Batman fans let their imaginations run wild about the version of The Joker that Jared Leto and director David Ayer would create for Suicide Squad, but it’s safe to assume even the most original ideas and outlandish concepts have been outdone, now that the first official image of the Clown Prince of Crime has been revealed.

Green-haired, pale-skinned, heavily tattooed and boasting a grin that is sure to inspire nightmares, fans finally have a full look at Leto’s Joker – and while the film’s gritty spin on DC Comics’ villains may not be for every comic fan, we can assume this take on Batman’s arch-nemesis will be one for the history books.

Leto and Ayer have both been teasing the transformation of the formerly long-locked actor into the classic Batman villain, but now that production is under way, the curtain has been removed entirely. In honor of the villain’s 75th anniversary, Ayer has now allowed fans to look upon the new Joker in DC’s shared movie universe:

Clearly, no amount of nods to the original comic book villain or even candid photos caught on set could have prepared the world for such a radical take on The Joker. Fans may have seen numerous reports of Leto’s villain casting aside makeup or an eccentric three-piece suit in favor of bleached skin and scars from his life in the criminal underworld, but seeing them in the flesh is something else entirely.

And while this may not be a ‘final’ look (since it was released as a commemoration, and not explicitly stated to be the final character design) it shows a very clear vision of the villain set to debut in Suicide Squad – and as we’ve expected, one entirely different from versions seen before. But that doesn’t mean it’s not faithful to the villain’s roots.

As ever, subtlety isn’t what The Joker is known for; the tattoos of manic laughter, toothy grins, a jester capped skull, a ‘J’ beneath his eye, playing cards (“All In”) and “Damaged” across his forehead (and what looks to possibly be a “SMILE” down his ribs) encapsulate the fragmented and extreme personality every incarnation of the villain requires.

Some may immediately dismiss the tattoos for being too ‘on the nose,’ but the die-hard comic fans will take it as a sign that as much as Ayer – known for grounded, hard-hitting street-level crime stories – may adapt these comic villains to a new style and universe, the source material is quite literally tattooed all over them.

Leto’s pose for the photo is also no coincidence; gripping his scalp in a fit of laughter may be a go-to expression for this sort of reveal, but given Leto and Ayer’s previous homage to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “The Killing Joke,” we’d say this recreation (of the true ‘birth’ of The Joker) is every bit the nod to one of the darkest, cruellest Joker tales ever told.

While Zack Snyder may be leaning heavily upon Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” for Batman V Superman‘s new Dark Knight, it’s unclear if Ayer has also found a particular version of The Joker to act as his own muse. It’s easy to see the version starring in “The Killing Joke” and “Death in the Family” as a likely candidate; especially given the rumors hinting that this Batman and Joker will have a far darker history than live-action films have usually tackled. Case in point: the cracked teeth necessitating their metal replacement, and the tattoo on his right bicep (those wary of potential spoilers should simply ignore).

Beyond the visuals, this character concept is a good indication of just what style is pursuing for Suicide Squad. We have yet to see official looks at Will Smith’s Deadshot, Jai Courtney’s Boomerang, or Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn – the latter of which may presumably follow a similar visual style to her long-time paramour.

Now that we know just how determined and imposing Ben Affleck’s Batman will be, the pressure was on to come up with a take on his single greatest villain that would actually stand a chance against him. Now that we’ve seen just how insane Leto’s Joker may be (and with some muscle to back up the madness), it’s clear he’s got what it takes to test Batman’s patience.

Naturally, this design won’t be for everyone – particularly those who prefer – prefer – the more comedic, clean-cut version portrayed by Jack Nicholson in Batman (1989). But just as that version was a call back to the vintage version first played by Cesar Romero on the Adam West TV series, it seems Ayer is looking to adapt the more cruel, brutal, and truly psychopathic version of far more adult versions.

The message first sent loud and clear by Warner Bros. tapping David Ayer – the director of End of WatchStreet Kings, and Sabotage – should no longer surprise anyone. Suicide Squad‘s top priority looks to be establishing a set of villains that actually could exist in the darker corners of our world – albeit with their signature personalities re-imagined.

The results will prove divisive – but who wants more of the same?

What do you think of this take on the Joker? Is it more than you had hoped for, a version sure to be memorable, or too much of a departure for your tastes? Could your opinion change if Leto’s Joker is, say, downright hilarious?

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will be in theaters on March 25th, 2016; Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman – June 23rd, 2017; Justice League – November 17th, 2017; The Flash – March 23rd, 2018; Aquaman – July 27th, 2018; Shazam – April 5th, 2019; Justice League 2 – June 14th, 2019; Cyborg – April 3rd, 2020; Green Lantern – June 19th, 2020.

Source: David Ayer