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Many are talking about the movie, Joker. I, for one, intend to watch it soon but I wanted to share some history about this interesting villain.
From the Beginning!
What comes to mind when you hear the word The Joker? A clown? A mad criminal or a supervillain? Actually, if you said all three, you are right. From the year 1940 to the present, the Joker has been an interesting criminal with many issues at hand.
The Joker was created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson. Inspired by a 1928 silent movie entitled The Man Who Laughs in which it shows the actor Conrad Veidt as a clown, they decided to include his face as Batman's evil nemesis. You can see this movie on YouTube and watch the similarities that this clown has with the Joker.
The Joker started as a criminal called the Red Hood. He was planning to rob the Ace Chemical factory when Batman and Robin confronted him. Tripping over a railway, he fell into a vat filled with chemicals. As he managed to get out of the vat to safety, he rushed home only to discover something terrible had happened.
Upon removing the hood, he was shocked to see his distorted face turn into a clown. It was at that time that he decided that he was going to become an evil clown. From then now, he would fight a never-ending battle with Batman and Robin, leading to a lot of exciting adventures. From time to time, he would come up with new Joker gadgets and, at times, there would be some humor.
One of the reasons that the Joker was geared to be funny and child-like is that the comics code authority had strict rules for that time. Bear in mind that Batman, as well as the Joker, had violent content at first. Batman even carried a gun, but the publishers gave him a good image of fighting crime without a weapon.
Joker had an image change, too. No longer did he appear dark and macabre, but he looked like a clown who escaped from a circus. Not many killings, but funny content geared for the kids. I, personally, enjoyed those stories.
The Joker on TV
Now, fast forward to the 1960s when the popular TV series Batman came on the scene. We see Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as his sidekick Robin. The first Joker was Cesar Romero. To his credit, Cesar was a good Joker. Looking like the original comic book villain, he played the part well especially in the first episode when he had the Joker utility belt. That was a classic.
At first, the Batman episodes started on the serious side with great content, but after a while it was childish and, at times, funny. Bear in mind that previously, Batman had come to the movies in 1943 in the form of a cliff-hanger movie serials, but the Joker never appeared in those episodes. That, in itself, was a shame. I enjoyed those episodes and having him would have enhanced the movie serials.
Adam West and Burt Ward were alright for the times, and as a kid I enjoyed it. As I look back at those episodes, they should have had some serious content and limited the silly side. With all due respect to the memory of Adam West, he was a good Batman but he could have done better had he remained serious with some hard-hitting content similar to the Green Hornet.
Joker on the Big Screen
Joker made his mark on the big screen back around 1965. Adam West and Burt Ward returned to their roles as Batman and Robin. It had a whole host of criminals including the Joker himself. It was a hit for that time with some funny scenes.
The second Joker came on the scene in 1989. Jack Nicholson portrayed the evil villain on the big screen. Listed as a common thug by the name of Jack Napier, he was set on making a big score (robbery), but got set up by his boss. When Batman confronted him, he fell off the railway unto a vat filled with chemicals.
Upon hitting the chemicals, the movie shows some bubbles coming up to the surface. After a while, we see a hand coming out, along with the cards. That scene was nothing less than genius. Upon getting out of the vat, he saw a plastic surgeon to fix his face.
The next scene shows Jack with his face all covered in bandages. As the doctor removed the bandages and saw his face, he was shocked. Jack, upon seeing the expression on the surgeon's face, demanded to have a mirror. Upon seeing his face on the mirror, he wept. His face was distorted.
The surgeon was apologetic, but soon, Jack's weeping turned to laughter. He stood up and walked away to the stairs with his maniacal laugh. At that moment, Nicholson became the Joker. A classic moment.
Then, a third Joker came and that was Heath Ledger. He also did a memorable act as the Joker. My favorite scene was when he was dressed up as a nurse, adding some humor to the story. He showed a dark side of that villain, which many liked and admired.
I do not have much to say about Jared Leto, from the Suicide Squad, because, quite frankly, I did not watch that movie. I may catch some clips and hope to see him in that role so I can make an objective study. As for the latest Joker, we have Joaquin Phoenix. I think that this promises to be a good one. One of my favorite clips was when he smiles with that evil look on his face. At that moment, you see the transformation beginning to take effect—he is becoming the Joker. I think I might see that movie and write another article with my thoughts.
If I had to pick my favorite Joker, who would it be? My final thoughts about this are that Jack Nicholson was my favorite Joker because of his laugh. Jack would mix some pranks along with the dark side, enacting vengeance unto his enemies. Now, to be fair, this is not my final judgment. I want to watch the movie Joker and then I will decide who is my all-time favorite Joker character is.