- "Why so serious? "
- ―The Joker [src]
The Joker was a psychotic anarchist mastermind who, portraying himself as an agent of chaos, rose to power in the criminal underworld by thrusting Gotham City into turmoil and drawing Batman ever closer to crossing the fine line between heroism and vigilantism. Described as a "psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy", he is potent in both mental combat and strategic planning, and his physique was defined by his clown makeup and gruesome Glasgow smile to add sick comedy to all his crimes and misdeeds.
He was portrayed by the late Heath Ledger as the main antagonist of The Dark Knight, a role that won him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. In addition, largely due to this incarnation's popularity regarding his very dark nature, several later incarnations of the Joker were depicted in a similarly dark manner.
Origin and Early Life
- "You can't rely on anyone these days. You gotta do everything yourself. Don't we? That's okay. I came prepared. It's a funny world that we live in. Speaking of which, you know how I got these scars?"
- ―The Joker[src]
No one knows who the Joker really is. Little can be confirmed regarding his early life before he turned to a life of crime. Despite his capture, no traces could be found on his fingerprints, dental records, or DNA matches against the GCPD's databases.
The Joker's own testimony, while normally quite true when it came to carrying out threats, seemed at times contradictory, and he was known to give conflicting accounts at times when describing past events in his life, more specifically how he got the scars of his characteristic Glasgow smile. One of his anecdotes told of his supposed extremely abusive and alcoholic father, stating that after attacking his mother with a knife, the blade was next turned on the young man, creating his mutilated smile. The fact that the Joker later referenced his father and his hatred of him to a party guest while crashing Harvey Dent's party implies there is an element of truth to this account. Another story he told was when his gambling wife told him not to worry so much and that he should smile more. This advice went overhead when she allowed her face to be carved by enforcers of loan sharks, and the couple discovered that they didn't have enough money to pay for surgery. In a desperate effort to assure his wife that he did not care about the damage to her appearance, he took a razor to his cheeks to make his Glasgow smile match hers, but the disturbing image instead caused his wife to leave him, damaging his psyche. It is not revealed to what degree these stories hold truth, if any. It is possible that the Joker himself is unaware of his true origins. Some psychological profiles of The Joker, indicate that he is insane to such an extent that he literally reinvents both his own psyche and history on a daily basis. It is therefore possible that, while neither story is true, he genuinely believed them both as he told them.
In a report filed by the GCPD, there were three theories presented for the Joker's origin and identity. The first was that the Joker was institutionalized as a patient at Arkham Asylum who got released when his scars were almost healed or escaped during Ra's al Ghul's and the Scarecrow's reign of fear with all the other patients at the time in an even worse condition (perhaps due to Scarecrow's terrible methods), explaining why most of his thugs were identified as some of the Arkham escapees. However, this theory is debunked on the basis that his identity has no basis within any records. The second theory was that the Joker worked as a disgruntled employee or attraction the Haley Brothers Circus, which was documented to have connections with the mob, explaining the clown makeup he always wears for his persona. The third theory presented was that the Joker served as a soldier or army private until he was sent home suffering from acute PTSD, explaining his cool demeanor and familiarity with weapons, as well as his devastating effectiveness in various forms of combat.
Shortly after the death of Ra's al Ghul, Batman discussed with Lieutenant James Gordon the effect that he had made on Gotham City since his appearance. Gordon then revealed that a criminal with "a taste for theatrics" recently committed a double homicide and an armed robbery, leaving behind a Joker playing card as a "calling-card". Gordon also warned that just as escalation occurs in terms of the police force against crime, so might the scale and style of criminality change in reaction to Batman's appearance.
Some time later, the Joker would orchestrate the theft of a large shipment of ammonium nitrate from the Gotham Docks. The explosive chemical was saved for storage in the Gotham General Hospital and on two passenger ferries some time later.
The Dark Knight
- "I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you...stranger."
- ―Joker to the Bank Manager of Gotham National Bank[src]
Several months later a group of bank robbers, (Grumpy, Happy, Dopey, Chuckles, Bozo and an unidentified bus-driver) under the direction of the Joker, robbed Gotham National Bank which was used as a money-laundering front for Gotham's gangs. The clown mask wearing robbers whittled down their own numbers within minutes in a series of calculated betrayals. Finally only "Bozo" remained, who revealed himself as the Joker to the manager of Gotham National Bank, who had earlier confronted the robbers with a shotgun. In addition, largely because he couldn't resist appearing on-camera, he also deliberately unmasked himself in front of a surveillance camera and posed. The Joker then escaped with the bank's cash in a yellow school bus, concealing his identity by driving within a convoy of other buses, and also leaving the manager at the mercy of a gas grenade stuck in his mouth.
Dealing with the Mob
- "If you're good at something, never do it for free."
- ―The Joker[src]
Shortly following the bank robbery, Italian crime boss Sal Maroni mentioned the Joker's recent theft of Mob owned cash to his fellow crime leaders at a business meeting, dismissing him as a threat and saying that he was a "nobody" wearing a "cheap purple suit and make-up." The Joker, overhearing this comment and the plan presented to the Mob by Chinese mobster, Lau, arrived unannounced at the meeting while faking a laugh, as he saw their "so called plan" as a bad joke. The mobsters were at first unwilling to hear him out, and Gambol, one of the crime lords who seemed to take the most dislike for the Joker, sent one of his men to take him out by force.
The Joker unexpectedly performed a magic trick by making a pencil "disappear," and embedded the pencil in the table, and shoved Gambol's man head-first into the pencil where it indeed disappeared inside the man's head, instantly killing him. The Joker also mentioned that his suit wasn't cheap and that they ought to know this since they bought it, which meant that he used the money he stole at the start of the film to buy his suit. He proposed that it was Batman's interference that had resulted in idealistic leaders like Harvey Dent rising in popularity, and offered his services to kill him for half of all the money that Lau, an illegitimate Chinese accountant, took away from Gotham for safe keeping. He also warned them that Lau would betray them if arrested, claiming to know a squealer when he saw one. While the Bratva mobster, the Chechen, and Maroni were interested, Gambol, angered by the Joker's lack of respect, attempted to attack him, forcing the Joker to reveal his insurance policy: several grenades hidden under his coat, allowing him to make a quick escape.
- "Why so serious?"
- ―The Joker mocking Gambol.[src]
Frustrated, Gambol proceeded to put a bounty on him. The Joker later took revenge that night by having his men come to Gambol, claiming to have killed the Joker. In a bit of unintended tragic irony regarding the fate of his actor, the Joker's 'dead' body is brought inside in a garbage bag before attacking Gambol and proceeding to tell him the origin of his mouth scars as a way of psychological torture and intimidation, then when Gambol is most terrified and shaken, the Joker proceeds to kill him with the knife. Then with the remains of Gambol's men overpowered and at his mercy, he takes a pool stick and breaks it in half, making it spear-like and says that there is only one spot open at the moment to join his "team", then throws the piece of sharp stick at the middle of Gambol's scared men and has his gang, made up mostly of mentally-ill and unstable vicious crooks escaped from Arkham Asylum who seem to have taken the Joker as their leader, to make Gambol's men fight to the death with the stick until only one is left, and advising them to "make it fast".
The Joker's Threat
- "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! We are tonight's entertainment. I've only got one question. Where is Harvey Dent?"
- ―The Joker to the party guests, asking for the whereabouts of Harvey Dent.[src]
Eventually, realizing that Batman had retrieved Lau from Hong Kong and that the police had struck a deal to testify against them, Sal Maroni and the Chechen relented, finally hiring the Joker to kill the Batman. The Joker first kidnapped a Batman impersonator, filmed his murder and hung the body, complete with white make-up and a Joker scars, outside the mayor's office. In the murder tape he sent to the media, the Joker viciously mocks Brian Douglas (Batman impersonator) as well as terrorize him to the point of leaving him absolutely frozen and weeping, as well as taunting his beliefs and his actions. Then when he has finished humiliating and terrifying him, the Joker proceeds to give Gotham an ultimatum. Batman must take off his mask and turn himself to the authorities and every day the Batman refuses to do so, he will murder innocent people day after day. As a result of the Batman not turning himself in, the first major victims were Janet Surillo, the judge presiding over Dent's indictments, and then Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb, the former via car-bomb and the latter via inserting acid into the Commissioner's scotch, respectively.Later, the Joker and his gang stormed a fundraiser at Bruce Wayne's penthouse to kill Harvey Dent. When he was unable to get the guests to inform him of Dent's location, he decided to settle for killing off the guests. He then attempted to threaten an unintimidated guest whom he noted bore a resemblance to his own hated father, to which Rachel Dawes intervenes. The Joker then tells her another chilling story, about where he got his Glasgow smile. This time, the Joker had a wife who thinks he does not smile much. Then his wife got given a Glasgow smile, and to show that he still loves her and does not care about her Glasgow smile, he self-inflicted his Glasgow smile onto himself, to which his wife was disgusted by, and left him. The Joker finishes the story by saying he saw the funny side to the story; he is now always smiling. Dawes knees him in the crotch, but he laughs it off and says that he likes people with a little fight in them. Suddenly, Batman appears, and fights with the Joker. The Joker only managed to escape by throwing Rachel Dawes out a window, who Batman then leapt after and saved. This encounter also led him to initially suspect that Batman's true identity was Harvey Dent.
The killings then continued with two innocents and an attempt on the mayor's life at a memorial for the murdered police commissioner. The Joker appeared in public without makeup, impersonating one of the Honor Guards, as well as having most of his gang impersonate the rest of the Honor Guards. In order to further ensure that the GCPD is kept on its toes, he also placed a sniper rifle on the windowsill of the apartment room, as well as a timer to release the blinds for the GCPD sharpshooters to shoot at anyone hapless enough to be caught in the trap. Afterwards, Joker, still disguised as an Honor Guard, shot his rifle at Mayor Anthony Garcia, Lt. James Gordon was struck in the back after willfully leaping in front of Garcia, in order to fake his death to avoid any future attempt by the Joker of attacking him with his family at home. As a result of this, Batman told Dent to call a press conference so he could reveal his identity and stop the killings. In a surprise move, Dent instead claimed to be the Batman himself and was subsequently arrested.
While being transported the Joker and his gang attacked the caravan of police vehicles, attempting to kill Dent with a machine pistol, a shotgun and even a rocket-propelled grenade. He and his men managed to destroy nearly all the vehicles in the convoy, but when he attempted to destroy the armored car carrying Dent, Batman intercepted his RPG, at the cost of destroying the Batmobile (he was able to detach part of it in the form of the Batpod). Realizing that Dent wasn't Batman, the Joker broke off his pursuit and attempted to ram the Batpod instead; Batman managed to dodge him and then capsize the Joke's eighteen-wheeler using his cable launchers.
Batman then bore down on the Joker (who was goading Batman to kill him by screaming "HIT ME!"), but stopped short of ramming the maniac at the last second, forcing him to crash. The Joker prepared to unmask Batman but Lt. Gordon, newly resurrected from his hoaxed death, stepped behind him and held a shotgun to his head, saying "We got you, you son of a bitch." The Joker was successfully jailed at MCU, and as a direct result, Lt. James Gordon was promoted to Commissioner by the Mayor. He also does a sarcastic clap for the newly-promoted Commissioner.
Assault on Gotham
- "I don't want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no...no you complete me."
- ―The Joker speaking to Batman during the interrogation[src]
With the Joker in custody, Gordon and Batman believed his madness was over, but became alarmed when informed that Harvey Dent had gone missing. Desperate, Gordon let Batman interrogate the Joker for information, but the Joker seemed unshaken by the pain. Instead, he gleefully told Batman his view of people as selfish and violent, only needing a little pressure before descending into madness. He also admitted he could never kill Batman, considering him his only equal. Dent's kidnapping was part of a test, to see if Batman would save him or Rachel, whom the Joker could tell Batman cared for. The Joker willingly told him where both were located; however, the Joker knew that Batman would choose Rachel and tricked Batman into saving Dent instead by giving him Dent's location and telling him that it was Rachel's, and vice versa. After most of the police were gone, the Joker took his guard hostage and escaped by detonating a phone-activated bomb he surgically planted in the stomach of one of his men who was arrested with him, with Lau in tow. After failing to save Rachel Dawes, Gordon had come to the realization that it was a setup and Joker had planned to get caught to obtain Lau.
Dent and Rachel each awoke tied to chairs with barrels of explosive material surrounding them and a speakerphone hooked up to the other's location. Rachel confessed her love for him and agreed to marry him. Dent fell on the floor and his left side was completely immersed in turpentine. Batman arrived but found the D.A. instead of Rachel. He realized that the Joker had lied about Rachel and Dent's whereabouts to further crush Batman's morale. Batman rescued Dent as the building exploded and the District Attorney's face was badly burned, while Gordon was unable to rescue Rachel before the explosion. In the hospital, Dent was driven to madness over the loss of Rachel, and blamed Batman, Gordon and the Joker. This act caused Sal Maroni to tell Gordon the Joker's location, finding him and his craziness "too much" for business.
- "I'm a man of simple tastes: I enjoy dynamite, gunpowder, and gasoline...and you know the thing they have in common? They're cheap [...] All you care about is money. This town deserves a better class of criminal, and I'm gonna give it to 'em. Tell your men they work for me now. This is my city."
- ―The Joker to The Chechen while burning a pile of money[src]
- "I had a vision, of a world without Batman. The Mob tried to ground a little profit and the police tried to shut them down, one block at a time. And it was so... boring. I've had a change of heart. I don’t want Mr. Reese spoiling everything, but why should I have all the fun? Let’s give someone else a chance. If Coleman Reese isn't dead in sixty minutes then I blow up a hospital."
- ―The Joker threatening to blow up Gotham General Hospital.[src]
The Joker then made a call to a news program where Coleman Reese was threatening to go public on the news with information about Batman's identity. He was interrupted by the Joker who stated he had changed his mind, believing Gotham to be too boring without Batman. To "give others the fun" he threatened that if someone didn't kill the employee in sixty minutes he would blow up a hospital. Gordon then abandoned his ambush on the Joker to focus on evacuating all city hospitals.
Contact with Harvey Dent
- "Introduce a little anarchy - upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I'm an agent of chaos. And you know the thing about chaos - it's fair."
- ―The Joker persuading the disfigured Harvey Dent.[src]
During the mass evacuation, the Joker disguised himself as a nurse and entered the hospital room of Harvey Dent. He first apologized to Dent, maintaining that he was not responsible for Rachel’s death as he lacks any idea for the repercussions of his actions, while the restrained Dent attempts in vain to kill him. The Joker introduces the former D.A. to his view of the world that his time in Gotham has introduced him to, that people, or "schemers" as he calls them, are the truest form of evil in the world, as it is them who lay out the plans of society, including when human lives are expendable.
To prove his argument, he points out that if his threats were aimed at 'gangbangers' or 'soldiers', then people wouldn't really care as society trains them to see the death of such people as acceptable. Thus, he turns the disillusioned Dent against society and against the "schemers" who put his and Rachel’s life in danger, namely the corrupt cops who kidnapped them, as well as the "schemers" who viewed Rachel's life to be expendable, namely Batman and Gordon.
Giving Dent a gun, the Joker advised him to break away from the law that failed him and turn to chaos, which the Joker describes as the only truly fair system, as the fate of everyone would be only decided by chance, without the interference of the flawed laws of Man. Dent responded by flipping a coin to decide the Joker's fate, giving him the same chance Rachel had. Soon after Dent left, Joker detonated the Gotham General Hospital, skipping merrily away down the street, before pausing, noticing that most of the explosives haven't gone off, before tapping the detonator again, which explodes the remaining explosives. He and his men then steal one of the nearby evacuation buses and kidnapped the TV reporter and his crew inside.
- "Tonight, you're all going to be a part of a 'social experiment.'"
- ―The Joker[src]
The Joker publicly declared that Gotham would become his by the end of the night. He told people they could leave now, but that anyone leaving by the tunnel or the bridge would discover a "surprise", leading many fleeing citizens to avoid those two routes. As a result, two ferries sailed from the harbor that night, one ship full of ordinary civilians, and one of criminals. However, before their departure, the Joker had arranged for both boats to be loaded with explosives, and provided with the detonator to the bombs on their counterpart's ferry, at which point he hijacked the ferries' PA system to explain the rules of what he referred to as a "social experiment": He, the Joker, would blow up both boats if one didn't choose to destroy the other by midnight, or if anyone tried to escape, killing everyone onboard.
Batman discovered not only the Joker's location at an unfinished skyscraper, but that the majority of his "gang" were actually the people he kidnapped earlier, wearing clown-masks with unloaded guns taped to their hands, and that the people dressed as hostages were the actual criminals. Batman was forced to fight not only the Joker's men but the SWAT teams as well to save the hostages. Eventually, Batman confronts the Joker, initiating a final battle between them (with the Joker using a metal bar and a knife). The Joker manages to get the upper-hand and pins Batman under the scaffolding. He gleefully waited as the ferry's deadline neared, and was visibly disappointed when both groups of passengers refused to kill the other to save themselves. The civilians voted to blow up the other ferry, but could not bring themselves to actually do so, while one of the criminals stepped forward and, taking the detonator, threw it out a window, saying that the cops should have done that from the start. As the deadline passed, Batman asked the Joker if he was trying to prove that everyone was as ugly as him deep down, bluntly informing the Joker that he was alone in his corruption and insanity. Before he could detonate both ferries, Batman knocked the detonator out of his hand with his shooting wrist-blades and threw the man over the edge. The Joker laughs hysterically as he falls to his death, but Batman, refusing to kill him, instead caught him with his grapple gun and left him hanging for the police to capture.
The Ace in the Hole and Defeat
- "Madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push."
- ―The Dark Knight
Right as Batman arrived to the construction site and defeated his soldiers, he confronted him and after a fight ,the Joker was ultimately defeated. With this act, the Joker acknowledged that Batman really is incorruptible but that Dent is no longer the "White Knight"; he's unleashed the scarred man on the city. Joker states that Dent was his "ace in the hole" in his plan to show the people of Gotham that everyone is corruptible, thus undoing Dent's work before his transformation into Two-Face. Batman then angrily left the Joker to dangle helplessly as he started laughing manically and then was approached by the SWAT team who had him at gunpoint.
The Dark Knight Rises
Though the Joker is neither seen nor mentioned, his prediction of the citizens of Gotham were proven correct as Gotham shuns Batman in the wake of Harvey Dent's death. His prediction about civilized people's code being a 'bad joke' is also proven true, as Gotham falls into chaos in the wake of Bane's 'liberation', and the citizens 'eat each other' as he had predicted, by way of homes being looted and the Scarecrow's kangaroo court.
The Joker is nothing more or less than ultimate personification of chaos, anarchy, death, destruction, madness and psychopathy. Although, he himself claims to not be insane, but rather "just ahead of the curve". This proves to be at least partially true, as the Joker is extremely cold, abusive, ruthless, calculating, cunning, manipulative, and a competent strategist. Being able to plan out the events of The Dark Knight and also improvise when needed shows a high level of intellect and knowledge. Joker also seemed to be knowledgeable in psychology and people's weaknesses and motivations. He had no problems getting underneath people's skin, and could easily manipulate people into corruption. In addition to this, he was also skilled at appealing to mentally unstable people (whom he used as free help and for sections of his plans that required expendable assets), manipulating them with promises that he would make their mental problems go away. For example, when he planted a bomb inside the stomach of one of his gang members, he told him he would "make the voices go away and replace them with bright lights, like Christmas" ('bright lights' being a metaphor for the bomb Joker buried in his goon's stomach). This extreme scenario of cruelty, sadism, and precision proves that this Joker is more in the realm of a psychopath/sociopath than insanity as he is neither delusional nor has he lost his grip on reality. On a related note, he also has some irritation when referred to as a "freak" or another term that implies he's deficient, which was best demonstrated twice, both times with members of the mob: The first time was with Gambol, where, when the kingpin called Joker a "freak" in response to his remark about "a guy like me" during his speech, ended up expressing some irritation before getting to his point quickly, and the second time was with the Chechen, where he was angered enough at the kingpin's reference to him as such that he promptly had him ordered cut up and fed to his own dogs in response upon taking over his criminal organization. Despite this, however, he had little problem acknowledging he was crazy upon being defeated by Batman, in-so-far as his belief in him and Batman not being much different from Gotham itself in terms of sanity (or lack thereof). He also seemed to have some awareness about his lacking a sense of humor, as when arriving at the mob summit and seeing their plan was a bad idea, he mentioned "...and I thought my jokes were bad." Grumpy and Chuckles also implied when reviewing the plan to rob Gotham National Bank that Joker got his moniker due to his tendency to "sit out and take a slice."
Joker subscribes to a morally nihilistic mindset (even briefly paraphrasing the German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche when stating to the Bank Manager what he "believed" in) and is obsessed with the limits of morality, while also being described as having "zero empathy"; the two may come together to reflect the Joker's doubts about the depths of human morality, based on his belief that "When the chips are down; these civilized people, they'll eat each other". He is also masochistic and immune to pain and intimidation, demonstrated when Batman is throwing the Joker around the room and attacking him, demanding the locations of Rachel and Harvey, he takes the assault with pleasure as, under multiple occasions, he laughed while being beaten by the Batman.
Joker does not care for the people who work for him; when one of his minions got electrocuted in his attempt at removing Batman's mask, he proceeded to laugh hysterically and kick the minion. He then mocked him by making noises similar to that of someone being electrocuted, before spitting on him and resorting to his attempt at removing the mask himself. This, along with the same minion later being revealed to have a wired bomb surgically implanted inside him, shows that he has no problems inflicting pain upon people who work for him. Along with being extremely sadistic through psychological torture, physical pain, and intimidation, the Joker also seems to have no care for his own safety or survival, such as when he was telling Batman to run him over with his Batpod (as well as briefly cursing under his breath when Batman decided to crash the Batpod over running him over), and when Batman threw him off a skyscraper building to his supposed death and he did nothing but laugh (both is due to the Joker believing that he would 'win' by provoking Batman into proving him right by forcing the Dark Knight to commit murder.) Joker seems genuinely upset when Batman doesn't kill him, to the point where he admits his defeat and refers to Batman as "incorruptible" after their last fight. Similarly, when Gambol attempts to have the Joker killed during a mob meeting, he revealed that he wired himself with explosives, having anticipated the possibility that he'd be gunned down during this meeting. During his interrogation at the hands of Batman, while taunting him about how the latter had "nothing" at his disposal to break him, he strongly implied that Batman's only option for dealing with him is to murder him. This proves that Joker absolutely doesn't care about himself and his life at all, only his desire to spread chaos and anarchy and proving that all men can be corrupted if pushed hard enough.
The most notable example in his utter lack of self-preservation is when, in the hospital, he gives Harvey Dent a gun and forcibly points it at his head, gambling his life on the chance that Dent would adopt his philosophy of anarchy. Though, subtly, he kept his finger in front of the hammer of the gun, which would keep it from firing prematurely. It is most likely that Joker would remove his finger when Dent would have fired the gun as Joker has shown on multiple occasions that he does not care about himself at all. In addition, when Dent gives him the coin's options and tells him that Joker will die if the coin lands on the bad side, Joker says "now we're talking!" in a slightly enthusiastic tone.
Joker exhibits various symptoms of an antisocial personality, blatantly disregarding laws and social norms far beyond standard deviant behavior. The Joker also has a low level of inhibition and a relentless drive to disturb the status quo. He is driven by something other than greed, as he complains that the criminals of the mob are just seeking a profit and that the city deserves "a better class of criminal", namely himself (with it being heavily implied, especially with his declaration that he intended to spread the message that "everything burns", that his motivation and idea for a better class of criminal was to cause chaos simply for the sake of chaos itself). While The Joker does attempt to take control of the city by recruiting mob henchmen, he appears to hold his philosophy of chaos higher than himself. He describes himself as merely an "agent" of chaos (in his speech to convince Harvey Dent to let go of his beliefs so he could prove in his ultimate plan that even the most noble of men can sink down to the Joker's level). Despite the fact that The Joker never cared about money (as evidenced by his burning of the mob's money that he earned to recover Lau from the MCU and stating that his actions aren't "about money."), he did see some usefulness of money; we know this by the implication that he used the money he stole from Gotham National Bank to create his custom suit, acquire his equipment and weaponry, and hire others to form his own gang as the mob's agents were simply used as a means by Joker to gain control of Gotham's infrastructure and cripple the mobs power. When Batman interrogated the Joker, he casually said that without Batman he'd have to "go back to ripping off mob dealers", showing how little he actually cared about them.
He also is shown to be very literal in his word usage, which allowed him to carry out his crimes and even betray his minions while at the same time technically keeping his word. The last trait is especially evident when he turned on the Mob after retrieving their money: When the Chechen angrily told him that Joker was a man of his word when Joker revealed he planned to set the cash on fire, Joker confirmed he indeed is that and made clear that he only intended to burn the half of the money he got from retrieving Lau. He's done it often enough that his trademark was claiming that he was "a man of his word."
Powers and Abilities
The Joker in The Dark Knight is a genius at planning and improvising criminal activities. He is incredibly intelligent and calculating, always staying one step ahead of everyone else, including Batman and the police. His unique (if rather disturbed) worldview, as well as the complete mystery surrounding his identity also give him something of an edge. Having no connections, friends, former identities or family to be traced back to makes him very difficult to predict, track down, or even understand. He is also shown to be a fearless, and unpredictable fighter, taking on mob henchmen and cops with ease, and showing how he can be lethal with many forms of weaponry such as shotguns, RPG's, machine pistols, handguns, explosives, and knives. While he has used guns on many occasions, the Joker expresses his preference for knives because "guns are too quick".
The Joker was even capable of holding his own against Batman and trapping him near the climax of the film (although he had assistance on both occasions when fighting Batman). One explanation for his fighting skills might have to do with his psychotic personality: the Joker doesn't really fear physical damage to himself like a normal person would, and even when brutally injured, Joker would laugh at his own pain. His casual insensitivity to pain, and his extreme fearlessness, lets him take risks that a normal person wouldn't even attempt, and so most people just don't see his attacks coming, i.e. walking into a room full of mobsters and casually using a 'magic trick' to impale a pencil into one of their heads. The Joker's obliviousness to danger makes him invulnerable to what is usually Batman's greatest weapon in combat: his ability to frighten low-level thugs.
Appearance & Clothing
The Joker is a quite tall young man (though his hunched posture makes him appear slightly shorter than Batman), dressed in a custom-tailored purple suit consisting of an elegant, purple coat and matching pin-stripe pants kept up by suspenders rather than a belt. Underneath it, he wears a light grey jacket, green vest, and a light grey patterned shirt. He is almost-always seen wearing chalk white makeup on his face, consisting of dark face-paint blackening the spaces around leering brown eyes, green hair-dye spread all over unkempt greasy brown hair, and a red slash of lipstick smeared all over a thin mouth with two gruesome scars lined at the corners to resemble a Glasgow smile, furtherly implying his unstable psyche. According to Happy and Dopey, Joker's use of clown makeup was meant for use in psychological warfare akin to warpaint, and this was at least one reason why he was given the moniker of "the Joker."
During the course of the film, the Joker only once removes his make-up (that being when he disguises himself and his men as part of the honor guard in their attempted assassination of Mayor Garcia), revealing underneath a twisted and demonic-looking face, more frightening than with the clown makeup, with sleep-deprived dark circles around the eyes, completely yellow-stained teeth and dirty/dry skin from wearing makeup for long periods of time. Obviously, Joker's extremely poor groomed appearance is linked to his non existent care for himself and his life.
In other media
The Joker's attack on the bank was mentioned in the final Gotham Tonight special episode.
The Dark Knight Rises novelization
The Joker was mentioned in Greg Cox's novelization of the The Dark Knight Rises. With the Dent Act, the insanity plea was thrown out for the most part, with felons being predominantly imprisoned, rather than institutionalized. Therefore, most inmates were moved to Blackgate Prison. However, the Joker was not to be found there, leading some in Gotham to speculate that he is one of, if not the only, inmate of Arkham Asylum. The Joker's whereabouts were never publicized, leaving the possibility that he had escaped by the time of Bane's revolution: "The worst of the worst were sent to Blackgate, except for the Joker, who, rumor had it, was locked away as Arkham's sole remaining inmate. Or perhaps he escaped. Nobody was really sure."
Behind the Scenes
The origins of the Joker are left deliberately ambiguous in The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan and his co-writer Jonathan Nolan suggested the Joker's first two appearances in 1940's issues of Batman as crucial influences. Just as in these issues of the Batman comic, the Joker's back-story is expanded upon little. Instead, the Joker is portrayed as an "absolute". "The Joker we meet in The Dark Knight is fully formed...To me, the Joker is an absolute. There are no shades of gray to him — maybe shades of purple. He's unbelievably dark. He bursts in just as he did in the comics." Nolan later reiterated, "We never wanted to do an origin story for the Joker in this film", because "the arc of the story is much more Harvey Dent's; the Joker is presented as an absolute. It's a very thrilling element in the film, and a very important element, but we wanted to deal with the rise of the Joker, not the origin of the Joker."
The late Heath Ledger described the Joker as a "psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy". Nolan had wanted to work with Ledger on a number of projects in the past, but had been unable to do so. When Ledger saw Batman Begins, he realized a way to make the character work consistent with that film's tone, and Nolan agreed with his anarchic interpretation. To prepare for the role, Ledger lived alone in a hotel room for a month, formulating the character's posture, voice and psychology, and kept a diary, in which he recorded the Joker's thoughts and feelings to guide himself during his performance. While he initially found it difficult, Ledger was eventually able to generate a voice that did not sound like Jack Nicholson's take on the character in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman film. He was also given Batman: The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth to read, which he "really tried to read [...] and put it down". Ledger also cited inspirations such as A Clockwork Orange and Sid Vicious, which were "a very early starting point for Christian Bale and I. But we kind of flew far away from that pretty quickly and into another world altogether." "There’s a bit of everything in him. There’s nothing that consistent," Ledger said, adding that "There are a few more surprises to him."
Before Ledger was confirmed to play the Joker in July 2006, Paul Bettany, Lachy Hulme, Adrien Brody, Steve Carell, and Robin Williams publicly expressed interest in the role. On not being invited to reprise the Joker, Jack Nicholson remarked that he was "furious". In turn, responding to his initially-controversial selection to play the Joker, Ledger stated publicly, "It would not matter who is chosen to play the [Joker]. [...] In any film, there is always someone who does not like you and I am secure in my choices and my record. But I know at the end of the day you are never going to please anyone 100 percent…I refuse to carbon copy a performance. That would not be a challenge and it would be mocking Mr. Nicholson, whom I have much respect for." Though a unique portrayal, this Joker interpretation maintains much of his comic personality, such as his refusal to kill Batman, his view that people's morals are easily derailed, and Two-Face's origin story in the film mirror the themes and plot of Batman: The Killing Joke, as well as his unreliable memory.On January 22, 2008, after he had completed filming The Dark Knight, Ledger died from an accidental prescription drug overdose, leading to intense press attention and memorial tributes. In March 2008, four months prior to the film's scheduled release, Larry Carroll reported that "like Batman himself, Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal and director Christopher Nolan find themselves shifting gears between being secretive, superheroic and fighting back a deep sadness." "It was tremendously emotional, right when he passed, having to go back in and look at him every day," Nolan recalled. "But the truth is, I feel very lucky to have something productive to do, to have a performance that he was very, very proud of, and that he had entrusted to me to finish." All of Ledger's scenes appear as he completed them in the filming; in editing the film, Nolan added no "digital effects" to alter Ledger's actual performance posthumously. Nolan has dedicated the film in part to Ledger's memory, as well as to the memory of technician Conway Wickliffe, who was killed during a car accident while preparing one of the film's stunts. According to Nolan, had Ledger not died, part of the plot for the sequel would have had the Joker standing trial for his crimes.The Joker's scruffy and grungy make-up is intended as a reflection of his "edgy" character. Costume designer Lindy Hemming described the Joker's look as reflecting his personality—that "he doesn't care about himself at all"; she avoided designing him as a vagrant but still made him appear to be "scruffier, grungier", so that "when you see him move, he's slightly twitchier or edgy." Nolan noted, "We gave a Francis Bacon spin to [his face]. This corruption, this decay in the texture of the look itself. It's grubby. You can almost imagine what he smells like." In creating the "anarchical" look of the Joker, Hemming drew inspiration from such counter-cultural pop culture artists as Pete Doherty, Iggy Pop, and Johnny Rotten. Ledger described his "clown" mask, made up of three pieces of stamped silicone, as a "new technology", taking much less time for the make-up artists to apply than more-conventional prosthetic usually requires—the process took them only an hour—and resulting in Ledger's impression that he was barely wearing any make-up at all. Rumors about the characters design have spread after the The Dark Knight's release, with many making connections with Tim Burton's character Beetlejuice, due to the similar make-up design between the two characters. The irony of the rumor is that Beetlejuice was originally played by Michael Keaton, who would go on to play Batman in the 1989 film adaptation and its 1992 sequel Batman Returns. Many fans suggested the Joker would be reappeared as the tertiary antagonist in The Dark Knight Rises if Ledger haven't died in 2008. In the movie, for respect the memory of Heath, the Joker isn't mentioned or seen. Also, many fans suggetsed that the role of the Joker in the film would be Scarecrow's role or John Daggett's role.
- Elements of his character were referenced with Jerome Valeska in Gotham, who was largely derived from various versions of the Joker as a whole.
- When Cicero Valeska makes it very clear to Jerome that the latter being his illegitimate son was the only reason he helped the boy hide the evidence to his matricide, Jerome briefly says "My father..." in a similar tone to the Joker's first scar story to Gambol.
- His videotaped speech to Gotham City announcing the Maniax after slaughtering the GCPD resembles Joker's first video message upon being hired by the mob.
- Joker is the only major antagonist in the trilogy who wasn't tied to the League of Shadows, although his actions were indirectly responsible for Bane successfully engineering a revolution in Gotham City in the next film.