My theme for the A to Z challenge is Villain Archetypes.
Yes, 26 descriptions of some of your favorite villains of literature, TV, and movies.
April 11 *Special Edition* – J is for The Joker
Since it’s Saturday, I thought I’d do something a bit different. Today, J is for the Joker, my all-time favorite arch-villain, and an archetype-bending character in his own right. The Clown Prince of Crime has been just about every kind of villain you can think, through various incarnations in Graphic Novels, TV, and Movies in his 75 years of existence (He first appeared in Batman #1 on April 25th, 1940).
He’s been funny, creepy, slap-stick, serious, dark, light, supremely powerful, and flat broke. Hand-buzzers, guns, swords, laughing gas, and on one memorable occasion reality-altering powers stolen from an inter-dimensional being, the Joker has used a myriad of tools to wreak havoc on the DC universe. He’s killed Robins, paralyzed Batgirls, and even blown up Metropolis with a nuclear bomb. The trademark purple suit and rictus grin is every bit as iconic as the cape and cowl of his favorite nemesis.
There’s about good ol’ Mr. J that sticks in your memory. The juxtaposition of the clown visage, maniacal laughter, and homicidal intent blends together to create one of the most renowned villains of all time. With comics entering the mainstream consciousness more prevalently in the last decade, we’re starting to see just how unique a creation the Joker really is.
Every actor’s portrayal of the Joker is definitive and unforgettable, whether it’s Jack Nicholson’s artfully deranged take, Heath Ledger’s dark, sadistic representation, Mark Hamil’s eerie vocal talent that wholly embodied the Joker for over a decade, or even the classically campy Cesar Romero version from the 1960’s. You can’t forget any of the work these actors did, due in equal part to their talent, and the uniquely deranged aspects of the character they portrayed.
One of the best things about the Joker is he defies description. He literally can be any kind of villain to fit any kind of story. Yes, he has anarchist and psychopathic tendencies, but using just one word to describe him and his antics just doesn’t do the man justice (pun intended). The closest explanation I’ve ever seen comes in Graphic Novel from the esteemed Grant Morrison called Arkham Asylum; A Serious House on Serious Earth, where a criminal psychologist postulates that the Joker has a unique derangement where he wakes up with a different form of insanity every morning, and that his mind re-invents itself every 24-hours (or so). Even that doesn’t quite feel right. The inexplicable nature of his actions, the befuddling back-story, it all adds up to make the Joker the ultimate chaos villain, and a (licensed) character that can play any role in a narrative.
Some famous things the Joker’s said:
- “Plans, plans, plans. They always have their plans. But the problem with their plan… is that when you take an insane person to the asylum, you’re just taking him home – the very place he knows best.”
- “So when you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember there’s always madness. Madness is the emergency exit… you can just step outside, and close the door on all those dreadful things that happened. You can lock them away… forever.”
- “Ladies and Gentlemen, Hobos and Tramps, Cross-eyed mosquitoes and bowlegged ants. I come before you, to stand behind you, to tell you a story I know nothing about. One bright morning in the middle of the night two dead fellows stood up to fight. They stood back to back, facing each other, drew their swords and shot one another. If you don’t believe my lie, it’s true, ask the blind lady on the corner, she saw it too.”
- “They could put me in a helicopter and fly me up into the air and line up the bodies head to toe on the ground in delightful geometric patterns like an endless June Taylor dancers routine — and it would never be enough. No, I don’t keep count. But you do. And I love you for it.”
- “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you…stranger.”
- Can somebody tell me what kind of a world we live in where a man dressed up as a bat gets all of my press?! This town needs an enema!