One of the most iconic villains and no doubt one of the most recognisable clowns in pop culture is the nemesis of the Dark Knight – The Joker. Joker captured the minds of readers decades ago and has since seen his fair share of adaptations, recently his latest movie outing (this time played by veteran actor Joachim Phoenix) has garnered an even bigger audience and pulled more people towards the madman. But if Joker is such a crazed lunatic why is he so appealing and why does a man with seemingly zero abilities persist as such an unstoppable villain?
A lot of Joker’s appeal lies in his ability to make us laugh. Even in the direst of situations, the macabre humour or often silly antics he affords the audience give his character a real edge. Unlike the stoic, hard faced action villains who take everything far too literally, the Joker seems to enjoy his villainy and loves to keep himself (an us) entertained, no matter the scenario.
Chaos Not Capitalism
Joker is an agent of chaos. This means he isn’t looking to make money (illustrated wonderfully in Nolan’s Dark Knight as he passively ignites piles of dollars), he isn’t trying to get the girl, he rarely has a target. Often Joker just wants to unleash some anarchy. This makes him different to almost all villains in most media, it also makes him terrifically unpredictable and incredibly fun to watch as he leads stories to places, they wouldn’t go conventionally.
A good villain is ruthless, and the Joker is up here with the worst of them. Known to harm the brave, weak, innocent with no discrimination. Although he has a constant stream of henchmen it is not uncommon for him to off them personally should they displease him (or simply be in the same room at a bad time). This violent asylum escapee has a continuous streak of carnage and some monumental kills on his list, including members of Gotham’s police force and those who Batman cares deeply for.
Something that keeps bringing readers back to the pages is how close Joker gets to Batman himself. If crippling and offing members of the Bat-family wasn’t enough, it has been hinted at that Joker may know the secret identity of the caped crusader. In Scott Snyder’s Death Of The Family a Joker is discovered inside the Batcave leaving a frightening uncertainty behind with it. Since they have been nemeses for so long it makes sense that the Clown prince of crime may be the one to finally destroy Batman’s legacy, as the series continues, he definitely seems to be getting closer.
Exploits Batman’s Weakness
Joker knows that Batman refuses to kill and uses this against him constantly. He knows that no matter what havoc he causes, Batman will simply send him back to Arkham Asylum. This allows him to break free once again for continued chaos, it also means their game of cat and mouse is perpetual. This bizarre relationship between the pair is deep and dynamic and makes for some truly interesting moments as well as allowing for tales where Batman has finally had enough (See Alan Moore’s Killing Joke).