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The Joker

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/joker_alex_ross.jpg
The Joker by Alex Ross

Species: Human

First appearance: Batman #1 (April 25 1940)

"If the police expect to play against the Joker, they had best be prepared to be dealt from the bottom of the deck."
Batman #1, his first appearance, written by Bill Finger.
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The Clown Prince of Crime. The Harlequin of Hate. The Ace of Knaves. The Jester of Genocide. The Mountebank of Mirth.

The Monster Clown. The Arch-Enemy.

The Joker is a comic book supervillain owned by DC Comics, who primarily appears as a member of Batman's Rogues Gallery. He first appeared in Batman #1 (25 April, 1940). He was created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson. Credit for the Joker's creation is disputed; Kane and Robinson claimed responsibility for the Joker's design, but acknowledged Finger's writing contribution. Comics scholars lean to Robinson and Finger as Joker's true creators owing to Kane's well documented history of swiping and hiring ghost-artists for his work. Originally he was to die at the end of his second appearance, but the comic's editor wouldn't allow it feeling it was a waste of a perfectly good villain.

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Originally portrayed as a cunning criminal with a constant grin and an occasional sadistic streak, he became a goofy prankster in the The Silver Age of Comic Books, before in the 1970s becoming the terrifying mixture of whimsy and malice that he's known as today. As Batman's arch-nemesis, the Joker has been part of many of the superhero's defining stories, including the murder of Jason Todd (the second Robin and Batman's ward) and the paralysis of Batgirl, Barbara Gordon.

The most famous origin stories for the Joker are The Man Behind the Red Hood by Bill Finger and The Killing Joke by Alan Moore. In the former, the Joker was an infamous thief known as "the Red Hood" who, while robbing a chemical plant, was accidentally knocked into a vat of toxins by Batman, giving him white skin, green hair, and a permanent smile. The origin put forth in The Killing Joke is fairly similar, with the main change being that the Joker was actually a harmless failed comedian that was blackmailed into donning the Red Hood and committing the robbery the same day his pregnant wife died; the trauma of this "one bad day" drove him completely mad.

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Despite the popularity of these origins, DC's official stance is that no version of the Joker's origin is true. He is the Trope Namer for Multiple-Choice Past, after all, and the Joker has openly and brazenly lied about his origins to others many times. But as far as most are concerned, he doesn't need an origin, feeling that it only accentuates his status as the perfect foil to Batman. Where Batman is a dead-serious vigilante driven by heartbreak, the Joker is a zany and unpredictable killer. Where Batman represents order, the Joker represents chaos. And where Batman has a patrician ancestry dating back multiple generationsnote , the Joker has no past whatsoever — he simply is. All that is definitively agreed upon by most writers and fans is that, in some way, Batman played a prominent role in the Joker's creation.

The Joker enjoys spreading death and chaos wherever he can, but he has a particular interest in tormenting Batman above most others. The exact reason why can vary Depending on the Writer — as revenge for the chemical incident, for philosophical and moral reasons to prove a point, because the Joker considers Batman his perfect Straight Man, because the Joker is infatuated with him and wants his attention, or just because he gets more joy from troubling Batman than he does others. Whatever the case, the Joker is considered Batman's Arch-Enemy, and virtually every major Batman adaptation depicts him as the Dark Knight's most persistent foe.

The Joker relies on cunning and intelligence to pull off his schemes; he is a masterful manipulator and a brilliant chemist, using the latter to create poisons and chemical weapons including his trademark Joker Venom, which kills its victims and leaves the corpse with a wide smile like the Joker's.note  His only superpower is an acquired immunity to poisons due to a combination of his chemical accident and prolonged exposure to his Joker Venom. The Joker may also have a unique mental condition that causes him to invent a new personality for himself every so often, making him even more unpredictable.

Despite his lack of powers, the Joker is considered one of the most dangerous and feared villains in DC Comics, because he is just so depraved, insane, and chaotic, that he is capable of things even other supervillains wouldn't do. The Joker's unpredictable nature means most other supervillains refuse to work with him because they feel they can't trust him and he'll betray them or pursue his own agenda, and inevitably he proves them right. While the Joker has joined groups like the Injustice Gang and Injustice League, it never lasts, either the Joker turns on them or they turn on him when they tire of his antics. Batman: The Animated Series introduced Harley Quinn, the Joker's former psychiatrist who fell in love with him and is now his on-and-off sidekick and girlfriend. Because of her blind devotion and love for him, Quinn is about the one long-term relationship Joker can sustain because she sticks by him in spite of how horribly he treats her. This has loosened in later years as she realizes the Joker is a domestic abuser who doesn't return her affections, but to what extent she abandons him and if Joker is able to sway her back to him varies Depending on the Writer.

For all of this, the Joker is one of the most iconic villains in fiction, comparable to the likes of Darth Vader and Iago, and many other villains take cues from him. He is widely considered one of the greatest villains in comics and is without question the most famous and prolific, appearing in virtually every piece of Batman media and most DC Comics general media, not to mention a wide assortment of merchandise. Through it all the Joker's popularity has never waned and he continues to be reimaged by writers over and over across pop culture media.

The Joker has served as Batman's classical adversary not just in the comics, but also in multiple media incarnations:

Live-Action:

Voice Acting:

Read in his own voice here.


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In General:

    # to F 
  • Abusive Parents: One common tactic for the Joker to garner sympathy is claiming he was ill-treated by his parents. Given his propensity to spew out different and sometimes contradictory backstories, nobody knows if they're true.
    • In the animated series, he claims to have been beaten as a child when interviewed by Harley Quinn. It is unknown if this is true. According to Batman, he's simply making it up.
    Harley Quinn: Joker told me things, secret things he never told anyone...
    Batman: What did he tell you, Harley? Was it the line about the abusive father, or the one about the alcoholic mom? Of course, the runaway orphan story is particularly moving, too. He's gained a lot of sympathy with that one. What was it he told that one parole officer? Oh, yes... 'There was only one time I ever saw dad really happy. He took me to the ice show when I was seven...'
    Harley: (crying) Circus... He told me it was the circus.
    Batman: He's got a million of them, Harley.
    • In one issue of New 52, he claims to have been driven insane by an abusive grandmother, who also bleached his skin to its present pallor.
      • In the same continuity, he is one to a baby gorilla he adopts, trains up as a gun-wielding henchman, and ultimately gets killed off for laughs.
      • In the comic book adaptation of Injustice, it's implied Harley fears Joker would be one, and gives their daughter to her sister, lest he kill the child. It's left ambiguous whether the Joker's even aware of the ruse.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: In many continuities, he's immune to his trademark Joker Venom/Smilex. In a crossover comic with Captain America, he also proves to be immune to Red Skull's "Dust of Death", as their trademark poisons are too similar to each other.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: He's undeniably insane and Ax-Crazy, but has no official diagnosis. If anything, he can just be diagnosed with "Being the Joker". However, it’s possible he’s perfectly sane and just The Sociopath, and is using his manipulation abilities to continue his reign of terror.
    • Averted in one story, wherein one of Arkham's doctors realizes Joker's faking insanity just to piss off Batman as revenge for his disfigurement. Another doctor finds the report and excitedly reveals it to the current head doctor, only to learn that the Joker left it for everyone to read, since the paper's written by Harley Quinn, and therefore worthless as evidence.
  • Ambiguous Start of Darkness: Related to his Multiple-Choice Past; the only thing consistent is that he was a low-level crook who got dunked in chemicals to become the Joker. C While some origins (most notably The Killing Joke) have him being forced into crime, others have him as already a sinister criminal beforehand. Batman (1989) and Batman: The Animated Series choose the Evil All Along interpretation.
  • Appropriated Appellation:
    • In Batman: The Man Who Laughs, it's established that the name "The Joker" was given to him by the media, and he liked it so much that he decided to call himself that.
    • The same happens in Joker (2019), where Murray tells the audience to "look at this joker" when talking about Arthur. Arthur took it to heart.
  • Arch-Enemy: A classic example to the Batman, and not just in the comics - they are pretty much the iconic gold standard when it comes to this trope. The two of them are the page image for a reason.
  • Attention Whore: A big part of his motivation in various continuities. He even admits as such at one point, while denying he's not behind one particular crime.
    Joker: Do you really think I would stir up so much trouble and not make sure you knew it was me?
    • Batman: Arkham Knight takes this even further by revealing that being forgotten is the only thing the Joker truly fears.
  • Ax-Crazy: One of his main characteristics is his willingness to psycho on anyone, including his own henchmen.
  • Bad Boss: Willing to casually kill his own henchmen for any reason, be it part of a plan, for amusement, or simply on a whim.
    • Just to demonstrate how much disregard he has for his henchmen, a reoccurring motivation for offing his own lackeys is failing to laugh at one of his jokes. Or laughing too late. Or laughing for too long. Or laughing at the wrong joke. He's... unpredictable.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Defied by The Joker in at least one story (Emperor Joker). Evil Jimmy Olson kills Superman, who has been turned into a dog, by crushing him underneath a fire hydrant. The Joker is simply annoyed, because he doesn't know how to make something as pointless as beating a dumb animal funny. Jimmy Olson is then beaten to death by two giant robots who appear out of nowhere.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: He sometimes believes his Multiple-Choice Past, Depending on the Writer of course. One issue of the Robin Series had the Joker actually in tears as he told the psychiatrist of his abusive childhood, only for the psychiatrist to coldly point out that it's the seventh story he's told now.
  • Berserk Button:
    • The Joker loves it when people laugh with him, whether genuine or not, but if someone laughs at or pulls a prank against him, they're most likely already dead.
    • Joker loves attention and being above the normals, so never imply that he's not interesting or unique. Terry exploits this flaw in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker just to drive him to a Villainous Breakdown.
    • The Batman Who Laughs. Since the character's first appearance in Dark Nights: Metal, the mere mention of him is enough to put The Joker in an uncharacteristically un-jolly mood and is a good way to get on his bad side. In fact, the dislike of this twisted version of his archnemesis is so great, that when Lex Luthor and The Legion of Doom started cooperating with him against Joker's protests, he quit the legion (after non-lethally jokerizing every other member of it) in disgust.
    • If you're going to hurt Batman, do it right. One of the supplementary stories for Joker War had him beyond furious with Bane - to the point of promising him he'd kill him in a way he would never see coming - for showing so little imagination in killing Alfred in City of Bane without even letting Batman listen to it to torture him. By his reckoning, if you have a great gag to break the Bat, use it to break the Bat - don't blow it by having Robin be the only one to witness it.
  • Black Comedy: This is one of Joker’s specialties. To normal people, killing would be a terrible thing, but to Joker, it’s hilarious, especially if he does it in a way that amuses him.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: In a "Detective Comics" story written by Paul Dini, the Joker (while impersonating a stage magician he had previously murdered) shot Zatanna in the throat so she couldn't recite a spell to save herself, then locked her in a tank of water while strapping Batman in an electric chair. He didn't shoot her in the head because he wanted Batman to watch helplessly as she died. This didn't go so well because first, he's BATMAN! and second, Zatanna was able to write a healing incantation on the lid of the tank using her own blood, which made the spell even more powerful.
  • Boring Insult: While the Joker has used it a few times on others, he mostly does it to hear the sound of his own voice as the people he usually slings this insult at don't really care whether or not they're boring. On the other hand, this is his Berserk Button when others intentionally use it against him. Terry deliberately exploits this flaw with glee and even rubs it in his face in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. For a comedian, the only thing worse than silent glares is The Heckler.
  • Breakout Villain: The Trope Codifier for comics. DC's initial intention was to kill him off in his second appearance. Fortunately, editor Whitney Ellsworth convinced DC to spare him, a panel was hastily added to show that he'd survived, and the Joker rapidly became not only Batman's Arch-Enemy, but arguably the most iconic example of an Arch-Enemy in all of fiction.
  • Break the Comedian: A sure way to determined if things have gotten real, even for the Joker, is if he isn't laughing or joking. A famous example involved the Joker being frightened during the events of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run, when he was horrified by Arcane's actions.
  • Clear My Name: The Brave and the Bold has him framed for several murders and he must use Batman's help.
  • Collective Identity: As revealed in Darkseid War and DC Rebirth, the Joker has been used by three people, though Batman: Three Jokers clarified it as this: The Criminal (the original "Golden Age" Joker from the character's debut in Batman #1), The Clown (the "Silver Age" Joker, strongly implied to be the one who killed Jason Todd), and The Comedian (the current "Modern Age" Joker, who kidnapped and tormented Jim Gordon).
  • Combat Pragmatist : While his fighting prowess varies from remarkably proficient to extremely weak Depending on the Writer, the Joker is a consistently dirty fighter, striking enemies when and where they are most vulnerable. Besides his myriad of gag gadgets, he often carries concealed weapons, gases and acids on his person, and won't hesitate to brandish a wrench or smash a chair over your head in a pinch. He is usually adept with knives and, unlike Batman, rarely has any reservations about firearms. He has no qualms kicking an opponent when they're down, and will employ deception, feigning surrender or defeat to get Batman to lower his guard.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting:
  • Confusion Fu: This is often his last line of defense when Batman corners him, especially in the animated television shows. Effectiveness varies.
  • Cop Killer: Sometimes police officers are among the Joker's victims:
    • During Knightfall he and Scarecrow killed several members of a SWAT team, and one of his last actions in Batman: No Man's Land was to kill Commissioner Gordon's second wife, Lt. Sarah Essen.
    • The version of Batgirl seen in Zero Hour! was from a universe one where the Joker killed Commissioner Gordon instead of crippling her.
    • Part of the reason Gordon takes over the post of Commissioner in both The Dark Knight Trilogy and Batman: Arkham Series is due to the Joker killing Gillian Loeb. Additionally, the first game in the latter series, Asylum, he sees several of Arkham's guards killed by him and his men.
    • He's holding a dead cop's corpse in his intro in Injustice: Gods Among Us and using it as a puppet. He also talks to the body of one of the Regime enforcers who captured him once he breaks out and heads to Gotham.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Most stories posit he was chased by Batman through a factory with No OSHA Compliance, which caused him to be exposed to acid, discoloring his skin and hair and driving him insane when he sees his reflection. Often he claims Batman is responsible for turning him into The Joker.
  • Creepy High-Pitched Voice: In voiced roles, he usually has a high-pitched voice to contrast Batman's Badass Baritone.
  • Crossover Villain-in-Chief: In DC's Crisis Crossover events that involve a lot of villains, like Salvation Run and Forever Evil, The Joker usually fills this role along with Lex Luthor.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Insanity aside, sometimes the Joker's plans and methods are so out there they just seem stupid. Despite appearances, he's usually very cunning, and always very dangerous. In fact, part and parcel of what makes the Joker's plans devastating is that he knows how to hide the punchline for lack of a better word. The plans are so innocuous, so disheveled and so utterly random that they usually have no sane MO, which makes it hard to see the bigger picture of the plan unless Batman pieces it together quickly.
  • Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: Happens frequently, though this may be an indication of the competence of the staff at Arkham. One such time was with Dr. Harleen Quinzel, who bought his story hook, line and sinker and declared him sane, then broke him out of Arkham and started dating him (of course, her exact analysis was that he was utilizing Obfuscating Insanity and it's implied that she was actually right, so perhaps she was the only good doctor at Arkham after all...)
  • Deadly Prank: He generally considers murdering someone for a joke to be morally no different than putting a whoopie cushion on their chair.
  • Depending on the Artist: His depiction varies a lot between eras and between different artists in the same period. Major differences are whether he can form facial expressions other than a grin, and whether he is average-sized or freakishly tall and thin.
  • Depending on the Writer: There are many huge variations, the most common and glaring being:
    • Whether he was driven insane or was already insane and became completely bonkers.
    • Where he is on the spectrum between "wacky prankster" and "utterly depraved and sadistic sociopath and murderer".
    • Whether he is a senseless, performative terrorist wreaking havoc for kicks or a deceptively cunning and competent criminal mastermind. Or both. Usually both.
    • He's no Batman, but sometimes he is a proficient hand-to-hand combatant, Knife Nut or marksman, and other times a flimsy wimp who goes down in one punch. In some of the grittier settings, his raw strength, numbness to pain and viciousness are enough to level the playing field with Batman.
    • Whether he actually loves Harley Quinn varies. In the animated series, (where Harley first appeared) the writers have outright said he's a sociopath incapable of loving anyone, and just sees her as a useful mook. Some other works imply he really does love her on some level (although he's usually still an abusive asshole.)
    • He can either be Faux Affably Evil, Laughably Evil, just a Monster Clown, or some combination of the three.
  • Depraved Bisexual: The Joker is completely and utterly insane and sadistic. The Killing Joke showed the not-yet Joker's pregnant wife saying that he was "good in the sack." There's also the few and far-between Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moments he has with Harley. Plus all that Foe Romance Subtext he has toward Batman. Harley and Ivy both think that the Joker only has eyes for Batman. Joker has often professed affection toward Batman (complete with moments of desperate attention-needing) and in "Cacophony" Joker explicitly states that he wants Batman sexually. Although, being the Joker, he wants him sexually only after he's dead.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Not above invoking this deliberately to get under Batman's skin. Whether he means all his flirting and feel-copping varies slightly Depending on the Writer and heavily depending on one's own interpretation.
    • At least one such incident implied he would be interested in Batman... but only after he was dead. Again this may only have been a tactic to get under Batman's skin or truthful admission. The readers will never know for certain.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: In A Death in the Family, Ayatollah Khomeini appoints him the UN ambassador to Iran, giving him diplomatic immunity. This was later retconned to the fictional Syraq due to reasons of taste.
  • Dirty Coward: Zigzagged. How brave, how coward, and how much or how little he gives a fuck about his life varies depending of the version, the issue/chapter/episode, and sometimes, even the scene.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Has been known to try to kill people for minor slights, such as welshing on a bet on a sporting event for trivial stakes.
  • Domestic Abuse: This characterizes his relationship with his "henchwench" Harley Quinn to a T. Joker frequently yells at her, puts her down, humiliates her, and exposes her to all manner of violence ranging from "merely" slapping or punching her to outright trying to murder her. Such is her Mad Love that she ignored his abuse for most of her existence in comic history, with the two only separating in the late 2010s.
  • The Dreaded: Easily one of the most feared villains in the entire DC universe. Other villains are afraid of him; it's been said that when criminals want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories.
  • Driven to Madness: Doing this to others has become part of his MO. What triggered his own insanity and belief in nihilism remains unknown.
    • His plot in The Killing Joke is to put Jim Gordon through the wringer hard in the hopes of driving him mad. He'll also try to drive Batman over the edge (particularly, drive him to break his "no killing" rule), sometimes by cutting off all of Batsy's human connections.
    • The Dark Knight reworks it into Driving Gotham To Senseless Violence with wanton acts of destruction or terrorism, just to prove everyone's as bad as him deep down.
    • Ironically, a 1952 story has the Joker get himself falsely committed to an insane asylum, to question a patient who knew the location of a cache of money. The end of the story has him Laughing Mad due to a prank Batman used to disguise his identity.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Just take a gander at his earliest appearances:
    • He didn't have his signature laugh. This seems to have been a way to "goofy up" the character to make him less terrifying in the days of the Comics Code Authority. Later on, he'd learn to giggle while remaining terrifying.
    • He actually committed crimes for moneynote , and wasn't really interested in causing chaos or terror for a joke's sake.
    • Building off of that, his plans weren't really "insane" until the Silver Age (at which point it's not even fair to say this was exclusive to him), nor was there any question of the character's mental stability.
    • His obsession with Batman wasn't there, much less the idea that he would pass up chances to kill the Bat or learn his identity. This aspect was probably introduced to explain the Bond Villain Stupidity he (and every Batman villain) had become infamous for in the Silver Age.
    • His clown-like complexion was actually makeup in his early appearances. He even removed his makeup to disguise himself as a cop, which was referenced in The Dark Knight. It's later revealed that the look is permanent after falling in a vat of chemicals.
  • Electric Joybuzzer: One of his signature weapons, a lethal variation, most memorably used in Batman (1989). He ended up Hoist by His Own Petard when trying to use it on Static.
    Static: That was fun. Let me try! (BZZZZT!)
    (Batman approves.)
  • Enemy Mine:
    • The Brave and the Bold #111 and #191 have him team up with Batman to clear his name after being framed for several murders. The first instance turned out to simply be a framing the guilty part occasion but the second instance was actually genuine on Joker's part (except the person Joker seemingly murdered turned out to be faking their death).
    • He also does this with Batman whenever The Batman Who Laughs is involved (specifically in the Dark Knights: Metal series).
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Oddly enough, this trope does occasionally apply to him. Let's just say this right off... if you manage to offend The Joker's sensibilites or moral compass (this being a man who has spent 80 years using the Moral Event Horizon as a jumprope) you truly have gone beyond the pale.
    • He abruptly ends a partnership with Red Skull when his Nazi affiliation comes out. Red Skull simply wonders why he is so surprised when he thinks that the Joker would make a great Nazi. The Joker is NOT happy about this, proclaiming "I may be a criminal lunatic, but I'm an American criminal lunatic!" It even provides the trope's image. And yes, folks, even an equal-opportunity murderer like the Joker despises the Nazis!note 
    • The exception is mentioned again in the Last Laugh arc where the Joker immediately refused to join the American Neo-Nazi Aryan Alliance group in the Slab after he was offered membership.
      Joker: I'm evil and all that, but you guys are just plain mean.
      • Later on he is disgusted when his minions vandalize the Moai on Eastern Island.
    • Will not harm dumb animals and doesn't condone it. There's no humor to be had in that. Higher primates apparently do not qualify but a lot more effort went into that one.
    • While in Arkham with villain Warren White, AKA the Great White Shark, Joker calls him the worst person he ever met. He states that while he may kill people, even he doesn't steal their kids' college funds.
    • Sees nothing funny about someone parking in a handicap spot when they're not handicapped. However, he does think it's hilarious to hurt them in ways that will make certain they'll always be able to park there.
    • A girl named Janey Bennett, whose class was studying criminal behavior, became pen pals with the Joker while he was in Arkham. When Janey revealed that her father, the mayor of Motor City, was abusing her (exactly how isn't specified, though it was implied to have been really bad) the Joker broke out and, convinced that the authorities would be of no help, tried to force the mayor into admitting to his crimes and giving him Janey (so that he could find a better home for her) by threatening to contaminate the city's blood supply, going through with it (because the ends justify the means) when the mayor refused to give in to his demands. He originally intended to give her to Batman as well so he could protect her but at the end decided to give her to her mom.
      Joker: I mean, stealing a city blind is something I can admire... but being mean to one's own daughter... that just makes my blood boil.
    • The Joker absolutely loathes The Batman Who Laughs, to the point where he drops his usual joking demeanor and is deathly serious whenever directly referring to him, even willing to work together with Batman to face him when it comes down to it. When Lex Luthor goes behind his back to make a deal with The Batman Who Laughs (going against the only condition Joker has for joining his plan), Joker responds by Joker-gassing the Legion of Doom, putting Lex into a series of deathtraps, trashing Lex's Power Armor, and quitting the Legion. In the process, he tells Luthor how he had planned on ruining the Legion utterly on the verge of victory, and as nightmarish as his plan sounded, he claims it is nothing compared to what the Batman Who Laughs is going to do.
    • In the penultimate issue of Batman: No Man's Land when he killed Sarah Essen, the Joker himself wasn't amused by it, and was scowling afterwards. He left behind the babies had he planned to murder without harming them, and walked outside to surrender to the police. That said, he still grinned to Gordon about it after and found it hilarious when Gordon shot him in the kneecap, thinking he did it to purposefully echo how the Joker shot Barbara.
    • Emperor Joker sees the Joker disgusted with a corrupted Jimmy Olsen tormenting the Superfamily and Batman when they're turned into animals.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Completely averted with Harley. He physically and emotionally abuses her and tried to kill her on numerous occasions. They eventually break up in the New 52 continuity.
    • Played more straight in his relationship with Punchline. Only time will tell if it lasts.
    • There’s also a comic storyline when Hush informed that a dirty cop Office Halmet killed his wife Jeannie. The Joker wanted nothing more than to kill said cop in revenge. Then there’s Batman: Three Jokers where, despite it being being heavily implied he was abusive, the “Comedian” Joker is seen setting up fake tea parties with dolls, clearly trying to substitute them for his wife and child showing that he does miss them and desire to be a family with them.
  • Evil All Along: Some versions, such as the DC Animated Universe and Batman (1989), go with the interpretation that the Joker was evil, if not outright Ax-Crazy, even before his fateful transformation, with the chemicals just making him worse.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The Joker is Nihilism Incarnate: he believes that life is pointless and insane, and the only thing anyone can do is give into the madness. Life is a joke, and once he got the joke he never stopped laughing at it. One of the reasons he's obsessed with Batman is because Batman is The Anti-Nihilist: Batman also thinks, to some degree at least, that life is meaningless. But rather than embrace the madness, Batman fights against it, trying to bring order to chaos through his heroic actions. So Batman got the joke too, but he's not laughing, and the Joker doesn't understand why.
  • Evil Genius: Though rarely the focus of his character, Joker is usually an extremely gifted chemist, constantly creating new and better versions of his signature laughing gas. He's also (unsurprisingly) a skilled planner on par with Batman himself, in addition to being extremely charismatic and manipulative when he wants to be.
  • Evil Mentor: The Joker has corrupted many other people into becoming villains themselves, with Harley Quinn just being the most famous example.
  • Evil Is Petty: Joker truly sees no difference between throwing cream pies, robbing a museum, and brutal, torturous mass-murder. To him, it's all just part of the joke.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Jack Nicholson in Batman (1989) and Kevin Michael Richardson in The Batman both give the Joker a deep, sinister voice, contrasting his usual higher-pitched depictions in other works.
  • Facial Horror: His iconic "perma-clown" appearance (the green hair, chalk-white skin, and most of the time, red lips) is the result of being submerged in a tank of chemicals. However, there was times this has gotten worse.
    • While The Dark Knight is one of the few times the Joker's clown-like appearance is the result of make-up, he does sport a Glasgow Grin.
    • While Joker still has the permanent clown look, it's combined with the Glasgow Grin.
    • While Batman: Endgame would see the skin of his face restored with a chemical called Dionesiumnote , at the start of The New 52, the Joker had the Dollmaker skin his face and then, after he recovered it, spent Death of the Family wearing it like a Leatherface-esque mask. And even in Endgame, his restored face ends up badly burned as the result of the finale battle between him and Batman, though it still ends up restored again.
    • Gotham sees neither Valeska escape this. After his death in season 2, Jerome (the proto-Joker) ends up resurrected in season 3, but because Dwight thinks his attempt to revive him failed, Dwight ends up cutting off Jerome's face ala Death of the Family and Jerome ends up stapling it on when he catches up with Dwight and while he later has it properly reattached, there's still scars from what happened. Jeremiah, Jerome's twin and the show's true Joker, ends up with the "perma-clown" appearance due to Jerome having the Scarecrow brew something up to spray in Jeremiah's face, but season 5 sees his fateful fall at Ace Chemicals badly scar his face and sear off most of his hair with only stringy patches left.
    • Averted entirely in Joker (2019), where his clown appearance is entirely makeup, and the worst it gets is painting his iconic smile on his face with his own blood from a car crash. Not even a Glasgow Grin or anything, the blood is from his hand and his face only has a few normal cuts on it.
  • Fame Through Infamy: He's practically built a career on crimes designed more to spread his infamy than anything else. Perhaps his true illness is that he is an Attention Whore through and through...
  • Faux Affably Evil: Often addresses others in a polite and friendly way before he unleashes merry hell on them.
  • Flanderization: Over the years, his actions have become almost exclusively focused on causing as much carnage and chaos as possible or harassing Batman and his allies rather than performing any non-lethal mischief or practical crime.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Sometimes will mess with Batman's mind by calling him by pet names or using innuendo. Or outright groping him. According to later writers, Joker regards their hero/villain dynamic as a very special relationship, and resents anyone or thing that gets in the way of it (like all those family members Bruce enjoys hanging out with), which is disturbingly like a jealous lover.
  • Foil: To Batman in several ways. If the origin offered in Killing Joke is to be believed, both Batman and Joker had one bad day that put them on very different paths.
    • While Batman is a rather serious character who refuses to kill anyone, The Joker is a rather comical character who revels in death.
    • Joker's gadgets tend to be rather goofier but much more lethal, such as the Joker Venom that he often uses to kill his victims.
    • While Batman gets along well with his allies, sidekicks Robin and Batgirl, his mentor Alfred and Love Interest Catwoman, Joker frequently abuses his sidekick Harley Quinn and has tried to kill her before, not to mention all the times he has been a Bad Boss by killing his henchmen for any reason you can think of, sometimes for no reason at all.
    • While Batman's backstory is well known, even by the citizens of Gotham who know of the tragedy of the rich Waynes' in Crime Alley including in real life, no one knows anything about the Joker's backstory, but most versions he tells are consistent in two things: he was a nobody, and possibly someone poor.
    • Batman wears dark clothing that mostly consists of black and grey, and Joker wears bright clothing that mostly consists of green and purple.
    • In most adaptations, his voice is high-pitched in contrast to Batman's Badass Baritone.
  • For the Evulz: The usual motives of the Joker. Many of his crimes always involve sowing chaos and the schadenfreude of other people's misery.
  • Freudian Excuse: Even he isn't sure of his own history and will crop up multiple reasons for his insanity. The most accepted version is that he was a thug named the Red Hood who gets disfigured falling into a vat while trying to escape Batman. His backstory still remains a mystery.
    • Why he went by the name the Red Hood has changed over the years: The Killing Joke claims he was a failed comedian driven to crime to support his pregnant wife. The trauma of his disfigurement from jumping in the acid and his wife's earlier accidental death drove him insane. However, even this backstory is questionable, as the Joker himself calls it "multiple choice".
    • In Injustice 2, an intro with Atrocitus has the Red Lantern wondering what drove the Joker to nihilism.
    • Exploited the animated series. He claims to have been abused as a child when interviewed by Harley, but according to Batman, it's just another ruse to escape Arkham and manipulate people into giving him what he wants, which is how he managed to convince Harley into becoming his henchwoman.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Best displayed in The Killing Joke: Joker's "one bad day" is just an excuse, as he neither knows nor cares if it actually happened that way, and Batman confronts him on how his attempt to similarly break Commissioner Gordon failed.
    Batman: Despite all your sick, vicious little games, he's as sane as he ever was! So maybe ordinary people don't always crack. Maybe there isn't any need to crawl under a rock with all the other slimey things when trouble hits. Maybe it was just you, all the time!
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Often plays this role among villain team-ups. It's implied that the only reason the other DC villains ever invite him to things is because they're terrified of what he'll do to them if he's not. Alexander Luthor Jr.'s death at the end of Infinite Crisis is brought about because, as Lex Luthor puts it:
    Luthor: You made one big mistake. You didn't let the Joker play.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The key thing about his Multiple-Choice Past is that nobody really knows who he was before he put on the Red Hood and fell into a vat of acid. As such, Joker was literally a nobody... who turned into the DC Universe's scariest villain, and who at times has upstaged even Brainiac or Darkseid.
  • Frozen Face: Most depictions have his face as such, with his massive rictus grin being something he can't really stop doing.

    G to L 
  • Gadgeteer Genius: While he seems to be a chemist first and foremost, the Joker has no trouble coming up with a range of tools and weapons of his own design and is easily as smart as Batman in this area. Other stories show that he has a solid enough understanding of such varied fields as engineering, computers and even robotics that he can at least hijack the sophisticated inventions of others and use them for his own ends with no difficulty whatsoever, and he is generally implied (though rarely outright stated) to have had a scientific background prior to becoming the Clown Prince of Crime.
  • Glasgow Grin: Heath Ledger's portrayal features very noticeable scarring from such wounds and tells two conflicting stories of how he got them. Sometimes, Depending on the Artist, the Joker has one in the comics, usually in out-of-continuity stories.
  • Gonk: Depending on the Artist, he varies from "disfigured, but still fairly handsome" to "barely passes for human", the latter cases usually feature him with a really long and narrow nose and a huge, exaggerated mouth with a permanent Slasher Smile.
  • Guest Fighter: After making appearances in the previous crossover and being a major player in NetherRealm's other big series, Joker shows up in Mortal Kombat 11 all on his own, freed from the restrictions of a Teen rating and able to showcase the true depths of his depraved bloodlust.
  • Handshake of Doom: Often kills unsuspecting victims by offering a handshake. When the other person grabs his hand, their palm is pricked by a device that resembles a joy buzzer, which injects deadly venom into their blood stream.
  • Hated by All: Apart from Harley (and even then, only when their on-off relationship is "on"), Gaggy and Punchline, no one likes or supports the Joker. In any way, whatsoever. Damn near every other member of Batman's Rogues Gallery hates his guts, mostly because not only is he completely sociopathic and unpredictable, but also they are all scared shitless by him. The only reason why he's even allowed in teams such as the Legion of Doom is because of that fear: if they exclude him from the lineup, then chances are that dead bodies will be lining the streets in their name. Trickster spells it out in "Underworld Unleashed."
    Trickster: Great going, Neron, bring in the one guy no one wants to be in the same room with. When super-villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories.
    • Nether Realm Studios especially seems to love making Joker out to be evil incarnate. In Injustice: Gods Among Us and its sequel, he loses all his cred (and life) once he nukes Metropolis; Harley ditches him entirely, Batman just completely gives up on indulging him any more, even Guest Fighters like Hellboy consider him worthless, and non-Batvillains such as Grodd and Brainiac and even Darkseid loathe him for either Metropolis, or just in general principle. Mortal Kombat 11 shows that even the MK cast see him as a scourge upon the realms, and also express distaste toward him for either his nuking, a previous outing, or because he's seen as a buffoon who cannot be taken seriously (this is usually the case for other villain characters).
    • About the only person who can tolerate him for long is Lex Luthor, only because they both have the same level of hatred for their respective enemies. Even then, Luthor prefers to keep his distance from the Joker, if only because a bored Joker screws with everything For the Evulz.
  • Hate Sink: Posthumously, his Injustice-verse incarnation is the primary target for audience scorn and gets saddled with this role by everyone in the game, its sequel, and the tie-in comics — the version from the Injustice-verse itself, at least. This is because he tricked Superman into killing his own wife Lois Lane and nuking Metropolis, then pulling a Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred on the poor guy who that set him on the path to becoming a tyrant, all for the sake of doing it and go after a much more vulnerable target compared to Batman. His role as The Corrupter to Harley is explained to make her redemption feel more plausible, as even she has come to despise him for his actions. In particular, while Superman does terrible things, he is portrayed as a Tragic Villain due to the losses he suffered before becoming a bad guy, and as such, his killing of the Joker is always played for maximum pathos. Even villains as despicable as Brainiac, Darkseid and Gorilla Grodd openly despise him. This even continues into his Guest Fighter appearance in Mortal Kombat 11note , where even the likes of Kano, Shang Tsung and Shao Kahn can't stand him.
  • Human Head on the Wall: There's a rather famous piece of comic book artwork drawn by Brian Bolland featuring The Joker lounging in a chair in front of a trophy wall mounted with the decapitated heads of various DC heroes and villains, all of them painted white and their faces distorted into a smile like the Joker himself. It's even been parodied a bunch of times with other comic supervillains sitting in Joker's place.
  • Iconic Outfit:
    • The purple suit and matching pants with either an orange and/or green shirt with a bowtie or tie, remains the definitive Joker look one that many artists and costume designers have given spin on. He is sometimes known for wearing a cool hat but other times goes hatless. Heath Ledger's custom-designed purple long-coat, trousers, blue shirt and green Waistcoat of Style with a tie has likewise become iconic and famous for its contemporary and downright stylish update on the classic look.
    • The original Red Hood outfit which is a black suit, white shirt, bowtie with an opera cap and a bizarre red dome is also quite famous.
    • The Hawaiian tourist outfit he wore in the notorious scene in The Killing Joke.
    • The white suit he wears in Miller's The Dark Knight Returns as well as the white nurse maid outfit with red wig in The Dark Knight is also quite notable.
    • The Future Joker look from Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker which went with a mime look (black body suit, slicked-back hair) is also quite distinct and unique.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: There have been a few times when the Joker engaged in cannibalism, such as an issue of Grant Morrison's JLAnote  after Day Of Judgment, where upon the reveal that the Martian Manhunter took the League and the now Hal Jordan hosted-Spectre into the Joker's head, the Joker lamented eating a man's tongue raw. Additionally, an infamous bit in Emperor Joker has the Joker eat all of China while he had Mr. Mxyzptlk's powers.
  • Insane No More: Is cured by Batman forcing unknown pills down his throat in the non-canon Batman: White Knight, causing him go back to his real name, Jack Napier, make a Heel–Face Turn and accuse Batman of being part of the problem (he's also considerably better than the usual Joker, being closer to the earlier trickster personality).
  • I've Come Too Far: At the end of The Killing Joke, Batman tries to reason with the Joker, insisting that they've got to stop before one of them kills the other and offering to help rehabilitate him. Joker briefly considers the offer before solemnly turning it down.
    Joker: No. I'm sorry, but... no. It's too late for that. Far too late.
  • It Amused Me: His raison d'etre. Why kill people in horrific ways, ruin their lives, and generally make the entire universe a worse place than he left it? Because it's funny.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: Inverted in the case of Batman: White Knight, where taking pills cures Joker of his insanity and brings back his original Jack Napier persona. However, if he fails to take the pills, the Joker resurfaces, which is exactly what happens in Batman: Curse of the White Knight, and he's much worse than before.
  • Jerkass: Though that is a total understatement, Joker still more or less counts as one. When he isn't killing or torturing people for his own amusement, he's taunting them and trying get under other people's skin.
  • Joker Immunity: The trope namer. He was originally conceived as a one-off villain but proved too interesting a character to be killed off so quickly, and a last-minute edit had him survive instead. He's so famous for this that most works that kill him off, the audience doesn't buy it, and it serves as an effective twist the rare times when he is Killed Off for Real. But even those rare occasions may continue to feature him in flashbacks or hallucinations as a Posthumous Character.
  • Knife Nut: In many appearances, knives are his Weapon of Choice, either to disfigure his victims or kill his foes. Often both.
    The Joker: Do you want to know why I use a knife? Guns are too... quick. You can't savor all the little emotions. You see, in their last moments, people show you who you really are.
  • Large Ham: Holy shit, yes. He has an enormous sense of showmanship and is seen cracking Black Comedy jokes every minute, and it's a nigh-guarantee that whoever is portraying him will be munching the scenery to the very structure. Most especially the case if it happens to be Mark Hamill.
  • Laser-Guided Broadcast: In comic books as well in most of the media, when The Joker takes the control of TV and makes one of his menaces to threat and/or destroy Gotham City, good part of his message goes directly to Batman by tempting him to stop his plans, where usually destroy the city is just a secondary plan, getting/trapping/killing Batman as his real main plan.
  • Legacy Character: The idea of multiple Jokers is used in Gotham. There are two Jokers - Jerome Valeska, and his twin brother Jeremiah Valeska. The former is a deranged mass murderer who spread madness through Gotham. The latter is the actual Joker who becomes Batman's Arch-Enemy, and is even more dangerous than his predecessor.
  • Lethal Joke Character: In-Universe. Those unfamiliar with him tend to write him off as just some fool dressed as a clown, only to realize very quickly why they should keep their guard up around him. He's still one of the most dangerous characters in the DC Universe, despite existing in a world filled with super-humans and gods. Heck, he's even upstaged Lex Luthor, Ra's Al Ghul, Brainiac and Darkseid in terms of villainy.

    M to R 

  • Mad Artist: The Joker is a performer who commits his crimes as much for the theatrics as any sadism or profit. He once referred to Batman as the Straight Man in their act, and in the 1989 movie described himself as a "homicidal artist" who made art until someone died. He even tried making a Snuff Film titled "The Death Of Batman", acting like a Prima Donna Director in the process.
  • Master of Disguise: A talent he possesses even in his earliest stories. Joker is an expert with make-up, costumes and impersonations and has posed as everything from police officers to doctors to even Batman himself. He can go to extremely elaborate lengths to pull off his deceptions too, fabricating entire backstories and staying in-character for months at a time to see his plans through.
  • Mirthless Laughter: The Joker's constantly laughing, either at the pain and misery of others, the pain and misery he inflicts on others, or even his own pain. However, as describe by many and offered by the reader based on his scenes and what he does, there is NEVER any joy in his laughter. Never any real happiness. Just cruelty and mockery of pain and sorrow. If he does indeed have a tragic backstory that caused his madness, then this makes sense as he has chosen to laugh instead of cry. His statement about how the universe should end "so there won't be anymore people like me" during the Emperor Joker storyline lends weight to him being a Sad Clown.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: While it's not evident given Joker's Laughing Mad demeanor and his penchant for macabre jokes usually at the life and limb expense of someone else, Joker is actually absolutely full of hatred and spite towards basically everyone and the entire world. Several stories have gone into this and it's implied that the Joker finds it so easy to kill everyone around him, not because he feels nothing for them, but in fact because he loathes everyone aside from his twisted relationship with Batman.
    • The first issue of Batman with Joker's debut has him described as having "burning, hate-filled eyes" and the moniker, "the harliquin of hate".
    • The Man Who Laughs had Bruce dosed with a light version of the Joker Venom and he felt his perspective shift into a paranoid vengeance were he felt everyone deserved to be punished for his parent's death just for existing.
    • Death of the Family had Batman describe how Joker's irises are always narrow when looking at anyone but Batman and that it is usually an indication of negative feelings toward something with Bruce mentioning that his eye are the eyes of someone who hates everything he sees.
  • Moment of Lucidity: There've been a few times when outside forces have sent him into a fit of temporary sanity over the years.
    • In the Justice League storyline "Rock of Ages", Martian Manhunter has to put in incredible effort to reorganize Joker's mind long enough for him to give up the cataclysmic Philosopher's Stone. The briefly sane Joker immediately says My God, What Have I Done? verbatim as he hands it back, before quickly losing his mind and going back to the laughing madman.
    • The famous example from the end of The Killing Joke, where Batman tries to convince him to allow Batman to rehabilitate him before their vendetta kills them. Joker considers it for a long, somber moment before quietly reflecting that they're both too far gone.
    • Batman: Cacophony ends with Joker being pumped full of an inhuman amount of antipsychotic drugs to keep him under control while in recovery from a near-fatal stabbing. Batman takes the opportunity to have a relatively-sane conversation with him, though it's somewhat subverted by Joker still being a homicidal sociopath even while heavily sedated.
  • Monster Clown: One of the classic examples.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Practically the poster child and possible trope namer. Even he isn't sure of his own history. The most accepted version introduced in Detective Comic #168 (1951) has him as a thug named the Red Hood who jumps into a vat of chemicals to escape Batman, disfiguring him and inspiring him to adopt the name Joker. Why he went by the name the Red Hood has changed over the years: The Killing Joke claims he was a failed comedian pressured into becoming a criminal to support his pregnant wife. The trauma of his disfigurement from jumping in the acid and his wife's earlier accidental death drove him insane. However, even this backstory is questionable, as the Joker himself calls it "multiple choice".
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Whenever he is made temporarily sane, most notably by a Lazarus pit after Ra's Al Ghul killed him after a Villain Team-Up and in JLA #15 during the Rock of Ages storyline, Joker usually expresses deep remorse for his crimes. Unfortunately it never lasts.
  • The Nicknamer: He's prone to giving nicknames to allies and enemies alike. Sometimes affectionate, sometimes snarky, but always undesired. Calling Batman "Batsy" or "Bats" and Robin "boy blunder" are probably his most iconic.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Some of the Joker's victims fall into this.
    • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns sees him kill David Endochrine and Ruth Weisenheimer, who were clearly based on David Letterman and Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
    • During Knightfall, once he realizes that Azrael isn't Batman, his plan's gone to hell, and one too many criticisms from Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert stand-ins, he kills the stand-ins.
    • In one of the issues for the The Batman tie-in comic, The Batman Strikes, he terrorizes a stand-in for Conan O'Brien. Interestingly enough, the real O'Brien voiced Endochrine in the animated version of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. In the series proper, Harley's debut had the two of them terrorize a stand-in for Dr. Phil for the climax.
  • No Name Given: The Joker is the only Batman villain who doesn't have an official real identity. However, there are three occasions where names have been used. The Jack Nicholson version used the name "Jack Napier", which was briefly mentioned in the Animated Series episode "Dreams In Darkness" since the series was partially based on the movie, albeit the doctors list it as one of his aliases. The Gotham version played by Cameron Monaghan gives him the name Jeremiah Valeska. The Joaquin Phoenix version used the name "Arthur Fleck", though the movie raises the question that he doesn't know who his father is, so 'Fleck' might not even be his surname. The Telltale series plays with this by 'naming' him 'John Doe' - which is just a stand-in name police/hospitals use when they don't know someone's identity. While he still has no official name to this day, it's general fan consensus that it's either Jack Napier or just Jack.
  • Not a Mask: Sometimes he pretends to wear makeup, but it ain't makeup. Jack Nicholson's version wore flesh-tone makeup over his pale skin several times after his transformation. Though, this is Depending on the Writer, as Heath Ledger's depiction does wear makeup. It's unclear if this is the case for Caesar Romero's depiction, as Romero's mustache is visible at times (he refused to shave for the part).
  • Not Me This Time: Though he certainly wouldn't mind committing them, he's been framed for murders he didn't commit several times, such as by James Gordon Jr.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Zig Zagged Trope / Depending on the Writer. Some stories claims The Joker is actually sane, but pretends to be otherwise to avoid the death penalty. Others says he is genuinely crazy. It must be noted that Joker, like other Batman villains, was only identified as insane from the 70s onwards by various writers.note 
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Despite the Joker's infamous reputation and violent instability he never has any issues finding new henchmen for his schemes nor does he ever has any issues finding the resources needed to pull off his often convoluted plans and he's often able to do it all without attracting the attention of Batman or the authorities until he's ready for them.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: A general rule of thumb: If the Joker isn't smiling, something very bad is about to happen.
    • If you want to know how truly terrifying The Batman Who Laughs is, look no further than the way Joker acts whenever discussing him. He doesn't laugh, he doesn't smile. He becomes calm and serious and simply tells whomever he's talking to that the TBWL is "a wrong thing that shouldn't exist". Someone HAS to be scary if the very thought of him makes Joker act like a calm rational sane person.
    • In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, the clown has a massive Villainous Breakdown when Terry mocks him for his failed attempts to break Batman.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Pretty much sums up his feelings towards Batman. He often flies into a rage whenever someone else attempts to kill Batman when in his company, and whenever Batman (seemingly) dies he has a tendency to completely snap and turn sane. This actually goes the other direction as well: the Joker feels that Batman is the only one allowed to defeat him, and it's shown he's terrified of someone else doing him in in some continuities.
  • Outside-Context Problem: A recurring theme of Joker's "first appearance" stories in various adaptations is that nobody in Gotham is prepared for a guy who's only in it For the Evulz. Also, the Joker himself likes to find these, and exploit them.
    • On the rare occasion Joker gets bored and leaves Gotham, expect everyone to think of him as just a silly clown, until the bodies start piling up.
  • Phrase Catcher: Back in his prankster phase during the Silver Age, whenever one of Joker's capers got foiled, someone would inevitably trot out the line "The joke's on you, Joker!" For obvious reasons, his current Monster Clown incarnation doesn't get this nearly as often.
  • Pimp Duds: He sometimes accessorizes his purple suit with a very wide-brimmed hat, which makes the ensemble look like a stereotypical pimp costume. Jared Leto's turn in Suicide Squad (2016) runs with this in his dynamic with Harley Quinn.
  • Pre-Insanity Reveal: The Joker, depending on the version, may have been an ordinary comedian before he went crazy and became a super-villain.
  • Purple Is Powerful: Purple is one of Joker's three colors (along with white and green) and he is powerful.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: For starters, when Batman is telling Joker to stay away from the Gordons after he apparently hurt Gordon's wife (it was actually his son, Gordon Jr. who did the deed), Joker commented that he didn't do anything to "the old bitch", and starts commenting to Batman that he misses the old Batman, and commented that he "doesn't want to go to bed yet" and that he "wants to play."
  • Redemption Rejection: In The Killing Joke, Batman defeats the Joker once again and then desperately pleads with him to accept help recovering from his madness before they eventually kill each other. In one of his rare, completely serious moments, the Joker sincerely apologizes and tells Batman that it's far too late for that.
  • The Resenter: Joker has often shown resentment towards people in many ways in different stories. The best example is him being resentful of anyone who garners more attention from Batman than him and anyone he sees as "stealing his act", i.e. being a laughing mad, jokey maniac cramping his style (The Creeper in Batman TAS). Regardless, many of his crimes and attitudes often carry an undercurrent or resentment be it towards to Bat-family because he resents sharing Batman with anyone or normal people for living their mundane lives free of care. Given how much spite seems to fuel his rampages, Joker's probably got a mountain of resentment inside of him.
  • Restoration of Sanity: On occasion, Joker's sanity will suddenly return to him, usually in stories where Batman retires or is believed to have died. His reactions tend to vary - sometimes we don't see how he reacts to what he did, but other times he actually shows genuine regret for his actions. Of course, these never tend to stick.
  • The Reveal: When Batman sat in Metron's chair in Darkseid War, one of the questions he asked was who the Joker was and the answer freaked him out. In DC Rebirth, it's revealed why: The Joker is a Legacy Character: the Joker responsible for Death of the Family and Batman: Endgame is not the same man who crippled Barbara Gordon—and neither of them are the original Joker.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Being the Trope Namer for Multiple-Choice Past, it's unknown who he was before falling into an acid tank and whether he was nuts even before being dunked. He even believes his origins, Depending on the Writer of course.
    • One issue of the Robin Series had him talking about having Abusive Parents, only for a psychiatrist to tell him it's the seventh story he's told now.
    • Batman lampshades on this to Harley in the animated series, thinking it's another lie to gain sympathy.
    • The Killing Joke claims he was a failed comedian driven to crime to support his pregnant wife. The trauma of his disfigurement and his wife's earlier accidental death drove him mad. However, even this could be a lie, as he himself calls it "multiple choice".
    • It's even discussed in Injustice 2, as Atrocitus wonders what drove the Joker to nihilism. Despite only appearing as a hallucination to Harley in story mode, he spews out multiple theories for his Unexplained Recovery and will say Sure, Let's Go with That in non-canon fights. Was he resurrected by someone, or is he from another universe? Did he escape from either the Source Wall or the Phantom Zone, or is he just an apparition?
    • Shadow of the Bat #38, Tears of a Clown: He celebrates his anniversary of the day he was a still sane, but hapless comedian, and was thrown out of an exclusive Stand-Up Comedy club for an unfunny act the patrons mercilessly heckled. It was the last straw as he agreed to provide to his family by pulling a job for the Red Hood gang. So he kidnaps all the patrons and reenacts his act with control collars that will kill them when they laugh. Oddly enough, the patrons are hardcore Stand-Up Comedy fans, so they can't remember the number of times they've booed someone. However, even this origin story could be a lie.
    Joker: They throw me out, and I had a wife and an unborn child… or it was two cows and a goat? Sometimes it's so confusing…
  • Rule of Funny: One of his primary themes (alongside insanity), as explained in Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?:
    "Kid. I'm the Joker. I don't just randomly kill people. I kill people when it's funny. What would conceivably be funny about killing you?"

    S to Z 

  • Secret Identity Apathy: In most continuities, he simply doesn't care about Batman's Secret Identity, understanding that Batman is the true face and not the man behind the mask. It's shown sometimes that the Joker will actually be upset if someone outs Batman's identity to him, usually because it spoils their dynamic in some way. When Scarecrow pulls off Bruce's mask in Harley Quinn, it practically triggers a Villainous Breakdown.
    Joker: Half the fun of our relationship was the mystery! Now I know Batman is just some boring, rich asshole with parental issues!
  • Self-Made Orphan: In The Brave and the Bold #31, Atom reads his mind and sees The Joker burning his parents alive after they catch him killing animals.
  • Slasher Smile: He wears one almost by default. Reportedly, it was inspired by this photo of Conrad Veidt in character as Gwynplaine (a man with a disfigured face, causing him to have a perpetual grin) in The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo.
    • It's come to be his primary disfigurement over the original skin bleaching.
  • The Sociopath: A skilled and gleeful manipulator, a vicious butcher who brutally tortures and murders others simply because he thinks it’s funny, extraordinarily impulsive given that he’s prone to turning his murderous urges on his own men on a whim or because one upset him in some way, shape or form, and has not even the vaguest notion of empathy, neither for his men or his victims.
  • The Spook: Joker's origins are an eternal Riddle for the Ages. He'll give contradictory and vague statements just to gain sympathy and escape from Arkham. That he has no real name speaks volumes, attributing to his Multiple-Choice Past. DC Comics refuses to take an official stance on this.
  • Start of Darkness: Detective Comics #168 posits he was a laboratory worker who becomes the Red Hood in order to steal a million dollars from his employers and retire. In The Killing Joke he quits his job to become a comedian, but fails and is coerced by mobsters to commit a robbery, becoming the Red Hood. His disfigurement and (in The Killing Joke) his wife's death earlier in the story destroy what little was left of his sanity and he becomes The Joker. Maybe.
  • Stealing the Handicapped Spot: He doesn't do this. Rather, he hates it when other people do it and finds it hilarious to horrifically cripple them so they can legitimately park in handicapped spots.
  • Straw Nihilist: Provides the trope image and is the poster child for this. He claims that everything in life is just "one big joke" and death is the ultimate punchline. Joker also believes that "a bad day" is more than enough for anyone to turn out like him. This is shown notably in Injustice: Gods Among Us, The Killing Joke, and The Dark Knight. The Red Lantern Atrocitus even wonders what drove Joker to nihilism during an intro banter with the clown in Injustice 2.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: His fighting skills fluctuate wildly. Sometimes, Joker is an excellent fighter who can actually defeat Batman in a straight-up fight, whereas most writers prefer to present him as so weak that he can be knocked out cold with one punch.
  • Stupid Evil: Depending on the writer, The Joker can sometimes fall under this, where his cruelty and sadism tend to lead to his own death at the hands of all the people he's wronged.
  • To Create a Playground for Evil: His motivation in stories like Emperor Joker.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: The Joker has shown a proclivity for this over the years. At one point, the Joker berated a man who'd captured him for only hitting him in the face and The Dark Knight similarly sees the Joker berate Batman during the the latter's beating of him. He also enjoyed his and Bruce's final fight in The Dark Knight Returns. Salvation Run had established the Joker's been in constant pain since he took his fateful dive into the vat of chemicals that altered his appearance and not only had gotten used to it, but grew to enjoy it. This quote from The Dark Knight sums it up perfectly:
    Stephens: I can tell the difference between punks who need a little lesson in manners, and the freaks like you who would just enjoy it.
  • Tombstone Teeth: He is often drawn with too many too-long teeth as part of his trademark rictus grin, highlighting his nature as a psychotic and sadistic killer.
  • Troll: Most incarnations of the Joker dress themselves as being a lethal one of these. The best example is his DC Animated Universe version, who tailored each of his schemes as a joke or a prank, and sometimes even lectured his underlings on the importance of proper buildup and delivery when telling a joke. Batman in particular is the Joker's preferred victim, and many a Joker has refused to kill or unmask a Batman dead to rights, simply because it would spoil the fun of trolling him. But when others upstage or taunt him, he really goes nuts, as it's one of his Berserk Buttons.
    • In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Terry McGinnis exploits this by delivering an epic Boring Insult so the clown will have a Villainous Breakdown.
    • King Barlowe proved to be a big one in his Thanatos Gambit in the episode "Joker's Millions" of The New Batman Adventures. In a spiteful Video Will, he gives the clown his millions, revealing in his tape that most of it was fake. Expecting the clown to splurge on it, he won't have enough to pay off the IRS, allowing Barlowe to get the "last laugh" after his death, without the Joker coming after him.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Even he isn't sure of his own history, so anything he claims is suspect at best.
  • Villain Has a Point: Given his devotion to Rule of Funny, he's quite knowledgeable on what makes successful comedy, as seen with the featured image on Don't Explain the Joke.
  • Villain Song: There's no other villain who has belted out as many memorable music moments, not even the Music Meister. Three of them incidentally were sung by Mark Hamill behind the mic:
  • Villainous Aromantic Asexual:
    • He is shown to be more interested in his schemes and mayhem rather than sex. Indeed, usually the closest thing he shows to romantic interest in someone is his Foe Romance Subtext with Batman.
    • He has had sex with Harley, but it is implied that it's more for her rather than his own enjoyment. He has actively ignored her when he simply wants to work on his schemes, even when she's in the translucent red night dress.
  • Villainous Friendship: No matter how bad things turned out last time, Lex Luthor and Joker will always work together again. Played With, as it isn’t just because of friendship. As Luthor himself notes in the ending of Infinite Crisis, you always "let the Joker play," lest he come after you for revenge later on for leaving him out.
  • Villainous Harlequin: He was this during the Silver Age. He is also this in Batman (1966) and Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
  • Villainous Rescue: In Dark Nights: Metal, The Joker pulls this off by teaming up with Batman to defeat the Batman Who Laughs, Batman knowing that a jokerized Batman would have the upper hand teams up with the Joker. It is so unexpected that the Batman Who Laughs, who is still prepared for anything Batman would conceivably think of, is unable to counter it let alone even consider it a possibility.
  • Villain Protagonist: He was the star of his own nine issue self-titled series from 1975 to 1976. In order to adhere to the Comics Code Authority, The Bad Guy Wins was never in effect - while he usually managed to get one over on other villains, each issue would end the Joker being apprehended for his crimes. He also got his own movie in which Batman didn't even exist yet, delving deep into what someone would have to go through to become the Joker.
  • Weapon of Choice: The acid-spitting flower, Smilex/Joker Venom... and simple crowbars, established by how he killed Jason Todd.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: He has neon green hair caused by the chemicals he fell into.


The Three Jokers

    The Criminal 

The Criminal

The Criminal version of the Joker takes on the traits he used during the Joker's Golden Age appearances where he was a No-Nonsense Nemesis to Batman and had no problems with Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? in response to the Caped Crusader. Of the three he is the most organized and philosophical believing that there must be some meaning to the Joker as Batman's archenemy.
  • The Stoic: Of the three, he laughs the least as he is the most serious and also claims that it hurts when he laughs. This is a reflection of how the Joker was in the beginning where he was mostly serious and only tended to smile evilly at others.

    The Clown 

The Clown

The Clown is the showman of the group and the one responsible for the zany props, elaborate crimes with locales like a giant props factory, and makes sure his crime sprees follow a theme. He is physically modeled after the Silver Age Joker who was more of a harmless prankster, though the Clown is anything but harmless. After all, he is strongly implied to be the same Joker who bludgeoned Jason Todd and killed him in an explosion.
  • Crowbar Combatant: If the implications are to be believed, then he's definitely the Joker to have made the crowbar a popular Weapon of Choice / Iconic Item for the Joker mythos.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: It turns out that the Silver Age Joker, a Harmless Villain in his hayday, was possibly the one that killed Jason Todd, making him of all people the catalyst for the Red Hood as we know him.
  • Monster Clown: While all of the Jokers are obviously this, he definitely takes the cake by not only having the title. But the one with the zany, elaborate, comedic and yet deadly schemes.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Comes with the territory, when it''s implied that he's the one that killed Jason Todd.

    The Comedian 

The Comedian

The Comedian is the sadist of the group and the one most bitter and hateful towards everyone and everything. Modeled after the Bronze Age Joker as defined by The Killing Joke, he's the most violent and psychotic, believing only in chaos.
  • Ax-Crazy: Is stated by Batman to be the most sadistic, psychotic and violent of the three.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: While it’s implied he may have been abusive to her, Book Two shows he genuinely misses Jeannie and desires to have her and his son back so they can be a family, as shown by his daydreams about them.
  • Psychopathic Man Child: While all three Jokers are this to one degree or another, the Comedian is most petty, spiteful, and immature of the three. He only cares about hurting others and causing harm out of spite. He has no greater goals beyond punishing the world for his own misery and is the meanest out of the Jokers.
  • Villainous Rescue: Shoots dead two Joker goons that were overpowering Barbara in Book Three.

Appearances in Media

Comic Books

Film

Live-Action Television

Theatre

Video Games

Web Originals

Western Animation


Alternative Title(s): The Joker, Batman Three Jokers

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