This week sees the release of Warner Bros. and Todd Phillips Joker in cinemas across the globe. The film, starring Joaquin Phoenix, takes a fresh look at the character a crafts a unique and thrilling origin for one of comics most loved villains.
To celebrate our team are all taking a look back over the history of the character and pulling out some of their favourites. Today it’s Neil’s turn to tell us his favourite Joker moments!
5. The Joker Gets Loose (Arkham Asylum, 2009)
Although it’s difficult choosing a favourite Joker moment featuring Mark Hamill (more on that below), this is by far one of the best Joker moments in any DC related video game.
The opening to 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum sees The Dark Knight racing to the asylum after capturing The Joker. He races to Arkham to make sure Joker reaches his cell and what follows is a very intense sequence.
With very little controllable abilities we follow the Joker, strapped down and restrained, as he monologues at both Batman and James Gordon. Hamill does an excellent job of recalling the character from Batman: The Animated Series and ramping up the attitude as he’s given more freedom to act like a crazed maniac.
Of course by the end of the sequence Joker has broken free and it kicks off the storyline of the game. But the few minutes of Joker’s insane rantings before that is an excellent and classic moment in the character’s history.
4. Death In The Family (1988)
The Joker had a lot going on in 1988, that was the year he did a lot of damage to Batman (see number 1 for more) and this moment is one which shocked comic fans and the general populous alike.
When DC decided to move Dick Grayson on from being Robin they brought in Jason Todd. A character who quickly became a hate figure amongst fans. This famously resulted in a telephone poll whereby fans could choose whether Joker killed the young Robin or he survived.
The story featured Robin being captured by Joker who violently battered him with a crowbar before blowing up the building where he was being held captive.
Fan chose to kill off the character and so Joker’s plan was enacted and led to a very famous cover of the broken Bat holding the dead Robin’s body in his arms. Of course this was the best thing to happen to the character as Jason soon found himself in a Lazarus pit and came back as Red Hood who finds himself one of the most popular members of the Bat family.
Death in the Family was another moment were DC felt able to let go of the reigns and allow Joker to play to his full potential. Though the impact of his actions resonate more, to see him bludgeoning the young Jason with a crowbar will forever remain one of those moments that feel surreal to read in a comic book.
The scenes were adapted in the 2010 animated film Batman: Under The Red Hood in which Joker was played by John DiMaggio.
3. Mark Hamill
I’ve spent hours trawling back over actor Mark Hamill’s time as The Joker. Debuting in 1992 in the second episode of Batman: The Animated Series, “Christmas With The Joker” introduced the world to perhaps the most iconic version of the character outside of the comics.
In the end it was impossible to pick a single favourite moment and so Mark Hamill becomes his own top moment in the history of Joker.
Over the course of BTAS history Hamill appeared in 18 episodes. He then returned to the role for the first BTAS inspired movie, Mask of The Phantasm. That movie also made a loose attempt at giving the character an origin and, thanks to the PG rating, allowed the producers to up the violent side of the character.
He returned to voice the character again in 2000’s Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker animated movie. That film jumped between flashbacks to Joker and Harley Quinn brutally torturing Tim Drake’s Robin to a future-set story where the character returned from the dead.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_2FSnybRRI
He also voiced the character in episodes of the Justice League and Superman animated series set in the same universe as BTAS. He has also voiced the character in Justice League Action, animated movie The Killing Joke.
Of course Hamill’s voice work hasn’t been solely in animated series. He also voiced the character in the hugely successful Arkham game series and dubbed his voice over actor Roger Stoneburner in the pilot to 2002’s Birds of Prey live-action series.
2. Joker’s Parade (Batman, 1989)
A moment which will forever haunt me from my childhood will be Joker’s parade in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989).
Listeners to our podcast will know that for years I thought Joker was riding on a giant set of dentures to mirror is recurring teeth gag. I’ve moved on from that now and I’ve come to understand it’s a cake in celebration of 200 years of Gotham…
The scene always scared me because everyone looked like they were having so much fun, especially with the Prince soundtrack playing in the background. Then he starts letting the gas free from the giant balloons and everyone starts dying around him.
It truly shocked me to my core and I think probably the source of my fear of ever being anaesthetised in case they accidentally use Smilex gas on me!
Jack Nicholson remains my favourite live-action Joker to-date. The way he plays the character is truly excellent. From the laugh all the way through to the psychotic mania with which he switches his mood in the middle of scenes. This is MY Joker.
1. The Killing Joke (19889)
In case you’ve not come across this seminal piece of Joker history: The Killing Joke is a 1988 graphic novel written by Alan Moore with art by Brian Bolland.
The Joker escapes from Arkham once more and breaks into Gordon’s home, shooting his daughter Barbara – the former Batgirl – crippling her for life before kidnapping a distraught Gordon and torturing him.
It’s an utterly chilling tale which portrays Joker as his most deranged. The iconic cover adorned my wall for a great many years, scaring friends in the process.
The Killing Joke is one of those comic books which hammers home the point that comics oftenaren’t for kids. It’s graphic, it heavily implies sexual assault on top of its already violent nature. It’s incredibly challenging psychologically seeing the aftermath of the shooting on poor Commissioner Gordon.
On top of all this the ending which implies Batman broke his one rule is a spine tingling moment which cements The Joker as the number one villain for The Dark Knight.
Truly my number one Joker moment of all time.
It was adapted in to a less successful animated film in 2016. The film added a prologue section to the story to help get fans accustomed to Batgirl prior to her shooting. Though it fell flat for many fans it introduced a whole new generation to The Killing Joke.
Props to WB for bringing Mark Hamill back to voice Joker for the movie though.
Joker centres around the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone story not seen before on the big screen. Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), a man disregarded by society, is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.
The film stars Joaquin Phoenix in the title role, also starring are Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Douglas Hodge, Marc Maron, Josh Pais, and Shea Whigham.
Phillips directs from a screenplay he co-wrote with writer Scott Silver, based on characters from DC. The film is being produced by Phillips and Bradley Cooper under their Joint Effort banner, and Emma Tillinger Koskoff. It is executive produced by Richard Baratta, Joseph Garner and Bruce Berman.
Joker is in cinemas now! For all our Joker coverage head to our archive!