Laughing his way onto the pages of Batman #1, Gotham City’s resident killer clown kingpin has been a staple of the DC Comics mythos.
We’ve braved the madness with a determination to put a smile on your face with a bumper 30 wacky Joker facts that you may not have known about Gotham’s clown prince of crime…
1. The Joker’s Origins are Unclear
Although the exact genesis of The Joker has never been given, the most commonly accepted origin comes from Alan Moore’s semi-canon, The Killing Joke. A criminal mastermind “The Red Hood” encountered the Batman at an ACE Chemicals facility and either fell or dove into a mixture to escape. Apparently, the chemicals bleached his skin and drove him insane. That differs slightly to the origin story explored in Joker, which insinuates the clown had been crazy from the get-go.
2. The Joker Actors Took on Method Acting
It’s Hollywood legend that in order to get into the role, Heath Ledger holed himself in a hotel for a month, constantly wore the makeup, and supposedly got advice from Jack Nicholson. It’s almost become a tradition as Jared Leto tried the same approach, like mailing dead rats to Suicide Squad’s cast. Warner Bros. hired a therapist while filming, presumably to ensure no one actually went insane. In the case of Joaquin Phoenix, the actor apparently went on an extreme diet and lost 52 pounds. You’ve got to love this behind-the-scenes trivia, right?
3. The Joker’s Real Name might be Jack…or Arthur
Officially, there’s no clue as to what his real name is or who he used to be. But one name does come up again and again: Jack Napier. First coined as an alias for The Joker in the 1989 Batman blockbuster, this name has cropped up several times with its most recent use being in the Elseworlds series, Batman: White Knight. The most recent Joker movie dubbed the clown as “Arthur Fleck”, although this is the first we’ve heard of it.
4. Mark Hamill also Played The Joker
The Joker has been played by many actors: Jack Nicholson, Cesar Romero, Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix. But none are quite as prolific with it as Mark Hamill, AKA Luke Skywalker, who has been one of the main voices for The Joker since taking the reins in 1992 for Batman: The Animated Series.
5. His Smile was Inspired by a Silent Movie
Where did The Joker get his smile? While that’s a debatable subject, what we do know is that the legendary Joker smile was likely inspired by the performance of Conrad Veidt in the 1928 silent film, The Man Who Laughs. Creepy, and compared with his original look, it’s pretty uncanny. But that’s as far as it goes; the character the story is about was mutilated to always grin but is otherwise a nice man. Maybe there’s some inspiration for Joker venom in there.
6. The Joker was Meant to be Written Off
Here’s some Joker trivia that you certainly didn’t see coming! The Joker wasn’t originally meant to be a permanent fixture after his introduction in the 40’s. In fact, the DC villain was initially planned as a one-shot character who would die earlier on. Mr. J was so popular however that he escaped death and has been going strong ever since. Not that death seems to be a hindrance when you’re a comic book character, mind you.
7. His First Sidekick was Gaggy the Clown
The Joker’s first sidekick, way back in the 1940’s was a small tightrope walker named Gagsworth A. Gagsworthy, AKA, Gaggy the Clown. He was a twisted Robin-to-the-Joker in more ways than one, as the reason the baddie took notice of him was due to Gagsworth’s frustration at having his act replaced by The Flying Graysons. He’s come back from time to time, and it’s not been good for Harley.
There might have been a slight reference to Gaggy the Clown in Joker. check out our list of awesome Easter Eggs from the movie!
8. He’s Immune to Fear Toxin and Other Drugs
It’s never clear if it was due to falling in a vat of unknown chemicals or due to how absolutely bonkers he is, but The Joker boasts a number of chemical immunities. Scarecrow’s fear toxin (which collapses most victims into panicking wrecks) does zip, Red Skull’s dust of death had no effect and when he injected himself with Titan in the Arkham series, he had all its benefits and none of its drawbacks because he was already deranged.
9. The Joker once Saved America
It sounds crazy but there are times when The Joker actually has standards. One of the most famous was the 1997 crossover Batman & Captain America where he teamed up with Red Skull. That was until near the end when The Joker discovered Skull was a WWII Nazi and switched sides, taking on Skull in a fight. The guy may be a criminal lunatic but at least he’s an “American criminal lunatic”. Right?
10. Ryan Gosling almost Played Him
Jared Leto has not been the most well-received of depictions for the Clown Prince of Crime. But he wasn’t Warner Bros’ first choice either. Rumor has it, Ryan Gosling was the studio’s first choice but he didn’t like the possibility of a multi-movie contract. We can’t quite say how that would have gone but before his own attempt, Heath Ledger wasn’t exactly pegged as making sense for an unstable maniac either.
11. Heath Ledger was Nolan’s First Choice
A movie fact that’s hard to believe, but during casting, no one really thought Heath Ledger was a good fit for playing The Joker. He was a pretty-boy heartthrob for the ladies for most of his career, after all. Christopher Nolan on the other hand wasn’t convinced of this. Not only did he have Ledger first on his list for the role, but after some convincing, Ledger took it up. How often do you bag your first choice leading villain?
12. The Joker isn’t Insane, he’s Super-Sane
A proposal by Grant Morrison in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth suggests the wild notion that The Joker isn’t actually unstable, in fact he might be the exact opposite. The idea put forward is a kind of next-level psychopathy where The Joker is so hyper-aware that he no longer cares for anything. We’re sort of inclined to agree since more general insanity tends to make complex planning extremely difficult. He’s far too cunning to be completely detached from reality, wouldn’t you say?
13. He’s Actually Obsessed with Batman
It’s not exactly news that The Joker’s opinions of the Batman go beyond an obsessive rivalry. He has a passionate hatred for Dick Grayson, “the Boy Blunder” on the basis that he preferred the days when it was just him and the Bat. Beyond that, The Joker would often talk to or about the Bat like they were long-time lovers or a couple. It’s impossible to tell if he’s joking or not though.
14. A Ledger Scene was Completely Improvised
This Joker fact will make you love Heath Ledger even more. Remember the famous Dark Knight scene where The Joker walked out of an exploding Gotham General to blow it up? His later reaction fiddling with the detonator and jumping when the last explosives went off wasn’t planned. It was rumored to be a pyrotechnics malfunction on set. Whatever it was, Ledger was in such character that both this and the delay came off very Joker-esque.
15. He’s the Dark Mirror of Batman
How exactly do you keep an antagonist going for eighty years? The most common solution is to have The Joker as a dark mirror of Batman – order against chaos, reservation against instability, repetition against unpredictability, hard-rules against killing, against wanton homicide. Over eighty years, The Joker has been designed to be everything Batman is not.
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16. He Wasn’t Always a Killer Clown
The Comics Code Authority was pretty strict on what it could and could not show. No surprise that the most unstable murderer in comics had to play by these rules during the 50’s until the 70’s. Best displayed with Cesar Romero’s depiction in the 1960’s Batman TV series, the killer clown spent his Comics Code years stealing fine-art and conning people with gag-gadgets instead.
17. The Joker Once had his Own Comic
This Batman baddie was so popular that in 1975, DC tried to give him his own comic series. Understandably called The Joker, this short-lived nine-issue series put him up against regulars like Lex Luthor and Catwoman alongside his usual Batman adventures. It didn’t last and this might have been due to how each story ended with him back in prison, thanks to the Comics Code Authority.
18. The Joker may know Batman is Bruce Wayne
Over the years, you’ve got to wonder. How is the Clown Prince of Crime so darn good at targeting people Batman knows? Coincidence? Accident? How was he able to know cutting off Alfred’s hand that one time would have Batman come after him? It’s quite possible that The Joker knows who Batman really is, but unlike other criminals, he mostly uses this knowledge to keep the fun going.
19. The Character was Inspired by a Joker Playing Card
It’s become fairly conclusive that The Joker is Jack Napier, a former supervillain and guinea-pig for an unconventional method of chemical application. But it’s a lot more mysterious as to just how the character first came about. The popular myth is that DC Comics’ artist, Jerry Robinson was inspired by a joker playing card in his apartment. There’s no confirming story, but honestly, it’s hard to imagine anyone not coming up with a killer clown with a disturbed sense of humor.
20. He’s Been Killed by Nightwing
Let’s cut it short, The Joker has died several times. But to be killed by a member of the Bat-Family is one of those rare shock-moments. He’s gotten under the skin of Dick Grayson AKA Nightwing more than any other member of the Bat-Clan besides the Bat himself. Dick famously delivered a brutal beatdown of the villain in Joker: Last Laugh, but the Clown Prince eventually recovered because of course, he couldn’t stay dead for long.
21. There’s been Three Jokers
The big question Batman asked when he had access to the Mobius Chair was “Who is The Joker’s true identity?” Instead of saying “Jack Napier” like we all imagined, it told him there were three of them. We don’t know much more than that beyond our theories – could this be referring to The Jokers from The Killing Joke, his first appearance in the 40’s, and his look during the 60’s? Or The Joker during the Golden (Jack Nicholson), Silver (Caesar Romero) and Bronze (Heath Ledger) ages?
22. He Once Cut Off his Own Face
You’d think disturbed serial killers detached from reality would cut off other peoples’ faces. The Joker however, decided to go one better in 2011’s Detective Comics #1 where at some point he cut off his own face, reappearing with the decaying remains pinned to his head with a belt and fish-hooks. Even veteran readers of the Clown Prince who are used to his worst antics were freaked out!
23. Jack Nicholson got the Role Thanks to a Newspaper
The story goes that Tim Burton first got inspired to cast Jack Nicholson as The Joker when one of his producers drew the villain’s signature smile over the face of a photo of Jack in a newspaper. This funny story is rather ironic, as Jack in The Shining also went crazy and became well-known for sporting a rather sinister grin.
24. The Joker Once got Beaten by Superman
Here’s a fun fact about The Joker not many fans are aware of. Indeed, Batman isn’t the only DC character to despise the killer clown. In the Injustice: Gods Among Us comic series, The Joker tricks Superman into believing he’s killed Lois Lane. Supes wasted no time in battling the prankster and ended up punching a hole right through his chest – something we wish we could see in a movie!
25. Tommy Wiseau almost got the Role
Hot off the success of The Disaster Artist, cult actor, Tommy Wiseau was approached for the role of The Joker but turned it down on the claim that he believed he had “too much emotion” for the character. Hard to believe, but it might have been a good thing, as in the end, his role went to Joaquin Phoenix. Mistah J turning up with Wiseau’s mannerisms and poor acting skills might not have made the best impression.
26. The Joker killed Lex Luthor
To be more exact, Alexander Luthor Junior from another universe. The Joker was a bit miffed that he didn’t get an invite into the Secret Society of Super Villains while Alex was impersonating Prime Lex. So when he and Lex found Alex under a bridge, The Joker doused Alex’s face with acid, zapped him with a joy-buzzer, then blew his head off via a shotgun, while the real Lex watched the show.
27. He has a Love/Hate Relationship with Harley Quinn
Looking from the outside, The Joker’s relationship with Harley Quinn is… complicated. One day, he’s exchanging kisses, the next he’s beating her senseless. Next week, he leaves her in an alley somewhere, the day after that, the two are cruising Gotham bay in a motorboat. Through thick and thin though, The Joker can never truly bring himself to permanently leave her.
28. He Once had a Moment of Sanity
The Joker has, on occasion, been brought back to sanity. There’s a rather spectacular moment in 1997’s vol. 3 issue #51 of The Spectre where Corrigan, realizing that The Joker is completely insane and thus unable to be judged, uses his great power to make The Joker sane. The evil prankster was so overwhelmed at all the harm that he caused, he went mad again.
29. He’s been a God
The Joker has spent a brief amount of time as an all-powerful being. After stealing the power of Mr. Mxyzptlk for himself, The Joker reshapes reality in the famed Emperor Joker storyline. Here, he tortures and kills Batman each day and the surface of the Earth looks like The Joker’s face. He lost control when Superman teased him to kill Batman permanently; something he could not fathom doing given his obsession with the Bat.
30. The Joker Once Killed Bruce’s Parents
Normally, The Joker is either the same age or younger than Bruce. So, what we saw in Joker is usually not the case. In the most recent DC movie, the clown played a major role in the lead-up to the Waynes’ deaths. This was also the case in some continuities, such as Tim Burton’s films or certain Elseworlds stories, where he is also made older, making it possible for him to be involved in the death of the Waynes. This was probably done to further explore that yin-yang pairing of theirs.
That’s our list of interesting facts about The Joker, but we bet there’s more. Are there any funny trivia about the Clown Prince you think deserve to be listed? Let us know, but otherwise enjoy the show.
Want more from the DC Comics world? We’ve also got a list of Batman facts that Dark Knight nerds deserve to know!
Article features the image “Ryan Gosling Cannes” by Raffi Asdourian is licensed under CC BY 2.0