Since his first appearance in 1940’s Batman #1, The Joker has been a formidable force in comics. He is ruthless, he is cunning, and he is utterly devoted to sowing chaos and mayhem. There’s a long trail of dead bodies left in The Joker’s wake, products of his warped sense of humor which see life as disposable and existence as one great joke. If there is one belief The Joker holds, it’s that no one is far away from insanity, and it doesn’t take much of a push to get there. Fortunately, Batman and the other heroes The Joker has battled over the years are made of sterner stuff, and have proven this idea wrong — no matter how often The Joker has tried.
That’s in the DC Universe. The Marvel Universe would be a whole different playground with numerous potential antagonists for the Clown Prince of Crime. But Marvel’s heroes aren’t pushovers, either. There are any number of them who could resist The Joker’s brand of lunacy and intimidation, because they are formidable themselves, because they have amazing strength of will … or, on the other hand, because they’re just as crazy as he is. Here are 15 Marvel characters The Joker could NEVER drive insane.
When it comes to zany, Deadpool can match The Joker beat for beat. The Merc with a Mouth is fast with a quip and always ready to rumble — and, like The Joker, Deadpool engages the world with an outlook and logic that is uniquely his own and would make sense to no one else.
Wade Wilson — if that’s even his real name — is a creation of the Weapon X program of the Canadian government. The process gave him a healing factor that arrested his terminal cancer, enhanced his physical abilities and gave him a lust for males, females and any being that moves within his field of vision. Deadpool brings violence and mayhem almost everywhere he goes. He also is self-aware enough to freely break the fourth wall. And he’s cray-cray to boot. With all that, The Joker’s brand of crazy wouldn’t work on Deadpool.
14. THE PUNISHER
While most of these are hypothetical matchups, The Joker did meet The Punisher for real, in the 1990 Marvel/DC crossover Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights. The Punisher comes to Gotham on the trail of Jigsaw, and The Joker involves himself in the pursuit. Batman takes note as The Punisher pulverizes his way through Gotham’s underworld, and lets him know he’s not welcome there.
The joke was on The Joker, who found himself on the business end of The Punisher’s automatic pistol. Where The Joker excels at playing mind games on weak-willed individuals, The Punisher is no pushover. He’s a crazed, battle-hardened former Marine with a singular focus: his personal war on crime. To him, it’s no laughing matter, and he’ll kill anybody — in one reality, everybody — to win. Fortunately for The Joker, Batman came along and stopped The Punisher from shooting him full of holes.
13. THE BLACK PANTHER
T’Challa, the Black Panther, has been likened to Batman in many ways. The Panther is supremely intelligent, thinks several moves ahead of his opponents and has endless resources. But The Panther has it over Batman in one key way: He is chieftain over the various tribes of Wakanda, and he is a king, notwithstanding recent developments in the Black Panther title.
The Panther is more than a superhero; he is a head of state, nobly bearing the responsibilities that come with such a station. This gives him the stolid demeanor that makes him unflappable in all circumstances. A wise head of state such as he understands that every utterance and every action has weight, and he doles them out accordingly. Were The Joker to come up against The Black Panther, he’d soon learn that The Panther wouldn’t allow the threat he poses to his nation to stand.
12. THE PURPLE MAN
The Joker has a talent for manipulating people and messing with their minds. But that wouldn’t work on The Purple Man, because he is as depraved as The Joker. A former spy, Zebediah Killgrave was transformed when a mission to infiltrate a chemical refinery and steal experimental nerve gas went wrong. Killgrave was splashed with the gas, which turned his hair and skin purple. He was captured but talked his way out of it, and soon found that people always did his bidding.
Killgrave’s particular power is emitting pheromones that make people suggestible to his verbal commands. Being a totally amoral sort, he’s used it to live a life of luxury, and occasionally to compel women to be concubines, as he did with Jessica Jones for months on end. The Joker’s tricks would only amuse him, though Joker would probably find the whole experience an equal hoot.
Daredevil has handled crazy villains a time or two. One recurring antagonist was The Jester, a failed actor who craves attention. Daredevil’s romps with The Jester were pretty similar to Batman’s fights with The Joker, including a storyline in Daredevil (Volume 1) #134-137 (June-Sept. 1976) in which The Jester plants fake news stories — the Vietnam War was a hoax, both murdered Kennedy brothers are alive and in hiding — to frame Daredevil for shooting four police officers to death at City Hall, which also didn’t happen.
Daredevil has also fought villains such as Madcap and Doctor Doom, who attempt to disorient him. However, Daredevil prevails because they don’t know he’s blind and has a radar sense, which helps him focus and figure out how to beat their traps. Plus, Daredevil has gone off the deep end a time or two. Facing The Joker would be just another Tuesday.
Loki is the trickster god of Asgard, one whose every waking thoughts are how to seize the throne and how to embarrass and defeat his brother Thor. Known as the Prince of Lies, Loki’s been at the business of conniving and scheming for many centuries, although his introduction in comics follows The Joker’s. Loki’s first appearance in Marvel Comics came in Venus #6 (August 1949) and in the modern era in Journey Into Mystery #85 (October 1962).
As crazy and cunning as The Joker is, he is no match for Loki. The trickster god has the power of Asgard at his disposal, skills in black magic and millennia of experience at concocting his various depredations. And determined and demented as he is, The Joker is, after all, a mere mortal.
9. BLACK BOLT
As king of the Inhumans, Black Bolt has borne the heavy responsibilities of the crown when he was barely out of his teens. But his powers that developed from prenatal exposure to the Terrigen Mist — most particularly, a “quasi-sonic scream” strong enough to lay waste to a planet — were dire and uncontrollable.
From infancy to adulthood, Black Bolt has trained to control his power and his emotions, as anger triggers more devastating results when he uses his voice. He wears a costume that dampens and channels his power, giving him greater strength and speed and the ability to fire concussive blasts. He even spends an hour each night meditating to prevent any nocturnal utterances while he’s asleep. Black Bolt couldn’t afford to let the likes of The Joker rattle him, and we don’t think he would.
8. DOCTOR STRANGE
Before Stephen Strange became Master of the Mystic Arts, he was one of the world’s foremost surgeons. Entering the medical field required years of training. Reaching the pinnacle of his profession required dedicated focus, boosted in no small part from his overweening arrogance. Losing his surgical ability in a car crash led him to travel halfway around the world seeking restoration. What he found instead was redemption and enlightenment, as he learned the skills and spells that made him Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme.
Doctor Strange’s adventures in that role have taken him to alternate dimensions and universes, facing demons, mystical beings and gods. The Joker might try to battle him, but Doctor Strange is more than able to focus his mind against The Joker’s manipulations and mind games. If he can stare down multidimensional demons and not snap, some murderous clown is no problem at all.
When it comes to cosmic devastation, few want it as much as Thanos, the mad god of Titan. With enhanced strength, cosmic-level power and unbridled cruelty, Thanos is more than a match for The Joker. Manic as he is, The Joker simply can’t think on the scale of the gods. We saw this in the “Emperor Joker” storyline in the Superman titles in 2000. Given — or, more precisely, stealing — the opportunity to remake reality, The Joker creates a world in which the Justice League is composed of villains led by Bizarro, Superman is framed for Lex Luthor’s murder, and Batman is destroyed every night and recreated the next morning.
Still, that pales next to Thanos’ own machinations. He destroyed his homeworld, killed his parents, conquered numerous planets and slaughtered their inhabitants, trekked around the universe murdering his children, and has a persistent desire to wipe out half the universe as a love offering to Death. Next to Thanos, The Joker is an amateur.
6. THE KINGPIN
Despite all of his bulk and all of his clout in the mainstream and underground economies, The Kingpin modestly, and disingenuously, calls himself “a humble dealer of spices.” Of course, the spice business is a front for his wide-ranging empire of crime, which has tendrils dipping into every business in New York, legit and otherwise. That’s because The Kingpin sees himself as a capitalist serving society, as he declared to the Red Skull in Captain America #378 (October 1990).
As such, The Kingpin would have no patience for The Joker’s brand of mayhem and chaos. The Kingpin is about structure and order — his structure, and his orders. Faced with the likes of The Joker, who isn’t known for being a great hand-too-hand combatant, The Kingpin would give him a royal beatdown and make sure his enterprises are squashed flat.
5. THE RED SKULL
Speaking of The Red Skull, he went up against The Joker in the 1996 Elseworlds adventure Batman & Captain America, written and drawn by John Byrne. Set during World War II, the two title heroes and sidekicks Robin and Bucky team up to thwart a plot to drop an atom bomb on Gotham!
The team-up between The Joker and The Red Skull goes less well, once The Joker learns his shadowy partner is a Nazi, and that he really intends to trigger the bomb. Of course, The Red Skull thinks of The Joker as nothing more than a useful lackey. Declaring his allegiance to America, The Joker fires his Joker Venom at the Skull, who retaliates with his dust of death — and both find they are immune! With his own grin going nowhere and an insanity as deeply-routed as Joker’s, Red Skull wouldn’t break… he wouldn’t even buckle.
Maker began as the Ultimate Marvel version of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. Introduced in Ultimate Fantastic Four #1 (February 2004), this version of Richards is about 20 years younger and even smarter, experimenting with matter teleportation at the age of 11. A sabotaged experiment with Negative Zone energies created the Ultimate Fantastic Four and Ultimate Doctor Doom, but during his tenure as leader of Ultimate Fantastic Four, Richards became unhinged.
He antagonized the superhero team the Ultimates and manipulated S.H.I.E.L.D. for his own ends. As the Maker, Richards moved over to the mainstream Marvel Universe in 2015 after the destruction of his Earth in Secret Wars. This Reed Richards also is a megalomaniac, and is quite thoroughly insane, also operating on a dangerously high — even cosmic — level. The Joker is no match for that combination of intellect, nuttiness and ambition.
Carnage, the symbiote bonded to serial killer Cletus Kasady, has a few things in common with The Joker. Creator Erik Larsen modeled Kasady’s look on The Joker, giving him red hair instead of green and regular skin color. But Carnage is arguably worse. For The Joker, killing is what happens when he spreads chaos or is a byproduct of going after his goals. But for Carnage, his sociopathic lust for death is fueled by nothing more than killing for its own sake.
The Joker and Carnage encountered each other in 1995’s Spider-Man and Batman: Disordered Minds one-shot in which an overly optimistic doctor implants a chip in both of them that was supposed to cure them. But the symbiote burned out his chip and removed The Joker’s. The two team up and then fight, and are pursued by Spider-Man and Batman.
2. THE GREEN GOBLIN
Among Norman Osborn’s defining characteristics are ruthlessness, insanity and the utter willingness to use other people for his own ends. That makes him a great match for The Joker. It also means The Joker can’t beat him because they have too much in common — including unexpected physical transformations induced by untested chemicals.
The formula that made Norman Osborn into the Green Goblin enhanced his physical strength and boosted his intellect. The conversion turned Osborn from an ambitious and unscrupulous business mogul into one of Spider-Man’s foremost enemies and one of the greatest villains in the Marvel Universe. It also made him quite mad. With that madness, Osborn has finagled his way into dissolving S.H.I.E.L.D. and replacing it with H.A.M.M.E.R., and even creating his own version of Avengers, fomenting chaos on a grand scale.
1. SQUIRREL GIRL
How can The Joker possibly defeat Squirrel Girl when she’s beaten the likes of Doctor Doom, the Abomination, Maelstrom, M.O.D.O.K., Fin Fang Foom and even Thanos? Many antagonists have underestimated Squirrel Girl and her unconventional power set: a bushy prehensile tail, claws on her fingers and toes, a knuckle spike, teeth strong enough to chew through wood, and the ability to communicate with squirrels and command them to do her bidding.
But Squirrel Girl’s greatest strength isn’t in the genetic aberration that gave her those abilities. No, what makes her prevail is her sunny, optimistic spirit. That’s something The Joker could never understand, because he simply does not believe in what’s good, as Squirrel Girl does. That positive outlook is something The Joker could never snuff out.
Which other Marvel heroes do you think could stare into the Joker’s madness and not flinch? Let us know in the comments.
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