Welcome back to Grizzlybomb’s look at the Greatest Joker Moments! Brian Kronner and myself (Scott Fraser) combined our ridiculous pool of Bat knowledge to bring together some of the best Joker moments in the history of the Bat universe.
But what makes a Joker moment great? A good joke, or a psychotic murder, or a witty repartee battle between Joker and Bats? Well, yes and no. A great Joker moment is one of those rare glimpses that truly give us a great impression of just who the Joker really is. One of those moments that can make you empathize with the character while at the same time makes you want to cringe in fear.
A moment that offers a unique glimpse into the mind of a murderer, while further shrouding his true identity in secrecy. As any fan of Joker can assure you, the mystery behind the character’s origin is one of his most endearing qualities, but it really plays second fiddle to everything else we love about the Joker. Who he is, how he relates to Batman, and his general lust for chaos are what make the Joker one of the greatest villains of any comic industry. So let’s continue with our look at some more great moments from the Joker.
#15. Joker Kills Henry Claridge
(Batman #1, 1940)
In his first appearance the Joker set a precedents that would carry on for decades. His murder of Henry Claridge has been recreated many times, including the animated series when he attempted the plot on the mayor. What he so famously did was announce to the police – and Batman, that he would murder Claridge at Midnight. So the police surround Claridge to ensure his protection, and at the strike of 12 – Claridge dies.
Turns out Joker had already poisoned Claridge and the police had to bare witness to the death. The Joker would go on to repeat this pattern many more times, and Henry Claridge became the Joker’s first public victim.
– B. Kronner
#14. Joker Forces Nightwing to Kill Him
(Joker’s Last Laugh #6 – 2002)
Joker has been involved in more than a few company wide crossovers, but Last Laugh was entirely his and saw a Joker overhaul to many costumed baddies. Believing himself to be dying due to a brain tumor, Joker infects the other superpower-ed prisoners at the Slab (one of DC’s supervillain prisons) with a new cache of Joker Toxin, turning them all into ‘jokerized’ versions of themselves. Joker escapes and engages on what he feels is his final blowout, with a large number of villains working under him who help make life hell for the Bat family. Especially one character who has a long history of getting messed with by the Joker; Robin. At this time it’s actually Tim Drake AKA Robin III, who is believed to be eaten by Killer Croc as he attempts to regain control of Arkham Asylum.
Here’s where the first Robin and basically older brother of Tim Drake makes his appearance that earns a spot on our list. When Dick Grayson, now known as Nightwing, learns that Tim is considered dead due to the events set in motion by the Joker, he takes it upon himself to bring the clown prince down. The bat team has learned that Joker is in fact not dying from a brain tumor, and hurry to stop Nightwing from making a terrible mistake. As Nightwing confronts Joker, Mr. J taunts Grayson with the shredded costume of Tim Drake, all that was left after Croc supposedly ate the latest boy wonder. Nightwing loses control and beats Joker to death, all while Joker continues to taunt him. When Batman arrives and is able to revive the Joker, it’s with the realization that the Joker has won, causing one of the Bat family to go against their most important code of honor and kill. This ranks up there as one of the Joker’s greatest victories over the Bat family, and easily earns a spot on our list.
– S. Fraser
#13. Hush Beatdown
(Batman #614 – 2003)
Hush was a storyline that pitted Batman against nearly his entire rogues gallery, as well as new baddie (and former best friend) Thomas Elliot AKA Hush. As Elliot seeked revenge against Batman and Bruce Wayne, he attacked him on all fronts using such villains as Clayface, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, and even Catwoman, who finally began a relationship with her longtime rooftop flirting partner Batman. While all played a key role int Hush’s grand scheme, one of the most memorable moments is when the Joker joined the party.
Arriving in the alley outside of a theater Harley was robbing, Batman was shocked to find Joker posing over the recently murdered body of Thomas Elliot (who was actually Clayface) laughing and playing the part of the mad villain. Strained by the gauntlet of villains he’d already had to face and crushed by the loss of his best friend, Batman lost it and started to beat on the Joker, who denied his guilt which only further enraged Bats. Only the timely intervention of Commissioner Gordon prevented the death of Joker, and the exchange between the two old friends proved just how much the Joker has deeply affected both of their lives.
– S. Fraser
#12. Heath Ledger’s Joker
(The Dark Knight – 2008)
Last time we spoke of Jack Nicholson’s performance as the mad jester, so you just knew we wouldn’t be able to make it through this list without talking about Heath Ledger’s take on the character. When The Dark Knight dropped into theaters in 2008, it blew fans and non fans alike away with anew and extremely dark look at the Joker. Some key moments that really spoke to the character were his interaction with both Gordon and Batman during the interrogation scene, as well as the other side of the law when dealing with the Russian and members of Gotham’s organized crime when he burnt their money before taking them out. It was a toss up between Joker smelling the madness of the streets as he stuck his head out of the cop car window, or the maniacal laugh as he falls to his supposed death before Batman saves him as to which would be the most memorable moment as well.
But what really made it for me was our first big glimpse of the Joker in costume, as he meets the leaders of the organized crime for the first time. Which is oddly similar to how I felt about Nicholson doing pretty much the same thing in his own style for 1989’s Batman. During this scene we are given our first look at the personality Ledger brought to the role, as well as the true level of madness contained within the character. The menacing brilliance he displays as he begins his eternal dance with the Batman, along with the crazy cunning Ledger exhibits more than earns him a place on the list.
– S. Fraser
#11. Joker Slices & Dices
(Batman #680 – 2008)
Joker appeared in the Batman R.I.P. storyline in one of his most insane and disturbing variations yet. As a group known as the Black Glove plans out and almost accomplishes their plot to kill Batman, they decide to include the Joker in their nefarious plot. This obviously goes bad for them, as Joker turns and begins taking out the Black Glove one by one. His appearance in R.I.P. is one of the most unsettling looks at the Joker, next to his new look in the New 52.
The Joker was previously shot in the head by a fake Batman trained by the Black Glove, leaving him even more deranged than usual. Wielding his battle scars and an arsenal of blades and razors, he proceeds to maim and murder in some cruel, sick ways that potentially changed the way most of us look at the Joker. As Batman is experiencing his own break in sanity and is wearing the brightly colored garment as the Batman of Zur-Ehn-Arh, we see a reversal of style between the two eternal enemies. The moment that always remains with me from this storyline is the scene where Joker forks his tongue with a straight razor without blinking an eye.
– S. Fraser
So that’s the second chapter of our look at the Joker’s greatest moments, and they are going to keep getting better as we’re only half way through. Check back for the next installment as we continue our look at one of our favorite literary villains.
Images: DC Comics, Warner Bros.