From his first appearance in the comic “Batman No.1” to his most recent appearance in the movie “Joker” (2019), the Joker has changed drastically. For every different Batman series, there is another version of the Joker. Just like clowns at a birthday party, some of these Jokers are better left unheard of. However, the following iterations are unique and deserve attention.
4. “John Doe” (Batman: Guardian of Gotham)
Even though this Joker isn’t canon to the Batman universe, it does still deserve a mention. His first appearance was in “Batman: Guardian of Gotham” by Telltale Games (2016). This version of the Joker is a mysterious character in the sense that he doesn’t have the murderous intent that the majority of Joker variants would have. The character John Doe gets his name after being locked up in Arkham Asylum with no record of who he is.
The main thing that makes him different from any average Joe-ker is that he feels remorse and guilt. After killing a few police officers, he feels terrible about doing it and asks Batman if that was the right thing to do. Even though the Telltale Batman games weren’t the best, the Joker in those games was one of the most unique takes on the clown in recent years because of how the character depicts mental illness. He shows the characteristics of someone with anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. John Doe is someone with actual mental issues and that eventually drives him to be the Joker instead of him just being mentally insane and wanting to kill people.
3. Arthur Fleck (“Joker”)
Arthur Fleck, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker,” is a normal person that exaggerates the reality around him and who works as a street clown, stand up comic, and a caregiver for his mother. It is up for debate if Arthur did any of the things that he did in the movie or if they’re all in his head. The final scene of the movie is him in a psych ward, talking to a therapist. Once the scene ends, he walks out of the room with bloody footprints following him. This implies that he killed the therapist, but we never see him do it.
Arthur starts as a normal person with a mental disorder called Pseudobulbar Affect, which causes uncontrollable laughter. However, as time goes on, he is beaten down by society. He gets jumped while working as a street clown, he gets publicly humiliated by his idol on TV, and he is lied to by his mother about who his father is. He is slowly dragged down this hole into insanity and, eventually, because of how society has treated him, he becomes the Joker and starts killing those who have wronged him. Arthur Fleck is unique because he doesn’t start off wanting to kill people. It’s a gradual thing that occurs because of how he is wronged by society and how bad things keep happening to him. He doesn’t want to kill anyone until the very end of the movie—until that point, he is just someone trying to find a purpose in a world that is constantly against him.
2. Lego Joker (The Lego Batman Movie)
Now, this may seem like an odd entry on this list, but hear me out. The Joker from “The Lego Batman Movie” is one of the best Jokers. This is a kid’s movie, so they have to lighten up the Joker character for younger audiences. Even though Lego Joker isn’t the ruthless psychopath that fans are used to, the character still has charisma.
The main goal of the Joker in “The Lego Batman Movie” is to make Batman admit that Joker is his greatest enemy. He causes harm, knowing that Batman will stop him. This seems very unorthodox for the Joker, but it’s only because most other Jokers are more subtle about their plans to get caught by the Bat. Lego Joker is one of the most underrated versions of the character and is overlooked by most people since his only appearances are in a kid’s movie and “The Lego Batman” video games. Lego Joker just wants some recognition, and I feel like that is what sets this Joker apart from others. He has no intent to harm for the sake of harming, and the character isn’t that menacing, but still finds a way to be charming and funny in a sort of creepy “I’m gonna plant a bomb in the middle of a city deliberately just for you to defuse it” type of way.
1. ”Killing Joke” Joker (Batman: The Killing Joke)
At the top of the list is the most iconic comic book version of the character. This Joker is known as an “Unreliable Narrator,” or a character telling the story they want to instead of telling it how it happened. In the comic, the Joker explains that his backstory is “multiple choice,” so that leaves it up to the reader, whether or not they assume that everything that he has said in the whole story is a lie to some extent. This is the darkest version of the Joker I have ever seen. He is a ruthless psychopath that will do anything to accomplish his goals. He doesn’t kill, but he tortures people to drive them to insanity.
Now even though some of these Jokers are deemed better than others, they all bring something unique to the table. No matter what, the Joker keeps the same basic characteristics: he’s a deranged lunatic that is crazy about Batman. It is intriguing to see how much the character has changed throughout the years. The first appearance of the Joker started with him just being a typical run of the mill bad guy that Batman would have to take down. Now he is a complex character that has multiple backstories, a very deep psychology, and sometimes difficult to follow motives. The Joker keeps growing more as a character and, at this point, is more of an interesting character than Batman. It will be interesting to see what additions come to this character in the near future.