The Joker Revealed


This week we got our first official look at Jared Leto’s The Joker from David Ayre’s, currently in production Suicide Squad.  Before you get to that though I thought it might be fun to look back at the previous incarnations of the character. This isn’t an exhaustive list, there a rather impressive fan film with a half decent Joker, and somZe stunning cosplay versions I almost included, and I won’t be turn over every animated version either. Just the greatest hits. 

Lets start with… 

Render Unto Caesar… 

In 1966 Batman hit the small screen and brought The Joker into every small child’s living room whilst they ate the dinner. Can you imagine some of the recent Jokers doing that? Caesar Romero played the character in white face paint, colourful suits, spats and boutonnière. You don’t have to look too closely to see that a, he wasn’t taking it seriously (and why would he, it’s kids stuff right?) and b, he wouldn’t shave he ‘stache for the part, choosing instead to hide it beneath the fright mask.



The familiar whoop and raspy cackle would define the character for a generation of Bat-Fans. Bright colours and wonky sets would soon give way to the dark and gritty (can we replace this term with the phrase Milleresque because that what everyone means right?) 2D version in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns’ Joker. 

Miller Time



Two decades changes a great deal, as we see very shortly. Especially when you take a creator like writer/artist Frank Miller and give him free reign over a character’s arc. In The Dark Knight Returns we get to see The Joker through Miller’s eyes, as a dark, deadly, complex murderer, obsessed with Batman. Miller goes one step further than any other writer dare with his Joker, I’ll spare you the spoiler, but you should seek out the book, if you haven’t read it and see just how important it was in shaping what would come next…

Here’s Johnny

One of cinemas most enduring psychotic breaks takes place in The Shining. It’s subject, Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson) can be seen coming part scene by scene, frame by frame. It’s remarkable. So who better to play a homicidal live action version of The Joker than scary Jack Nicholson? Nicholson’s The Joker was an attempt to bring Miller’s Joker to the screen. His diabolical plan, fright mask (with a twist) and green hair were all present, but in place of the violent psychosis was a “naughty uncle” vibe that managed temper the character. One imagines this was designed to appease studio heads who had sponsors and affiliates to worry about. They had to sell action figures and “happy” meals after all. Romero’s cackle and purple suit were present in Nicholsons version, the pout and part of the Miller menace made it through too, but the defining characteristic of Nicholsons portrayal (besides his monster out payday) was the death of the character at the end of the movie. Effectively closing the door on The Joker for this run of movies.



Jack’s is up there with my favourite Joker’s. He could be considered my gateway to the franchise, but perhaps the most beloved actor to portray this character will the heads of the uninitiated when they learn of his involvement…

I Am Your Father

Who would have thought that, when the Jedi finally returned, he would have done so in the form of a Killer Clown? Mark Hamill has surely played The Joker more than any other actor in history, spanning multiple franchises and media. Hamill first enter the voice acting arena as a business man in an animated episode of the Batman TV series. The episode was Heart Of Ice, one of the most respected offerings from that run, but it was also be remembered for bringing Hamill into the fold, and later into the purple suit and boutonnière of everyones favourite killer clown. The Joker.




Mark Hamill has done more to develop the Joker character than anyone else (thus far). Hamill’s cackle can be heard on screens big and small, both narrative tales and video games, but his isn’t the ultimate Joker. At least not for the masses. That honour goes to, perhaps the most complex portrayal of the character, by one of Hollywood’s brightest stars…

Why So Serious? 



In case you’re wondering, this is my Joker. Few characters have reached of the silver screen and genuinely frightened me. Bruce The Shark did that in Jaws (I was a small child!) and in the '90s that trick was pulled off by diminutive actor Joe Pesci when he intimidated the characters, actors, crew and audience alike in the “I amuse you?” scene in Goodfellas. The only other time I’ve truly been disturbed by a character was The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night. 

Nolan teased the coming of the character in the closing moments of Batman Begins. The director has said he wanted to see The Joker through the prism they had created for Begins. Reality. The truth is when you view this character though that lens it become terrifying. Would you want to cross paths with this guy in real life? Part punk, part terrorist, the real threat is the fact that this guys wants nothing but to destroy. You can’t buy him off, you can’t make a deal with him. Ledgers Joker wasn’t motivated by anything you or I can understand. He wanted to “make merry with anarchy” as number one batfan, Kevin Smith put it. 



Heath Ledger was a controversial choice when announced for the role. Known, primarily for teen movie 10 Things I Hate About You and A Kinghts Tale people (presumably those who hadn’t seen Broke Back Mountain) questioned what the young actor had to bring to the part. The answer: everything. The walk, the tilt of the head, the voice (my god that voice!) the way the make-up appeared to be rotting off the guys face! This wasn’t you Daddy’s Joker. Ledger’s Joker was a character that fit into the real world we found ourselves in following the events in New York less than a decade earlier. A complex world playing host to an insidious violence, a world where, those committed to irrational violence could step from the shadows end you without skipping a heartbeat. Ledger’s Joker was perfectly timed and perfectly placed. Ledger built us a character, so layered, so complex it’s hard to imagine anyone succeeding in its wake. Sir Michael Caine once said “I wouldn’t want to follow Jack into anything but a night club!” in reference to Ledger’s taking on a role made famous by Nicholson. The same is true now. Who in their right mind would want to follow Heath..?

Out Of His Mind(?)

When Jared Leto was announced as the new Joker featuring in Suicide Squad my first reaction was “Is he out of his mind?” Who on Earth would want to follow Heath Ledger into such an iconic role?

Someone has to do it though, right? 

It wasn’t so long ago I was hoping Joseph Gordon Levitt was going to be taking on the role in The Dark Knight Rises, but now with a new franchise coming out and The Joker being introduced without Batman, is Jared Leto really going to get a fare crack at the part? Or will he suffer from the comparisons to Heath’s version? 

Then the teases started coming…

The first few tweets surrounding Jared Leto’s Joker were pretty much focused on his hair cut. Heres one of the first tweets…


Soon after the haircut Leto was heard doing an ominous voice in performances with his band, 30 Seconds To Mars. Was this the voice of The Joker, or an artist playing with people’s expectations? My money is on the prior. I remember stories of Heath being locked away fro weeks trying to find the character of The Joker and its during this seclusion that the laugh and the voice were born, and this guy is doing it on stage? Perhaps thats not fair…

Then we got this…


As soon as i saw this image I got it. I totally get what they’re doing with this movie. This is going to be a Joker we haven’t seen before, a psychopath, a violent criminal with a cruelty we haven’t yet witnessed. The image above echoes The Killing Joke cover art. The Killing Joke, Alan Moore’s take on The Joker’s origin, among other things gave us a Joker capable of truly brutal acts, and I believe this image is an indication that the film makers on Suicide Squad are aiming for that tone. A tone that could comfortably accommodate The Batman we seem to be getting in Zack Snyder’s BvS.


And so, on April 25th we got the full reveal of Jared Leto’s The Joker as he will appear in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. 

An extreme take to be sure. Bright green hair, wild eyes, crazy tattoos. This is a Joker we couldn’t have imagined. About as far from Heath’s punk rock anarchist as you could get. Its perhaps a little over the top, but it really depends on what they are aiming for in the movie. It the movie is going to be an over the top, wild ride then this could do nicely. 



This weekend Andy, Steven, Paul and I went to see the Avengers for the Movie Geeks Film Cast and whilst travelling, talk turned to the look of the new Joker. I suggested that this version of the Joker may only serve as a pallet cleanser for the next Joker, whoever that may be. That this version of the Joker can only ever be the one that follows Heath, no matter who had taken the role. Now I’m not so sure. Having taken a look back for the purposes of writing this piece I’ve realised that each Joker is tailored specifically for the movie/TV show/video game he appears in. There is no definitive Joker. Can Jared Leto make this version his own? Is he crazy to take a role like this? Maybe he is?

But maybe crazy is what we need… 

What do you think of the new Joker? Is Jared Leto right fort he role? Is Suicide Squad the best place to introduce a new version of Joker? Let us know in the comments below…