Which DC characters could Arthur Fleck find himself fighting in Joker 2? Released last month to a rapturous response, Joker has defied expectation, skepticism and controversy to become one of the year's defining movies, and is in genuine contention for Oscars success at next year's awards. After working with a limited budget and then going on to gross over $1 billion at the box office, Joker has become the most profitable comic book movie ever made and demonstrated that risky, mature, indie-flavored superhero stories can still be financially viable if studios are willing to take the risk.
Inevitably, such enormous success has sparked discussions of a sequel, and this rumor appeared to be confirmed recently, before subsequent reports tempered excitement by claiming that Joker 2 wasn't quite a done deal. Nevertheless, the chances of DC green-lighting a Joker follow-up are increasing by the day.
Unlike most superhero movies, however, there is no obvious story route for Joker 2 to take. The original film was a detailed study of Arthur Fleck's psyche; a concept that doesn't warrant repeating a second time around. As a result, Joker 2 will likely see a secondary character introduced as an antagonist (or, indeed, protagonist) to oppose Fleck's Clown Prince of Crime. Batman would be the most obvious contender, but should Robert Pattinson or any other iteration of the Caped Crusader have a significant role in Joker 2, the title character risks being overshadowed. With this problem in mind, who else from DC canon could go up against Arthur Fleck?
The chief concern of parents and conservatives prior to Joker's release was that the film's depiction of a villain would prove too sympathetic, and while this ultimately proved not to be a major issue, it does present a story conundrum for Joker 2. Arthur Fleck cannot ever be presented as a hero in the true sense, but Joker did encourage the audience to empathize with the troubled character to an extent. As such, pitting Fleck against a genuine superhero wouldn't fit with Joker's style. Having him feud against a villain with a drastically different mentality and motivation, however, could be a winning formula, and on the extreme opposite end of the villain spectrum to Joker is a gangster like Carmine Falcone.
The Batman universe is full of shady mafia types, with Falcone perhaps the most notorious of the lot. The criminal has a vice-like grip on Gotham City before Batman arrives on the scene and is neck deep in the same corruption and exploitation that triggers Joker's clown movement in the first place. It would be fairly straightforward to have Arthur Fleck set his murderous sights on Don Falcone and still maintain an ambiguity around his moral alignment. The Joker clashing with Gotham's more traditional gangsters was a theme briefly explored in The Dark Knight, but Joker 2 could explore the idea more fully, and with even more brutality than slamming someone's head into a pencil.
Continuing directly from the first Joker movie, a sequel wouldn't have to necessarily look beyond the current cast to find a target for Joaquin Phoenix's Joker. The ongoing conflict between Fleck and the Wayne family has already been established due to the doubt surrounding Thomas Wayne's paternity of Arthur, and the subsequent jealousy Phoenix's character feels after having a potential father figure ripped away. An escaped Fleck would undoubtedly be gunning straight for Wayne after Batman's Dad refused to acknowledge his existence and dismissed his claims as the ravings of a madman. For Wayne's part, Fleck has caused endless trouble in Gotham City and even approached his family at Wayne Manor. The feud between these two men writes itself.
Or it would, if Thomas hadn't died in an alleyway. Thomas Wayne's appearance in Joker 2 would very much require some narrative juggling but, given the first film's inherent lack of clarity, a return wouldn't be impossible. Theories suggest that the vast majority of Joker's story takes place in Arthur's head, while others claim that the Wayne murders are a fantasy Fleck is having while cooped up in an asylum. These are just two get-out clauses Joker 2 could use to circumvent Thomas Wayne's death, but the sequel could opt for a more outlandish option. Joker was happy to play fast and loose with Batman mythology, so what if Thomas Wayne secretly survives the alley attack, sets out on a lone quest for vengeance, and is killed by Arthur Fleck personally, without Bruce or anyone else ever knowing?
If bringing back characters from the dead proves too convoluted, Commissioner James Gordon offers Arthur Fleck a ready-made opponent. Joker is a criminal. Police hunt criminals. Commissioner Gordon is the most famous cop in the Batman canon. No other reason is needed as to why these two famous characters could find themselves at each other's throats in Joker 2, especially after Fleck's actions inspire riots all over Gotham City, causing untold trouble for law enforcement. More significantly, Gordon would've played a part in quelling the Joker riots, since he's meant to be the cop comforting a newly-orphaned Bruce Wayne, according to Batman lore.
While there isn't a more natural enemy to a deranged serial killer than a morally righteous policeman, a Joker vs. the GCPD storyline could still maintain the original movie's moral grayness. Jim Gordon might be a bastion of justice and legality, but the rest of his department are rife with corruption and wrongdoing, and this hypocrisy could give Arthur Fleck at least some justification for going against the law. The only potential drawback to casting Gordon in Joker 2 would be that the Gotham TV series has already explored the young cop's early career in depth - including a first meeting with a Joker-like villain. There might also be complications regarding Jeffrey Wright's recent casting as the same character in The Batman.
Joker's entire central theme is based around the subjects of delusion and mental health, with asylum scenes book-ending the film and casting credible doubt over Arthur Fleck's reliability as a narrator. The final scene even sees Fleck kill his psychiatrist and trigger alarms all over the institution he is currently confined within. A natural progression from that shocking climax might be to have an escaped Arthur Fleck hunted down by none other than Jeremiah Arkham, he of name-brand asylum fame.
Not only could this kind of cat-and-mouse chase continue Joker's core focus on mental illness, but it would also have no clear hero or villain, adhering to the approach of the original film. Jeremiah Arkham is a fascinating and complex character in his own right, on one hand demonstrating a genuine desire to help treat his patients, but simultaneously exhibiting a dark and dangerous side on the other. Arkham even becomes the Batman villain Black Mask in the DC comic books, demonstrating a latent potential to lapse into criminality himself and setting up a potentially fascinating dynamic between two very unstable geniuses in Joker 2.
There aren't many villains in Batman's Rogues Gallery more despicable than Joker, but Mad Hatter certainly makes a strong case. In the comics, Jervis Tetch is a mentally unhinged villain with several psychological tics and traits, such as constantly talking in rhymed verse and an obsession with Alice In Wonderland. Some of these more cartoonish notes would need to be toned down to fit into Joker's world, but a more grounded, uncensored version of Mad Hatter could prove to be a very chilling addition to Joker 2. This sadistic villain has a tendency to mess with others' heads, which could play well alongside Arthur Fleck's already damaged persona, and the Batman comic books heavily suggest that Tetch is a sex offender, automatically making him the more vile of the two.
It would be a relatively simple endeavor to install Mad Hatter as the villain of Joker 2 and an antagonist to Arthur Fleck without making the Joker feel like a hero. Tetch and Fleck share certain parallels, but the differences between them are enough to trigger a conflict that could encompass all of Gotham City. Throw in the GCPD attempting to drag these two unstable criminals apart, and Joker 2 could be brewing itself a recipe for a more action-based look at psychology in the Batman universe. Casting Mad Hatter would also account for the rumors suggesting DC will seek to produce more dark villain origin stories following Joker's success.
The Red Hood
The Red Hood has previously been a key part of Joker's origin story, most memorably featuring in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke comic as the villain's entry point into the world of crime. Since then, Jason Todd and various others have taken up the mantle either as vigilantes or troublemakers, and the guise has become an iconic part of Gotham City's fictional history. Arthur Fleck's transformation into Joker didn't include any crimson cowls, but this is something that can perhaps be transferred into Joker 2.
There remains much mystery around Arthur Fleck's identity, specifically whether or not he's the same Joker character fans know and love, and bringing in the Red Hood would bring this lingering plot thread into full focus. The Red Hood could remain unidentified throughout Joker 2, with he and Arthur Fleck constantly at war all over the city. Viewers would question whether the two characters might be one and the same à la Fight Club, or perhaps whether the Red Hood is the true Joker, and Phoenix's version an alternate or prototype, deepening the ambiguity created in the original film. Once again, the Red Hood is more of an antihero than distinctly good or bad, which means Fleck himself can continue being an ethical anomaly.
The Court Of Owls
In Joker, Arthur Fleck's actions trigger a wave of chaos and disruption and, if the story takes place within the Batman universe as fans know it, this is bound to anger the Court of Owls. An ancient, shady organization that has ruled Gotham since the city's inception, the Court take a dim view of those who bring their home into disrepute and have no qualms about taking drastic action to correct social order. The Court of Owls is often depicted as displeased with Gotham's descent into criminality, and some versions of the story see the group attempt to destroy and rebuild the city from scratch, having exhausted all other options.
After Fleck damn-near caused a revolution on the streets, the Court of Owls could be gunning for Joker in any potential sequel, and their combination of wealth and influence is the natural antithesis of Fleck's poverty-stricken outcast character. In many ways, the Court of Owls represent everything Fleck was rallying against throughout Joker - the creators of a system that left him to rot while the rich flourished and turned a blind eye. Setting the Court as arch antagonists in Joker 2 would allow the original film's strong political themes to develop further, although raging against the machine too hard could risk turning Fleck into a genuine hero, rather than the symbol of lawless rebellion he became.