The Clown Prince of Crime, Mr. J, the Pale Man, or whatever you want to call him – there’s no denying that the Joker is one of the most iconic comic book creations of all time. Introduced all the way back in 1940’s Batman #1, the Joker has some 83 years of comic book capers to his name.
It’s safe to say DC has put Joker through the wringer almost as much as Batman, and while the Caped Crusader often takes the limelight, Mr. J has had some wild comic book arcs. From devouring whole populations to becoming an immortal demon, stealing babies to raising a gorilla, Joker has (nearly) done it all. And now he went and got a bun in the oven – that’s right, the Joker got pregnant and gave “birth” – so let’s look back at the 11 craziest things DC has done with Joker.
The latest in a long line of wacky Joker stories sees him “with child.” Matthew Rosenberg and Francesco Francavilla’s back-up story in Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing has him falling afoul of Zatanna during a complicated plot to steal Gotham’s water supply.
Following Joker’s romantic advances on Zatanna, she casts one of her signature spells in issue #4 and turns the tables. Waking up in a Wonder Woman bed, Joker is apparently nine months pregnant. When seen by the villainous Doctor Phosphorus, Joker vomits up a Clayface-like substance which then morphs into his likeness. It’s a… Joker!
A clearly proud Joker welcomes his son with open arms, but remember, this isn’t the first time Joker has had some daddy issues. Still, away from Harley’s Batman: White Knight twins or the convoluted Duela Dent storyline, this has got to be the most out-there parenting plot yet.
Cutting Off His Own Face
One of the most iconic Joker storylines involves him purposefully having his face sliced off and then stapled back on. The villain has always had a harrowing look, but seeing his half-attached visage has become synonymous with 2012’s Death of the Family arc.
In Tony S. Daniel and Ryan Winn’s Detective Comics #1 from 2011, Joker has himself imprisoned in Arkham Asylum to cross paths with Dollmaker. When there, he asks for his own face to be cut off to prove that even under his “mask” he’s more of a madman than ever. Joker is MIA for a whole year, steals back his refrigerated face from the GCPD, then pins it back on for a coup de grâce in Death of the Family.
Assembling for a twisted dinner party, Joker uses his toxin to convince the Bat-Family he’s also removed their faces and served them for supper. The story of Joker going full Face-Off is so iconic that there are even theories it was adapted for Barry Keoghan’s version of the character in The Batman.
Vote For Me – or I’ll Kill You!
The front cover of 2005’s Batman: Dark Detective #1 sees Joker parody Uncle Sam in his bid to run for Governor. Joker goes head-to-head with Senator Evan Gregory, who is the love interest of Bruce’s old flame, Silver St. Cloud.
All of this means Batman is torn on who to get behind. Discussing the iconic “Vote for me. Or I’ll kill you!” slogan, writer Steve Englehart told CBR, “If an actor can become governor, why can’t a super criminal?” As only Joker can, he even offers Batman a position on his political staff.
Joker kidnaps Silver in an attempt to get Gregory to drop out, and then there’s your standard showdown in Joker’s booby trap-filled mansion. Joker obviously doesn’t end up as Governor, but it has you thinking about who you’d vote for with a threat of violence hanging over you. It’s not just the comics where Joker ran for office, as posters around Rocksteady’s Arkham games also confirm he runs for President.
If there’s one person Batman can always trust, it’s his long-suffering butler and BFF, Alfred Pennyworth. That wasn’t always the case, and in one of the biggest twists to grace the pages of DC, Bruce Wayne’s caring mentor was revealed as the Joker… for a short period.
The idea behind Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert, and Scott Williams’ Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Was that it would represent the idea of the last Batman comic ever. The 2009 story features Batman’s friends gathering for his funeral, although the Caped Crusader watches from the sidelines.
When Alfred is given the mic, he delivers the jaw-dropping reveal that he created Joker to give Batman purpose, while hiring his acting buddies to play other characters like the Riddler. Putting on white paint and red lipstick, Alfred/Joker terrorising Gotham was a way to give Batman an “opposite” and keep him busy to retain his sanity.
We know Joker has an appetite for chaos, but in 2000’s Superman: Emperor Joker, he had a more literal appetite – eating the entire population of China. As the arc’s name suggests, our standard Joker becomes the character known as Emperor Joker when he tricks Mister Mxyzptlk into giving him 99.99% of the imp’s reality-warping power.
Turning the universe on its head where Superman’s allies are villains and the villains are heroes, Joker takes on his new Emperor form and gobbles 1.4 billion residents of China from a takeaway box with a pair of chopsticks. There’s a chilling shot of Emperor Joker sitting on a pile of meat-stripped skulls.
Emperor Joker’s maniacal ways don’t end there, and if eating all of China wasn’t enough, he also turns Superman into a dog, has Jimmy Olsen beaten to death with rubber chickens, and traps Batman in a perpetual loop of torture.
Making Joker Fish… for Profit
Joker’s plots aren’t all about trying to attach members of the Bat-Family to exploding birthday cakes or becoming an Iranian Diplomat. Sometimes, he wants to make a quick buck. Enter the legend of The Laughing Fish.
Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers’ 1978 story is one of Joker’s most hair-brained schemes. It involves Joker contaminating the fish of Gotham Harbour and giving them all his same pale face and crazy grin. This isn’t to create a race of murderous fish or poison Batman, but instead, to make money from copyright. (Though Mr. J is told he can’t trademark animals, so kills an employee of the Copyright Commission.)
These days, the story is remembered for the Batman: The Animated Series episode, titled “The Laughing Fish.” This one was a kid-friendly version that skipped out on the mindless torture.
Raising a Gorilla
While the many Joker origin stories are typically tragic, some have a warming edge. And this is never more true than in the poignant tale of Jackanapes from 2013’s Batman #23.1: The Joker. Despite Joker knocking out a gorilla’s mother and kidnapping him to raise as the son he never had, Joker’s relationship with Jackanapes soon grows.
The story hits home on several levels, with Joker recalling his abusive childhood with Aunt Eunice. In addition to bragging about having murdered his uncle with a Colombian necktie, Aunt Eunice also scrubs young Joker’s skin with bleach and takes away his beloved monkey puppet.
In the present, Jackanapes becomes disillusioned by Joker’s increasingly dangerous schemes and accepts his fate – dying when falling from a plane instead of being the clown’s plaything. A sadistic Joker cracks a joke about it and says he can simply go and get another gorilla from the zoo.
Being an Immortal Demon
Joker dies a lot, but in classic comic book style these deaths never stick. But his many deaths and ease at resurrection have a decidedly darker edge if you want to believe Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman: Endgame. Is the Joker really an immortal demon connected to the League of Shadows?
This story basically makes Joker into his own version of Vandal Savage or Ra’s al Ghul; he’s supposedly an immortal demon known as the Pale Man. He found the secret ingredient of the Lazarus Pit long ago and has used it for centuries to haunt Gotham time and again.
With Joker appearing in old photos and history books, Endgame takes a leaf out of The Shining. Although the story seemingly feeds into the acclaimed Three Jokers arc, we never get answers on whether the Pale Man is real or just another fabricated story from the Clown Prince of Crime.
Punched Through the Chest By Superman
NetherRealm’s Injustice: Gods Among Us is more than just a Mortal Kombat-esque fighting game, as it also led to the Injustice prequel comic series. The idea of an alternate reality ruled by a rage-driven Superman is a license to print money.
The Year One story has Joker steal a nuclear submarine and place a kidnapped Lois Lane onboard. He uses Scarecrow’s fear toxin to control Superman, who pummels Doomsday to death. There are several twists and turns, with Superman finally realizing it’s actually a pregnant Lois he’s killed.
Lois’ heart is synced to a nuclear warhead, and when it stops, the bomb wipes out Metropolis. Having lost his family, an enraged Superman punches Joker through the chest. Which leads to the rise of this Evil Superman… decimating a whole reality is much bigger than Joker’s average plan.
Creating the Batman Who Laughs
Joker is never afraid to sacrifice himself for the greater evil, and if you thought creating the Injustice world was one thing, that’s nothing compared to Earth-22 of the Dark Multiverse. The Batman Who Laughs is an instantly recognizable creation of modern DC, which is all thanks to the Joker.
Joker manages to get this version of Bruce Wayne to break his no-kill rule by dissolving Jim Gordon in a vat of acid, firebombing Gotham, and killing the parents of Jokerized kids in Crime Ally. In killing Joker, Batman releases a deadly toxin lurking in the villain’s heart.
Days later, the nano-toxin starts Jokerizing Bruce, who quickly becomes the Twisted Metal version of Batman and murders the Bat-Family. Ravaging this reality with his Rabid Robins, the Batman Who Laughs takes out the Justice League and leads their counterpart Dark Knights – a feat Joker could never do on his own.
Throwing a Baby
Proving that there’s nothing the Joker won’t do, kidnapping babies isn’t below his moral standing. Toward the end of 2000’s epic No Man’s Land crossover, Detective Comics #741 features Joker at his very worst.
Stealing the city’s babies and locking them in the basement of the GCPD is just the start of the madness, as we get a tearful farewell to Jim Gordon’s wife. Sarah Essen and Jim had a long history that goes back to their affair in 1987, and although they managed to survive No Man’s Land, these star-crossed lovers are doomed by the Joker.
Essen is the unlucky detective who finds Joker’s baby dungeon, and when she pulls a gun on him, he throws a baby at her. Essen catches the innocent tot, but Joker shoots her in the head. We then get the horrifying image of babies crawling over her blood-soaked corpse.
Yikes. What other crazy stuff has DC done with the Joker? Let’s discuss in the comments!