Over the course of the last century, few villains (comic book or otherwise) have become more instantly recognizable than The Joker. Gotham's clown-themed super villain has carved his way into the imaginations of fans all over the world and established a silver screen legacy that's second to none. Given that long history in the annals of pop culture, we suppose it's not surprising to learn that a movie exploring his history is officially on the way.
That said, although a recent Deadline report indicated that Warner Bros. and DC want to go all in on an origin story film for The Joker, we think there are better options available. With that in mind, we have put together a list of Joker stories that DC should look at for solo films before diving into an origin. Check out our list, and make sure to let us know what iconic Joker story you want to see come to life!
Batman: The Animated Series produced a vast array of fantastic Joker stories during its run, but one of the most consistently praised of the bunch is "Joker's Favor." Keeping Batman at an arm's distance, the story focuses on The Clown Prince of Crime as he stalks a perpetually unlucky man named Charlie Collins for two years after Collins makes the mistake of yelling at Joker in a road rage incident. In exchange for Charlie's life (and the life of his family), Joker makes the bumbling Gothamite promise to do him one single favor whenever the clown calls upon him. "Joker's Favor" is a fan-favorite entry in the canon of Mark Hamills Joker, and it shows just how insane the supervillain can be without racking up a massive body count.
Death of the Family
Of all the Joker stories ever told within the pages of DC Comics, Death of the Family is arguably the most gruesome of the bunch. Following the surgical removal of his face (which he keeps fastened to his head with a belt), a dark and twisted Joker takes his obsession with Batman to the next level by focusing his efforts on eliminating The Bat Family. The goal of this sadistic game? To show Batman that his allies make him weak and Joker is the only other person in Gotham who keeps him at the top of his game. Batman ultimately emerges victorious at the end of this particular arc, but the impact of Joker's plot reverberates through Nightwing Batgirl, Red Hood, Robin, and the rest of The Bat Family.
The Man Who Laughs
The Man Who Laughs is technically a remake of an established story, but it brings so much new material into the equation that it deserves a seat at the table. Essentially a retelling of Batman's first canonical battle against The Joker, The Man Who Laughs focuses its story on Bruce Wayne in his second year as Batman (following the events of Frank Miller's Year One) and his struggle to comprehend and understand the evil that has come to his city. The story dives deep into the methodology and pathology that drives The Clown Prince of Crime without ever offering an origin, and it provides one of the best juxtapositions of Batman and Joker ever committed to paper. It perfectly encapsulates how one values life at any cost, while the other couldn't care less about death.
While Suicide Squad certainly provided audiences with a proper look at the origin story of Harley Quinn, there's still quite a bit of room to flesh out the foundations of the relationship between Gotham's terrifying clown and his equally insane girlfriend. That is where Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's Mad Love (the now iconic story chronicling Harleen Quinzel's descent into madness) comes into the equation. Recent reports have suggested that a Joker/Harley Quinn story is now in development with the folks behind Crazy, Stupid, Love attached to bring it to life. There's currently no confirmation as to whether or not this will be a straight adaptation of Mad Love, but to leave that iconic story on the table seems like a wasted opportunity to provide audiences with some proper fan service.
There's no getting around it; Joker is a sick guy. Perhaps no story epitomizes that idea more than Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth -- which was later loosely adapted into the instantly classic Arkham Asylum game. In the storyline, Joker leads a revolt against the guards at Arkham Asylum, and Batman finds himself trapped in the loony bin with all of his worst enemies. The story is brutal, violent, and features a version of Joker that borders more on an animalistic monster than a playful clown. At one point, he even uses sharpened pencils to meticulous poke out an Arkham staff member's eyes. Arkham Asylum is a deep dive into the psyche of a truly twisted individual, and it's the type of story that could give the DC universe the R-rated movie it deserves.
A Death In The Family
The Joker has done a lot of terrible things over the course of his career as a criminal, but the murder of Jason Todd (a.k.a Robin #2) in the A Death in the Family storyline easily ranks among the worst. Luring the young boy to a secluded location, Joker beats the teenager senseless with a crowbar before leaving him battered and bloody. Just as Batman arrives to save his ward, the building explodes -- killing the iconic sidekick instantly. The murder of Jason Todd is an iconic moment in comic book history, and it has already been hinted in the DCEU. If ever there was a time to go all in and tell this iconic story (particularly from The Joker's point of view), now seems like the perfect moment.
What would happen if The Joker decided he no longer wanted to play with Batman? That's the core question posed by Scot Snyder's Endgame story arc, and it sees a version of Gotham's least favorite clown that wants nothing more than to bring his decades long battle with Batman to an end. Most live-action versions of The Joker have thus far centered on his obsession with Batman and his desire to keep their "game" alive. This would completely subvert that idea by presenting audiences with a much darker (albeit still goofy, in his way) take on Joker who is not afraid to approach his lifelong commitment to The Caped Crusader with a sense of finality. The DC universe is ruthless, and it needs a ruthless Joker like the one seen in Endgame.
Gotham Central is an incredibly unique and fun take on the Batman mythos because it doesn't focus on Batman; it focuses its attention on the cops of Gotham City who do all of the essential grunt work. In that regard, the Soft Targets arc is one of the best of the bunch. Following a group of GCPD cops on Joker's tale, the story revolves around The Clown Prince of Crime as he stalks through Gotham City and establishes a reign of terror with little more than a sniper rifle. It's one of the most grounded and plausible forms of horror that we have ever seen in a DC Comics tale, and it could perfectly establish why Joker is such a scary villain. It's not that he can level a city; it's that he can paralyze it.
Last but not least, we come to Brian Azzarello's dark, gritty, and unnervingly realistic Joker tale from 2008. Liberally borrowing the visuals from Christopher Nolan's work on The Dark Knight trilogy Joker centers its focus on the clown's wholly misguided new henchman Jonny Frost (who made his movie debut in Suicide Squad) as he picks up the circus-themed villain from Arkham Asylum. From there, the story follows Mr. J as he cruises around Gotham to rebuild his criminal empire and take revenge on those who've wronged him. Joker is a beautiful story because it subverts many of the ideas that we have come to accept about the character. He's not some Gotham rock star with a bad boy edge; he's a homicidal lunatic who values nothing and poses a threat to everyone around him.
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Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.