WANTED: Earth-Two's Most Dangerous Super-Villains
The Golden Age Joker
Residence: Gotham City
Occupation: Professional Criminal
First Appearance (Golden Age): Batman Comics #1 (March 1940)
First Appearance (Post-Golden Age): Justice League of America #136 (November 1976)
Few facts are known about the early life of the man who
become known as the Joker of Earth-Two. He claims to be descended from ancestors
that were clowns (Batman #59) but this may be untrue. He also stated that he
had been to prison, leading him to murder Judge Drake who had sentenced him
(Batman #1) but it's not known why he was convicted. The first reliable
knowledge is from late 1939, in which he is known to have been employed as a
laboratory worker who become frustrated with his slow rate of success and
decided to steal $1M ($20M in modern funds) and retire. Using materials from his lab, he creates a
metallic red hood with two-way mirror for the eye hole, completely obscuring
his identity and start a crime spree as the appropriately named "Red
Hood". He staged a series of brazen
robberies for a month, frequently encountering and escaping from the Batman,
becoming the first criminal Batman never caught. The Red Hood's career
culminated with his final theft at the Monarch Card Company where, to escape
Batman, he dove into a vat of chemicals relying on his hood to feed him oxygen. Once more escaping, he arrived at home to see
that chemicals had drastically distorted his appearance, giving him chalk white
skin, green hair and a red distorted smile which he thought looked like an evil
clown. From that point on, even though
he had succeeded in his theft of $1M, he embarked a new identity as the
criminal known as the Joker (Detective #168).
While the physical impact of his submersion in the chemical waste of the card company was evident, it appears that at least initially there were mental effects as well as he graduated from simple burglary to outright murder. Using his chemistry skills, he developed a series of timed poisons that caused death accompanied by terminal laughter and a rictus grin. In the Spring of 1940, the Joker staged a series of very high profile murders coupled with thefts of gemstones, one of his favorite targets of robbery and murdered the judge who had once sent him to prison. He was ultimately captured by Batman and jailed but promptly escaped using explosive chemicals hidden in two false teeth. He resumed his gem thefts, murdering the police chief and several prominent citizens along the way. He was finally cornered by Batman and in the ensuing struggle, impaled himself on the blade he intended for Batman. Hearing the arriving authorities, Batman left the Joker for dead and departed. When the medics arrived, they found the Joker badly wounded but still alive. (Batman #1)
When news of the Joker's survival became known, Batman raced
the local crime syndicate to remove the villain from the hospital but was
outmatched. The Joker spent the week in
a private hospital jet owned by local syndicate members, recovering at a
remarkable rate. While the Joker
superficially agreed to help them rob the jewels of millionaire E.S. Arthur, he
ultimately betrays them as Batman arrives on the scene and attempts to grab the
jewels from his other competitor in theft, the Catwoman. While Arthur is found murdered by the Joker,
Batman defeats the syndicate and renders the Joker unconscious before
abandoning the scene with the Catwoman, who in turn promptly escapes (Batman
For the next year and a half, the Joker returned from repeated apparent deaths to bedevil Batman and Robin. These incidents included the adoption of a commonly used pseudonym "Rokej" (Detective #45), forming a prototype "Royal Flush Gang" of card-themed criminals on a riverboat (Batman #5) and getting caught up in solving the puzzle in the will of a local comedian, largely by killing his competition (Detective #62). In the summer of 1942, the Joker had becoming tired of living on the lamb and concocted a scheme to reset his legal record. He surrendered to the local police and provided a lengthy confession to his many crimes and murders, for which the judge concluded the only reasonably penalty was death. The Joker was summarily executed by electrocution but unknown to the state, he had again used his chemical knowledge to develop an agent activated by electricity that placed him a death-like state of suspended animation until his gang could steal his body and revive him with the antidote. The judge ruled that since he had been duly executed, he had paid for his crimes in full and was now free. Predictably, he used his new legal clean slate as a cover for his hang to commit crimes resulting in him being back in the confines of Gotham Penitentiary (Detective Comics #64).
Somewhat surprisingly, a change is observed in the Joker’s
behaviors. Rather than than wanton
murder, the Joker becomes obsessed with committing madcap crimes to stymie
Batman and Robin. Over the next decade,
he engages in antics such as giving his victims lavish gifts (Detective #69),
designing crimes based on radio songs (Detective #124), or trying to establish through crimes that he is the funniest man in Gotham (Batman #57). He cultivated relationships with other Gotham
criminals like the Penguin (Batman #25) and developed parallel gimmicks to
Batman such as a Jokermobile and Joker Signal (Batman #37). He even on some
cases had to team-up with Batman (Detective #85). The more mischievous, less murderous behavior
suggests that this Joker, at least after his near execution, was somewhat less
malevolent than his multiversal counterparts.
Indeed, in one case, a blow to the head costs the Joker his memory and
he becomes a heroic figure in a small town in the Adirondacks. While another blow restores him criminal
behavior, this case argues that the Joker may not be inherently evil or insane
The Joker’s activities after the 1950’s are poorly documented. He is known to have been active in the mid-1970’s, when he was recruited by King Kull to be part of a multiversal team of villains serving the criminal from Earth-S (Justice League of America #136). He outlived his nemesis, learning of Batman’s death in prison (Brave and the Bold #200), an event which seemed to have a negative affect on his mental health, driving him back toward his original murderous behaviors. In the early 1980’s, he escaped prison again and waged a crime wave opposed by Robin and The Huntress. He was captured by being convinced that Batman was in fact still alive (actually Robin in disguise), which let the Huntress capture the Clown Prince and send him back to prison (Wonder Woman #281-283).
The Joker survived into the 21st century but was wracked by age and exposure to noxious chemicals for decades. Approaching the end of his own life, he returned to his most murderous form, attempting to kill District Attorney Harry Sims, lover of Helena Wayne, the Huntress. Dousing him with acid and leaving him in a medical coma, he was tracked by the Huntress and the time-tossed Power Girl of Earth-0. When Huntress decided to kill the elderly villain to avenge Sims, Power Girl intervened and the Joker’s electrified joy buzzer smashed into her invulnerable skin, executing the Joker and bringing his long life of crime to an end (JSA Annual #1).
Powers and Abilities
The Joker has no inherent super-powers, at least not at super-human levels. He is strong and resilient for his frame, tho not beyond human norms. How much of his ability to withstand injury or his longevity was influenced by his exposure at Ace Chemicals in unclear. He has a diabolical intellect and a high tolerance for risk, leading him to commit brazen crimes and succeed by sheer daring as often as not. He is actually sufficiently successful at crime to amass a significant largess of ill-gotten wealth and his able to buy or develop devices like the Jokermobile, the Jokergyro or the Jokerplane as well as develop a variety of toxins and gases to use in his crimes.
Weaknesses and Limitations
The Joker appeared to be able to withstand near fatal injury (being stabbed or sentenced to death) and recover but was neither invulnerable nor immortal. In his dotage, backlash from his joy buzzer was sufficient to kill him. Mentally, the Earth-Two Joker does not seem to be consumed by raw psychosis to the extent other version of him are for a large portion of his career. It is not clear that he was every diagnosed with a clinical pathology as he is generally shown in the general prison population of Gotham Penitentiary. Toward the end of his life, he seems to revert to his more deranged form and while aged and fragile, is even more dangerous.
The Joker of Earth-One, also known as the Silver Age Joker, has a largely similar history likely being born in the late 1940's and beginning his career as the Red Hood. Several similarities exist between the Earth-One Joker and his Earth-Two counterpart, though arguably the Earth-One had a more murderous bent, perhaps because he never had the execution experience of the Earth-Two version since his career was largely after the suspension of the death penalty in the US. Instead, he becomes more murderous over time with notable cases including the development of fish poisoned with Joker Venom (Detective #475-476) and a man impersonated Batman that convinced the criminal elite of Gotham that Batman was actually dead (Batman #291-294). This version of the Joker is considered clinically insane and spends most of his sentences in the wards at Arkham Asylum. His activities after the Crisis on Infinite Earths are unknown.
The Joker of the Post-Crisis time is one the most aggressively maniacal versions across any timelines. Likely one of the most murderous versions, he is known to have committed homicide on a vast scale, often targeting those close to the Batman such as when he bludgeoned Robin (Jason Todd) to death with a crow bar (Batman #428) on his way to attempt to kill the UN General Assembly. He is one of the most perverse forms of the Joker, crippling Barbara Gordon with a shot the spin and then posing her nude, injured body in a variety of photos that he then shows her father. Whereas most versions of the Joker are solo operators, the Earth-o version is a member of the Injustice Gang organized by Lex Luthor (JLA #9) and has engaged a number of other members of the DC super-hero community including Superman, Wonder Woman or even the Spectre. He is speculated to have been killed by Telos during the Convergence Event (Convergence LS) but this has not been verified.
The persona of this Earth's Joker have yet to be fully revealed and there is
some evidence that three Jokers may have existed, tho one has survived to be a thorn in Batman's side (Three Jokers LS).
Nothing is known of the Joker of Earth-1, save that he has contact the Toyman of this world, an arms dealer, to create weapons for mayhem and murder (Batman: Earth One Vol. 3).
Nothing is known of the Joker of Earth-2, other than he was at some point defeated by the Earth-2 Batman and placed in suspended animation. He outlived his adversary on this earth but Thomas Wayne, inheritor of the Batman legacy, found the Joker in his comatose state and executed him, guaranteeing he would never revive ( Earth 2 #17-18).
Versions of the Joker on different iterations of Earth-3 center on his opposition the Owlman, Batman's analogue in these timelines. The Joker - sometimes the Jokester or Jester - is a chaotic form of good in a dark and twisted world. To date, all versions of the Joker in these timelines have been killed (Justice League #23.4 - Secret Society, Countdown #29).
The Joker of Earth-12 is thought to largely resemble his Earth-0 counterparts. In the mid-21st century in this timelime, the Batman has retired and passed the baton to Terry McGinness and the Joker vanished from view for years. As this new Batman received attention, the Joker re-emerges from hiding in a murderous spree, ultimately confronting the New Batman and Bruce Wayne in the Batcave after threatening to re-create the murder of Jason Todd by killed McGinness' brother, the new Robin. At the height of his fury, the aging villain's heart gives away and he dies of an infarction, a long life of crime brought to an ignominious end (Batman Beyond Vol. 6 #26-29).
A version of the Joker is though to exist in the steampunk 191th century timeline of Earth-19 but no details exist on his history (Convergence: Shazam #2)
The Joker in this timeline is though to be largely similar to his Earth-Two counterpart. His final fate is largely unknown (DC: The New Frontier LS).
The Joker of Earth-22 is thought to resemble his counterpart in the post-Crisis Earth-0 timeline. In the later years of his life, he staged a brazen assault on the Daily Planet, murdering most of it's staff including Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane. Superman arrived too late to save his loved ones but relentless pursed the Joker. Witnessing the psychopath being taken into custody, he was appalled when new hero Magog executed the Joker in cold blood. He was further appalled when Magog was deemed justified in his actions, leading Superman to largely abandon his role as Metropolis' protector for years (Kingdom Come LS).
In the Bizarro-verse, versions of the Joker are known to exist. They are often miserable individuals, burdened with sanity in a world of their backwards peers. Referred to as Bizarro-Joker (DC Comics Presents #71, Action #856) or Jo-Cryer (Superman Vol. 4 #44), it is unclear whether this is all the same individual or whether this is multiple unstable variations of the Joker that decay or vanish over time.
A pirate version of the Joker exists in this timeline known as The Laughing Man. He is apparently killed by Leatherwing, the pirate version of Batman in this timeline (Detective Comics Annual #7).
In this timeline of merged characters, the Joker is merged with Sinestro, forming Jokero the Yellow Lantern. His history is largely unknown but at some point, Sinestro is fused with Joe Chill, though it's not clear how Jokero and Sinestro are related. A version of the Red Hood also exists in this timeline but whether this is the man who eventually became the Joker as in other timelines is also unclear (Batman: In Darkest Night LS, Infinite Frontier #4-5).
The Joker of Earth-37 is Bianca Steeplechase, a cunning underworld figure who is secretly the wife of the mayor of 1960's Gotham City. In her secret life, she is the lover of Harley Quinn and masterminds a vast criminal empire. More cunning than chaotic, she manages to kill Dick Grayson, half of hero team Batgirl and Robin, leading his lover to change her nom du guerre to his and Detective Bruce Wayne to take up the identity of Batman. She is eventually killed when she drowns after being pursued by the new hero team (Thrillkiller LS, Thrillkiler '62 LS).
This version of the Joker has a similar origin and career as the Earth-Two version. In the mid-1960's, the elder villain masqueraded as his own offspring in order to escape prison and conduct a campaign against then current Batman Richard Grayson, managed to murder the hero, which lead to Bruce Wayne Jr. becoming Batman. In the 1970's, the ghost of Grayson haunted the elderly Joker, leading Batman and Boston Brand to intervene to help Grayson find piece. The Joker died soon after (Generations LS, Generations II LS).