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Why The Joker Was Redesigned for Batman: The Animated Series

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Why The Joker Was Redesigned for Batman: The Animated Series

Welcome to a special edition of Adventure(s) Time, a tribute to the animated superheroes of yesteryear.  This week, I thought I’d address a question left by Kenzo Pang in the Comments section.

I would like to ask why Joker have his eyeball back in Batman beyond return of the joker?
Did wb knew they make a mistake in new batman adventure?

What Kenzo is referring to is the 1997 redesign of the Joker from the New Batman Adventures series (also known as Season 4 of Batman: The Animated Series.)  Every character received a makeover, some more drastic than others.  So the Joker we were introduced to in 1992…

…had only the faintest resemblance to the 1997 model of Joker.

Okay…Why Do This?

Why was the series revamped?  As producer Bruce Timm has explained, he’d continue to refine his style over the years, introducing a more streamlined look in 1996’s Superman: The Animated Series.  When Batman returned to the air, paired with Superman, it only made sense to alter the designs and ensure a cohesive look for the world.  (It’s also worth remembering Glen Murakami participated in the new looks.  His style leans to the more abstract, as well.)

And many of those new designs are beautiful.  Sure, a vocal segment of fans loved the original looks and didn’t care for the new designs, but that’s the nature of fandom.  No change is going to be universally embraced.

The new Joker, however, left even the more open-minded of fans cold.  And, as revealed in the audio commentary of Superman: The Animated Series Volume 2 DVD, at least one prominent producer within the series had issues with the Joker’s new look.  (Check out the commentary for “World’s Finest” Part One.)

Here’s an image from this three-part Batman crossover, featuring Joker and Harley.

Kenzo Pang was referring to the Joker’s inhuman eyes, although it’s the new Joker’s lack of lips that caused at some concern behind the scenes.  (It’s worth noting that this is all discussed with good humor in the commentary.)  Timm’s reasoning was to simplify in an effort to reduce the number of colors in the design.  Hence, no red lips. Years later, with at least some resistance to the Joker’s new look still lingering, the producers had another crack at presenting the Clown Prince of Crime in 2000’s Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.

Hide the Kids!

An extended flashback sequence presents the final confrontation between Batman and the Joker, one so brutal Warner Brothers had second thoughts about the entire movie.  (Released later was an unedited PG-13 version.)  What’s important is the debut of post-New Adventures Joker design.

 

Dang, that is a PG-13 image.  Anyway, the yellow had returned to th Clown Prince of Crime’s design (although far more subtle than it originally was), in addition to the more human eyes.  And, hey, his lips were back, too!

Many fans view this as the superior Joker design, and apparently the animators did as well. It’s the one Timm and company stuck with in the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series, after all. It’s a personal favorite of mine — eyes and lips! And that black boomerang the Joker glued to the top of his head was gone.

So did Bruce Timm realize he’d made a “mistake?” Perhaps that’s not the word he would use, but he acknowledges that he rethought the design, and almost everyone seemed happy with the Joker’s final look.

Thanks, Kenzo Pang! That’s all for now. If you have any issues related to the animated DC Universe, just leave a comment or contact me on Twitter.

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