Joker is stilling flying high in the cinemas, and, despite its controversies, it seems to have won the favor of most critics and moviegoers.
A lot of its success is due to Joaquin Phoenix's amazing performance and the cautionary tale of how we treat those with mental illness. However, one can’t deny the fact that the film stays true to a character who has lasted in pop-culture for the best part of a century, and, in this list, we will be providing evidence of that.
Originally, during interviews director Todd Phillips was misinterpreted by saying “We didn’t take anything from the comic books, "but he has since gone on to clarify. “We didn’t take anything from one particular comic. We kind of picked and chose what we liked from the kind of 80-year canon of Joker. We kind of pulled a few things that we liked.”
So without further ado, let us take a look at some of those potential influences. Be they coincidental or not, these might be some books worth checking out if you enjoyed Joker. Be warned, spoilers ahoy if you have yet to see the film!
10 The Joker/Joker Returns
This story sees the Joker broadcast a threat to the citizens of Gotham and then act upon them, a formula which will be repeated time and time again over the next eight decades, in classic books like The Laughing Fish and The Man Who Laughs to movies like Batman and The Dark Knight. Instantly iconic from the beginning, this is the one that started it all.
9 The Killing Joke
The Killing Joke is probably the most popular take on the Joker's origin in comics, even though the character himself says it’s not necessarily definitive.
Still, the story sees a failed comedian go through a series of unfortunate and catastrophic events until “one bad day” sends him off into the deep end. True, Arthur Fleck didn’t take a plunge into a bath full of chemical waste, but he certainly saw his fair share of tragedy before taking madness as the emergency exit.
8 The Dark Knight Returns
It seems Warner Brother Studios have only read one Batman comic, that being the Dark Knight Returns, as for better or for worse they to try and rehash Frank Miller’s 1986 classic in every recent live-action interpretation of the Batman. In the graphic novel, throughout the duration of Batman’s crime-fighting hiatus, Joker has been sat in a comatose state in Arkham Asylum, only showing signs of life when reports of Batman once again donning his cape and pointy ears start circulating on the television.
True spoilers start now so stop reading until you’ve seen Joker! A reformed clown prince of crime makes an appearance on a late-night talk show, the tension builds until he ends up killing everyone with laughing gas live on air. The parallels between this and one of Joker's climactic scenes are pretty much undeniable.
7 Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On A Serious Earth
Grant Morrison's harrowing tale reads more like a horror story than a detective comic and this is emphasized by Dave McKean’s beautiful artwork. An unsettling read as Batman journeys through not only fiction's most infamous mental institution but also through his own psyche.
One of the most memorable scenes is when Joker proceeds to tell an incredibly dark joke about a man who visits his wife in hospital after she has given birth. The scene builds until Joker reaches the punchline “ YOUR WIFES DEAD AND YOUR BABY’S A SPASTIC,” emphasizing his sick finale with a gunshot to a hostage's head.
Of course, in Joker Arthur tells and almost equally bleak but shorter knock-knock joke. “It’s the police, Ma’am, your sons been hit by a drunk driver, he’s dead!” then a few moments later ends a second knock-knock joke by blowing tv host Murray’ Franklin’s head off his shoulders.
6 Batman: White Knight
This one is more of a stretch as White Knight was released in 2017, a time where the script of the movie was being finalized, but one cannot deny the similarities between the two.
Set outside of the main DC continuity, much like how Joker is set outside of the DC Cinematic Universe, White Knight sees a rehabilitated Joker becoming a figurehead for people to rally behind against the corrupt Gotham higher archy, the same way Arthur’s subway murders act as a catalyst for Gotham’s clown movement. Both stories play with our ideas of what's right and what's wrong in the world of Batman.
5 Going Sane
Going Sane is another story that deals with Joker, well, going sane. After believing he has killed Batman, Joker becomes an entirely different person, a timid and sympathetic fellow not unlike Arthur in terms of both mentality and physicality.
In his new guise, Joker adopts a new name, Joeseph Kerr.
Although not quite as obvious, Joker also may also have a wordplay in its protagonist name although this one is more of an easter egg than a plot device.
Perhaps a potential nod to the actor who previously donned the mantle of The Dark Knight.
4 City Of Owls
The third act of Scott Snyder’s epic Court Of Owls story arc has pretty much nothing to do with the Joker, so what’s it doing on the list?
Although it may not have served as inspiration for the titular character himself, it may have done so in terms of story.
The Court Of Owls is a villainous secret criminal society of Gotham's elite who uses tailor-made assassins know as Talons to do their dark bidding. At one part of the story, Gotham Mayor candidate and Wayne Enterprise supporter Lincoln March appears to be murdered by one of these terrifying tormentors and with his last breath hands a note to Batman on the condition that it should be delivered to Bruce Wayne.
The letter reveals that March believes himself to be Thomas Wayne Jnr, the Waynes firstborn and Bruce’s older brother. Like Arthur Fleck in the film, even though it's unlikely what March believes is true, without a DNA test, there is never a clear resolution to whether or not this is the case allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions.
3 Batman: Earth-One
The Earth One comics are DC stories set in a more lifelike world, one where the actions of heroes such as Batman are depicted realistically. As such, this Bruce Wayne is a lot more humanized in his undertaking on the war on crime, one that seems to be a truly hopeless never-ending battle. Although Joker hasn’t made an appearance in the series as of yet, it can be presumed that as and when he does it will be a character not entirely unlike Arthur.
2 Arkham City
Yes, the video game may have had some kind of visual stimulant to the creators of Joker, in particular, in it’s the final act.
After defeating The Clown Prince Of Crime for the last time, the climax of the game sees The Joker actually dying. Batman carries the body out of Arkham City and places him on the front of a cop car. In the climax of Joker, a group of clown thugs take Arthur's unconscious body from the back of a police car and lay him down on the hood. It’s worth noting that both these scenes also take place a stone throws away from a cinema.
An action symbolic of Joker's end in Arkham Knight is nigh on identical to that of Joker's birth in the movie.
Finally, we have Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo's take on the classic character. Originally released in 2008, Joker’s design is clearly inspired by Heath Ledger’s take on the legendary role, but shares similarities between Todd Phillips film in more than namesake alone.
Set outside of the main continuity, Joker is a dark and disturbing character study on Batman’s arch-nemesis and one that has recently seen a timely re-release for good reason. Why do people resonate so much with such a horrible villain who seems to follow a simple agenda, that being green hair, white face, red lips and thinks that killing is funny? The Joker comic, along with the movie, sets about trying to answer that question.