Batman and Joker have been long-time nemeses since they first met back in the debut comic issue, Batman #1, in 1940. Joker was supposed to be a one-time run on the pages of DC comics, but he was too big of a hit to cut, and is still around to plague Batman and friends to this day. That’s over seven decades of fighting, feuding, battling, and dueling -- and laughing! Seventy-plus years is, as Barbara Gordon points out in The Lego Batman Movie, “a very, very, very long time.” DC fans can’t get enough of this rivalry, though, and we don’t care what the non-believers say!
Time and again we have seen Bruce Wayne don his cloak and cowl and best the Joker, and we gobble it up like hyenas on a steak snack. One would assume there is nothing Joker can do that Batman can’t. If we play "Joker’s Advocate" for a moment, however, it becomes rather apparent that there are things Joker is capable of that the Batman is not -- or, more accurately, things that Batman chooses not to do. What things might these be? We are so glad you asked! Here are a few of our favorite things Joker can do that Bats can’t!
15 DELIVER THE BEST PUNCHLINES
Joker is funny, plain and simple. He is as charming as he can be psychopathic and incredibly dangerous. Batman may very well have a sense of humor, but we rarely get to see it (outside of a Joss Whedon redux). We could probably count on one hand the number of times Bats has cracked a joke, or even laughed. The only time he really did, in Killing Joke, may have just been to get the Joker to drop his guard so that he could kill him. Either way, Joker is not bound by Batman's stoicism, and as such is the Clown Prince of not just Crime, but one-liners and funny stories.
They may be super dark, but Joker's antics still make us laugh, which is one of the reasons we cannot help but love this crazed killer clown. One of our favorites is from Batman: Assault on Arkham, when Joker greets security merrily with “Is that room service? Tell them I never got my calzone!”
14 HAVE STYLE
The style of Bruce Wayne cannot be denied -- especially when we get to see him have a "Tuxedo Dress Up Party" in The Lego Batman Movie! Bruce is really only flashy because he takes on the role of playboy billionaire when he isn’t fighting crime. In reality, Bruce is pretty low key and simple when it comes to style. Especially as Batman, Bruce Wayne’s spartan taste becomes readily apparent -- “Does it come in black?”
The Joker is a bit obsessed with style, which can surprise some people who haven’t seen many interpretations beyond Heath Ledger’s. That man was brilliant (may he RIP), and while we are in no way knocking Heath here, his Mistah J is perhaps not quite as fashion conscious as other interpretations. It might be in his own flamboyant, colorful way -- but if Joker and Batman had a style war, Joker would win, hands down!
13 EMBRACE HIS INSANITY
Bats has to be out of his mind to be Bats, but he maintains as much sanity as possible through it. The true spirit of a warrior is well balanced between the vicious and serene. But Joker recognizes and even embraces the twisted aspects of himself -- which in a way makes him more free and uninhibited than Batman. Again, this is not a trait to write home to Mom about, but it can be argued that this is what allows Joker to bethe unstoppable force he has become.
The Wild Card, the player of all parts and roles, lost in his madness at all times, Joke attempts to drive this point home in story lines like The Killing Joke, but inevitably he is shown that “going loony as a light bulb battered bug” may set a person free in some ways, but inherently traps them in others. Back to Arkham with you, Joker!
12 INSPIRE OBSESSION
There are multiple characters who work with or assist Batman in some way, and it is true that he does inspire many people. However, even he does not have the same influential (or is that manipulative) draw as the Joker. Mistah J has an ability to recruit very efficiently, in spite of -- or maybe because of -- his maniacal tendencies.
He may give them the short end of the pool cue in the long run, but Joker sure is good at getting teams together to enact his crazy schemes. Some of those in servitude to the Joker take it to almost a cult-like level of loyalty and obsession -- like Harley Quinn. Or, in a more recently in Rebirth, there was the old patient of Harley’s, Edwin, who underwent complete reconstructive surgery to look just like Joker. Now that’s obsessive!
11 LIVE WITHOUT MONEY
Joker does try to make money, and has even shown a love for it at times -- such as in The Complete Animated Series episodes “Joker’s Millions” and “The Laughing Fish.” However, more often than not, Joke has very few resources at his disposal and tends to have a total disregard for money or material things -- as was so beautifully displayed on-screen by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.
Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, has loads of cash, to the point it is often joked about -- like in the live-action Justice League -- “What’s your superpower?” “I’m rich.” Okay, that's not the best writing, but you get the point. Batman would be severely hindered without his vast resources -- although we are sure he could still handle his own if he really needed to. But could he do what the Joker does? We aren’t so certain of that.
10 KILL (WITH GUNS)
Batman most definitely can kill, and has, although since Detective Comics #33, Bats has been shown as a hero who prefers not to. In most cases since, Bats despises the use of guns. When he does use a firearm, it is usually to shoot a bomb to preemptively blow it up -- or if shooting at people, Batman chooses to use rubber bullets.
We see both these examples in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, where Batman even curses himself for being a poor shot when trying to disarm some C4. Joker, on the other hand, couldn’t be more different from Batman in this regard. It has been estimated that J has killed over 800 people -- with the intro to The Killing Joke putting the death count at closer to a few thousand!
9 TAKE OVER ARKHAM
Numerous times Joker has managed to do what few others have been able to accomplish -- gain control over The Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane. No one else in the DCU has successfully taken over Arkham. Sure, the wardens technically count -- but no one gets Arkham Asylum under control like the Joker.
Perhaps it’s his charisma, his irresistible smile, ability to gain people’s trust and build teams (this all sounds like a resume bio) that makes Joker so good at taking over Arkham. Maybe it’s the fact that he is the craziest of the bunch that J is capable of ruling Arkham pretty much whenever he feels like it. Whatever the driving factors, Batman certainly has no better luck at running Arkham than the wardens do.
8 NOT CARE
This isn’t necessarily a trait to brag about (not that any on this list really are) but Joker certainly has a leg up on Batman by being absolutely total in his lack of empathy for others. If you don’t have anything or anyone to lose, it potentially makes you a much more fearful foe.
James A. Baldwin -- one of the most insightful American writers of the 20th century -- summed it up best when he said, “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.” Batman cares so much for others that it could be viewed as a weakness to be exploited. Other than a few minor instances, however, Joker is largely unfettered by any concern for the wellbeing of others. And that makes him very dangerous.
7 HAVE A GOOD LAUGH
Joker uses his laughter as a defense mechanism -- he laughs in the face of authority, in the face of love, in the face of pain, in the face of death itself. Countless times, Joker has “died” and laughed along the way to the very merry end. One of the most notable of these is Joker’s “demise” in Batman: Assault on Arkham -- a movie we will continue to rave about until all DC fans have seen it.
Strapped into a helicopter by Deadshot’s sharp aim, Joker assesses his situation and decides it’s something to laugh about. In true Gotham fashion, the helicopter crashes down from the skyscraper it smashed into, and Joker goes down laughing hysterically until it explodes on the ground stories below. Batman is capable of laughing, but rarely does -- and when he does, it’s actually kinda creepy.
6 BE CREATIVE WITH HIS WEAPONS
Bats is incredibly versatile and creative with his tactics and skill -- but he has Batarangs, the Batmobile, his Bats suits -- all this tech and wealth to back him. Bruce is dangerous without his Bat-gear for sure, but not quite like the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime does have gimmicks of his own up his sleeves -- like his many toxins, guns and bombs.
But all Joker really needs to inflict damage are his hands, or a drinking glass, or a crowbar, or pool cue, or even a pencil -- anything near Joker can be used as a weapon, and it makes him ridiculously dangerous. Two of our favorite examples include the Dave Endocrine coffee mug incident from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, and the glass of water in Under the Red Hood -- so metal you can taste it!
5 SING A GOOD TUNE
Many times throughout the DCU, we’ve seen Joker rock out to a song and dance number. Some of our favorite examples include his performances in The Original Animated episode Christmas with the Joker, the film adaptation of The Killing Joke, and the video games Arkham Knight and Arkham City. The lyrics and themes may be more twisted than one of Poison Ivy’s vines, but it cannot be denied that Joker most certainly knows how to entertain.
Batman very well could sing and dance -- for all we know Bruce Wayne has a golden voice, but he chooses not to. The Dark Knight doesn’t participate in such folly -- unless we’re talking old school Adam West Batman, or Lego Batman. Bats throws down some good tracks in the Lego Movie.
4 TRULY SCARE VILLAINS
Batman prides himself on being able to strike fear into the hearts of criminals -- which is partly why he takes on the image of a giant, angry bat to fight crime as a vigilante. Bruce even makes his voice deeper, not just to mask his own, but to make the Batman persona seem all the more intimidating. In addition to interrogation tactics that make even the toughest cookie crumble, Batman makes for a very scary foe.
All that aside, it is pretty clear that Joker is the vastly more terrifying of the two -- mostly due to his unpredictable, extremely violent nature -- which is displayed in exquisite detail in graphic novels like Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth. As was so eloquently stated by a mobster to Batman in The Killing Joke -- “We may be scared of you. But we’re terrified of him.”
3 MAINTAIN HIS ANONYMITY
Something deeply fascinating about the Joker is that his true identity remains unknown -- and he doesn’t wear a mask or any other disguise. It could be argued that J’s use of heavy make-up, in addition to his chemically altered skin and hair, are a disguise in themselves. Regardless, not a single soul in the DCU knows who the Joker is beyond the Joker persona.
Like a modern day Jack the Ripper, Joker’s identity is a source of confusion. Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, has been identified as the Batman by people he has allowed to know -- such as Jim Gordon -- and others who figured it out on their own, like Doctor Hugo Strange. Joker has no need to lead a double life like Batman does -- Joker is Joker all the time.
2 BE UNPREDICTABLE
Despite all their years of interacting with each other, even Batman still doesn’t understand Joker. What are his motives? What drives him? As soon as you think you’ve got him figured out, Joker pulls a Wild Card move -- iconic of his character’s archetype -- and we’re thrown for a loop. Joker is so unpredictable that he was able to trick even Mister Mxyzptlk into giving him 99.9% of his 5th dimensional powers -- as we see on the pages of Emperor Joker.
The only thing about Joker that is predictable is his unpredictability. We cannot even be sure of Joker’s sexuality -- he appears to be pansexual and asexual simultaneously. One moment J is sitting on Batman’s lap or allowing Harley to snuggle up on him -- the next he is throwing her out the window. Mad love, indeed.
1 KEEP A LONG-TERM SIDEKICK
We know that Mistah J is a big reason why Bats loses his sidekicks in the first place -- who could forget the horrific reckonings of Robin, Batgirl, and the rest of the Bat-family? Harley Quinn may have come into the DCU relatively late compared to Batman and Joker -- and even then her induction was only via The Complete Animated Series, and not the pages of the comics -- but she has become just as lasting a presence.
Mean as it is, the Joker in us cannot help but point this fact out! Batman and Joker are both loners, but Joker has been able to at least maintain a solid relationship with the same sidekick for longer than a few years. Joker even often seeks out sidekicks and members for his gang, while Batman steadfastly prefers to work alone... though rarely ends up actually working alone.