It's safe to say no one expected the recent announcement from Warner Bros. pictures that an origin film about The Joker is now in some form of early development. Rumored to be produced by the legendary Martin Scorsese (GoodFellas) with Todd Phillips (The Hangover) slated to direct and co-write along with Scott Silver (8 Mile), the Joker's first feature film as a headliner is said to be set in a Taxi Driver-like 1980s Gotham City, will depict how the Joker became a deformed, clown-like homicidal maniac, and will apparently not be part of the DC Extended Universe of films. Nor has there been confirmation whether Batman will be in the film, but if it isn't set in the DCEU, the part of Batman won't be played by Ben Affleck if the Dark Knight even appears in The Joker.
This Joker movie concept begs a number of questions: Why do an origin story? Is it even a good idea? Will it work? An equally pertinent question is: What is the reasoning behind suddenly having two different Jokers on the silver screen at the same time? Sure, there have been multiple cinematic incarnations of Batman, but none of them co-existed simultaneously. The Batman franchise that began with Michael Keaton and ended with George Clooney was dormant for 8 years before Christopher Nolan's reboot Batman Begins. Ben Affleck didn't take over the role until Nolan's swansong The Dark Knight Rises had been gone from theaters for 4 years.
Audiences just met the DCEU's official Joker, played by Jared Leto, in 2016's Suicide Squad. Leto will reportedly reprise the role three more times: in Suicide Squad 2, and alongside Margot Robbie in the Harley Quinn-centric bad girls team up film Gotham City Sirens, and in a Joker and Harley-focused film from the directors of Crazy, Stupid, Love. The Joker origin movie will apparently be unrelated to all of those DCEU films. Which brings us back to the question: Why have two Jokers in DC movies - and what if it doesn't stop there?
To find an answer, we might look to DC Films President Geoff Johns and what he has helped establish in DC Comics' hugely successful publishing initiative DC Rebirth. In short: in current continuity, there are three Jokers running around the DC Universe. This was set up in Johns' summer 2015 Justice League event Darkseid War. In that story, Batman gained control of the Mobius Chair belonging to the New God Metron. Able to tap into a vast repository of multiversal knowledge, Batman asked the Mobius Chair "What is the Joker's true name?" He didn't get the answer he was looking for and instead, the Chair's response was a shocking reveal.
THE THREE JOKERS IN DC REBIRTH
Batman learned there are three Jokers in the DC Universe. This was made possible by the machinations of Doctor Manhattan of Watchmen. It turns out Doctor Manhattan had stolen ten years from the DC Universe and was responsible for its transition from the New 52 continuity that began in 2011 to the current DC Rebirth continuity. Somehow, the Joker was split into three versions of himself: the original incarnation of the Joker created by Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane, the 1980s version of the Joker Alan Moore and Brian Bolland essayed in The Killing Joke, and the modern New 52 version of the Joker primarily written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo. They are all the Joker, with all of their murderous insanity intact, but their histories are different because they're from different DC Universe continuities, yet they all currently exist in the DC Rebirth continuity.