The Joker has killed a lot of people over the years, and is far and away Batman's most iconic villain. But it is not just ending lives that has built the Joker a reputation as being incredibly dangerous. What really sets the Joker apart is how demented he is in tormenting his victims. He's a villain who likes to toy with his prey before ending their lives so he can watch them break. Killing somebody brings an end to the suffering, but leaving them broken yet alive allows the Joker to savor their suffering.
So in the spirit of the Joker's most evil schemes, we're looking at the characters that the Joker has successfully broken down over the years. This is about the people who have endured worse than death, getting tortured by the Joker to the point they gave up their heroic identities, abandoned everything they stood for, or were even left wishing that they would die.
These are 15 Character Destroyed By The Joker.
14 JASON TODD
We can’t talk about characters who have been destroyed by the Joker without bringing up Jason Todd. In one of the most infamous stories in comics, Death in the Family, the Joker brutally beat Robin with a crowbar before finally killing him with an explosive. That alone is pretty awful, but at least if things had ended there Jason would have simply been killed by the Joker. Instead, Jason came back and revealed how broken he was by Batman’s failure to save him.
Jason was not understanding at all about his demise. He was angry and vengeful, and took it out on everyone around him. The Joker probably could not have been happier about the way things turned out, with Jason becoming a villain and adopting the Red Hood persona. This is exactly the kind of thing the Joker aspires to achieve— corrupting a hero and stripping away their morals.
Death of the Family has been one of the biggest stories involving the Joker in recent years. It was an event that saw all of Batman's allies pulled in for a huge showdown between the Dark Knight and his greatest rival. Each of Batman's members of the Bat Family were captured and brought to the Batcave for a big dinner. The main course was their own faces, and the servant was none other than Alfred.
Alfred had been beaten and abducted earlier on in the story, and Batman had no idea where his butler and friend had been taken. It turned out the Joker wanted Alfred to have a special role and brainwashed him into becoming an ally.
We never see what Alfred endured to make him lose himself like that, but it can't have been anything good. And while the rest of the Bat Family simply had their trust in Bruce damaged when everything was said and done, Alfred had his trust in himself hurt now that he knew he could be a liability to the Family he was supposed to protect.
In Brian Azzarello's Joker the villainous clown trumps some of his darkest deeds up to that point. Unfortunately for the mobster Jonny Frost, he winds up being taken along for a ride on the Joker's chaotic tour. Jonny is the Joker's chauffer, and the Joker really likes having Jonny around. So Jonny gets a ringside seat for the Joker's crimes, including stripping the skin off a strip club owner. It's pretty clear this isn't an alliance Jonny should go along with, and Harvey Dent of all people warns Jonny that the Joker will kill him.
Jonny doesn't heed the warning, and it even appears the Joker is going to help Jonny when he helps get the mobster's ex-wife back. Then Joker rapes Jonny's ex as payback for Jonny meeting with Two-Face.
By the time Batman shows up to stop his old nemesis, Jonny has already gone off the deep end. While Batman and the Joker fight, Jonny climbs off a bridge and falls to his death.
12 JOKER'S DAUGHTER
Though Joker's Daughter has become fixated on viewing herself as the offspring of numerous villains in Batman's world, her time obsessing over the Joker is what many fans know her for. In the events of Countdown, it's suggested that she really is the Joker's daughter, just from another universe. Having to be related to the clown certainly did her sanity no favors, and it actually gets her killed. One of the Monitors in the Countdown storyline locates Joker's Daughter and eliminates her because it detects that she does not belong in that universe.
When Joker's Daughter returns in the New 52, she's arguably worse than before. After the events of Death of the Family, where Joker had his face removed and disappears following a battle with Batman, Joker's Daughter finds his face. She has the Joker's face sewn on top of her own, and even has his blood injected into her body because she so desperately wants to be his daughter.
Even without actually being there to do anything to her, the Joker still destroys Joker’s Daughter by causing her to become so obsessed with him that it costs her her mind.
11 DICK GRAYSON
It seems like no one who has been Robin has escaped unscathed from tangling with the Joker. Dick Grayson proved a bit more resilient than his comrades who have shared the costume in that he was not driven to become a villain as the result of the Joker. Nonetheless, Dick did lose hold of his morals and it was something he could not forgive himself for.
It all went down in The Last Laugh, where the current Robin had gone missing and Dick had tracked down the Joker looking for answers.
Although the current Robin was actually alive and okay, the Joker told Dick that Batman’s latest sidekick was dead. It made Dick snap, and he attacked the Joker so ferociously that he wound up beating the Joker to death. It was only afterwards that Robin and the rest of the Bat Family entered the room and Dick realized what he had done.
They managed to revive the Joker, but Dick was still disgusted, realizing the Joker had finally driven him to becoming capable of murder.
10 DAMIAN WAYNE
Though Damian does care about his dad, the two of them have absolutely fought before. Not just in training either, but legitimately battling with everything they have had. Still, they have not crossed into actually being willing to kill each other. Despite their disagreements, their bond as a family means more than that. So naturally the Joker had to exploit that bond when given the opportunity.
When Damian encounters the Joker on his own, the Joker tells the young Robin how he is a burden to Batman. The Joker says that they are just holding each other back, so it's time to put an end to that. The Joker drugs Damian and pits him against a Batman driven insane by the Joker toxin. The Joker demands they fight to the death so there can be only one of them left. But Damian freezes up, unable to attack his own father. Damian gives up, asking for himself to be the one who is killed.
It's only after the Joker has pushed Damian to the point of wanting to die that he reveals the person in the costume wasn't actually Batman at all, and it all just a trick.
9 SELINA KYLE
Catwoman is a longtime rival of the Joker who has tangled with the clown often enough to have numerous incidents where she has been damaged by him. To pick just one such time, though, you can look at how she was treated in The Dark Knight Returns. The years had already been hard on Selina from her years of crime fighting, and in her old age she had retired from the superhero life to run a brothel. As old and worn down as she was, Selina was not spared a visit from the Joker when he decided to attract the attention of Batman.
Selina had grown so terrified of the Joker that she froze up upon seeing him rather than trying to fight. He kissed her with lipstick that allowed him to control his victims, and then brutally beat her. When Batman found Selina, she was battered and tied up in a Wonder Woman outfit.
If that wasn't enough, Batman's fight with the Joker is what caused Superman to go after Bruce. Though Bruce faked his death, everyone else believed he was legitimately dead and blamed Superman, even Selina. So the Joker indirectly shattered Selina's faith in Superman.
8 JAMES GORDON
Everyone remembers The Killing Joke for the damage that was done to Barbara Gordon, which is totally fair since what she went through was one of the most horrible things the Joker has done to a person. However, the Joker's intended target with everything he did was actually James Gordon.
Joker wanted to prove that one bad day could cause anyone to snap and become like him. To Gordon's credit, on this occasion, the Joker failed to prove that. Gordon retained his morals despite watching his daughter suffer and refused to push for the Joker to be killed.
That wasn't the end of James' torment, though. The Joker will target any emotional connection a person has, and in the No Man's Land storyline, that meant Gordon's wife Sarah. In a particularly gruesome panel, the Joker shoots and kills Sarah in front of a bunch of babies, leaving the infants to crawl over her dead body.
When Gordon gets ahold of the Joker, he nearly kills the clown, but again can't do it. There are definite cracks in Gordon’s psyche by this point, though; forsaking his values enough to shoot the Joker in the knee as payback.
7 TIM DRAKE
Though almost every major character who has adopted the name of Robin has had the dubious honor of being tormented by the Joker, Tim Drake nearly lost his identity thanks to the villain. It all started in the movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker when Tim was still young. He wound up being kidnapped by Harley Quinn, and she and the Joker tortured Tim for weeks before the Bat Family was able to track him down.
By the time Tim was found, he had become a mini Joker, disfigured to resemble the clown and helping his new demented parents. Tim eventually shook loose of the Joker’s hold enough to kill him, but even then Tim was not free. Despite being rehabilitated in a mental hospital, a chip had been put into Tim’s head by the Joker that kept Tim in the villain’s control.
It took Terry McGinnis finishing the Joker off one more time for Tim to finally break free and gain his mind back.
6 HARVEY DENT
Though Harvey Dent’s descent into becoming the villain Two-Face has become an iconic story, in the movie The Dark Knight the Joker got to play a hand in Two-Face’s creation. The famous line Harvey delivered in the movie was that “you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain.” Harvey had the noblest aspirations to help Gotham become a better place, but instead the Joker pulled Harvey into the dark.
The beginning of Harvey’s fall came with the death of Rachel, and the explosion that disfigured his face. Harvey needed someone good in his life to help him keep his hope in humanity, but he wound up getting a visit from the Joker in the hospital instead. The Joker’s cynical philosophy had a deadly appeal to Harvey in that dark moment, and their conversation was enough to fully tip Dent over into becoming Two-Face.
The Man of Steel might be bulletproof, but even he is susceptible to the schemes of the Joker. The thing about the Joker is he really is not a very physically intimidating person if he is deprived of his tricks and weapons, but his ability to attack people mentally makes him a lethal threat. And Superman is not a man without emotions, so he’s as vulnerable as anyone to being manipulated, as we saw in the beginning of Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Doomsday might be infamous for having killed Superman, but in Injustice the Joker emotionally broke Clark Kent by tricking him into killing Lois Lane. Superman also became responsible for the destruction of most of Metropolis, meaning everything he had protected over the years was gone by his own hands. Superman was so devastated that he abandoned everything he stood for, killing the Joker and becoming a tyrant who ruled the world with an iron fist.
Of course Batman would have to feature on this list. With how long the Dark Knight’s rivalry has been with the Joker, there are likely several good choices we could use for Batman. But we’re going with what happened in the Emperor Joker storyline, where the Clown Prince stole the abilities of Mr. Mxyzptlk, allowing him to alter the universe however he pleased. Suffice to say, the Joker is not someone you want with that kind of control.
Naturally the Joker wasted little time in using his ultimate power to torment Batman. He had Batman crucified, his mouth sealed shut, and got him eaten alive by crows until he was dead. And then the Joker revived him.
The Joker did this over and over again, creating an endless hell for the hero. Eventually Superman overcame the Joker and saved his friend, but by that point Batman’s mind was long gone. The only way Batman’s sanity could be restored was to remove all memory of the torment he had endured.
3 BARBARA GORDON
It’s debatable if Barbara Gordon received the worst treatment from the Joker out of everyone, but she's definitely up there. And what the former Batgirl endured at the Joker's hands is absolutely his most infamous act. Barbara was first shot and paralyzed by the Joker, which would be bad enough. But then she was kidnapped and sexually abused as well, all just so the Joker could try to prove that anyone could become as bad as him.
It's a part of Batgirl's history that many wish had never happened, even Alan Moore, the one who wrote The Killing Joke. Though lots of fans view the story as a classic and a key part of the Joker's character development, Moore has said that he regrets doing the story and contributing to Batgirl's history in this way. Barbara has tried to move on from it, whether it’s as Oracle or as a healed Batgirl, but it’s still had a huge impact on her.
2 HARLEY QUINN
Of all the people who have been damaged from interacting with the Joker, none came out the worse for wear than Harley. She initially went to psychiatrically treat him, hoping to pull him free from the depths of his own insanity. Instead, Harley got dragged down into that chasm with him and became hopelessly obsessed with the Joker. While most of the other characters on this list have managed to salvage their lives despite the damage done to them, Harley is someone who can never quite disentangle herself from the clown.
Harley has managed to stake out some of her independence in her Suicide Squad years, but can't help but relapse for the Joker even now. He has beaten her, left her imprisoned, and repeatedly used her as nothing more than a tool for years. And yet, the Joker's charisma and charm have wormed their way into Harley's mind so she has to battle to resist him even after everything he's done.
Despite everything that can be said about what the Joker has done to everyone else, the total disregard he has come to show for himself might just top it all. The Joker is typically depicted as being unfazed by pain anymore, like in The Dark Knight's interrogation scene where he just laughs while being beaten by Batman. It doesn't matter what he is subjected to, he will always find the humor in it.
It's not just that the Joker doesn't mind others hurting him, though, it's that he has no qualms about hurting himself. He has sliced his own tongue in half, willingly had his own face cut off, and even snapped his own neck and killed himself in The Dark Knight Returns. The Joker's sanity has long since been destroyed, and he no longer cares what happens to his own body. That’s what makes him so dangerous—no threat of harm will deter the Joker, so how can you stop him except to give him exactly what he wants by stooping to his own level?
Who else would you say the Joker has broken beyond repair? Share any victims we missed in the comments!