The Joker’s Through History
I am a nerd. Especially when it comes to the Clown Prince of Crime himself, The Joker.
I have been watching Batman since I was little, first Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck and with that I have seen a couple of Joker’s in my time. Some are great, some are not.
I thought I would break down who the Joker is… where he came from and who I think is the best Joker.
Firstly, the Joker’s very first appearance was in 1940, April 25th to be precise. He was created for DC’s Batman comic and was expected to die off very soon after. Luckily, he was spared and turned into Batman’s archenemy, later in 50’s the Joker would transform from a straight up psychopath into more of a goofy prankster which has been portrayed many times in animation and real life.
As Batman started to become an incredibly popular comic book people started to cotton on to the idea… and therefore the iconic TV show was created and aired in 1966. Adam West was our first sighting of a real life Batman and people went crazy, calling it the biggest TV phenomenon of the mid-1960s! The show ran for two years and made one hundred and twenty episodes and I still watch it on a regular basis!
But let’s get back to the point, the Joker! The late, great Cesar Romero played the Joker in the 1966 series and the 1966 Batman film and he was brilliant. Considering Romero only had comic books as his influence he was able to be as wacky and original as possible, unlike today when we compare everything to Heath Ledger. Romero brought a fantastic childlike approach to the Joker and watching as a child really felt like the Joker had jumped out of the comic book. His make up was simplistic and did the job, we knew he was the Joker with that smile (when we ignore his painted moustache of course). Romero set the tone for all other actors willing to play the Joker, he set the bar high and luckily after him the bar was set higher.
Batman (1989), directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Firstly, Keaton as Batman? What happened there? I honestly feel that Keaton ruins this film for me because he is an unrealistic Bruce Wayne and throughout makes constantly think of Beetlejuice… In saying that, I love Nicholson’s Joker. Wow. If you do not like his performance please tell me why because I see no faults. I am aware that Burton stole a lot of his content from ‘The Killing Joke’ comic released in 1988, but that does not bother me. I feel like he really brought the comic to life and included some really nice scenes with respect. Nicholson had one influence, Romero, and to me that is very clear. Although Romero was slightly less put together they still look incredibly similar and I love how Nicholson’s face suddenly becomes deformed and forced into a constant smile, now that was original.
Next, the Batman animated series was released in 1992 and stopped airing in 1995. This show was literally my childhood, as soon as that music started nobody was aloud to speak! The voices were perfection, Kevin Conroy started the low, husky tone to Batman’s voice which has been reinvented and regurgitated so many times to this day. But of course, back to the point, The Joker. A lot of people forget that Mark Hamill is the voice of Joker and a lot of people do not even include him in the mix of Joker royalty! Which irritates me, so many people have tried to copy his voice and his iconic, creepy laugh but yet people forget him. He was sensational as the Joker and when I close my eyes and think of what the Joker’s voice sounds like, it is always Hamill.
The Dark Knight (2008), Christopher Nolan brings the Joker back after a long disappearance in the most shocking and dark way possible. He turns the Joker into a real person, before we always viewed the Joker as a funny, comical cartoon who could never be in the real world. So, Heath Ledger got a hold of the role and turned it into one of the best performances I have ever seen. Considering Ledger’s influences were Jack Nicholson and comic books he did a pretty good job of not feeling like he had to do the same, he went off piece and really had fun with it. Of course, his appearance was the first thing we all saw. The scars really changed the character from prankster to murderer. To this day Heath Ledger has to be my favourite performance, he was so dedicated and committed to the role that he even lost himself.
Unfortunately, I have to compare Heath Ledger to Jared Leto…. ew. Suicide Squad (2016) was one of the most disappointing films I have even seen and Jared Leto’s Joker performance made it all ten times worse. The only good thing about this film was the appearance of Harley Quinn because we had not seen her since the 90’s when she was first introduced as the Joker’s love interest. I was excited when I first saw Leto’s look, tattoos, grill, slicked back hair, leather jacket, yes he was ticking all of the original boxes I could find and I was looking forward to it. But then, he opened his mouth and made everything good about his look feel stupid and overdone. His whole performance along with everyone else in the film was overdone and way too extra for these characters. I felt like this film was one big money maker and that is not what these characters should be about. I’m going to ignore the fact that the Joker was promised to be in the film constantly but only appeared like three times…. it’s a no from me.
Although that was a short introduction to the Jokers through history I hope you learnt a little bit more about this character in preparation for the brand new Todd Phillips Joker film currently in production. Joaquin Phoenix is playing the Joker and I could not be happier with the casting, Phoenix is a sensational actor and fits the mould perfectly in my opinion. Our sneak peek of his look reminds me of Cesar Romero mostly but also incorporating colours and themes from harlequins. His costume and make up are red and blue which are the iconic colours harlequins used to wear in the 18th century….also diamonds where a very popular choice for costumes around that time? Maybe this film is taking us back in time, before any of the jokers I’ve just spoken about?
Overall, The Joker is one of the best characters in history. He has changed and adapted through time in order to stay original and current and I can not wait to see who else gives this villain a try.
Hope you enjoyed reading…
Thank you !