The Joker has got to be one of the most popular characters in the DC universe out there. Batman’s biggest enemy takes no chances on his foes preparedness and is one of the most daunting villains ‘The Bat’ has ever faced.
The legendary super villain has certain characteristic features that distinguish him from the standard generic super villain type : besides his sinister laugh and wacky color choice of an outfit, the Joker has a marked presence with his Green hair, a white pale face and dark red lips with the red extending way beyond the corners.
And in every Batman movie you would have seen post Christopher Nolan ones, there is a different origin story the Joker has.
The Early Days
In the first ever Batman movie that was released in 1966, this is what the Joker, played by Cesar Romero looked like. This version of the Joker didn’t even have green hair. One thing we can tell you for certain is that the Joker certainly has green hair, a point which will be explained soon.
In the 1966 Batman movie there was no origin story of the villain. The plot revolved around an organization all the super villains in Batman had created in order to bring the Bat and his sidekick Robin down. The next movie that came out in 1992 didn’t have the Joker as the super villain and was mostly focused around Catwoman and The Penguin. The Penguin is definitely the most disturbing Bat villain there is, having been raised by a bunch of penguins after he was thrown into the sewers by his parents as a result of his violent tendencies.
The next few Bat movies, Batman Forever (1995) , Batman and Robin (1997) and the Christopher Nolan Batman Begins (2005) did not feature any appearance of the Joker. The Joker finally came back to the big screen in The Dark Knight which came out in 2008. This movie was a masterpiece and the character of the Joker was played by the legendary Heath Ledger (who passed away a little while later). The origin story of this Joker was the one most people were exposed to. A psychotic criminal mastermind whose own henchmen are fearful of him came to this form as a result of the society around him. His hair wasn’t very green, his lips were red due to scars and for some reason he powdered his face with white.
In The Dark Knight, the Joker talks about an abusive father who gave him the scars through a blade and also about how his wife was attacked by loan sharks who ruined her face by carving the famous Glasgow smile into it. The Joker and his wife discovered they did not have enough money for plastic surgery so he took a blade and carved the smile onto his own face.
Even though people may love the depiction of the Joker made by Heath Ledger and would think that the origin story made sense (in terms of its parallel with real world issues), the actual origin story is a bit different. Nolan was inspired by the actual origin story before he decided to make The Dark Knight but left it for the audience to figure out. So after Nolan’s legendary work, the Joker appeared in another form in the Suicide Squad. Fans cringed at this rendition of the villain and the super villain was coaxed to absorb the bubble gum pop culture get up in order to become more appealing to the larger female audience who would rather look at a pretty boy version of the villain than the absolute psycho that was portrayed earlier.
This version had no real horror story to backup his usage of colors on his face. The scars were replaced with red lipstick and the hair was dyed green. The new Joker became a ‘clubbin gangsta’. This is certainly not how the comic book writers brought this character to life. So what was the actual story behind him?
The Real Deal
The Joker first emerged into the world as ‘The Red Hood’. The Red Hood did not have the red lips, green hair or a white pale face. The first Red Hood wore a big giant bucket like helmet on his head which enabled him to breathe underwater. The Red Hood was a criminal mastermind who intended to steal a large amount of money and run off with it in classic 50s style super villainy. But his plan went south when the Bat took down his squad and cornered him on a ledge. There was only one escape from the Bat then, which was to jump into a vat of chemical at the bottom.
The Red Hood was able to dodge the Bat and swim his way to safety all thanks to the breathing apparatus built into his helmet. However, there was damage that was done and this was that his hair became Green, his lips became red and his face became white. In order to avenge the Bat who he considered at blame for his disfigured appearance the Red Hood adopted the identity of the Joker forever becoming Batman’s mortal enemy.
In another re-imagining of his past, the comic ‘The Killing Joke’ portrays him as a chemical engineer who has a dream of becoming a comedian. His endeavors fail and he is left at the mercy of a bunch of criminals whom he agrees to lead into the chemical factory where he works in return for some payment. The story goes the same way then, Batman corners him and confronts him and he jumps into the vat of chemical at the bottom which leaves his face disfigured and his mind forever altered.
There are many other origin stories but this one is more or less the one from which all others stem. Later on, the identity of the Red Hood is adopted by Jason Todd or the second Robin who was murdered by our very own Joker.