In the history of DC Comics, and comics in general, few villains can be compared to the sick, twisted and vile Joker. He’s as reprehensible as they come, evidenced by what he did to Batgirl when he assaulted her, and most notably, what he did to Jason Todd as Robin. He tortured the youngster and beat him with a crowbar, in alliance with his mother, and then killed him via a bomb. That’s how messed up he gets. However, outside of main comic continuity, he turns it up a notch.
There are other iterations out there that make things like Jared Leto’s Joker (who we saw recently in Suicide Squad) look like child’s play, and a lot of them can be found not just in comics, but on the animated front as well. It seems that writers love taking his wicked ways to the next level, so hopefully DC sorts out their current predicament where Rebirth hinted that three of these fiends exist. Batman is unlikely to kill him (or them), so Joker’s likely to stick around the multiverse, leaving bloody prints for quite some time. With that in mind, CBR looks at 15 of the most sadistic alternate versions of the Joker!
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for several DC properties involving the Joker
15. THE PRINCE OF INJUSTICE
Injustice remains one of the most brutal alternate DC universes out there. Fashioned after the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game, we’ve even gotten sequels to both mediums because it tore DC apart in a civil war unlike any other. Joker was the reason for all this and he wasn’t about just ripping the city or country apart, he wanted to rip the fabric of the world.
He used Kryptonite and Scarecrow’s fear toxin to trick Superman into fighting Doomsday and kill him in outer space. Sadly, it was actually Lois, who was pregnant with the Kryptonian’s baby. An incensed Superman then killed Joker while he was being interrogated by Batman. Superman then took Wonder Woman, Flash and Green Lantern to form a dictatorship to police Earth while Batman mounted a resistance. A lot of blood was spilled and bonds were broken that to this day remain irreparable.
14. THAT MARTHAF–KING JOKER
In the Flashpoint event, fans were treated to a deranged and broken Joker in the shape of Martha Wayne. In Batman: Knight of Vengeance, this alternate timeline saw Bruce Wayne killed in the alley and his father Thomas becoming a murderous Batman. Martha, however, went insane and became the Joker.
To show how twisted she was, Brian Azzarello (writer) and Eduardo Risso (artist) had her kidnap Harvey Dent’s kids, trick Jim Gordon into shooting one, and eventually slitting Jim’s throat — all to toy with her husband. Batman eventually confronted her and told her of the universe where Bruce survived and became Batman, but this caused her to flee and fall into the Wayne caves, dying. This was a relatable yet scary Joker, which could ironically appear in the DCEU with The Flash movie now being retitled as Flashpoint.
13. JOKER BEYOND
Mark Hamill took what Jack Nicholson did with the Joker and redefined it for Batman: The Animated Series. This cartoon remains one of the most popular in history and along with Kevin Conroy as Batman, it set a standard that the comics and live-action movies strive for. In the Batman Beyond universe, Bruce passed the Batman mantle to Terry McGinnis but just when you thought the gang called the Jokerz were the only remnants of Joker’s chaos, he shocked us all.
In the Return of the Joker animated film, we saw Joker torture Tim Dake (as Robin) into revealing the secrets of the Bat-family. Tim broke free and killed Joker but the joke was on Bruce and Terry when Joker returned decades later, revealed to be Tim with microchip technology that made him the clown’s clone. It was a haunting experience and one they all barely survived.
12. THE JOKER WITHIN
Batman: Two Faces is an Elseworlds from 1998 by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with art by Anthony Williams and Tom Palmer. It’s a very cerebral tale based on the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde lore from Robert Louis Stevenson. In it, Bruce experiments on himself to cure Two-Face of his dual personality but in doing so, he becomes the Batman. However, at the same time, Bruce starts cleaning up crime, another superhuman in the Joker emerges.
Batman enlists Catwoman and Jim Gordon to trap the killer but the Joker turns out to be Bruce’s other personality as a result of his chemical tests. He ends up killing himself in order to stop his Joker personality, spurring Dent to take the cure he found and fight crime. It’s an inspiring story but what made it resonate is how Bruce tried but couldn’t escape his inner darkness.
11. TRAINING DAY JOKER
In 2008, Azzarello (writer) and Lee Bermejo (artist) did a Training Day-esque graphic novel called Joker which dealt with his henchman, Jonny Frost. Joker was released from prison and embarked on a turf war with Harvey Dent. The clown killed a bunch of thugs, set places on fire and even ended the lives of his own crew just for fun. Things came to a head when he exacted revenge on Frost by rescuing and raping his wife.
This story was mostly dedicated to the fractured psyche of Joker and didn’t focus much on Batman. It was highly unnerving and on looking back, fans connect Heath Ledger’s Joker to it a lot. This Joker was a straight-up gangster, and Bermejo ironically revisited him three years later in Batman: Noel, showing he was just as demonic around Christmas.
10. THE LEXY JOKER
Superman: Speeding Bullets is a DC Comics Elseworlds story from 1993 that fused the mythos of Batman and Superman. Written by J.M. DeMatteis and drawn by Eduardo Barreto, it focused on the Waynes finding Kal-El and raising him as their son, Bruce, only for him to survive the mugging that killed them and turn into a vengeful, superpowered Batman. Lex Luthor in this story took on the role of the tyrant called Joker.
Lex was scarred in a chemical accident and harbored a lot of hate for Bruce after a failed corporate takeover. He eventually kidnapped Lois and set mercenaries loose on the city in order to distract Batman, but the Dark Knight eventually put him away and saved the city. Bruce turned a new leaf over as Superman but Lex’s stint as Joker reminded everyone that money was no cure for insanity.
9. THE ARKHAM VIDEO GAME PSYCHO
The Arkham video game series from Rocksteady Studios remains one of the most renowned due to how cinematic the story was, matching the brilliant gameplay. Joker was voiced by the likes of Mark Hamill and Troy Baker in a plot that, over the course of a few games, tried to embed the madness of Arkham’s inmates into Gotham. Joker kidnapped the likes of Catwoman and Talia al Ghul to break the Batman, but it wasn’t just about mental games.
He also used Titan (an upgrade of Bane’s Venom), which eventually started to kill him. He infected innocents in a hospital in order to goad Batman to find a cure, and so Batman did but in the midst of battle, it was lost and the Joker died. He eventually haunted Batman through hallucinations to the very end, reminding him that he was failing his city.
8. THE VAMPIRE LEADER
Batman: Bloodstorm was a 1994 Elseworlds from Doug Moench (writer) and Kelley Jones (artist), following up from Batman & Dracula: Red Rain where Batman defeated Dracula. However, Batman was bitten and now as a vampire, he had to contend with a new level of madness from the Joker who was using the rest of Dracula’s vampires to rain blood down on Gotham.
The loss of Catwoman due to Joker’s scheming further tore Batman apart and Joker’s endgame prevailed where Batman, in a fit of rage, sank his teeth into the clown and drained him dry. He staked Joker so he wouldn’t return but Joker won as he made sure his blood would taint Batman forever. This madness drove the Dark Knight to a more violent side, turning his anger on his enemies like never before. It was a long-term plan that destroyed Batman from within.
7. JUDGE JOKER
Batman and Judge Dredd crossed over in 1998’s Die Laughing from Alan Grant, John Wagner and artist Jim Murray. It focused on Joker being transported to Mega-City where he attained power from Judge Death, and wreaked havoc along with all the other Dark Judges. Batman had to find a way to stop him by aligning with Judge Dredd as Joker ran rampant with his newfound power and no restrictions.
Joker lapped up his immortality and went around slaughtering people with a laugh that could blow heads up, truly delivering a killer punch line. What made him so maniacal was that he gave the heroes quite a chase and simply got fed up of what he was doing. He felt that he could distribute chaos in a better manner than this. Talk about being a narcissist!
6. EMPEROR JOKER
Emperor Joker was an arc that ran across various Superman titles in 2000 under the eyes of creatives like Jeph Loeb, Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness. It focused on a world where Mr. Mxyzptlk wanted to give Joker 1% of his reality-altering powers for kicks and giggles, only to be tricked into giving him 99%. The clown then began a reign of pure havoc.
Superman was the main protagonist and found a dark, mirror-universe where the Justice League heroes were now criminals, and villains like Bizarro and Poison Ivy were seen as crime-fighters. Joker ran riot as he kept resurrecting and killing Batman, he devoured China and even messed with a mutated Jimmy Olsen. He exhausted Superman mentally, who had to rely on Mxyzptlk to undo the madness they found themselves in. It was Joker playing God in the worst way!
5. THE SINESTROKER
Batman: In Darkest Knight is a 1994 one-shot Elseworlds story written by Mike W. Barr and drawn by Jerry Bingham. It revolved around Bruce becoming the Green Lantern instead of Hal Jordan. Abin Sur passed his ring down to him and Bruce channeled his parents’ death to fight crime, eventually deposing Sinestro (who was abusing his power) at the Guardians’ behest.
Sinestro eventually claimed a yellow (fear-powered) ring on Qward and returned with a vendetta against Bruce. He absorbed the mind of Joe Chill, who killed the Waynes, and grew a split personality, turning into a Joker-esque maniac. Their rivalry ran deep as Sinestro killed Jim Gordon in the process and converted Harvey Dent and Selina Kyle into his disciples. Things boiled over when the Guardians restrained Bruce for his brashness, allowing Sinestro to kill Alfred. This enraged Bruce even more and he left Earth to hunt the madman.
4. THE SABREJOKER
Amalgam Comics merged characters from DC and Marvel Comics in their stories and 1996’s Legends of the Dark Claw #1 saw Larry Hama, Jim Balent and Ray McCarthy take a stab at combining Batman and Wolverine into Logan Wayne aka the Dark Claw. He lost his parents and entered the Weapon X program, only to be discarded with The Hyena (Creed H. Quinn) seen as the desired killing machine.
Hyena was a psycho and a composite of Joker and Sabretooth, ready to torture Dark Claw for eternity. His craziest stunt involved poisoning Air Force One with sodium cyanide in order to assassinate the US President. The villain exhibited every ounce of lunacy that Joker usually offers but this time, he was enhanced like a super-soldier, which gave us really enticing fight scenes between the two.
3. THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS MANIAC
In 1986, Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley gave us a very disturbed Clown Prince of Crime in The Dark Knight Returns. This Elseworlds focused on an older and cynical Bruce Wayne in a Gotham that was beaten to the ground. Bruce was a loner and faced off against Joker, who emerged from a catatonic state, and killed a studio audience in an interview.
It was all a big trap as he also kidnapped Selina Kyle, abused her and dressed her up as Wonder Woman to taunt the Dark Knight who was now officially out of retirement. When Batman faced him, it was a bloody brawl that resulted in Joker snapping his own spine to frame the hero. This was televised and the government sent Superman after the Caped Crusader in a finale that would inspire Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
2. HEATH LEDGER’S KING OF CRIME
Christopher Nolan wanted The Dark Knight’s Joker to be epitome of chaos in Gotham and Heath Ledger’s take truly represented a “better class” of criminal. He had no background, no limits and zero respect for the cops, the mob and Batman. Of course, that changed later on when he made it clear to the Dark Knight that they were eternal dance partners.
The way he set up riddles, bombs, pit citizens against criminals, went after whistleblowers, tricked the police and then turned Harvey Dent from Gotham’s golden-boy into Two Face deserves major commendations. The icing on the cake was how he also killed Rachel Dawes and left Batman mentally scarred. No one had answers for him — not Lucius Fox, Alfred or even Jim Gordon. Ledger’s version of Joker pushed Batman to the edge and raised the villainous bar before the actor tragically died.
1. ALAN MOORE’S KILLING JOKER
This version of Joker was so sadistic that writer Alan Moore even toyed with Batman going over the edge and killing him. In Moore’s The Killing Joke story in 1988 (drawn by Brian Bolland), Joker took things way too far when he ambushed Barbara Gordon in an attack that left her paralyzed. He shot her and Moore insinuated sexual assault as well, which left her in a wheelchair to retire as Batgirl and pick up the Oracle mantle.
He also kidnapped, drugged and tortured her father to further aggravate Batman, which led to a dark confrontation. Moore went into his origins earlier as the Red Hood who fell into a chemical vat to emerge as the Joker, but all sympathy we had for him and his familial troubles went out the window in the book’s finale. It was open-ended and hinted that Batman either strangled him or snapped his neck.
Let us know in the comments which alternate version of Joker you think is the most sadistic!
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