Some men just want to watch the world burn. If there was ever a single sentence that could sum up the essence of the Joker, that would be it. Considered the antithesis of his rival, Batman, in every way, the Joker is often cited as one of the greatest comic book villains of all time.
The mystery behind who the Joker is has been a staple of comic books and movies alike, with fans rabidly speculating, trying to find the motives for his crimes. It is the Joker’s sadistic nature and twisted, macabre sense of humor that has made him so iconic. He’s demonstrated time and again that he is as ruthless as he is unpredictable, keeping not only the world’s greatest detective on his toes, but readers on the edge of their seats.
The Joker’s willingness to kill indiscriminately and without provocation is a testament to his nihilism, and his compulsive pursuit of chaos remands the character to lunacy. One look at the Joker and you know that this is a man who is off his rocker.
While the Joker’s face could be placed next to the definition of insanity in the dictionary, there are other comic book characters so vile, so twisted, that they would give the Jester of Genocide a run for his money in the crazy department. Join us as we take a look at characters who just might be even more disturbed than the Clown Prince of Crime himself.
15. Injustice Superman
If you haven’t read the bonkers Injustice series, the entire gist of it is that Superman has become a dictator and his best frenemy, Batman, is leading the resistance against the ruthless Kryptonian.
In this alternate universe, Superman was the benevolent hero we know until the Joker kidnaps Lois, and tricks the Man of Steel into murdering her (and his own unborn child), forcing him to lose his marbles. The Joker has said that we’re all one bad day away from madness, and boy does this ever hold true for this reality’s version of Supes. He hunts the Joker down and kills him in cold blood, then decides that he is going to use his powers to bring peace to the world — no matter what the cost (which turns out to be pretty damn high).
Batman and a motley crew of heroes and villains band together in order to oppose the Man of Steel’s dictatorship. Over the course of five years, the Injustice series has allowed the writers at DC to explore some seriously dark territory without being shackled by decades worth of back story. Even though the premise sounds grim, Injustice can also be wildly irreverent. Case in point, during a fight with Batman, Superman tweets “Batman is Bruce Wayne” to all of his followers, which is virtually everyone on Earth.
14. Dr. Doom
Considered to be one of the greatest intellectual minds in the entire Marvel universe, Victor von Doom is not someone to trifle with. Forget the intimidating metal suit he walks around in, the guy’s crazy ambition is scary enough to have most shaking in their boots. His desire to rule over all of mankind is silly in a clichéd mad scientist kind of way, but what ‘s terrifying about him is that his achievement of that goal is entirely plausible.
Doom is the dictator of the small European nation of Latveria, which for the most part has acted as a loophole that has allowed him to dodge responsibility for his crimes by declaring diplomatic immunity. If we look a bit closer into Latveria, we would see that it is completely free of many of the problems plaguing other nations. Despite having a fairly poor economy, Doom has cultivated a society that is free of poverty, unemployment, disease, famine and crime.
The citizens of Latveria are shown to be oppressed by their leader, but fairly well taken care of, so long as they display total blind loyalty to his rule, something that the majority of the nation’s residents are happy to comply with.
Doom seeks to negate democracy by making it obsolete. In an age where trust in politicians and governments is at an all time low, Doom’s promise of a peaceful life without worry isn’t just a pipe dream, but a reality to those living under his rule, something we think would be appealing to a lot of people. If Donald Trump can rise from a punch line to the Republican presidential nominee, it’s safe to say that Doom would have a fairly decent shot.
The Joker may use a wide assortment of wacky instruments of death, but Bullseye has the ability to turn anything into a deadly weapon simply by throwing it. At one point, the guy literally killed someone by throwing a toothpick at him.
Bullseye’s background is murky at best, with various origin stories offering different versions of his upbringing. It has been suggested that Bullseye himself perpetuated these stories, but whether you believe he was a professional baseball player or an abused child who killed his own father, one thing is certain, Bullseye’s marksmanship skills are unmatched.
Thanks to his particular skill set and homicidal tendencies, Bullseye becomes an assassin under the employ of the Kingpin, and is tasked with dispatching Daredevil. Bullseye’s inability to do so causes him to develop an unhealthy obsession with The Man Without Fear. He eventually concedes that if he can’t kill Daredevil, he will have to settle for murdering his innocent girlfriends. First, Bullseye impales Elektra with her own sai, and later, it’s long-time girlfriend Karen Page who takes a lethal hit to the noggin’.
Murdoch eventually gets over the death of Karen and begins dating Milla Donovan, and of course Bullseye has a run at her too (although he is unsuccessful), proving once again that Bullseye is a stone cold killer who does what he does simply because he enjoys it. Here’s hoping Bullseye’s pops up in season 3 of Netflix’s Daredevil. Sorry Karen!
12. Victor Zsasz
Victor Zsasz’s story starts similarly to that of Bruce Wayne, the man who would later use his personal tragedy to fuel his desire for justice. But whereas Wayne would dedicate his life to helping those who could not help themselves, Zsasz would do the complete opposite.
The heir of a wealthy family, Zsasz was the head of his own international company, amassing a large personal fortune by his mid-20s. After both of his parents died in a boating accident, Zsasz fell into a deep depression. He eventually gambled away his fortune and came to the realization that his life had been driven by greed and nothing else. Seeing his existence as meaningless, Zsasz resolves to end his life, but before he can, a homeless man tries to mug him at knifepoint. Zsasz instinctively defends himself and kills the mugger. In that act he develops a newfound sense of purpose, that it is his duty to “liberate” people (or zombies as he calls them) from their pointless, painful existence, which he does by slitting their throats.
Zsasz kills indiscriminately, mutilating himself by carving tally marks into his own skin, one for each one of his victims. He is shown to be adept at manipulating people, as he is able to escape Arkham Asylum on numerous occasions to resume his “work”. Although The Joker is Batman’s greatest foil, the Dark Knight himself has stated that of all the criminals he faces off against, he hates Zsasz the most.
11. Norman Osborn
Okay, we know what you’re thinking. There is no way that Norman Osborn, a wealthy industrialist who moonlights as a super villain in a Halloween costume can be crazier than a guy who lives every day as a murderous clown. But bear with us for a moment.
Osborn originally adopts the Green Goblin persona after experimental chemicals grant him super strength and heightened intelligence. His goal is to get rid of Spider-Man and become the leader of the criminal underworld, but Spider-Man foils his plans every time. In retaliation, he learns Spider-Man’s secret identity and throws his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, off of a bridge, killing her. Spider-Man avenges Gwen, and Osborn is killed in the ensuing battle. This is pretty brutal, but not quite Joker-level instances of insanity.
Because this is a comic book, Osborn is resurrected, and while everyone thinks he’s dead, he retreats to Europe where he spends his time thinking of ridiculous plots to screw with Peter Parker, like replacing Aunt May with a genetically altered actress who dies of a heart attack.
The craziest scheme Osborn came up with was what became known as the Clone Saga, the most intricate, needlessly complex and implausible plan to make Peter Parker think he was actually the clone of the real Spider-Man, some transient name Ben Reilly. Also, he slept with Gwen Stacy before he killed her (author’s note: eww), resulting in her giving birth to twins that she planned on raising with Peter Parker, which is why he threw her off a bridge. And what’s up with that hair? Cornrows? Only a true madman would rock that ‘do.
10. Hal Jordan/Parallax
Hal Jordan was the superhero known as Green Lantern for a number of years, but in the early ’90s, comic book publishers were overhauling major characters and story arcs in order to boost fledgling book sales. With the success DC had in killing off Superman, they set their sights on poor Hal.
Following the annihilation of Coast City, Jordan’s hometown, the hero has an emotional breakdown and uses the power of his ring to recreate Coast City. Instead of darting around the galaxy doing his job as a member of the Lantern Corps, Jordan spends his time talking to his dead parents and ex-girlfriends, all of whom died in the destruction of the city. He talks with these projections (i.e. imaginary friends), until his ring’s power runs out, at which point the Guardians (creators of the Green Lantern Corps) appear, seeking to discipline Jordan for using his ring for personal gain.
Angered at the Guardians lack of sympathy, Jordan goes insane, destroying the Green Lantern Corps and killing everyone in sight. Now calling himself Parallax, Jordan attempted to reverse the destruction of his hometown by harnessing the combined power of the rings of the Green Lanterns he had killed. Jordan went on to be a serious thorn in everyone’s side for the next ten years, until he finally stopped feeling sorry for himself and flung himself into the Sun to prevent it from dying out. At least he redeemed himself for the terrible 2011 movie.
First appearing in the late ’70s, the villain known as Arcade is known for his flamboyant personality and preferred manner of dispatching his foes: elaborate theme parks that house deadly traps.
Arcade’s origin remains a mystery to this day, but it is generally believed that he was born into a wealthy family, discovering a knack for murder at a young age. Using his vast resources, he designed his “Murderworld”, essentially a series of traps disguised to look like common amusement park attractions. For the price of $1 million, Arcade would construct a Murderworld tailored to the intended victim.
Since Arcade’s inception, many have been trapped inside of his Murderworld, not because he needs the money, but simply because he enjoys watching how his sadistic games play out. One thing that sets Arcade apart from other assassins is that he always gives his victims a chance to escape with their lives. He claims that he enjoys to watch the show, and that if there wasn’t the possibility of escape, then it simply wouldn’t be as entertaining, making him like a cross between Willy Wonka and the Jigsaw killer from the Saw franchise.
8. The Purple Man
Better known to Jessica Jones fans as Kilgrave, The Purple Man started out as a lesser-known Daredevil villain before ratcheting up his creep factor in Jones’ origin series, Alias.
The Purple Man’s power lies in his ability to produce pheromones that allow him to control the actions of those around him. Mind control in and of itself is an unsettling thought, but add in the fact that his victims are aware of the fact that they are being controlled (and they’re lacking ability to do anything about it) and it becomes ten times worse.
After largely disappearing from Marvel titles, The Purple Man’s deviant behavior reappeared when he was introduced as a primary villain to Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. It was revealed that Jones, as her costumed superhero identity Jewel, was under the control of The Purple Man for months, being subjected to psychological abuse that causes her to abandon her superhero persona and take up work as a private investigator.
The Purple Man has no moral compass. He’s a sociopath who does not express remorse for those he has manipulated or even killed. The Joker may be a more stereotypical depiction of insanity, but Killgrave’s lack of empathy makes him certifiable.
Appearing in Frank Miller’s graphic novel series Sin City, Kevin is a mute, cannibalistic serial killer who primarily preys on the city’s prostitutes. An unassuming and seemingly harmless man, no motive is ever given for his crimes, making his actions that much more disturbing.
Kevin uses the basement of a farm as an execution chamber, dismembering his victims before killing them. After he has killed his victims, he proceeds to devour their bodies, feeding whatever he can’t finish to his pet wolf. Kevin then stuffs and mounts his victim’s heads on the walls like trophies. Eventually, another character named Marv confronts Kevin subjects Kevin to brutal torture, systematically cutting off each of his limbs and feeding them to his pet wolf. Even though Marv gets his revenge, he is disappointed that throughout the entire ordeal, Kevin didn’t scream once.
Cletus Kasady is a true psychopath. As a child, he murdered his grandmother by pushing her down a flight of stairs, he attempted to kill his mother by electrocuting her in the bathtub, and he even killed the family dog. Kasady’s own parents then tried to kill him, which resulted in him being hustled off to an orphanage, where he continued to indulge in his murderous tendencies by pushing a girl in front of a bus and eventually burning the entire orphanage down.
Developing the idea that life was meaningless, he sought to cause chaos at random, primarily through murdering anyone at any time for no reason whatsoever. This macabre philosophy landed Kasady in Rykers Island prison, where Eddie Brock, the host of the symbiote Venom, was also incarcerated. When Brock escaped prison, the offspring of his symbiote was left behind, and merged with Kasady to create Carnage.
One of the most powerful beings in the DC Universe, the alien known as Darkseid has his origins firmly routed in reality. Jack Kirby created Darkseid to be analogous to that of Adolf Hitler. Darkseid is a megalomaniac who seeks to shape not only his world, but the entire universe in his image, and he’ll stop at nothing to attain his goals. He murdered both his brother and his mother in order to obtain the Omega Force, which essentially turned him into a living God.
With his newfound power, Darkseid intends on eliminating all free will from the universe and goes to increasingly desperate lengths to fulfill his goal. In one of his more harebrained schemes, Darkseid attempts to unravel the Anti-Life Equation, a formula that will allow Darkseid to achieve total control over the minds of sentient beings.
Let that sink in for a second. Darkseid is a guy who seeks to solve a mathematical equation that will prove that life sucks and that everyone should just surrender to his will because, well, what’s the point in resisting if nothing matters? Talk about being a Debbie Downer.
4. The Governor
If you’re one of the millions of people who tune into The Walking Dead on AMC, then you’re probably familiar with the man known as the Governor. In the show he is manipulative, violent and unpredictable due to a…we’ll call it questionable, mental state. As bad as he was in the show though, he pales in comparison to the source material.
In the ongoing comic series The Walking Dead, The Governor is the leader of a group of survivors who live in a planned community. He is introduced as a fair and competent leader, and he even acts hospitable towards Rick and his group. This is all revealed to be an act however, as readers are slowly introduced to the Governor’s madness.
The Governor keeps his zombified niece chained up in his house, feeding her pieces of people he has killed for various reasons. He also keeps the decapitated zombified heads of these people in fish tanks, presumably for his own amusement.
The Governor eventually turns on Rick and his group, torturing Glenn, cutting off Rick’s hand, and subjecting Michonne to sexual abuse. Rick and his group manage to escape, and the Governor declares all out war on them, even after having his own limbs lopped off.
Thanos is a superhuman entity hailing from Saturn who is often compared to DC’s Darkseid. While the two have similar characteristics, Thanos has a more interesting (author’s note: super crazy) motivation for his villainous deeds. Whereas Darkseid wishes to subdue sentient life by stripping them of free will for the solely because he’s an egomaniac, Thanos seeks power, destruction and violence simply because he’s trying to impress a chick.
In Thanos’ early years growing up as one of the Eternals, he was a pacifist and an introvert. By the time he reached adolescence, Thanos went full emo, becoming fascinated with nihilism and death (although we don’t know if he shopped at Hot Topic like a poser).
Thanos takes his love of death to the next level and actively pursues Mistress Death, the physical embodiment of Death in the Marvel Universe. Obsessed with proving his love and devotion for his paramour, Thanos sets off on a campaign to eliminate all life in the universe. He’d legitimately insane for coming to that conclusion, but you have to admit, it’s pretty damn cool.
2. Red Skull
It doesn’t matter which timeline or reality Red Skull comes from. The guy is evil incarnate, so twisted in his ambition that he will destroy the entire world in order to win. But before he became Red Skull, he was a boy with a rough childhood (surprise, surprise) named Johann Schmidt.
Schmidt’s mother died during childbirth and his father committed suicide, leaving Johann an orphan. Growing up in an orphanage, he was lonely and turned to petty crime. Later, he developed feelings for a Jewish shopkeeper’s daughter, but after she refused his advances, he killed her.
Shortly after he met Adolf Hitler while working in a hotel. Hitler recognized the hate in young Johann’s heart and took the boy under his wing, grooming him to be the “perfect” Nazi. Emerging as the “Red Skull”, Schmidt used the resources of the Third Reich to wreak havoc all over Europe, engaging in devastating terrorist activities after being given access to highly advanced weapons developed by Nazi scientists.
Red Skull was so ruthless and so feared that Hitler himself was scared of him. The Joker may be crazy, but we’re not sure he would have been able to make the most evil man in history quiver in his boots.
1. Harley Quinn
Harleen Quinzel gets compared to The Joker a lot. Some even go as far to suggest that she is nothing but a female version of the Joker, but we have to disagree. Harley isn’t exactly like the Joker. The Joker is a true nihilist, someone who believes in nothing, has no loyalties. Harley doesn’t quite fit this mold, as she actually cares for Mr. J, and others. The Joker, on the other hand, tolerates her as a kind of plaything. So Harley recognizes and willingly participates in an abusive relationship.
This in itself doesn’t make Harley a victim. In fact it empowers her, as she is a character who knows what she wants and will go after it, regardless of what society deems is “right”. Her obsessions drive her in a similar way to Batman’s obsession with fighting injustice, only Harley’s obsessions revolve around whatever is giving her the most pleasure at that exact moment.
Harley loves the Joker because he isn’t confined to societal norms; he acts on his impulses with reckless abandon. She finds this liberating and appealing, but the biggest difference between Mr. J and Harley is the fact that the Joker can’t help himself and Harley makes the choice to actively pursue chaos, and that is much scarier than someone whose insanity can be chalked up to having a few screws loose.
Who do you think would win in a crazy battle with the Joker? Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments.