends forever. The murder of Jason Todd in the Death in the Family, killing Batman's sidekick which would leave him guilty for years. Gotham Central, where the Joker began sniping innocent cops and civilians for pleasure. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, where he trapped Batman in a twisted game of cat and mouse. The Dark Knight Returns, where he killed an entire studio audience and fought Batman in one of their bloodiest clashes. And comic-books are just the tip of the iceberg. What about his chilling portrayals in movies from acclaimed greats like Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger? Or Mark Hamill's fan-favorite role as Joker in the DC Animated Universe. Sure, there has been the occasional flawed example (I'm looking at you, 'The Batman'), but for the most part, the Joker has had success in every medium he's been in. Sick as his feats may be, they have remained in the minds of readers everywhere.<p><br>
Finally, there's his indisputably iconic appearance of course. That creepy rictus grin, the lipstick, the bleached skin, even the purple-green suit. All elements that make him one of the most visually enticing supervillains. The 'white dentist' look he had in Batman RIP was pretty intimidating too, as was the Glasgow smile/terrorist appearance that Ledger's portrayal in the Dark Knight had.<p><br>
To cap it all off, here's one of my favorite jokes from the man himself. As the Joker watches the Batplane land, with Batman stepping out, he comments, "I think I see one of our stars approaching the red carpet. And he's in black - always chic." And then the Javelin lands with the Justice League, "But here come the fashion disasters." Priceless.