With Scott Snyder getting the Joker back into the pages of Batman with this months Batman #37- it was obviously his plan at the end of #36 but you didn’t see him, I felt it was time to look at the best of his appearances and tales from over the years. I’m not going to sugar coat this, but the Joker is easily one of my favourite villains of all time and seeing him return or appear makes anything a complete must read. So here are the top tales, in no particular order
The Man Who Laughs
This is one of the best tellings of ‘Jokers Origin’ of which there is still no true definitive where did he come from- other than the widely accepted Red Hood falling into the vats of chemicals at the Ace Chemical plant. However this story by Ed Brubaker shows just how warped he was by the fall, and how this then allowed for him to make his mark and name within Gotham.
The tale shows the brutal way in which he first marks his name across the front of Gotham and gets the attention of the Dark Knight. It holds nothing back on the brutality and the imagery that is shown and seen, and really does give us a really good glimpse of the modern joker that we have all come to love and be slightly scared of and creeped out by.
A Death in the Family
Is there any better tale, or more iconic tale for the Joker than this. This is the tale that should have pushed the Dark Knight over the edge and forced him to eliminate the Clown Prince of Crime- but once again he refused to break and do what the Joker has always tried to get him to do- and that’s kill the Joker.
In this tale the Joker is trying to steal a nuclear weapon to middle eastern terrorists where his path crosses with Jason Todd (the first Robin) and things don’t work out for the boy wonder, who ends up captured, tortured and brutally beaten to death with a crowbar by the Joker all in an attempt to truly push the Dark Knight over the edge of sanity.
This tale showcases the Joker at his manic and crazed best, while all the time showing how much the Dark Knight truly means to him in an odd way.
The Killing Joke
This is another iconic modern tale featuring the Joker, and features some of the most brutal scenes you will see from him and potentially (if you believe the rumours) does lead the Batman to the darkest decision he has ever made.
During the course of this tale the Joker, decides its time to once again torture the Batman and try to end their long running game. But to do so he turns up at Barbara Gordons house and shoots her in the spine leaving her crippled- however that’s not enough for the Joker as it transpires he has taken photos of her in compromising situations while she was in agony. He displays these to the Batman and a captured Jim Gordon (who is naked and dog collared) who both react with the level of anger and hate towards Joker that is understandable. However Joker is first saved by the arrival of Gotham police from what appears would have been his end at the hands of Batman- yet the final encounter between the two seems to suggest that Batman truly did end the Joker right at the last minute- but whether he did or not is still open to interpretation.
This is one of the best looking books to see the Joker, and by best looking I mean the most distinctive and scary of books to see him. The look that has been given to the Joker by Dave McKean is so distinctive and unique that the book is worth reading for the visuals alone.
The story is very unique as Joker forces Batman into a game of hide and seek, giving him one hour to escape Arkham before his adversaries are sent to hunt him down. However, unbeknownst to Batman, the Joker shortens the time from one hour after being pressured by the other inmates. Batman subsequently encounters Clayface, Mad Hatter, and Maxie Zeus, among other villains. The Joker is leading this game along with the now crazed warden of Arkham- yet the Jokers most vital moment comes at the end when Batman breaks down the doors and frees all the inmates. Joker offers to finally put Batman out of his misery, and involves Two-Faces coin to make the decision- however Two Face decides Batman should go free and the Joker tells Batman if he ever has enough of the asylum (outside world) he is always welcome where he belongs at Arkham. This is a true moment where you see that Joker’s insanity may not be true insanity and more a choice.
I really loved the Batman: The Animated Series, and to this day still do which is one of the reasons that this book makes the list. This book is set in the continuity of the series, however it is also the story that gives us the real heartbreaking reasons and logic behind one of the most tragic and weird love stories of all time between Harley Quinn and the Joker.
Seeing Dr Harley Quinzel fall from her heights as doctor to the sidekick and love interest of comics most deranged lunatic is heartbreaking and enjoyable all at the same time as you know that she truly does believe that the Joker loves her and thinks she’s special just as much as she does for him. This is the Joker at his most manipulative, and its a manipulation that has lasted forever.