The Joker. He’s been one of the most enduring villains in not only Batman’s history but in comic books as a whole. The green hair. The purple coat. That blood-red smile. They’re all key parts of the terrifying villain. He’s been shown as scary, comedic, brutal, reformed and even as an omnipotent god-like character. He’s a piece of the puzzle for the current “Metal” event — as Batman had him hidden away. But there’s also three versions of the villain in the current continuity that hasn’t been fully explained so far. He’s been portrayed on screen by many actors in live action and with many stars lending their voice to the Clown Prince of Crime.
But what is it about the villain that makes him so intriguing for audiences, actors, critics and writers to sink their teeth into? Possibly, the multiple choice, wild card aspect of his personality. His looks can change depending on who he feels like killing or what mood he’s in. Sometimes, his costume will perfectly contrast the awful act that he’s about to commit. Or he’ll be forced to wear something like when he’s locked in Arkham Asylum. There’s countless possibilities for the Joker’s looks, and we’re certainly spoilt for choice.
15. THE BATMAN’S JOKER
The Batman cartoon series from 2004 features one of the most ummm..unique versions of the Clown Prince of Crime, and it’s certainly not for the better. The series steps away from the stereotypical purple suited look and plays into the crazy, maniacal aspect of the villain.
He’s dressed in a customized strait-jacket with purple patterned sleeves. His wild hair looks more like an anime character rather than the slick coif we’re used to. The strangest part about this iteration, is his mannerisms. The show often has the villain hang from buildings and walls like a monkey. He even fights in an animalistic way, using his hands and feet in similar ways. It’s not the craziest re-imagining of the character, but it’s certainly our least favorite out of his long history.
14. EMPEROR JOKER
In a storyline that saw The Joker steal powers from a 5th dimensional imp, Mister Mxyzptlk, he became the Emperor Joker. He warped reality in every way that he fancied, and killing Batman on a continuous loop was one way he entertained himself.
But his outfit is equally as mental. He’s traded his iconic purple suit for something a little more royal. In fact, it almost looks like a regal version of a Jester outfit, but adorned with white fur and gold trimmings. To top the Emperor look off, on top of his head sits a gold and purple crown, obviously. Luckily, this only lasted for nine issues, and Batman had his traumatic memories stolen by Superman so he doesn’t remember the royal version of the villain.
13. INJUSTICE 2
Spoilers, but during the first Injustice game — The Joker is murdered by Superman after he tricks the Kryptonian into thinking that Lois Lane was Doomsday…ouch. And in the second game, he’s brought back as a vision for Harley Quinn to fight because, why not?
But his entire look feels like a combination of Jared Leto’s Joker and Heath Ledger’s. He wears a long purple coat over a bare chest, with ‘HA’ painted on his chest in blood, but they look almost tattoo-like. But his hair and facial make-up look closer to how Heath Ledger portrayed the character in The Dark Knight. It’s a unique way of crafting a new but familiar look for the villain, but it doesn’t feel inventive — just like one giant reference to what has come before.
12. GRANT MORRISON’S JOKER
During Grant Morrison’s seminal run in charge of the Dark Knight, he brought to life some of the craziest and more original concepts to the world of the Batman. Kicking it all off with a literal bang, a police officer dressed up as Batman shoots The Joker in the head, seemingly offing the villain for good. However, this clown has an infinite number of lives, and instead that bullet hole becomes a key part of The Joker’s look for a good portion of the run.
Decked out in suspenders, hair slicked back, a forked tongue and wielding two straight razors, this version of The Joker was not only one of the most psychotic versions of the character (and that’s saying something), but also his constant parading around topless shows off that the criminal clown is rocking a set of “skinny abs”.
11. THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS
Frank Miller’s incredible storyline that saw Bruce Wayne bring himself out of superhero retirement saw a comatose Joker in Arkham. He’s brought back to consciousness when Batman makes his reappearance — and goes on a spectacularly villainous return. But when he’s first brought back onto TV chat show, he’s wearing a white suit jacket with a purple shirt and purple trousers.
It’s a little basic but also a step away from his classic look, all while still looking recognizable. An English Studies student might think that this symbolizes that he’s visually trying to cover up his true nature by pretending to be cured of his sanity, but we just think it looks cool when he gets a Batarang stuck in his eye. What can we say, we’re easily satisfied.
10. THE DCEU
Jared Leto’s interpretation of the character was always going to come under fire from fans and critics alike simply because he’s the first live action Joker after Heath Ledger’s legendary performance (Cameron Monaghan on Gotham isn’t officially The Joker…). So to counter the would-be comparisons between the two versions, his costume is radically different.
His look is more like a flashy mob boss than supervillain. With the leather purple coat and diamond cane, the teeth grills and numerous tattoos — Jared Leto looks completely unique. Say what you like about his performance (or at how little he was in Suicide Squad) but his outfits were impressive. Plus, he has several looks across the film — he’s kind of like a Barbie doll. There’s “Strip Club Joker” in a blazer and open shirt, “S.W.A.T. Joker” in full body armor and “Arkham Asylum” Joker.
9. NEW 52 CIVILIAN
During the New 52, Batman and The Joker actually died. But, since this is comics — they were obviously brought back to life. A chemical called Dionesium brought the pair back to life when they were buried in a cave during their last fight. But after “Endgame” he returns without his memories or his brutal vicious nature.
Instead, he’s an innocent man working in a butcher’s shop with an inkling that something isn’t right and nearly commits suicide. What’s so good about this version, is that it’s so fascinating seeing what a good, normal version of The Joker could look like. He’s wearing a white suit with white gloves and a black shirt. He also has extremely dark green hair, matched with hauntingly unnatural green eyes. The brief exchange between The Joker and Bruce in Batman #48 is brilliant.
8. BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
It was tempting to put this version at the top of the list simply because it is so recognizable. Bruce Timm is credited with helming the early animated DC Universe. His work on Superman, Justice League and Batman is second to none on television. Voiced by Mark Hamill, the animated Joker had some incredible storylines.
He even featured in the Batman/Superman movie, teaming up with Lex Luthor to bring down the pair of heroes. He dresses solely in a purple and green outfit. He doesn’t have the red smile, but he does have a very creepy expression on his face constantly and he sometimes also wears the iconic brim hat that we’ve seen in other versions of the character. We often see this version with Harley Quinn, since this is where she was initially created rather than the comics.
7. DEATH OF THE FAMILY
When the New 52 rebooted the DC Universe, the new version of The Joker was shown as a twisted serial killer. And when he met with the Dollmaker, he persuaded him to cut his face off, and left it pinned to a wall. He returned after an absence with the face stretched over his facial muscles with it strapped around his head. It’s one of the most disturbing takes on the character.
And during “Death of the Family” we see him dressed as a mechanic menacing the entire Bat-Family and tricking them into thinking he’d cut their faces off too. This certainly brought a whole new twisted dimension to the character, and made him even more terrifying than he already was. Who said comics were for children?
6. THE ’60S TV SHOW
Obviously, we have to include the first live-action Joker on our list. Played by Cesar Romero during the ’60s Batman series starring Adam West, this initial jester was more focused on city wide pranks and schemes rather than his serial killer modern retelling.
He was also obsessed with discovering Batman’s identity. Dressed in a purple suit and green shirt, he sported a light green hairstyle alongside the facial makeup. He even had countless gadgets, truly making him the perfect opposite to Adam West’s Batman. Romero brought the iconic villain to the screen and even starred in the ’66 Batman film alongside the Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman. His performance no doubt inspired countless takes on the character going forward — evolving him further than what audiences had seen before.
5. THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS
Not much is known about this creepy version of The Joker but from the looks of him, this might be one of those things that bumps in the night. Making his upcoming debut during the recent “Metal” event, we’re not quite sure if this is an alternate version of The Joker in a scary Batman outfit, or an alternate version of Bruce Wayne as The Joker in a scary Batman outfit. Either way, we’re sufficiently chilled to the bone by his mere appearance.
Dressed in something Pinhead from Hellraiser would sport, this Batman-Joker hybrid comes complete with spikes over his eyes and a group of pet Robins on a leash. With “Metal” consisting of Batmen that are born from Bruce Wayne’s greatest fears, we can see why this version of The Joker as Batman would be one of the scariest things to be floating around Bruce’s already fractured psyche.
4. THE KILLING JOKE
This controversial comic book gave us a truly pivotal moment for the Joker. Whilst he had committed some awful crimes before this, Alan Moore took it to a completely new level when he had the Clown Prince of Crime shoot Barbara Gordon and take photos of her naked.
There’s the hint that he also sexually abused the hero, but it’s never been confirmed. He does all this whilst wearing shorts, a wide brim purple hat and a flowery Hawaiian shirt. It’s a sinister look, since he’s dressed in an almost funny way — but the acts he goes through with are certainly heinous. An animated version of the storyline was released recently, and that scene is equally disturbing. Maybe we’ll see Leto take this on during The Batman film from Matt Reeves.
3. THE DARK KNIGHT
This is the modern performance that pushed the Joker into the stratosphere of popularity. He was already the most iconic villain from DC comics (and arguably the world) but Heath Ledger’s near terrifying performance of the Clown Prince of Crime is legendary. With a long purple coat, green waistcoat and purple shirt, messy make up and greasy green hair — he inspired a million Halloween outfits and cosplays across the world.
But the best thing about this version of the villain was that he fit in perfectly with the world Christopher Nolan had created. He didn’t feel out of place, but a natural progression of villainy in the world of the Christian Bale Batman. Contrary to popular belief, Ledger’s performance didn’t actually lead to his tragic death in 2008.
2. BATMAN (1989)
The second live-action version of The Joker saw a slightly altered origin story for this criminal clown. After the comedic performance from Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson’s Joker felt like a brilliant evolution for the arch-nemesis. Dressed in a wide brim hat, orange shirt and checked trousers — his performance was villainously entertaining.
And with his facial muscles pushed into a forced smile, it was a great way of bringing the Joker to the big screen. Nicholson’s Joker was changed slightly, and had the villain responsible for the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne when Bruce was just a boy. It brought the two characters closer than they’ve ever been, and connects them in a very deadly way. Jack Nicholson brought us one of the most iconic versions of The Joker out of comics, film or television.
1. FIRST APPEARANCE
It’s the moment that brought one of the most iconic villains to life back in 1940, as The Joker was brought to life by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson. He debuted in Batman #1 and has fought against the Caped Crusader until the present day where he’s a key part of the “Metal” event. However, he was nearly killed in the first issue, but luckily one of the editors decided he had potential and brought him back before printing.
Frail and creepy, he’s dressed in a purple jacket, white shirt and sports the white makeup with the iconic green hair. It’s the look that started it all. And whilst the original Batman comics started out quite tame and harmless — The Joker murdered a total of four people in his debut. It sets the stage for the rest of his character’s history as a ruthless killer.
Are there any other Joker looks you wish made the list? Let us know in the comments!
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