Batman Wiki

The Joker (Jack Nicholson)

6,187pages on
this wiki
The Joker
Jack Nicholson As The Joker
General Information
Real name: Jack Napier
Aliases: Joker
Uncle Bingo
Alignment: Bad
Affiliation: Bob the Goon (Friend)
Alicia Hunt (Lover)
Carl Grissom (Boss)
Joe Chill (partner)
Characteristics: Gender - Male
Hair - Black (before accident), Green (after accident)
Eyes - Brown
Portrayed by: Jack Nicholson
Hugo E. Blick (Young Napier)
David U. Hodges (Napier in flashback in Batman Forever)
Appearances: Batman
Batman Forever (Young Napier in flashback)
"If you gotta go... GO WITH A SMILE!"
―The Joker[src]

The Joker was the chosen alias of Jack Napier, a hood whose appearance and was radically and permanently altered by chemicals. He became Batman's first, and greatest foe, and the two shared a secret past that made them greater enemies than either first realized.


Early life

  • Young Jack Napier.
  • A young Jack Napier in Batman Forever.

Born in Brooklyn, Jack Napier would come to live in Gotham City. In his school years, Jack Napier proved himself to be emotionally unstable, but highly intelligent, and showed aptitude in art, science, and chemistry. He also turned to a life of violent crime. When he was fifteen, Jack was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. He at one point implied that he may have also have been murdering people, including those who were parents, since he was a kid.

Years later, as a young man, Jack and his partner in crime mugged Bruce Wayne's parents, Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife, Martha.

When Thomas interceded to protect his family, Jack stepped from the shadows and shot both him and Martha in cold-blood. Jack inquired to young Bruce Wayne: "Tell me, kid, you ever danced with the Devil by the pale moonlight?". Jack cocked the hammer of his revolver and was about to shoot him, but before he could fire, his panicked partner urged him to leave: "Let's go, Jack!". Jack uncocked his gun, decided to spare the boy and turned to leave while saying: "See you around, kid".

Little did Jack know that his prediction would come true — that he and Bruce would meet again someday.

Grissom's Number One Guy

"He can't run this city without me..."
―Jack Napier[src]

As Jack Napier aged, he worked his way up in the Mafia ranks, and eventually became the consigliere of Mob Boss, Carl Grissom. Jack often toyed with a deck of lucky cards, which most likely saved his life on one occasion due to a bullet hole being in between each card. He would often twirl the cards in small tricks. In stark contrast to his later hilarious attitude, Jack Napier's persona was rather sarcastic and grumpy


Jack Napier as Carl Grissom's right-hand man.

Jack doubted the competence of Grissom's leadership of the crime family, and also snidely retorted to a news broadcast of Harvey Dent's speech about decent people living in Gotham: "Decent people should live somewhere else".

Napier entered into an affair with Grissom's girlfriend, Alicia Hunt, which prompted the angry crime lord to set his right-hand man up to be killed by the corrupt police officer, Lt. Eckhardt at Axis Chemicals. When Grissom informed Napier of his entrusted task with stealing incriminating documents from the plant, Napier was again toying with his lucky deck. Napier turned a random card's face towards him as he inquired "me?". The card happened to be a Joker (which, coincidentally, would be the very thing that he would become).

Jack Napier meeting Batman for the first time at Axis Chemicals.

Grissom's plan went awry thanks to intervention by both Batman and Commissioner Gordon and some other police officers. After he killed Eckhardt, and then caught a ricocheted bullet through his cheeks, in a panic, Napier lost his balance, and fell into a vat of toxic waste. Though Batman caught Napier's arm and attempted to pull him back up to safety, Napier's leather glove slipped through Batman's, and he plummeted into the chemical vat below him.

Napier survived, and was washed into Gotham Harbor by a drainage pipe. Still submerged, he stretched an arm upward through the water's surface, where his lucky deck was floating.


Jack reaching for escape from his chemical submersion.

Jack's long chemical submersion permanently wreaked a horrible toll: his hair follicles were altered from gray to emerald green, his skin pigmentation was bleached chalk white, his soft flesh, such as his mouth and lips, were flushed ruby red.

The Joker

Joker is Born (1989)

Jack Napier as the Joker in Carl Grissom's office.

"Jack? Jack is dead, my friend. You can call me... Joker! And as you can see, I'm a lot happier!"
―The Joker to Carl Grissom, moments before he murdered him.[src]

After he saw the horrible result of his chemical encounter, Jack turned to a hack plastic surgeon, and was desperate to have his cheek wounds fixed where the ricocheted bullet had injured him. Despite going through the long and careful procedure, the surgeon informed Jack that he simply could not fix his face, due to both the sheer extent of the severed nerves sustained and the surgeon's own lack of effective tools resulting in a permanent smile. Upset with the result, and reflecting on all that had transpired, Jack, though apparently trying at first to let it go and failing, lost touch with whatever sanity that he had left. Jack began to laugh maniacally and convulsively, then smashed the mirror that he held on the table that held the surgeon's tools, stumbled out of the room, and laughed into the night.

With Jack's mind completely snapped after he saw his bizarre new appearance, he assumed the new identity of "The Joker". Joker killed Grissom as revenge for setting him up and took over the crime lord's empire. The Clown Prince of Crime engaged in a violent, chaotic crime spree, with the motive being to "outdo" Batman, whom he felt was getting too much press. During a mob summit with the rest of the crime lords, Jack claimed that Grissom was just in hiding, left him to be the acting president, and declared that their action this anniversary was to "run the city into the ground". However, most of the mob bosses, including Antoine Rotelli and Vinnie Ricorso, were suspicious of Jack Napier's apparent orders from Grissom, and Rotelli wondered what would happen if he said "no". Jack Napier then responded with a handshake and that would be it. Unfortunately for Rotelli, Jack Napier meant by that statement that it would be it for Rotelli, as he fried and electrocuted Rotelli with a lethal Joy Buzzer, which horrified the rest of the Mob bosses and with Jack Napier joking about his demise and laughing at it. Jack Napier then dismissed the mob as his own gang rushed in and held them at gunpoint. Joker then ordered Bob the Goon to tail Alexander Knox, and then decided (by talking to Rotelli's charred corpse as if he were still alive) to "grease" all of the mob bosses at the summit. Joker then arrived at City Hall and, after he claimed that the check was written with a dead hand, murdered Ricorso (who was claiming that Grissom landed him with the check with his signature) with his quill pen after he claimed that he was his "Uncle Bingo" and had his mime faction of his gang open fire. Later on, the Joker and his gang defaced many of the paintings at the Flugelheim Museum. He also tried to woo Gotham Globe reporter Vicki Vale, Batman's love interest. When Bruce Wayne learned about Joker, he was shocked about Jack Napier's survival, but when he attempted to protect Vale the next morning, upon hearing the Joker state: "Ever dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight?" and survived the Joker's gunshot with an impromptu bulletproof vest, Bruce recalled the night of his parents murder and realized that Jack Napier was the gunman who murdered his parents, and that Napier was responsible for his oath to protect the lives of innocent people as Batman.

Death and Legacy

"Sometimes I just kill myself!"
―Joker, prior to his death[src]

After he announced on television that he would be reigniting the previously cancelled Gotham City's 200th Anniversary Parade, the Joker threw twenty million dollars into the crowd (the comic adaptation of the film as well as a deleted scene revealed that this money was fake one dollar bills with the Joker's face on them). After that, Joker released a gas form of Smylex out of his balloons. Batman arrived in the Batwing, took away the balloons, and released them into the night sky, which causing Joker to kill Bob to vent out his frustration. Batman then made a strafing run on the Joker, but the crazed clown blew up the Batwing with an explosive round fired from his long barreled gun. Joker then took Vicki Vale into Gotham Cathedral and forced her to dance with him. After he walked up to the belfry, Batman, after he defeated a small army of the Joker's men, confronted Joker, and vowed to kill him for murdering his parents years ago.


The Joker confronted by Batman at the Gotham Cathedral.

During their confrontation, Batman repeatedly beat up the Joker and managed to knock him off the balcony, but Joker reached up with both of his arms, pulled both Batman and Vicki down. Batman and Vicki held on for dear life from a narrow ledge. Joker's Helicopter arrived to get Joker to safety. Batman used a grappling hook to tie Joker's ankle to a large, heavy stone gargoyle. The Joker sealed his fate when it broke loose.

Unable to break free from the heavy burden of the gargoyle, the Joker lost his grip on the helicopter's rope ladder, fell to his death, and hit the Cathedral's flight of steps below hard, which broke every bone in his body.


The Joker, smiling eternally in death.

Ironically, just a few seconds beforehand, Joker said: "Sometimes I just kill myself!" Commissioner Gordon came upon the Joker's body, and heard a repetitive laugh which drew him ever so slowly. He reached into the Joker's coat and pulled out a laugh box that had been activated by the landing.

Bruce Wayne would continue to have bad memories of Jack Napier slaying his parents for several years.


Jack Napier, in the beginning of the film, was seen as being quite vain, with a penchant for nice suits and Alicia as his trophy girlfriend. In a contrast to the Joker, Napier was quite humorless, though committing his crimes made large smiles on his face (for example after having murdered the Waynes' or when he enjoyed killing Lt. Eckhardt). However, he was still equally as psychotic, although not as outwardly. While discussing about Grissom and Max Eckhardt's future within the mob, the latter retorted to Jack that he was: "An A-1 nut boy". After having read Napier's police file report, Bruce Wayne summed up to the Joker his opinion of what he was before: "Mean kid, bad seed, hurt people (...) he got sloppy, you know crazy, he started to loose it. He had a head full of bad wiring, I guess. Couldn't keep it straight up here. He was the kind of guy who couldn't hear the train until it was two feet from him. (...) Well... he made mistakes. Then he had his lights out!".

Like many criminals before him, Jack was just as terrified of Batman when he first confronted him.

When he sought out surgery after he fell into the chemicals, Napier probably finally lost his remaining sanity when he saw his new appearance, although he explained to Batman that he tried to get over it. As a rsult, the Joker was born, cackling madly. Throughout the film, the Joker had skills for using all sorts of gadgets as weapons. Joker killed a mob boss with a quill, another with a supercharged joy buzzer, and was frequently seen using a flower that squirted acid. Also, Joker had a tendency to wear gag chattering teeth so that he could shock the enemy if he was punched in the face long enough to attempt a retaliatory blow, as he attempted to do with Batman in their final encounter. In addition to his trademark gadgets, the Joker also had a macabre sense of humor, which was both surreal and morbid. The Joker was also quite sadistic, as seen when he shot Carl Grissom and laughed, deliberately disfigured Alicia (it's strongly implied also that he threw her to her death out of a window) and found humor in killing Mob boss, Antoine Rotelli. It's also implied that when he killed Carl Grissom, that Joker actually seemed to enjoy death in itself, and not just the deaths of other people, and even went as far as referring to it as "therapy" from his experience. That belief was contradicted near the end of the film, though, when Joker was seen screaming as he fell to his death. However, that might be because there was no way that he could have survived.

Police Case History Folder

Bruce asked for Alfred to bring him a copy of the GCPD's Case History Folder on Jack Napier. Included were two mugshots, one of Napier from recent years, and one of Napier from the time period that he murdered the Waynes'. The following were known segments of the report. All underscores indicated sections of words or numbers that were currently unverifiable:

Jack Napier - Police Case History Folder

Name: Jack Napier. Sex: Male. Address: 1379 P__ 565, Gotham City. Age: 38. __:5 ft. 8". __: Gotham. Height: 5 ft. 11". __: JN7. __:265-784. __ by: __. __: 2846287.

Assault: AC+D = __ N (8-29-76)

__: AC+D = __ A (2-16-78)

__: AC+D = __ A (11-6-80) Can not prove

Extortion: AC+D = __ J (12-16-81)

Bruce Wayne then summarized the remainder of the report. "Jack Napier, assault with a deadly weapon, age fifteen. Results of psychological profile: Violent mood swings, highly intelligent, emotionally unstable. Aptitudes include science, chemistry, and art".



Behind the scenes

  • The 1989 Batman film, that was directed by Tim Burton, offered a somewhat different origin for the Joker, who was portrayed by Jack Nicholson, and at the same time, made him part of Batman's origin. Joker's real name in the film was Jack Napier, the surname of actor Alan Napier, who had played Alfred in the 1960s series, and the first name of Jack Nicholson, the actor who played Joker.
  • According to the wanted posters handed out by Lt. Eckhardt at Axis Chemicals, Jack Napier was born in Brooklyn.
  • During the flashback sequence of the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, the young Jack Napier was played by Hugo E. Blick.
  • In the flashback for Batman Forever, the young Napier was played by David U. Hodges.
  • The first draft of Batman Returns was intended to be a direct sequel to the previous film. As a result, subplots and continuity from the first film that would have been addressed included further revelations into the past of the deceased Jack Napier, a.k.a. The Joker.
  • In the cancelled sequel to Batman & Robin, that was named Batman Unchained, the Joker would have returned as a hallucination that was caused by the Scarecrow's Fear Gas. Harley Quinn would have also appeared as his daughter, who tried to get revenge on Batman for his role in his death.
    • According with Joel Schumacher, if the scrapped Batman Unchained, would be a good sucess, he would make a last sequel (the sixth movie of the series), in that Batman would fight with the Joker for a second time.
  • Jack Napier could mean that "Jack" was a play off of serial killer Jack the Ripper, whereas the "Napier" part of his name is similar to "Naipe", Spanish for "playing card". Jack could also be a play on the card of the same name. It may also be a play on the word "jackanape".
  • In an original draft for the 1989 Batman film, the Joker was apparently supposed to let go from the helicopter ladder to his death due to bats swarming on him from the Bell Tower and not from a gargoyle being tied to his legs. A similar fate was eventually used for the Penguin in the following film.
  • Many fans suggested the possibility that the Joker would be reappeared (played again by Jack Nicholson) in the unmade possible sequel of Batman & Robin, Batman: DarKnight.
  • In the unproduced planned crossover of Batman and Superman, that was named Batman vs. Superman, the Joker would have returned as the murderer of Elizabeth Miller, the wife of Bruce Wayne. This crossover, according with Warner Bros. would be have a stand-alone sequel of Batman & Robin, however, the reason of the Joker's resurrection is completely unknown.


  • That was one of the only versions of the Joker which had been given an identified real name: "Jack Napier".
    • That name was carried over to Batman: The Animated Series as an alias for Mark Hamill's Joker.
    • This incarnation is also one of the only versions of the Joker to have a confirmed backstory prior to encountering Batman and becoming the Joker, the only others being Mark Hamill's Joker in the DCAU and possibly John DiMaggio's characterization in Batman: Under the Red Hood as well as the version during the Flashpoint arc. Most other incarnations do not have any established backstory beyond encountering Batman in the ACE chemicals, and it is heavily implied with some incarnations that any potential backstory beyond his initial encounter with Batman had been fabricated by the clown prince of crime multiple times, either willingly or simply as a side-effect of his madness.
  • The Joker's line: "Take thy beak from out my heart" (that was said at Vicki's Apartment) is from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven". The full line is 'Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!' (The "beak" being of the Raven)
  • Jack Nicholson said of his role: "The thing I like about the Joker is that his sense of humor is completely tasteless".
  • A scene was cut from the parade sequence (but made it in the comic book version of the script) where the crowd discovered that all the money that the Joker was handing out was counterfeit. In a follow-up to the Joker's earlier line that he wanted: "My face on the one-dollar bill", all the dollar bills that were thrown to the crowd had the Joker's picture on them in place of George Washington's.
  • This incarnation is one of only two Joker characterizations to be given a deep voice, the only other being the one from Batman: Under the Red Hood, as most Joker incarnations are given a fairly high-pitched voice.

See Also

Around Wikia's network

Random Wiki