How does one determine a past, that remains elusive even to himself? - A look at the Origins Of! The Joker
Detective Comics #168
The Joker's first origin story, written by Bill Finger, came in the 168th issue of Detective Comics. In the issue, Batman is invited to teach a criminology course at a nearby university where he tells the class of a case he was involved in over ten years ago in which went unsolved. The criminal, whom had been coined the Red Hood, had gone on a crime spree, which had ended as abruptly as it had started. The students, eager to impress Batman of course, decided they would reopen the case and investigate themselves. When word of this reached the now retired Red Hood's ears, he suddenly reappears with yet another hard on for Batman. This time however, Batman and his students are able to determine the identity of the Red Hood because of some cunningly placed strands of green hair which where left at a crime scene. It is of course revealed that before The Joker was The Joker, he was in fact the Red Hood. Once the Joker is recaptured, he tells Batman of how, after their confrontation at the Monarch Playing Card Company, he had jumped into a vat of chemicals to evade capture, which, while doing exactly that, turned his hair green, his lips red and his skin white. It was because of this, that the Joker decided to end his reign as the Red Hood and become the Joker. A name chosen from the playing card he now resembled.
The Joker Reveals All in Detective Comics 168#
The Killing Joke
The Killing Joke, written by famous comic book writer Alan Moore, contains the origin which to this day is the most widely accpeted for The Joker. The Killing Joke tells of The Joker quiting his job as a lab assistant to try his luck at being a comedian. He predominately fails at being a comedian and soon becomes unable to support his wife and so turns to the mob for help. They enlist his help in order to rob the company where he used to be an assistant. He, like in the previous origins story becomes the Red Hood, but only for a night; in order to save his family. However, before he can go through with it the police come to tell him his wife and unborn child have been killed in an electrical shortage. The mob, being the mob of course, don't care to much for personal feelings and more about the money and so make him go through with the robbery anyway. The robbery is a complete failure and like last time, his fate is decided in a chemical vat that this time he fell into.
However, unlike its predessecor, The Killing Joke explores the psychological motivations behind becoming The Joker, and blame both his disfigurement and the loss of his wife for why he went insane.
"Mister, life is swell in a padded cell, It'll chase those blues away... You can trade your gloom for a rubber room, and injections twice a day!" - Taken from the Killing Joke
Legends of The Dark Knight #50
Issue 50# of Legends of The Dark Knight, written by Dennis O'Neil and based upon Batman 1#, revolves around The Joker before he becomes The Joker. His family life is explored, along with that of his cousin Melvins who is shown to be a very child-like character who posseses an overly scientific mind. A trait, that the Joker abuses in order to invent a venom for his blackmail scheme. Of course, being the Joker he was doomed to fail and once again he is thwarted by Batman, but not before he can murder his cousin Melvin in order to remove any witnesses. This doesn't stop Batman however as he easily recognises him as the Red Hood and arrests him.
- The red hood appears to be the common denominator amongst the origins
Black and White: Volume Two
Batman Black and White: Volume Two, contains the story 'Case Study' which was penned by Paul Dinni and penciled by Alex Ross and involves yet another take on The Joker's origins. This time however, they stray away from the insane path previous origins took and instead look at it like this;
The Joker was in fact a cold and calculating criminal who worked his way up the mobster chain until he was the leader. However, he still seeked thrills that his position at the top of the mob did not allow, and so under the false guise of the Red Hood, he began commiting small time crimes. Again, like every other origin, an accident that involves Batman winds up being the reason he takes a head first dive into a chemical vat and ends up looking like a misguided abstract painting. Nevertheless, this is where the story veers from its counterparts as instead of being insane, The Joker pretends to be. The entire time in fact he is seen to be a sadistic, calculating human being who "hides behind a mask of madness to carry out a very calculated campaign of revenge." While in Arkham, he plants documents that were compiled by Harley Quiin (his psychotic lover) so that doctors, who were already questioning the validity of his insanity, would have the required proof. However, in a turn of events that could only be seen by the mastermind behind such a scheme, the documents become redundant as the fact that they were compiled by Quiin whose past relationship with The Joker was known, meant they were inadmissable in court. The doctors believed it to be a ploy for him to again, "yank the rug out from under them."
Lovers and Madmen
In Michael Green's contribution to the Joker's past, The Joker, whose name is revealed to be Jack, is a depressed and suicidal career criminal who his underwhelmed with the lackluster robberies and murders he committed. That is, until he meets the batman who just happens to fuck up one of his robberies. After the encounter, Jack becomes infatuated with Batman and decides to declare a little prank war, which inevitabely gets out of hand until finally, Batman sick of his shit, hands over the now wanted Jack to the Mob, so he can get his just desserts. The mob then go with the, by now completely *original* idea of torturing Jack in a chemcial vat. Batman ,having regretted his actions, comes to the rescue of Jack but is all to late, and instead witnesses the brth of what would be his greatest nemesis, The Joker!
While these are some of the main origin stories floating around today, there are others which either build upon the aforementioned, or again put an entirely new twist on it.
Gotham Knight #50
Batman Gotham Knights serves to reinforce the origin story told in The Killing Joke, with the twist that instead of an electrical shortage, the mob was in fact responsible for kidnapping The Jokers wife and murdering both her and their unborn child. And that was to make him do what they wanted?
The Brave and the Bold #31
The Brave and the bold #31 written by J Michael Stracyznski however, tells of a different story. In this origin, Atom assists on an operation on the Joker's brain where he literally see The Joker's childhood and young adult hood. He watches on as; the joker beats a child to the point where he needs stitches, he locks his parents in the house and then sets it on fire after he hears them discussing how they had found his little pet cemetary, after he leaves home he joins a group of robbers and kills a shopowner for the fun of it and then kills a gang member who challenges his ideal that killing is fun. As can be seen, this origin again took on the fact that he was insane.
And finally, its not all about the comic books, as can be seen in;
On A Beautiful Summers Day, He Was
Which is a story written by Robert McCammon, which featured in the anthology 'The Further Adventures of The Joker'. This story concerns The Joker as a young boy who is said to be born a monster, and not made on through experience. In the story he enjoys killing little animals and collecting their bones and also states that his father is insane, to the point that a young joker listens on as he beats his wife through the thin wall, a giant smrik on his face (probably masturbating). Not only does he masturbate over his dad beating his mom and a little animal murder, but he pulls an Elzar and Bam! Knocks it up a notch by murdering a neighbourhood kid who again, like his parents in the story above, finds the pet cemetary!
The Joker, pre transformation and still operating under the alias of the Red Hood; goes to a day spa where the unaware Bruce Wayne was softly soaking in the suds, and joins in the fun. The two strike up a conversation, most likely discussing the different functions of the utility belt Wayne was creating, and one thing leads to another, and together they decide to start up a clown college. Funded by Wayne enterprises, Jack starts going around to tween birthday parties in his clown attire, literally scaring the shit out of Gotham cities youth (whilst also robbing the place Ray Charles), until one day, in the ballsiest birthday prank ever, one of the children decides to through a vat of chemicals that was presumably just laying around the house, into Jacks face.
After murdering every party guest and the dog, the man who was once Jack, become the legend that is The Joker.