The Joker is Batman’s greatest foe. Some readers interpret them as two sides of the same coin, both originating from darkness. Yet The Clown Prince of Crime does not necessarily hate the hero. On the contrary, in his own twisted way, he adores him. As Heath Ledger’s rendition said, “You complete me.” He often voices frustration that Batman never fully succumbs to darkness and wants to get rid of everyone who comes between them. You know who the Joker really, truly loathes to the core?
Robin. He may have a bad reputation due to his ridiculous original costume and his cringe-y puns during the camp era. Nevertheless, he is a vital aspect of the Gotham mythos as the light to Batman’s darkness. To the Joker, Robin – and really the entire Bat-family – is the one thing that keeps Bruce human. And because of that, the Boy Wonder must be destroyed before the Dark Knight can be defeated. Here are the 14 Most WTF Things Joker Has Done to Robin.
14. Torturing Jason Todd
The second Robin Jason Todd is the first Robin killed in action, in an iconic story named A Death in the Family. Not only did DC choose to kill an actual child, the death was especially slow, brutal, and disturbing. There is a common narrative that his fate was deserved because he disobeyed Batman; this is not entirely true. The idea that Jason died because he was the bad Robin was mostly added decades later. While it is true Jason had disobeyed Bruce’s direct orders not to go near the Joker, he did not do so because he thought he could take the Joker down on his own. He had just met his birth mother for the first time and it turned out that she was a criminal working for the Joker. He went to the warehouse with the intention of saving her and never meant to cross paths with the killer. In a heartbreaking twist, his mother betrays him to the Joker because she wants to save herself. Of course, the Joker leaves her to die with Jason anyway. The whole story would have been different if she’d just escaped with her son.
13. Leaving Jason to Suffer
The crowbar is not what actually kills Jason. Sadist that he is, Joker leaves him suffering on the brink of death with a time bomb. The young hero manages to push through his injuries enough to get to the door with the help of his mother, only to find the Joker had locked the door behind him. Soon after the bomb goes off, Batman arrives on the scene. This shifts some of the responsibility off of the Joker and onto Batman. If he had gotten to the warehouse just a few seconds earlier, he could have saved his son. Jason’s fate was left to a vote by readers. An official, alternate version of Batman #428 confirms that Jason would have survived the explosion if the fans voted accordingly. Fans voted in favor of death in a slim majority of 5,343 to 5,271; and, to add another layer of tragedy to the story, years later editor Dennis O’Neil admitted they suspected hundreds of votes for death had come from one person.
12. Becoming a Diplomat Just to Brag About Killing Jason
That does not mean he faked a disguise as a diplomat. No, the Joker does not do anything half-way. He literally becomes the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations just so he could obtain diplomatic immunity, meaning Batman would violate federal law if he attacked him. Superman had to fly to Gotham to warn his friend he would be forced to intervene if Batman violated the law. Joker knew that killing Jason made Batman seriously contemplate killing him for the first time. A normal criminal would lay low for a while to protect himself. Joker mocked Batman about killing Robin and how much he enjoyed it, testing just how far he could push the hero before he snapped. He only used Robin as a pawn to annoy Batman, making his violent death even more cruel and senseless. In order to avenge Jason and defeat him once and for all, Batman would have to become a criminal just like him.
11. Defacing Jason’s Dead Body
We do not yet know the details of Robin’s demise in the DC Cinematic Universe. All director Zack Snyder has confirmed is that Robin was killed during a run-in with a young Joker about 10 years earlier. He did not explicitly state that Joker is the one that killed him, leading speculation that perhaps Harley Quinn had actually done the deed. What we do know suggests that the cinematic version of Robin was at least inspired by Jason Todd. Robin’s suit is shown in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, displayed in a glass case in the Batcave. In the comics Batman also did this with Jason’s old suit to serve as a constant reminder of his failure. “Ha ha ha, joke’s on you Batman” is written on the suit, suggesting that even if the Joker himself did not kill Robin, he defaced his corpse and left it for Batman to find. Which is plenty messed up on its own.
10. Reacting to Tim Drake
After Jason, Bruce swore that there would never be another Robin. This is where Tim Drake comes in. An amateur detective, Tim had figured out Batman’s secret identity. He notices how reckless the hero becomes after Jason’s death, and comes to the conclusion that Batman may not want a Robin – but he needs one. Bruce reluctantly agrees, but does not let him out in the field for a long time. Even after he officially becomes the new Robin, he lives under the shadow of his predecessor. He is ordered not to take risks and to withdraw if he encounters a known killer. He could not be shielded from the Joker forever. In the miniseries Robin II: The Joker’s Wild, the teen is alone in Gotham when Joker breaks out of Arkham and is forced to take him down without his mentor. Though Tim triumphs in the end, the moment Joker meets the new Boy Wonder shows how deeply obsessive he is about Robin. He throws a hissy fit at first, repeatedly screaming “I killed you!” and “You’re dead!” Then quickly laughs it off and says he will just have to kill him again, once he has finished all his other errands.
9. Torturing Tim to Insanity
The DC Animated Universe version of Tim Drake was not as lucky as his comic counterpart. In truth, the Robin in The New Batman Adventures was a combination of Tim Drake’s name and image and Jason Todd’s backstory and personality. Since it was technically meant for children, the writers were restricted in their depiction of graphic violence and on-screen deaths, so they could not show Jason’s death from the comics. Creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini managed to come up with something equally as horrifying in a different way. In the film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, we learn through a flashback what happened to Robin after New Batman Adventures. Apparently one day, Joker and Harley were bored and decided to kidnap Robin. They torture him for two weeks until he becomes traumatized enough to reveal all of Batman’s secrets. Then they brainwash him, creepily dress him up as miniature version of the Joker, and call him their son Joker Junior (J.J. for short).
8. Forcing Tim into a Complete Mental Breakdown
Joker then commands the brainwashed Robin to kill Batman. This is yet another one of the twisted ways he attempts to destroy his adversary. Joker could just shoot him himself. But that’s too boring for him. Stealing his protege, turning him into a miniature version of the Joker and thus corrupting Batman’s legacy with his own, and having Batman killed by his adopted son’s hand is way more fun. Plus there is the added bonus that Bruce cannot defend himself to the fullest because he does not want to hurt his young sidekick. Robin managed to retain enough sanity to stop himself from shooting his mentor and shoot the Joker instead. He is so mentally damaged that this sends him into a complete nervous breakdown, transitioning from his deranged Joker Junior laugh into a hysterical crying fit. The generation who saw this movie as children were subsequently scarred for life.
7. Implanting a Microchip in Tim’s Brain
It took Tim a year to recover from the traumatic incident. He managed to regain his sanity, but his life was never the same. Batman was so consumed by guilt that he never let Tim fight crime again. In typical Bruce fashion, he also distances himself from his adopted son and they drift apart. Tim manages to create a normal life for himself and settle down with a wife, family, and career. He is jaded and resentful of his past life as Robin. At least finally safe from the Joker forever. Or so he thought. Turns out Joker had planned ahead and implanted a microchip into Tim’s brain. It contained the madman’s psyche and genes, which – with technology stolen from Project Cadmus – allowed him to take control of Tim’s body. After all the work Tim put into rehabilitating himself and building a normal life, Joker managed to destroy it all over again.
6. Pitting Damian Wayne Against His Father
Damian Wayne, the current Robin and Bruce’s only biological son, is pretty tough. He was raised by assassins and was a killer himself before Batman takes him in, so he does not scare easily. At the same time, his upbringing and troubled relationships with his parents has also made him insecure about his place in the world. In the storyline Death of the Family, Joker finally decides that he needs to kill Batman’s entire support network to stop them from holding him back: including all the Robins, Batgirl, Alfred, Catwoman, and Commissioner Gordon. He targets each member one by one and tortures them physically and mentally in different ways. In Damian’s case, the clown prince calls him a burden. Then he claims Bruce and Damian both fear being responsible for the other’s death and presents Batman in Joker makeup. In order to live, he says, Robin must kill Batman or be killed by him. Damian cannot kill his father and chooses to die. It is later revealed that the Batman was a fake and the whole thing was a twisted mind game.
5. Letting Nightwing Think Tim Was Dead
Dick Grayson managed not to be traumatized by the Joker as a kid, much to the annoyance of the criminal. Jason’s death, however, does haunt him as an adult. He had been fighting for independence from Batman and was not around much for Jason, something he regrets and changes with Tim. In the series Joker’s Last Laugh, a prison doctor tells the clown he has a terminal brain tumor. Joker concludes that he must go out with a bang so he can have the last laugh. He causes so much destruction that the U.S. President – Lex Luthor during this time – declares war on him. In the midst of the chaos, Tim disappears. His costume is found destroyed in Arkham and he is mistakenly assumed dead. Nightwing goes to confront the Joker about Robin. Joker has no idea what happened to Robin, he was actually angry to hear that someone else killed him before he could, yet goes along with it for his own amusement.
4. Pushing Nightwing Over the Edge
Joker’s original finale to his grand plan was to have Batman kill him before he died from the tumor. Once Nightwing shows up, he decides that getting Batman’s first protege to kill him would be even better. He taunts him about losing another little brother and encourages him to fight harder. “I hit Jason a lot harder than that. His name was Jason, right?” he says with a grin. That pushes Dick completely over the edge. He snaps and savagely beats the Joker. He only stops beating him when Tim reemerges and proves he is alive. By then, Nightwing realizes that he has killed the criminal. Even though they manage to revive the Joker to ensure he is not responsible for murder, Nightwing says that does not change what he did. He lost all control and succumbed to anger. Therefore, he declares, the Joker won. He walks away from his family to come to terms with his actions.
3. Traumatizing Jason… Again
About two decades after his death, Jason is miraculously resurrected and takes on the identity Red Hood, an antihero often at odds with the rest of the Bat-family. Apparently torturing and killing Jason once was not enough for the Joker. Jason is gassed and kidnapped by the villain during Death of the Family. He wakes up temporarily paralyzed with a crowbar next to him. Joker taunts him with the memory of his death and plans to recreate the scene by beating him with the crowbar. Jason manages to break free and grabs the crowbar himself, which is rigged with an electric charge that incapacitates him again. Joker then suggests that he has been behind all of the tragedy in Jason’s life. When Jason refuses to believe him, he shows him the bullet that killed Jason’s father and reproduces the scene of his mother’s death by overdose as proof. He claims that he and Jason are practically family.
2. Destroying Nightwing’s Childhood Home
In Death of the Family, Nightwing tries to warn Batman that their identities have been compromised to no avail. Haly’s Circus, where he grew up until his parents’ murder, is set to open in Gotham soon. Dick decides to move it for the protection of the circus members, many of who are like family to him. Alas, he is too late. Joker kills the main clown act and one of Dick’s ex girlfriends. He later sets up a twisted surprise party for Nightwing decorated with the corpses of former circus performers and infects all of the remaining members with Joker Venom so they attack the hero. Throughout this disturbing scene, Joker calls Nightwing a Bat-fake and a cheap imitation, proclaiming that out of all the Bat-family, he hates Dick most of all. He believes the first Robin makes Batman the weakest. Dick worries that he will never be able to stop the criminal from hurting everyone he loves.
1. Pretending to Skin All of Their Faces Off
After Joker has successfully rounded up all the members of Batman’s family, he lures the Dark Knight into his trap. The clown hosts an incredibly creepy mock dinner party. The members of the Bat-family are all bound to their seats with bags covering their heads. Joker also drenches them all in gasoline and rigs Batman’s chair to set them on fire if he stands up. He encourages the hero to do just that so he can get rid of his weaknesses. He also tells all of the young heroes that they do not understand their mentor the way he does. Joker removes the bags to show all their faces are covered with bloody bandages, then lifts the lids off their dinner plates to reveal each of their severed faces lying in front of them. As they look down in horror, Joker claims Batman loves him more than his children and delivers an ultimatum: kill his family or let the Joker kill them. It turns out to be yet another sick joke.