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Top 50 DC Characters #5

The countdown continues…

5. The Joker – 797 points (9 first place votes)

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Created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, the Joker made his debut in the very first issue of Batman, and soon became a mainstay Batman villain, being one of the few Bat-villains to continue fighting Batman from the Golden Age through to the Silver Age.

It was actually in the Silver Age, when Julie Schwartz took over, that Joker basically vanished from the Bat-titles, only to be brought back by Denny O’Neil a number of years later. In the 50s and early 60s, the Joker had lessened from a murderer to basically being an annoyance, but O’Neil brought him back as an insane sociopath, the characterization that has, for the most part, persisted to this day.

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In the 1980s, Joker achieved his two greatest blows to Batman, when he both murdered Batman’s partner, Robin (Jason Todd) and crippled the daugher of Commissioner Gordon, Barbara (who was, unbeknown to the Joker, the hero Batgirl).

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The Joker continues to make routine appearances, showing up to fight Batman here and there. He maintains his position as the most prominent Batman villain there is.

Here is David Farrell on why he picked Joker #1…

One of the best things about DC’s modern era is the way they’ve set up their Superman/Batman dichotomy – Supeman has the powers of a god, and yet the heart and soul of a regular American guy from Kansas, while Batman is an ordinary mortal man with otherworldy spirit – his tireless quest for justice is all that matters to him, and thus he puts every ounce of his being into this battle; in effect, he has given up his mortal life to become an agent of justice.

Batman’s strength as a character is enhanced by the presence of the Joker, my number one pick. If Batman is an embodiment of justice, then the Joker really is his polar opposite, an embodiment of mindless evil and violence. The Joker, like Batman, lacks true humanity – he exists only to kill and destroy, making him a truly frightening foe for the Dark Knight. Of course, his visual design is amazing – who isn’t, at some level, scared of clowns? – and works to subvert the idea that the good guys are out in the open and the bad guys hide in the shadows. The image of his psychotic grin, combined with his amorality, make him one of the scariest people in comics, when handled by the right creative team.

Of course, no rivalry would be complete without history, and the Joker has it in spades. He killed a Robin. He crippled Batgirl. And of course, if Batman had broken his code against killing, these things wouldn’t have happened. The Joker has affected Batman more than any other villain in the Dark Knight’s rather large rogue’s gallery.

And the clincher has to be this – if I see the Joker on the cover a comic, I get excited. I buy that book, and I read it, right away. That’s how I knew he had to be my number one.

Here is Erik W’s reason for putting Joker first…

The Joker hands down is one of the most classic and recognizable characters in all of comics, be it Marvel or DC. He is also one of, if not the single most, recognizable comic villain to the general public. Dress up as the Joker and walk out the door for Halloween, almost everybody will know who you are without asking.

The Joker has so many paths to travel as an opponent in storylines. You never know what sociopathic scheme will come from his wild and sadistic mind. One thing you can count on though is that it will usually be as fun as evil can be. Then there is all the pain and strife he has brought to the Batman’s surrounding life. Is there any criminal character in comic history that has been as successful at causing his opponent pain and suffering as the Joker?

It’s not too often you find a character that you just love to see interact. Many times the quality of the criminal antics are all driven by the storyline and how smart the scheme itself is and what obstacles the hero has to overcome to save the world again.

In this case however, I just love to see The Joker. I love to watch his appearances just for the character himself. I could care less if he is planning to steal talcum powder from a baby, it would be compelling.

Heck, I would eat up a Joker only comic, no heroes at all. Give me a mini-series of just him and Harley interacting. I would read it again and again.

God bless the Clown Prince of Crime.

Thanks, David and Eric!!

#4 tomorrow!!

38 Comments

For me, the Joker’s appeal has waned considerably in recent decades due to his overuse. I guess I always considered him pretty overrated, though… Hmm.

In the comics he has been one of the best Bat Villains since he was reintroduced as the psychotic type. Yes, overexposed at times, but used judiciously–effective. “The Killing Joke” remains one of my favorite one-shots of all time. His appearance in the JLI annual was priceless–he can be ruthless and funny.

But he didn’t make my top 10–I did have a villain on my DC list though–the Riddler.

Definitely the best villain in comics, great choice.

I honestly expected the DC top 4 to be Batman, Joker, Nightwing, and Robin. I mean, they’re the ones constantly rammed down our throats all the time (just how many Bat-family books are published each month?). Guess this leaves Batman, Superman, Hal Jordan, and Wally West… but in which order? Very surprising list.

I’m guessing they’ll be in the order you listed them in, Derek, although I’d be pleasantly surprised if Wally got up over Hal. I really wish I’d voted now, I just couldn’t narrow my choices down to ten characters per company!

I had him #3… with Two-Face #2, but I’m apparently in a tiny minority on that one, since he won’t be cracking the top 50 (unless I missed him somewhere). But I do love the Joker.

Oh, and just because it popped into my head and I still find it funny, one of my favorite Joker moments was in Last Laugh. He had a list of things to do before he died, which included “Call Gordon. Ask for Sarah. Hang up. Repeat.”

Rohan, I’d love to see Superman get #1, but I actually wouldn’t be surprised if he’s #4. Although I think you’re right about the order. We’ll see soon enough, I suppose.

I missed out on voting too (wasn’t aware of it until the voting closed) but I did make a top 10 list for DC (I could easily make my own top 50, I’ve always loved DC more). My top 10 Marvel list is stuck at 8 cause I can’t figure out who else I like enough to put on it. I have a lot of Marvel characters I like, but not sure how many I love.

I’m just happy my number 1 and 2 DC guys are making the top 5 (Superman is my #1, Hal my #2).

My main problem with the Joker at the moment is the way that everyone seems to feel the need to one-up the guys who wrote about him before.
More crazy, more evil, more insane, bigger, more important bodycounts…
It starts to get REAL tired fast.

Interesting. With Barbara Gordon, Robin, Nightwing, Joker, and the upcoming Batman entry, Bat-verse characters will account for 5 of DC’s top 10…

With the exception of the Killing joke, no one has made me interested in the Joker since the classic Englehart/Rogers Laughing Fish story. he’s been way overused and I’d cheerfully not read another Joker story again. On the more positive side though,this does look like Jim Gordon is not in the final 50 – its got to be Wally, Hal, Supes and Bats in the top 4 surely?

Batman ect. getting five of the top ten suprised me until I think if I had made a DC top ten list Bats and family would dominate. Some of us were more into marvel and barely gave DC a chance, Batman though is everywere and I had plenty of his comics.

And I’m glad the top villan in the number one rouges gallery on the planet got some props.

Definitely worthy of a high placement. I’m not sure if it’s this high, since I always found him kind of one-note (as evil without a shade of grey usually tends to be). But his overall significance to the
DCU is a hard thing to argue.

The Joker is a one-note character, but it’s a pretty sweet note. Of all the Marvel or DC villains, Joker is the one that works as a villain for nearly every super-hero. He’s made memorable appearances in the Batbooks, Aztek, The Spectre, the Superman comics, JLA, JLI… I could see Joker going up against the Legion of Superheroes, Booster Gold, Jonah Hex, or almost any Marvel or independent super-hero. The Joker’s twisted creativity and murderous sense of humor make him my favorite villain.

That said, I’d be happy if he didn’t show up ten times a year.

Still no Ampersand!

Maybe he’ll be in the Top 4!

(Or maybe not… did ANYBODY else vote for him?)

i think that one of the reasons the joker is as great and popular a villain as he is is that he’s actually been successful in some of his ploys (obviously not all). when the penguin turns up in a bat book i don’t feel any real threat- he’s never really done any damage, only schemed, shown up, and been trounced. the joker, though, managed to kill robin and get diplomatic immunity making him untouchable for his crime- that’s some good evil right there. when the joker arrives, you actually feel like something bad might happen to his foes, and that’s a good thing. sure he’s easily overexposed which lessens that feeling, and it would be cool if they put him in the bottle for a little bit and unleashed him when we least expect it, but he’s hands down of the coolest looking characters in a visual medium, and the perfect foil for his heroic opposite.

Wow. Joker’s actually one of the reasons I have a hard time getting into Batman. Maybe he wouldn’t be that bad if he only appeared once every five years, but I don’t understand how he could have the staying power he does.

“and crippled the daugher of Commissioner Gordon, Barbara (who was, unbeknown to the Joker, the hero Batgirl). ”

Having never read the Killing Joke I assumed that the Joker knew. The idea doesn’t work quite as well this way I don’t think. Then again, it does speak a little more to the randomness and insanity of the Joker. Eh, What do I know?

As an aside I’m surprised to see someone complaining about the Bat-Characters “being rammed down our throats” in spite of the evidence here indicating how beloved they really are. I never really understood the “rammed down our throats” thing myself (seems a little silly I mean you print what sells right?) but come on, people love the Bat-Characters like no other grouping apparently.

I would be VERY happy if, against most of the predictions here, Hal Jordan wasn’t in DC’s list at all, and instead we got someone like Comissioner Gordon or Brainiac. Hell, I’d settle for Big Barda.

“people love the Bat-Characters like no other grouping apparently”

With the possible exceptions of Spider-Man and X-Men characters. But then again, you were probably limiting your statement to DC.

A agree that the Joker is a classic villian. Nothing is quite as unsettling as when we peer into the slack-jawed gaze of true insanity (to quote Rush). Sadistic, evil, meglomaniacial insanity is extremely difficult to battle. Add an extremely high intelligence to the equation and it is truely frightening.

The only thing I don’t agree with so far is the statement that he could take on anyone.

Considering that he has NO powers, and Gotham is a little violent, you’d think someone would have just shot him by now. Can’t you see it? Joker walks into where-ever and starts a rant about something. Someone murmers under their breath “We’ve had enough of this idiot”, calmly pulls a gun, and shoots Joker in the head. Wouldn’t it just be icing on the cake if it was “elf with a gun” from the 70’s Defenders!

The Joker is #10 on my list. Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers made me a fan. He’s THE DC villain. That the Joker translates so successfully in every medium is a testament to the strength of the idea, the laughing, maniacal clown-faced killer.

(and, oh, if Marshall had only drawn more books– I used to keep a toy guitar with a Foozle embossed on it.)

I am surpised that while characters like Wolverine seem to suffer on this list from overuse, the Joker did not. I always thought he was fun, but mostly enjoyed him on the animated series. I think that he is a character that needs to disappear for a few years to make him fresh again. Or they could have gone with Morrison’s new version, isntead of throwing it away with his next appearance.

My trouble is that still whenever I think of the Joker my first thought is of Caesar Romero from the old TV show. No matter what Englehart or Miller or Moore did with him, I could never quite take him seriously.
I agree with avengers63 – somebody should have shot this guy a long time ago. In fact, send him over here, I’ll get my cat to kick his ass.

Now, Luthor…. there’s a villain…

“people love the Bat-Characters like no other grouping apparently”

“With the possible exceptions of Spider-Man and X-Men characters. But then again, you were probably limiting your statement to DC.”

Actually, I’ll disagree about limiting the statement to DC. As I mentioned in the Marvel thread, he’s the @#$ Batman! Characters from the Batman titles (including Joker) took 7 of the top 50 spots. Compared to 12 for the Avengers, 14 for the X-Men, and 15 for the Justice League, that’s pretty small. But the Batman titles really aren’t a team. Comparing to other single characters with too many titles, Superman only got 3, Spiderman got 3 and Wolverine only got himself. (Yes, I am counting the people that haven’t shown up but everyone expects.)

Even more telling, the X-men collectively garnered 5587 points for 15 characters to the Bat-clan’s 2829 for 7 characters (not including Batman yet). Bat-clan’s average is 404 points (roughly 12th place) to X-Men’s 372 (roughly 20th place). While X-Men have a greater breadth of popularity, I’d say the Bat-Clan characters are more popular. This isn’t even counting the points from the Dark Knight himself.

For comparison, Fantastic Four have 1934 points for 7 members with an average of 276 points (30th place). Avengers have 5377 points for 12 characters or an average of 448 points (16th place).

I’ll admit that I’m not even entirely positive with Avengers numbers since several of their members are still to come and they’ve had so MANY members. Do you count Spiderman? Daredevil? Reed Richards? Beast? Black Panther? (I didn’t include Richards or Panther, but I did include everyone else.) Similiarly with the Fantastic Four. Do you stay with the original 4 or include She-Hulk, Storm, Black Panther, etc? (I included all of those.)

My favorite Joker story is the “Mad Love” one shot, by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini.

My problem with the Joker is that he simply strains my suspension of disbelief past the breaking point. Odd, I know, since I have no trouble with Kryptonians. Why? The massive body count coupled with the fact that he’s a non-powered villain, as noted by previous posters.

My problem is a failure of DC editorial, frankly. Joker’s responsible for hundreds and hundreds (thousands now? I’m not sure) of deaths, but no one kills him? Sorry, but the next time Batman leaves him trussed up at a precinct house, some cop (most of whom have lost friends, family, and/or coworkers to this guy) would pump six rounds into his skull. Or another bereaved relative would simply drop him with a rifle from a nearby rooftop. Or an Arkham attendant would give him too much medicine. There would be so many contracts out on this guy, issued by friends and family of people he’s murdered, he wouldn’t be able to show his head without it getting blown off.

Don’t get me wrong — should he be a crazy killer? Yes, probably (though we don’t get too see enough of the calculating criminal genius). But the ridiculously stratospheric body count that’s constantly jacked up by each successive writer should be immediately terminated by editorial decree. Yeah — that will happen.

I have a hard time really enjoying the Joker, but I love the dichotomy between Batman and the Joker — One lives for order, the other chaos. One wants to strike fear, the other wants to make you laugh. It’s really quite brilliant, even if they didn’t plan on it.

My favorite take on the Joker is the Mark Hamill version. He nailed the part, making him scary and menacing and loads of fun at the same time, in a way the comic version never did for me. They didn’t need to show the Joker killing a bunch of people to show how terrifying he is. Just knowing he’s capable of it is frightening enough.

Have a good day.
John Cage

Bryan Long: that actually happened in Gotham Central. Cop just wales on him with a phone book, but the Joker manages to get away.

But yeah, I agree with you. (I also think that an awesome DC story would start with Batman just being taking out by a sniper shooting him thru the lower half of his face, but that’s me.

“Having never read the Killing Joke I assumed that the Joker knew. The idea doesn’t work quite as well this way I don’t think. Then again, it does speak a little more to the randomness and insanity of the Joker. Eh, What do I know?”

The Joker’s goal in TKJ was to drive Gordon mad, on the assumption that a sane person could go as insane as the Joker from just one bad day. It didn’t work, needless to say, but it makes sense in that context.

The Joker’s a great character (when done right, which you could say about anyone on either list) who’s also overexposed. When he’s really funny, though — wow. I didn’t read Last Laugh but that bit on his “to do” list quoted above made me laugh out loud. Wicked yet sooo darkly funny. I also loved it during Morrison’s “Rock of Ages” when everything’s going sour for the villains in their satellite and Joker runs off — but not cause he’s a coward, just to regroup — saying something like, “What we need right now is a really giantic GUN!” And then sure enough, he comes back to try to take on Superman, Wonder Woman and Company with said gun. He’s a fun psycho.

But here’s what I find most interesting: I had a two or three villians on both of my lists, but overall the ratio of villains to heroes is very low. Does anyone else find that odd? I mean, sure, you want the good guys to win, but really (as Hitchcock once noted), these stories are only as good as their villains. Really bad-ass bad guys are key to the superhero genre, and if you don’t have a few favorite villains, well … I just don’t understand it.

Anyway, my Batman villain who made the cut was The Riddler, whom I find a far more interesting character … and though “Hush” was lacking in many regards, the idea that Eddie Nigma was smart enough to figure out the Bruce Wayne facade struck me as absolutely right-on. And now he’s getting an exciting new life thanks to Dini as the smart, savvy but questionably reformed detective. Love it!

Oh, the to-do list in ‘Last Laugh’ is freaking brilliant.

“Have one last talk with Harley and really see if I can’t convey to her the depths of my true feelings, the–”

The above is all scratched out, and below it is written, “KILL HARLEY.”

A few items further down. “Look into having an heir. Perhaps Harley and I–see above. Perhaps I can adopt?”

“Talk to Vatican, see if that whole ‘selling my soul to Neron’ thing is legit.”

There’s more–it’s a great gag. (‘Last Laugh’ was a really good crossover that suffered from two things; one, Chuck Dixon said they were really going to kill off the Joker and they didn’t–yes, yes, I know, his heart stopped for a few seconds so they technically did, but to imply a ‘Death of the Joker’ story and not give one feels like cheating the readers to me, and it did to just about everyone else too. And two, it came just two months after ‘Our Worlds at War’, and everyone was just sick of crossovers…to the point that ‘Last Laugh’ was the last crossover until ‘Identity Crisis’.)

I had the Joker as #4 on my list. Easily the best DC villain (you gotta be good twist even Batman as much as he does.)

Seeing one of the covers above reminded me how much I really hated the way Kyle Baker draew the Joker.

I love Kyle’s art and stories normally (really!), but for some weird reason he was the go-to guy when it came to drawing the Joker for years at DC. Thank gawd those days are over.

Anyway I hope they don’t overuse li’l Joker. I did like his last appearance in that Zatanna storyline.

joker ahh what can i say, you know he’s more evil than they make him out now.
i read this on ccomic book when he got one of batmans girls and told his goons to have there way with here. YEAH he’s one twisted villain.

i like joker more than batman. oh and wolverine and th hulk do it for me to

i luv da joker he so kool,

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