The Clown Prince of Crime. The Jester of Genocide. The Harlequin of Hate. He’s a character known by many names, but the Joker needs no real introduction. He is arguably Batman’s most important and enduring villain, giving the world’s greatest detective an opponent who defies reason and logic. Throughout the many decades of his life, the Joker has gone through numerous personas and looks, varying between a harmless prankster and a completely psychotic maniac. Given the popularity of the character, it should be no surprise that there have been many re-imaginings of the character in comics through the years, whether it’s a different take on the Joker we all know and love to hate or a completely different person altogether. Like the Joker himself, these alternate takes have often led to some pretty crazy results. Here are fifteen of the craziest comic versions of the Joker.
15. Alfred dressing up as Joker
As part of the Whatever Happened to Caped Crusader storyline, things in Batman’s history got a little hazy. During the story, in which Batman is an unseen spectator at his own wake, various people in his life each take turns telling stories of Batman and how he died. When Alfred begins to tell his story, it puts Batman’s whole existence into perspective.
Alfred begins to talk about how Batman would spend long periods of time not actually catching any criminals at all. This failure would only serve to further weaken the already unstable mind of Bruce Wayne. In order to help Bruce, Alfred began to hire old actor friends of his to dress up as various villains and give Bruce someone to fight and capture. Alfred himself would take on the identity of the Joker, giving Batman a central evil to fight. Motivated by his love for Bruce, he would put himself and others in harm’s way to give Bruce a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
14. The Dark Knight Returns Joker
The Dark Knight Returns is one of the classic Batman stories, telling the story of an older Bruce Wayne when he decides to come out of retirement. Ten years before the story takes place, Bruce Wayne decides to quit crime fighting after the death of Jason Todd, who was murdered by the Joker’s lackeys. Seeing Gotham sliding further and further into crime, Bruce returns to the role of Batman.
Batman’s return brings the Joker out of his state of catatonia in Arkham Asylum. With a renewed purpose, Joker begins manipulating his caretakers and convinces them that he is sane enough to go on a television talk show, where he promptly kills everyone with gas and escapes. He’s tracked to a country fair where he’s busy killing more people. Batman defeats Joker in a violent battle, nearly killing him but stopping short. To incriminate Batman, the Joker snaps his own neck to make it seem like Batman murdered him. Any man willing to snap his own neck to spite someone else is truly insane.
13. Dick Grayson Joker from The Dark Knight Strikes Again
In the sequel to The Dark Knight Returns, Batman and his allies are waging a war against the dictatorial government of Lex Luthor. Using his army of “Batboys,” Batman wages war against Luthor and also sets other heroes free from imprisonment. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel (AKA Shazam) are made to work for Luthor, who is holding their loved ones hostage.
Batman and his allies begin to be attacked by a figure resembling the Joker, but with supernatural powers. The madman kills multiple heroes, like Creeper and Guardian, stealing and wearing their costumes after he kills them. In a later confrontation where the man is attacking Robin (AKA Carrie Kelley) in the Batcave, Batman would recognize the Joker-like madman as Dick Grayson, the original Robin. After being rejected by Batman, Grayson had let Luthor experiment on him, resulting in healing and shape-shifting abilities. Despite a tough fight, Grayson is remained unfazed by Batman’s attacks. In a last ditch effort, Batman plunges Grayson and himself through a trapdoor into a pit of lava. Batman is be rescued by Superman, with Grayson falling into the lava and disintegrating.
12. Vampire gang-leader Joker from Batman: Bloodstorm
Given that his bat symbolism is so strong, it only seems right that Batman would have to deal with vampires at one point or another during his career. During the ‘90s, there was a trilogy of graphic novels in which Batman faced off against Dracula himself and also was turned into a vampire in his own right as a means to gain the power necessary to properly battle Dracula.
During the second of these graphic novels, Batman: Bloodstorm, the Joker takes over the gang of vampires that were formerly led by Dracula, who was killed by Batman in the previous volume after he turned Batman into a vampire. He convinces them that under his leadership, they can do more than just worry about their next meal: they can truly become powerful. Using these vampires, Joker seizes control of most of the organized crime in Gotham, consolidating his power and growing his army. It’s only with the help of Selina Kyle, Commissioner Gordon, and a team of Gotham PD vampire hunters that Batman is able to defeat Joker’s vampire army. In a fit of rage, Batman drains the Joker of his blood, but quickly stakes him for fear of him coming back as a vampire.
11. Joker from the Batman/Judge Dredd crossover
Batman and Judge Dredd would have multiple crossovers over the years, traveling back and forth between their respective worlds and helping each other deal with various problems. In the Die Laughing crossover, Batman and Judge Dredd must team up to stop the Joker after he releases the Dark Judges: Death, Fire, Fear, and Mortis, from their imprisonment.
After Judge Death is released from his prison, the Judge tries to take over Joker’s body, only to find that the Joker was just too insane to control. Instead of taking over Joker, Death decides to teach Joker how to take over other people. Along with this new ability, Joker gains some other supernatural powers, including immortality, and becomes a new Dark Judge himself. With Dredd and Batman working together, they’re able to stop the Dark Judges. When Joker returns back to Gotham, he loses all the abilities he gained while in Mega-City One and is sent back to Arkham.
10. Batman: Two Faces Joker
The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a classic tale, one that’s been adapted and riffed on in all different kinds of mediums. It was only a matter of time before the story was brought to the pages of Batman, and that’s exactly what Batman: Two Faces was.
While the story of Jekyll and Hyde and their duality would seem most appropriate for the villain Two-Face, who already deals with that sort of duality and does play a role in the story, it would actually be Bruce Wayne who would take the place of both Jekyll and Hyde. After creating a potion from the Twilight Orchid, a flower that’s beautiful and fragrant during the day, but a foul smelling weed at night, Bruce Wayne sets out to cure Two Face of his affliction. When he tests the potion on himself, he finds that he gains superhuman strength and a new sense of courage and purpose. It’s later revealed that the potion also turns Bruce Wayne into the Joker, an inhumanely strong villain who murders people and seeks to cause destruction and chaos. After discovering this, Bruce is able to overpower the Joker long enough to keep him from killing Commissioner Gordon and plunges himself to his death.
9. Gotham Central Joker
Gotham Central was a DC Comics series that focused less on Batman and more on the regular police officers and detectives that work every day to keep Gotham City safe from both regular criminals and the costumed criminals that often put the city in danger. While the series would feature many villains over its run, its portrayal of the Joker was, much like its premise, more realistic and grounded.
In the Soft Targets arc, Gotham City finds itself literally under fire as the Joker has started sniping both police officers and civilians. To further increase the chaos, the Joker sets up a website that features webcam footage from his next sniper position, making it a race against time for the Gotham PD to catch him and stop him from killing more people. The Joker’s rampage, and the chaos that it caused for Gotham, drew inspiration from the Beltway Sniper Attacks that had taken place about a year previously in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
8. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth Joker
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth marked the first time the famed comic writer Grant Morrison ever wrote a Batman story, before later going on to regularly write on various Batman titles for years. Morrison used heavy symbolism and deconstructed villains in order to explore Batman. Though many villains make an appearance, the Joker is at the forefront of the story.
The inmates, led by the Joker, have taken over Arkham Asylum and begin killing the staff to force Batman to meet with them. After Batman gets to the asylum, Joker gets him to play a twisted game of hide and seek: Batman has one hour to escape Arkham before the inmates find and kill him. Unknown to Batman, the other villains pressure Joker into reducing the time and they begin to attack Batman. After Batman solves the mystery of the riots and escapes the asylum, setting the prisoners free in the process, Joker taunts Batman, letting him know that the outside world is the real “asylum”that there’s always a place for him in Arkham. This story would also give rise to the idea of Joker’s “super-sanity,” his ability to adapt his personality to any situation, which explains his various personas over the years, from psychotic super-villain to pesky prankster.
7. The Hyena
During the ’90s heyday of comics, Marvel and DC didn’t just do a regular old crossover, but actually merged their universes, creating the Amalgam Universe. In creating their Amalgam Universe, the two biggest comic companies took their most popular heroes and villains and combined them to make mashups of the characters. It was something like the most official form of mashup fan fiction.
Given that Batman and Wolverine got mashed together to make Dark Claw, it only makes sense that his villainous counterpart would be a mashup of the Joker, Harley Quinn, and Sabertooth, named the Hyena. As part of the same experiments that made Dark Claw, Creed Quinn was given an adamantium-laced skeleton along with adamantium claws and his mutant abilities were awakened. The experiments would also turn him into a deformed and remorseless killing machine with an overwhelming drive to see Dark Claw dead, and having an appearance that was something like Sabertooth’s but with the Joker’s color scheme.
6. The Jokester
As befits one of the most nefarious villains in the DC Universe, the Joker is rarely portrayed as a hero, even in alternate universes. One exception is Earth-3, where all the heroes and villains have swapped alignments. The Jokester would start out as a struggling comedian, one who was failing miserably until he started to make the villain Owlman and his sidekick Talon the butt of his jokes. Becoming something of a hero to the oppressed populace, the Jokester would get targeted by Owlman, who murdered the Jokester’s manager and gave him the cuts that make his trademark wide grin. With the death of his manager and the disfigurement, the Jokester lost a firm grip on reality and truly devoted himself to making the lives of Owlman and Talon difficult. Though lacking any actual superhuman abilities, the Jokester seems to have a tactical mind and fighting skills good enough to hold his own against super-powered foes long enough for him to trick them or get away.
5. Martha Wayne Joker
In the alternate timeline Flashpoint universe, many of the heroes and villains as we know them are dramatically changed. One of the biggest changes as part of the universe is that rather than Bruce Wayne witnessing the murder of his parents and becoming Batman, his parents witness the murder of their only son, causing each of them to react in different ways.
Upon the death of his son, Thomas Wayne takes on the persona of Batman and begins fighting crime in Gotham, though in a more brutal manner than his son would. Martha Wayne, on the other hand, is overcome with grief and can’t cope with the loss of her son. She cuts open her cheeks in the shape of a permanent smile and goes on to terrorize Gotham, becoming the nemesis of her husband in the process. Upon learning that there’s a way to go back and change things and make it so her son lives, Martha works with Thomas, but falls to her death, horrified, when she discovers that her son will now become Batman.
4. Death of the Family Joker
As part of the New 52, Joker was apprehended and sent to Arkham in Detective Comics #1. It was all part of a plan to meet the villain Dollmaker and have him remove the Joker’s face. Joker would nail the skin to his cell wall, signifying his rebirth, and then escape, remaining unseen for over a year.
When Joker makes his big return to Gotham, he starts by killing 19 GCPD officers and getting back his preserved face. He then starts to revisit big moments from his past, using the son of his first victim to say that he’ll kill the mayor, another of his earliest crimes. The crimes lead Batman to the Ace Chemical factory, where Joker was exposed to the chemicals that turned him from the Red Hood into the Joker. Harley Quinn warns Batman at the factory that Joker is different this time. Joker’s plan is to kill all of Batman’s allies, as he feels they’ve made him weak.
Joker captures the entire Bat Family, douses them in gasoline, and binds them, keeping them all at a dinner where it’s implied to Batman that he was serving them their own faces. Once able to get free, Batman fights the Joker before Joker throws himself off a ledge to keep from being caught. Throughout the story, it’s both implied and actually stated that Joker is in love with Batman, while Batman also tells others that Joker only cares about the idea of Batman and not who is actually under the mask.
3. Azzarello/Bermejo’s Joker
Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s take on the Joker sees him less as a prankster and more as an unpredictable crime boss who will just as soon kill one of his henchmen as he will give him a raise. The story takes on the point of view of Jonny Frost, a low-level thug who picks up the Joker from Arkham Asylum and quickly gains some sort of affection from the Joker.
Over the course of Frost’s employ with the Joker, he gets to see the man behave in a lot of different ways. Frost takes Joker and Killer Croc to a strip club, where Joker promptly kills the owner and asks the club’s audience to help him take back his city. He then begins punishing various thugs who stole from or disrespected him while he was in Arkham. During a turf war with Harvey Dent, Frost’s ex-wife is taken hostage, but rescued by Joker. Joker then rapes her as payment for a slight of Frost’s against him. The character can go from friendly to horrible in an instant, with no real reasoning behind it. The fairly realistic approach to the character and setting makes this sort of cold hearted apathy all the more terrifying, and would be seen as some as inspiring the look of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight.
2. Injustice Joker
The Batman/Joker relationship is at the center of many of their stories. They rely on each other in a way, with the Joker claiming that he gives Batman a purpose, a reason to be a hero. Their battles have been going back and forth for decades, with neither really claiming a clear victory. It’s when Joker decides to find a new playmate that he takes things too far and ends up doing something that changes the whole world.
In Injustice: Gods Among Us, the Joker makes a trip to Metropolis, using other Batman rogues to steal a nuclear warhead and plant it in the middle of the city. With Batman, Superman, and the rest of the Justice League hot on his trail, the Joker has another trick up his sleeve when sprays Superman with a Kryptonite-lace dose of Scarecrow’s fear toxin, making Superman think that a pregnant Lois Lane is actually Doomsday. Seeing her as his greatest, most deadly enemy, Superman quickly flies Doomsday to space and proceeds to do battle there, realizing too late that it’s actually Lois. Superman inadvertently kills both her and the baby. When he gets back to Earth, not only has the nuclear warhead gone off and killed vaporized Metropolis, but Superman is overcome with guilt and grief about what’s just happened to his wife and kid. Superman proceeds to rip the Joker’s heart out, bringing his particular brand of crazy to a gruesome end. Before he dies, the Joker comments to Batman that Superman was just too easy and nowhere near as much fun as Batman.
1. Emperor Joker
Generally the Joker is pretty content with causing general chaos. A bank robbery here, a bomb there, a couple of murders over there. Rarely does he go so far as to try to alter the entire world, but in the Emperor Joker storyline, Joker remakes the entire DC Universe in a way that is unrecognizable.
After stealing ninety-nine percent of the reality altering powers of Mr. Mxyzptlk, Joker remakes the whole world in a topsy-turvy fashion. The heroes are all ruthless criminals, with Superman the worst among them, and the usual villains are the only heroes left in the world, with Bizarro leading them against the evil Justice League. In addition to this, Joker has given particular time to his buddy Batman, with Joker torturing and killing him every day, only to bring him back to life to do it all over again. The real Superman, along with the help of the Spectre, would team up to fight against Joker, as his insanity and his vast powers were quite literally about to rip the world apart.