The greatest supervillain of all time is quite simply the Joker. The arch-nemesis of Batman is psychotic, comical and a genius all at the same time. He possesses an unpredictability that no other supercriminal can match. But what qualities of the character, in particular, have made the Joker such a classic? I’ll give you my take.
- He’s unpredictable – This maniacal super criminal is capable of anything. Whether he is harassing a law clerk to copyright fishes or holding a boat of innocent civilians to ransom – there is no depth of depravity that The Joker won’t sink to. This makes him a deadly enemy for Batman to combat. Unlike many supervillains, he isn’t physically imposing. But, he makes up for this with his diabolical scheming that make him the ultimate criminal mastermind.
- He’s crazy – Just look at him!! He is a children’s party entertainer gone wrong. A completely unhinged lunatic. The fact that he dresses up as a clown makes him all the more terrifying. The great villains of fiction are often clowns. Look at the Violator, IT and even the fucked up possessed clown from the Poltergeist. Something that is supposed to be so welcoming and friendly has become synonymous with something terrifying. There is no doubt the Joker falls strongly into this category.
- He cares little for law and order – The Joker is the ultimate nihilist. He care’s little for the frivolities of law and order and the rules that shape society. This makes him an agent of chaos. Instead of protecting the weak, like his enemy Batman, he actively goes about tormenting the lives of Gotham residents – purely because he can. The Joker has no end game in mind. Unlike so many other super villains, he isn’t out for revenge. He just wants to wreak havoc on anything and everyone and as Alfred accurately points out in the Dark Knight ‘Some people just want to watch the world burn’.
- He has followers – The Joker doesn’t act alone. Instead, he has many foot soldiers to implement his plans. In addition to his underlings, he also has a lieutenant. His disciple is Harley Quinn, a former therapist of Arkham Asylum who has been seduced by the Joker’s wicked ways. She now lives to serve and execute her master’s will and will do pretty much anything to please him. So as well as having the ability to terrify he can also attract people to his anarchic cause.
- His vague backstory – Apart from the killing joke arc, the genesis of the Joker and his descent to mayhem is rarely talked about. There are some hints but nothing concrete. It means we can never truly identify or be empathic towards him. In many ways, this makes him the embodiment of carnage rather than a victim of circumstances, in the way Batman is. Think of him as a trickster god of Norse mythology like Loki – whose inherent nature is to cause trouble.
*Image credit, geekandsundry.com