The Clown Prince of Crime is not the only Batman character to appear in Joker – there were others that showed up, even if briefly and with little to no dialogue in some cases. Todd Phillips’ psychological thriller Joker is finally out in most parts of the world after months of controversy about its violence, Joaquin Phoenix’s acting method, and Todd Phillips’ (failed) attempts to defend the film from all the backlash.
Still, Joker has received mostly positive reviews, praising Phoenix’s performance and the film’s tone, while others criticized its sympathetic take on the villain. The film is not part of the DCEU, and even though Alan Moore’s graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke was used as the basis for the premise, it was mostly an original story, but it did include a couple of characters from Batman’s universe – some more obvious than others, and some weren’t even explicitly shown. It’s just a matter of paying attention to the details.
Joker is set decades before Bruce Wayne became the Dark Knight, but the lack of Batman’s presence didn’t mean other characters from his universe couldn’t appear. The film even gave Gotham’s hero a different origin story, essentially becoming a double origin story: the one for the Joker and the one for Batman. Here’s every Batman character that appears in Joker.
Of course. The Joker was created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson, making his first appearance in Batman #1 in 1940. The original plan was for him to be killed in this first appearance (by accidentally stabbing himself), but an editor found the character to be too good and suggested he be spared. Since then, the Joker has become Batman’s archenemy and one of the most iconic villains in pop culture. The Joker has appeared in other Batman-related media, such as video games and TV shows, but his most popular versions outside the comics are the live-action ones: Cesar Romero in the 1966 series Batman, Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman, and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Honorable mention to Mark Hamill’s Joker in Batman: The Animated Series, regarded by many as a defining portrayal of the character.
There’s no definitive origin story to the Joker, with many comics and films giving him a different one (or none at all), but the most common story says he fell into a vat of chemicals that left him permanently disfigured and drove him to madness. Others, such as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, opted for not giving him a backstory, with the Joker himself giving a different story every time. This not only adds to the character’s mystery but also gives creative freedom to writers. In Joker, the character is given a name (Arthur Fleck) and a backstory, with him being a failed stand-up comedian dealing with mental illness, part of this as a consequence of the physical abuse he went through as a child as his delusional adoptive mother allowed her abusive boyfriend to harm them both.
Aside from the Joker, Thomas Wayne is the other Batman character with a somewhat big presence in the film. He was introduced in Detective Comics #33 in 1939, where Batman’s origin story was told. Thomas Wayne was a physician and philanthropist in Gotham City, and was killed along with his wife, Martha, by a mugger in what later became Crime Alley. This event led to Bruce becoming Batman years later. However, during the Flashpoint event, the murders were different – Bruce was killed by the robber, prompting Thomas to become Batman instead and with Martha becoming the Joker.
Brett Cullen played Thomas Wayne in Joker, who was running for mayor of Gotham and was key in triggering the crime wave and riots after labeling those “envious” of successful people as “clowns”. Arthur Fleck believed him to be his father as he intercepted a letter written by his mother to Thomas, in which she claimed that Arthur was Wayne’s illegitimate son. Thomas told him his mother was delusional and he was not his father. This version of Thomas Wayne had the same fate as in the comics though by the hands of a rioter in a clown mask, setting up Batman’s origin story as well.
Batman didn’t show up to stop the clown protesters from creating major chaos in Gotham, but he did appear – though not as the Caped Crusader. A young Bruce Wayne was played by Dante Pereira-Olson in Joker and had a minor appearance. After reading his mother’s letter, Arthur went to Wayne Manor to talk to Thomas, but came across with Bruce and showed him some clown/magic tricks before being stopped by the family’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Bruce appeared again at the end of the film, when his parents were shot by a rioter, leaving him orphaned and setting up his future conversion into the Dark Knight.
Unlike the Joker, Bruce’s backstory has remained consistent: the son of Thomas and Martha Wayne, members of prestigious families in Gotham. His parents were killed in front of him by a mugger , prompting him to train in different martial arts years later and go after the assassin, eventually becoming Batman. Joker gives a slight twist to this story as the Waynes weren’t exactly killed by a mugger but rather by a rioter in a clown mask, which could make a great excuse for future Bruce aka Batman to have a special dislike towards criminals dressed as clowns.
Martha Wayne was only seen very briefly in Joker, but her presence can’t be ignored. The character was introduced along with Thomas Wayne in Detective Comics #33, with later comics expanding on her story. Born Martha Kane, she was a member of one of Gotham’s wealthiest families and heir to the Kane Chemical fortune. Martha was killed in Crime Alley, and in the Flashpoint timeline, she became the Joker after going insane following the death of her son. Martha was played by Carrie Louise Putrello in Joker and can be seen next to Thomas during public events and at the end of the film when she and Thomas are killed.
The Wayne’s loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth, appears in Joker, also very briefly but at least he had a few lines of dialogue. Alfred’s first appearance was in Batman #16 in 1943, and his backstory has changed a few times. What has remained consistent is his loyalty to Bruce Wayne, acting as legal guardian and surrogate father figure following the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Alfred was one of the few to know Batman’s true identity, serving as Bruce’s moral anchor and providing comic relief multiple times. Alfred was played by Douglas Hodge in Joker and appeared when Arthur arrived to Wayne Manor and showed Bruce a few magic tricks.
This is one Batman character that didn’t appear on screen but was teased in the reports about a plague of rats in Gotham. Ratcatcher’s debut was in Detective Comics #585 in 1988 and his real name is Otis Flannegan, a once actual rat catcher in Gotham City. His nickname comes not only from his job but from his very peculiar abilities to communicate with and train rats. He eventually uses these talents to plague Gotham and even to smuggle items in and out of prison with the help of these animals.
Ratcatcher’s presence in Joker is teased when a broadcaster declares that, due to all the garbage in the city, the rats are evolving and Gotham is now plagued with “super rats”, even saying they will need some “super cats” to deal with them. It’s very subtle, but if this line of DC films (that is, those not connected to the DCEU) decides to explore other (and lesser) known Batman villains, Ratcatcher could be one as he has already been somewhat set up. On a different side of DC’s film universe, Ratcatcher will be played by Daniela Melchior in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad.
Is Leigh Gill’s Gary meant to be Gaggy?
The Joker’s best known sidekick is Harley Quinn, but before the psychiatrist turned to a life of crime, the Joker had a very different helper: Gaggy, a midget clown. Gaggy Gagsworthy was once a member of the circus, where he was a tightrope walker until The Flying Graysons were hired. Gaggy was then set to be a clown as part of a freakshow. He was not pleased with this change, and during an act in which he lashed out on another clown, he caught the attention of the Joker. Gaggy joined the Clown Prince of Crime and together they committed numerous crimes.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker doesn’t have a sidekick of any kind, but Leigh Gill’s character, Gary, has made many believe that he could have been the film’s version of Gaggy. Gary was one of Arthur’s co-workers at the clown agency and one of the few that actually treated him right. Following his mother’s death and while he prepared for his appearance on Murray Franklin’s show, Arthur was visited by Randall and Gary. Arthur killed Randall, but spared Gary for treating him well in the past. It hasn’t been confirmed or denied if Gary was Joker’s version of Gaggy, but it wouldn’t be totally crazy if he was.
Next: Joker's Ending Explained