The Joker is a master criminal who has been portrayed as a sadistic murderer, a goofy trickster and everything in-between. Also known as the Clown Prince of Crime, he is Batman's arch enemy. Where Batman represents order, the Joker is chaos incarnate.
The Joker made his first appearance in Batman #1 (1940) and was created by Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger and Bob Kane. He has been a prominent Batman villain ever since and has been portrayed numerous times onscreen, most notably by Caesar Romero in the 1960s television series, by Jack Nicholson in the 1989 Batman film and most recently by Heath Ledger in the 2008 film "The Dark Knight." The Joker has also appeared in every animated incarnation of Batman.
There have been several different origins given for the Joker but the common thread that runs throughout them involves the man who would one day be the Joker adopting the persona of The Red Hood and robbing a chemical plant only to be stopped by Batman. While attempting an escape, the Hood falls into a vat of toxic chemicals that bleach his skin, dye his hair a permanent shade of green and leave his face disfigured with a perpetual smile.
When he first appeared, the Joker was a straight-up homicidal maniac but with the introduction of the Comics Code, he was softened and ended up as a comical prankster and thief. In 1973, writer Dennis O'Neil took the character back to his roots as someone who follows no discernible pattern or sense of logic and kills on a whim. The Joker takes great joy in matching wits with Batman and in reality probably couldn't survive without him. Over the years, the Joker has been responsible for many of the great tragedies in Batman's life including crippling Barbara Gordon (the former Batgirl) and murdering Jason Todd, the second Robin. Despite all this, Batman has repeatedly refused to end the Joker's life. Perhaps Batman realizes that he needs the Joker as much as the Joker needs him?
The Joker possesses no superhuman abilities but has been depicted as having reasonable hand-to-hand combat skills as well as being a decent shot and handy with a knife or other such weapon. He is highly proficient in the fields of chemistry and engineering and is quite adept with explosives. He also displays an uncanny ability to escape from situations that would seemingly result in death.
The Joker uses a variety of comedic weapons while committing crimes, including razor-tipped playing cards, acid-spewing flowers and exploding cigars. His most prominent weapon is his Joker Venom, also known as "Joker Juice," a deadly poison that kills its victims by causing them to laugh uncontrollably. They end up with a face twisted into a hideous grin.
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