All being well, I should finally be watching The Joker tonight. I’ve been trying to arrange a time to see it for ages. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to think about it. I try not to take too much notice to criticism before I see a film but it’s been hard to avoid most of it. I know there has been some backlash from female critics and some questions about the motivations of the Joker in it. But there has also been a lot of praise. Plus, I’m already biased against Todd Phillips thanks to his absolutely stupid comments about comedy and “woke culture”. Guy sounds like a dick and I’m assuming that his film is bound to match his outdated ideas. But, I still want to go in with an open mind. After all, the Joker is one of the most iconic villains in comic book history. So, for this week’s Friday Favourites, I thought I’d explore some of my favourite Joker centric Batman storylines. Quick disclaimer, I’m by no means a Batman comic expert. I’ve not read as much as I’d like to have read but I’ve read enough to get by comfortably.
- Killing Joke by Warren Ellis, Brian Bolland, and John Higgins
A rather obvious choice I grant you but Killing Joke is a special one. The genius of Warren Ellis’ story and the wonderfully dark illustrations by Brian Bolland. The Killing Joke offers us an origin for Batman’s nemesis that is told in flashback whilst the Joker mercilessly goes after Commissioner Gordon. The Joker set out to prove that “one bad day” is enough to turn anyone insane. This is a storyline that had a massive impact on the whole canon. It sees the Joker shoot and paralyse Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl. This is the ultimate Joker story.
- A Death in the Family by Jim Starlin, Jim Aparo, and Mike DeCarlo
Another absolutely iconic storyline in the comics. Although, this may well be best remembered because of the fan vote that led to the death of Jason Todd/Robin. The storyline sees Todd kidnapped and tortured by the Joker. It ends with the villain killing Todd in an explosion. And it’s all the fans’ fault. After readers were becoming irritated by Todd’s behaviour, editor Dennis O’Neil decided to give fans the final say on Todd’s fate. The decision to let him die had major consequences for Batman and continued to weigh on his mind in future stories. It’s a must-read for so many reasons.
This bleak graphic novel sees the Joker released from Arkham and ready to take over Gotham again. It is narrated from the point of view of Jonny Frost. Frost acts as the Joker’s chaffeur throughout the story and becomes a close confidant of the great villain. Joker is a very different Batman story. It’s a dark and disturbing look into the mind of an unhinged criminal mastermind. There are some great moments here and the final scene is one to remember.
- The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, John Costanza, and Lynn Varley
This has to be one of the greatest Batman stories of all time, right? It’s influenced so many subsequent graphic novels and has had a major impact on Christopher Nolan’s films and the latest DC offerings. The Dark Knight Returns sees an older Batman return from retirement. The Joker is just one of the many people that Batman must face off against but there are some pretty iconic moments here. It’s a great example of how dangerous and unpredictable the Joker really is.
- The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker, Doug Mahnke, and David Baron
Another Joker origin story for you. This time, we see a reimagined version of the Joker’s first appearance in Batman #1. This story was a way to bring the character into the modern world. It was the revamp he needed to allow him to be the greatest villain he could be. Is the greatest Joker origin we’ve seen? No. But it does capture his insanity and the lengths he is willing to go to. It’s definitely worth a read for anyone who loves the Joker.
- Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean
I love Grant Morrison. Okay, who doesn’t love him? But he has written some of my favourite comic book storylines. This one is no different. This was his first Batman story and he brought his own spin to the character. We see Batman forced to enter Arkham Asylum in order to stop a riot. Whilst there, he has to face the people he has previously locked up. Including the Joker. This is definitely one of Morrison’s greatest works and is the definitive take on Arkham itself. It’s such a dark and claustrophobic read. I cannot recommend this enough.
- Mad Love by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm
There are loads of better stories that I could have picked as my last choice for this list but I do have a deep personal love for this one. Mad Love is a one-shot comic book from the people that brought us Batman: The Animated Series. Like all nerdy, comic book girls, I love me a bit of Harley Quinn and this story sees her introduction into the comics. It tells us all about her background with the Joker and how she came to love such an evil villain. It’s just great.