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Friday, October 4, 2019

Get Ready for Joker

Written by Jon Williams

Batman is one of the oldest and most beloved superheroes, having now been around for 80 years. Now, though, his most famous nemesis is stepping into the spotlight. Joker launches into theatres this weekend with plenty of buzz, looking to thrill audiences and break box office records. Here is a look at how the character has evolved throughout its various iterations over the years.

The Joker is nearly as old as the Caped Crusader himself. He made his first appearance in the premiere issue of Batman early in 1940, and the two have been fighting ever since. The original origin story holds that he fell into a vat of chemical waste, altering his appearance and driving him insane. This has changed often, due ostensibly to the mercurial nature of the character. In the comics he has been by turns a vicious murderer and a mischievous prankster. Patrons interested in these exploits will find a wide range of classic and contemporary comics from DC on hoopla digital.

This iconic villain remained a page-only creation for more than two and a half decades. He came to the screen for the first time when he was played by Cesar Romero in the classic television show that began in 1966, as well as the movie that accompanied it. The series featured camp over grit, and the Joker in this version was impish rather than violent. He came to animation in 1968 in The Adventures of Batman, voiced by Ted Knight, who reprised the role in 1972 when Batman teamed up with the Mystery, Inc. crew for The New Scooby-Doo Movies. In 1977, The New Adventures of Batman saw the Joker voiced by Lennie Weinrib, and in 1985 he was voiced for one episode of The Super Powers Team by legendary voice actor Frank Welker.

Being aimed more or less at kids, those iterations of the Joker were generally lighthearted in nature. Things began taking a darker turn with Tim Burton’s 1989 take on Batman, which saw Jack Nicholson portray the Joker as a twisted gangster intent on taking out the population of Gotham City. Mark Hamill provided what many consider the definitive voice of the animated Joker beginning in 1992 with Batman: The Animated Series and continuing for years through several animated projects and video games, including the movies Mask of the Phantasm (1993) and Return of the Joker (2000), and even up through recent outings like The Killing Joke.

After Nicholson’s incredible performance and with Hamill holding down the fort on the animated side, the Joker wasn’t seen again in live-action form until 2008. In The Dark Knight, the middle film of Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed Batman trilogy, Heath Ledger made it worth the wait with a powerhouse performance that earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Unfortunately, it was a posthumous award, as the actor tragically passed away shortly before the film’s release.

Since then, however, focus has returned to the Joker, with a variety of big names playing him. He was portrayed by Jared Leto in 2016’s Suicide Squad along a team of super villains, with Harley Quinn and Deadshot among them. This movie has a sequel in development as well as several planned spinoffs, so fans will be seeing this version of the Joker again. In 2017’s animated Lego Batman Movie, he was voiced by comic actor Zach Galifianakis. And now, in Joker, he’s played by Joaquin Phoenix in an unhinged performance that is already drawing raves.

Batman vs. the Joker is a rivalry that has stood the test of time. Visit our website for plenty of Batman media across all our formats, and point your patrons toward hoopla for comics and more they can enjoy immediately on all their devices.


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