The first origin story that comes to mind of any Joker fan is at the same time the most popular one. For those of you who are not familiar with it, it differs from writer to writer, but it usually involves two main story points: a red hood gang leader and a chemical bath. For the first time it was introduced to us in Detective Comics #168, about a decade after Joker’s debut. It paints the Joker as a criminal mastermind, who wore a red, dome-shaped helmet and called himself the Red Hood. At some point, while robbing a chemical plant, he was confronted by Batman. Trying to avoid being captured, he jumps into a vat of chemicals and becomes the Joker.
While this version is very well known, there are many more disturbing Joker origin stories out there. We compiled a list of 15 we think are the creepiest. So let’s move on to number 15.
15. Lex Luthor
The first one on the list shows us how one little turn of events can change everything. It’s an alternative version of the character, which appeared in Superman: Speeding Bullets, where Superman is adopted by Thomas and Martha and raised as Bruce Wayne. Lex Luthor, his greatest nemesis, falls victim to the same chemical accident that turned Red Hood into the Joker. He’s a combination of the two, having Luthor’s signature bald head and Joker’s clothes, pale skin and crimson grin. He’s also a bit on a chubby side.
14. Just an act
In Case Study, by Paul Dini and Alex Ross, before the chemical bath, Joker was a major player in Gotham’s crime scene for many years. He stayed mostly out of the spotlight, constantly changing his name and identity, avoiding being caught and slipping under the radar, thanks to his wit, cleverness and ruthlessness. He became the Red Hood simply for the thrill of it and because he was bored of playing on easy mode. He’d rather be reckless and have fun for a change.
It is suggested by Harley Quinn herself, before she went nuts, of course, that the Joker isn’t insane after all. In the medical report, Harleen claimed that the chemicals didn’t make him crazy. His acts of crime were too complicated and too well-orchestrated to be performed by a crazy person. The Joker may have even driven Harley mad in order to avoid the file being used against him in court.
13. Abusive father
In Mad Love, set in Batman: The Animated Series universe, we have a chance to dive deeper into Joker’s backstory. The details of it are provided by the Clown Prince of Crime himself. He tells Harleen Quinzel a sad story about his childhood and his abusive father. The only moments of happiness for the young Joker came when his father would take him to the circus. The clowns there were the only thing that could make his dad laugh, especially when they’d drop their pants. That’s why when his father’s pants dropped one day, the Joker burst out laughing. Unfortunately dad couldn’t take a joke and broke his nose in response.
The purpose of the story was to touch Harleen’s heart and make her fall in love with him. That’s why we can’t really know if the story was true or not.
12. Jack the Bank Robber
Similar to the Case Study’s Joker origin story, this one also portraits the Joker as a brilliant criminal, who was so good at doing what he did that he grew tired of it. This version actually had a name, which almost never happens.
His name was Jack and he was a bank robber, whose life got exciting again when he met Batman during one of his bank heists. Jack even left a note thanking the masked vigilante for ‘making his day’. A few encounters later, Jack slit a woman’s throat open, making Batman lose his temper. The Bat left him something to let him know that they weren’t done. He whipped out his batarang and split Jack’s mouth open, giving him a Dark Knight-like smile.
The entire character of Jack has a lot of similarities to Heath Ledger’s Joker, except for the part where he came in contact with the chemicals.
11. Three Jokers
It all started when Batman had a chance to sit on the Mobius Chair and ask it what the Joker’s true identity was. In response, the all-knowing chair gave him a rather shocking answer. It said: ‘there are three’.
The release date of the three Jokers comic book is not yet announced. We also don’t know whether it means there are three different men, personalities and so on. What we do know is that it will definitely give us a brand new perspective on the Joker origin story. Looking at the two images, it looks like one of them is the Clown Prince of Crime from the Killing Joke, the other, since he’s holding a blood-covered crowbar, is probably the one that killed Jason Todd. As for the third one, it’s rather obvious that it’s the one who had Dollmaker cut off his own face and wreaked havoc in Endgame.
We won’t know for sure until the comic book arrives. We will also find out why the World’s Greatest Detective never suspected anything, even though it was under his nose the whole time. Let us know what your thoughts are on the three Jokers in the comments.
10. Cyborg Joker
Things definitely get creepier and weirder with this Elseworlds variant of the character. Here, in Batman: Nosferatu, the Joker appears as the Laughing Man. He’s a cyborg, created by the depraved Dr. Arkham. His look is as creepy as it gets and can send a shiver down one’s spine. Just imagine waking up one night to this creep standing behind your window.
What’s also cool about this version is that it ended up creating this world’s Batman, not the other way around.
9. Thomas Jr.
This one is not really a Joker origin story presented in a particular comic book, but rather an interesting and plausible theory that exploded in online community. The theory is based around the idea that the Joker is secretly Thomas Wayne Jr., Bruce’s long lost older brother. According to the theory, Thomas Jr. was a firstborn son that was presumed dead as an infant, stolen and kept in a crooked hospital, which would explain why he has no fingerprints or a name on file.
There is a huge collection of evidence supporting the theory, which goes way back through decades of Batman comics. That’s why it stands out from others. One argument is that the Caped Crusader subconsciously knows Joker’s true identity. That’s why he never let the Joker die.
Share your thoughts or any evidence supporting this idea with us in the comments.
8. Jekyll and Hyde
Batman: Two Faces shows Joker in a completely new light. This time he is not an independent entity, but a personality Bruce Wayne’s mind creates. After Pamela Isley dies in front of helpless Bruce, he blames himself for the tragedy and creates a potion to give himself superhuman strength. Little did he know there would be a rather severe side effect.
Unintentionally, he created a second personality called the Joker. While Batman uses his powers to fight crime, his other side commits murders. He shifts between the two in a style, similar to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s an interesting and creepy take on how the character originated. He’s still his arch nemesis, even though this time the Joker is a part of him.
7. The Killing Joke
The Killing Joke origin story is without a doubt the most classic and well known version out there. It strongly resembles the first one from Detective Comics, but is innovative in one particular way. It’s the first time the man who would become the Joker isn’t portrayed as a villain, but rather an innocent person with a tough life, who’s only fault was making some wrong choices for the sake of his family.
The future Joker was an unsuccessful comedian, who lived poorly in a run-down apartment with his pregnant wife. In a desperate attempt to make money for his family, the comedian decides to help a criminal gang rob a place he used to work in, called Ace Chemicals. They gave him the classic Red Hood helmet and told him it’s for protecting his identity and secured him that many others like him have done that in the past. Little did he know that the Red Hood was always a patsy and someone that the gang used to keep the police attention off their own backs. The future Joker had his doubts about turning criminal, but he knew that it was necessary because he was doing this for his family.
The most heart-breaking moment comes when the comedian is notified by an officer that his pregnant wife had died in a car accident. The devastating news made him realize he no longer needed nor wanted to take part in the robbery, but at that point the gang wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
The rest of this particular Joker origin story is similar to the one in Detective Comics. The robbery goes wrong, Batman shows up and the horrified man ends up tripping over his own cape and landing in the chemicals, which change him into the Joker. What’s really creepy about Alan Moore’s reimagining of the story is that it shows that “all it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy”.
6. Troubled Child
This Joker origin story is rather disturbing. We find out about it when Atom gets inside of Joker’s head and takes a look at his memories. He sees the Clown Prince of Crime at his early age, splitting a bully’s head open. The Atom digs further into the Joker’s brain, seeing flashbacks of his teenage years. At this point it’s been mentioned that he’s a cat and dog killer. While his parents are having a fight, his father goes on about how violently the animals were butchered by the little Joker. The teenager doesn’t bother to listen to them, he just locks them up in their own house and sets the building on fire, leaving them to die.
What’s interesting about this depiction is that he didn’t become the murderous psychopath in his adulthood, but it started when he was little. We don’t know whether he was born or raised that way, but without a doubt this is one of the creepiest Joker origin stories out there.
5. Insane Martha Wayne
There have been a couple of female Jokers, like Bianca Steeplechase, but the one we will be focusing on is Martha Wayne. In the Flashpoint timeline things turned out a bit different for little Bruce. Instead of witnessing his parents being murder, he was the one that was killed by Joe Chill. Seeing her only child being murdered in front of her, Martha’s sanity suffered greatly. She lost herself and later on in the story she sliced her cheeks open, in order to smile and deal with the situation. That’s when the Joker was born. It’s definitely a disturbing take on the character, since it’s a result of a severe tragedy.
4. The Batman Who Laughs
Similar to Batman: Two Faces, this time we’re once again presented with an idea of a psychotic and homicidal Batman. The Joker, knowing he was dying because of the chemicals that transformed him, went on a crazier than usual killing spree. As Batman grappled with the Joker, he died as the chemicals caught up with him. Joker’s decaying body infected Batman with the virus. Bruce was slowly turning into his arch nemesis. Eventually, he snapped and became the new Joker.
It wouldn’t have made it this high in our list if it wasn’t for the fact that in the moment of his transformation he whipped out two Uzis and slaughtered the entire Bat-family, except for Damian Wayne, who he turned into Mini-Joker. And on the side note, spoiler alert, he also ended up killing the Justice League and ruling his Earth.
It’s pretty safe to say that the Aunt Eunice arc belongs in the top 3 of the creepiest Joker origin stories. There’s no chemical bath in this one, no Red Hood and no evil little boy scenario. In this one Joker is just an innocent kid who happened to be unlucky enough to be raised by an abusive sociopath.
He was constantly starved, beaten and screamed at by his aunt. The boy had no friends, just a small, stuffed animal with a purple hat that never left his side. Aunt Eunice ended up taking it from him, too. She kept cleaning little Joker up, because in her words, he “never washed his ugly face”. The horrifying part is that she used bleach and a scrub brush to do it. Eventually, after many scrubbings, his skin became white.
How has the Joker always managed to survive all the near death experiences? The Endgame story arc gives us the most bizarre answer to that question.
It tells a tale of a regular man, who many years ago came into contact with a chemical named dionesium, which made him immortal. Ever since that event, people of Gotham had been haunted by the Pale Man, as they called him. Many people have died by his hand and he seemed to emerge during Gotham’s most catastrophic events. The Pale Man tormented the city for many generations and became something of an urban legend. The Joker pretended to be just a regular, mortal man, to toy with Batman.
Things get complicated at the end of the story arc, because it is suggested that the entire story was just a fictional tale created by the Clown Prince of Crime himself to mess with Batman’s head. Perhaps when the Three Jokers comic book is released, everything will be explained. For now, we’re left in the dark. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
1. The Butler
And this is how we’ve reached the number one of our list! It’s without a doubt the weirdest and creepiest Joker origin story.
The Clown Prince of Crime has always been Batman’s greatest villain. He’s been portrayed as a troubled child, criminal mastermind, an innocent person who just happened to have one bad day, and many more. But what if it was all a lie? What if Batman isn’t the World’s Greatest Detective after all? What if the Joker is really Alfred Pennyworth wearing makeup and a green wig?
That’s right, you’ve read correctly. Now allow me to explain.
The major twist took place in Neil Gaiman’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” comic. The story is narrated by Batman himself after his death. In his early years as the Masked Vigilante, Bruce had troubles with catching criminals. Simply put, he was just bad at it. Alfred, always wanting the best for Bruce, came up with an idea. He decided to create a persona that would be Batman’s greatest villain, a Moby Dick to his Ahab.
The purpose of it was to give Bruce experience and confidence he needed in order to become Gotham’s true guardian. All the crimes the Joker persona committed were done just so Batman would become better at what he does. Even Arkham, where the Joker was sent after being caught by Batman, was a fake mental institution. Alfred didn’t stop there. He called up a few of his actor friends to pretend they were supervillains, as well. Those included Catwoman, Penguin, Scarecrow and the Riddler. Oh, and speaking of the Riddler, he was the one who killed the Bat after convincing himself that he truly was the imaginary criminal.
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This bizarre origin story concludes our list. The Joker is without a doubt a complex character with a huge range of stories of his past. It’s not really surprising, since just like Joker said: “If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice”. Some are creepy, some strange and some make more sense than others, but it’s up to you which one you think fits the character the most.
Which Joker origin is your favorite? Which one do you think doesn’t work? Tell us in the comments below and be sure to leave a suggestion for the future articles. If we pick your idea, we’ll give you a shout out at the top of that very article, so don’t miss out!