Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? Well, of course there is. But what if the thing in question is a beloved character who has seen stellar highs and painful lows in motion pictures? Well, in that case... the jury is out, but we may soon find out. With the announcement that actor Jared Leto will don his leather pants and garish tattoos once again in a Joker solo movie on top of the myriad other solo Joker films in various stages of production, we have to ask, how many Joker films is too many?
Some might say any number of them is simply too many, and with good reason. The Joker has been a character who has plagued Gotham City with tirades of crime for almost a century. With iconic performances by Heath Ledger and Mark Hamill as particular standouts, good ol’ Mr. J has been portrayed over the decades by some of the greatest actors (and voice actors) in both live action and animated incarnations. To think Warner Bros. is willing to hang up the spurs on the character in upcoming properties is a ridiculous notion, but at what point will is his exposure become too much for fans?
If this project is yet another character origin story, it might be the breaking point. Fans have seen various versions of how the Clown Prince of Crime came to be. Whether he was a gangster who had personal ties to the Wayne family, or a mysterious anarchist with a penchant for creating elaborate power plays in criminal organizations for no other reason than he enjoys it, the origin of The Joker has always been, and always should be, multiple choice.
The Joker might be comics’ greatest unreliable narrator. Even in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s legendary graphic novel The Killing Joke, one of the first stories to take a deep dive into the background of The Joker, the origin that plays out on the page is just one possible reality to how Batman’s greatest enemy became the psychotic clown we all know (and love?) today.
Comics are constantly retconning and scrapping bits and pieces of superhero lore to update the characters for modern audiences. Timelines fold in on one another, and reboots are a dime a dozen, but one of the most persistent things about The Joker is that his origin is ultimately a mystery. It’s this mystique the character exudes that makes him so captivating. While just about every other member of Batman’s Rogues Gallery has a definitive background steeped in tragedy, betrayal and personal vendettas, The Joker stands out because his reasoning for doing what he does can merely be inferred, at best.