Superhero comic books can be fickle things. They continuously shift from one interpretation to another I believe to adapt to the times and conditions in the “real world.” One of the greatest villains in all of superhero legend is The Joker . However, it has never been stated definitively how he came to be or even what his backstory is. There have been multiple interpretations involving a vat of chemicals that he falls into that gave him his distorted image with that ever-present maniacal grin, green hair, and pasty-white face. For purposes of plot alone, the 1988 Tim Burton directed Batman suggested that the caped crusader was ultimately responsible for the fiend’s condition. Some comics stories suggest that these interpretations are nothing more than lies concocted by the Clown Prince of Crime himself and that we will probably never know the real story. In fact, in the graphic novel,Batman: The Killing Joke , the villain does not seem to remember just how he came to be. “Sometimes, I remember it one way, sometimes another…if I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice.”
Over the years, the Joker has been the instrument in two major tragedies in The Dark Knight’s history (or three if you are going to follow Tim Burton’s interpretation). In the aforementioned The Killing Joke, he shoots Police Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, Barbara in the back rendering her paralyzed and ending her career as Batgirl. However, Barbara later returned as the heroine Oracle who uses her computer expertise to aide in the fight against crime.
Another incident involved Batman’s closest ally, Robin the Boy Wonder. After Bruce Wayne’s “youthful ward Dick Grayson” matured he became known as Nightwing and left the Batcave. A new Robin was introduced in Jason Todd. In Batman: A Death in the Family, The Joker captures Robin, beats him to a pulp and locks him in a warehouse set to explode minutes before salvation arrives. In a twist, the comic writers allowed the public to determine the new Boy Wonder’s fate. One 900 number would have him be saved; the other would bring his end. Ultimately, reader’s brought the life of the young sidekick to a close. So, the Joker was the catalyst but the public killed him. This incident only intensified Batman’s desire to apprehend his arch-nemesis and put him away for good. Now where is the fun in that?!
On Friday, audiences will see a new, even darker, more sinister Joker as portrayed by the late Heath Ledger. Who knows what interpretation will be presented for the villain. For more on the history of one of the best characters in comic book legend click on the link
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