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The Best Joker Stories for New Fans (And Where to Find Them)

One of the most  iconic supervillains in all of popular fiction is the Joker, Gotham City's Clown Prince of Crime who's Batman's most personal and enduring villain. With his terrifying laugh and permanent rictus grin, the character has been a prominently recurring antagonist for decades ever since his debut across both the comic book history of the Dark Knight and the superhero franchise's numerous media adaptations.

With the Joker receiving his own eponymous film later this year and continuing to play a major role in the DC Universe and DC Comics' Black Label imprint, here is a selection of the some of the best comic book stories to star the laughing villain, perfectly suited for new readers and longtime fans alike.

RELATED: Director John Carpenter Teams with DC for Joker: Year of the Villain Comic

The Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years

Joker Neal Adams

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First created in 1940's Batman #1 by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson, the Joker was first introduced as a clown-themed serial killer targeting prominent Gotham socialites before his eventual defeat by the Dark Knight. After being repositioned as a more family-friendly, campy villain, the character returned to his homicidal roots and has been a recurring threat to the entire DC Universe.

Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years collects some of the most prominent comic book appearances of the Joker, from his debut nearly 80 years ago to other classic stories including "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge," by Denny O'Neill and Neal Adams, and "The Laughing Fish," by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers and more modern tales. These are some of the best Batman stories of all time and feature the Clown Prince at his most deranged.

Joker: Death of the Family

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One of the things that had kept Batman and his allies largely safe from the Joker over the years was their unity and their respective safe havens, which them a respite from his relentless attacks for the fate of Gotham. However, early in the New 52 era, the best-selling team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo pulled out all the stops for Batman and his growing family's conflict against the Joker.

RELATED: DC Black Label Announces Joker: Killer Smile by Lemire & Sorrentino

Batman: Death of the Family saw the Joker come at Batman and everyone close to him like never before and more terrifying than ever. After a year since having his face cut off and disappearing to plan, the Joker strikes every aspect of Batman and his allies' lives, leaving nowhere safe as they scramble to stay one step ahead in the most personal fight of their superhero careers.

Batman: The Killing Joke

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One of the best-selling Batman stories of all time is also one of the DC flagship character's most controversial. In Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's Batman: The Killing Joke, one of Moore's final tales for DC, the Joker resurfaced and targeted Commissioner Gordon and his daughter Barbara, who is secretly Batman's close ally Batgirl, in order to prove a point against the Dark Knight while reflecting on his own possible criminal origins.

The inspiration of an animated feature of the same name, the story has gained notoriety for its particularly heinous treatment of Barbara Gordon over the course of the story to the point where Moore has distanced himself from the original graphic novel's more unsavory elements. However, it remains a pivotal, though decidedly adult story for the Batman mythos and highly influential for the DCU ever since.

Joker

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As a precursor to the Black Label imprint, the award-winning creative team of Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo reunited after previously crafting an acclaimed Lex Luthor graphic novel, this time telling an out-of-continuity story focusing on the Joker in an eponymous original graphic novel.

RELATED: The Joker Movie Doesn't Follow the Comics - And That's a Good Thing

Joker follows a low-life career criminal named Johnny Frost who finds himself working for the Joker and Harley Quinn after the Clown Prince of Crime's release from Arkham Asylum. Free from the usual constraints of working within the main DCU, Joker features much more mature, darker subject matter than most DC Comics stories starring the characters, providing a new perspective on the longtime villain as he makes his way back to the top of the Gotham City criminal underworld.

Batman: The Man Who Laughs

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While The Killing Joke had provided a possible origin story for the Joker's fiendish transformation, the superstar creative team of Ed Brubaker and Dough Mahnke teamed up to tell the first ever confrontation between the new villain and the Dark Knight in their first battle for Gotham.

Taking inspiration from both Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli's Batman: Year One and the Joker's earliest comic book appearances, Batman: The Man Who Laughs is an original graphic novel detailing the still nascent Batman facing the Joker as the villain targets several prominent Gotham socialites... including Bruce Wayne.

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