The Joker from the Batman comic storyline is one of the most iconic villains of all time. He is also scary, and he has made his mark in popular culture. What most people do not know is the backstory, and this is what we will talk about today.
Note that the Joker as a character has spawned several versions. There are even similar characters in other forms of media like slot machines, an example of which is the Fire Joker. In our article today, we will focus on the movie and comic books.
Released in 2019, Joker received critical acclaim, and the performance of Joaquin Phoenix did justice to the character. However, its storyline is completely different from the comic books. The movie is rather a psychological thriller than a comic-oriented one. It was set in 1981, and it focuses on the difficulties of Arthur Fleck, the character who will later emerge as the Joker.
Arthur Fleck is a party clown who has aspirations to become a stand-up comedian in Gotham City. Arthur suffers from a disorder, which makes him laugh uncontrollably. Many times, this laughter bursts at the most inappropriate moment, leading to trouble. Arthur is a victim of bullying. His co-worker then gives him a gun to protect himself. Despite the problems he is going through, he tries to pursue a relationship with his neighbour.
One day, the gun he has fell from his pocket. Upon investigation, Arthur said that Randall gave it to him. However, Randall denied this and said Arthur had bought the gun. He was fired as a clown, and on his way, he got beaten up by three men who work for Wayne Enterprises.
He shoots two of them and runs away. The media covered the incident, and Thomas Wayne, who is running for Mayor, said that poor people who are jealous of rich people are rich clowns. This incited many people to become angry. Many people donned the clown face of Arthur when he shot the victims.
Another tragedy strikes as he finds out that the funding for social service was cut off. He was jobless and couldn’t buy medication for himself. Things pile up quickly—he fails to perform well, and his idol talk show host mocks him.
He also finds out that he is Wayne’s illegitimate son. Wayne denies this, and then he goes to Arkham Asylum, where his mother was once incarcerated. He steals his mother’s medical records from the hospital, but it indicates that he was adopted. His mother tells him that this story was fabricated.
Arthur gets invited to Murray’s show. He requests Murray to introduce him as the Joker. In the interview, he confesses to the murders, and he starts ranting about how the poor of the society are downtrodden. Murray criticizes this for him, and then Arthur shoots him.
He gets arrested but manages to escape. He then gets captured and put in Arkham, where he kills orderlies. Thus, the story of the Joker begins.
The story in the comics is different from the movie, but they share similarities.
The most prominent version is the one in the comic book Batman: The Killing Joke, which was published in 1988. In this story, the Joker was also a failed comedian. He was pressured by colleagues to commit crimes, and he took the name Red Hood.
He did it to support his pregnant wife. However, Batman interfered, and so he fell into a vat of acid. The acid disfigured him. His wife died accidentally, and this is what drove him to insanity.
The story in the comic book is also ambiguous. The Joker himself told Batman that his past was “multiple choice,” which means that he has several origin stories. It is also in this graphic novel where he shoots the daughter of Jim Gordon, Barbara, causing her to become paralyzed.
The first appearance of the Joker was in 1940. It was in 1951 when he was first given a story arc about being the Red Hood. In the 1951 comics, Batman didn’t know yet that the Red Hood and the Joker were one and the same.
The name Joker was taken from the playing card character—a clown. The Red Hood took this name because of his disfigurement, which made him resemble a clown or a jester.
One issue with the origin story in the comics is that the character was not really given a name. In the movie, however, he was Arthur Fleck.
Many critics say that both storylines are advocating criminality as if criminals did not want to be that way. Many others agree, from a moral standpoint, that society has a hand in the development of criminality. There are many materials about the Joker. He is everywhere—even if he is not in every Batman movie, he is the most anticipated villain of all Batman movies. It is difficult to portray the character, and many actors who did say that embodying the character requires a strong mind.
Today, the Joker is a villain that everybody knows. There is no kid who has never heard of him. You can see him in comic books, movies and computer games. There are even slot machines that pay homage to the character, such as Xmas Joker.