Joker V Joker V Batman

I can’t believe that it has taken me this long to watch this…I feel like I have let the entire fandom down. I have been a fan of Batman since I was a young boy, through the animated series.

More recently I have found a love for the comic medium (holistically) and even more recently a love for the Batman comics. Especially those that involve the Joker. To me, The Joker is an incredibly complex character, despite the seemingly chaotic nature of his character. And, because of this, he is the focus of this article.

The Joker is one of those characters that has captured the imagination of comic book writers everywhere. Writers from Frank Miller to Neil Gaiman have tried their own personal brand of The Joker and his unending rivalry with Batman. You love to despise him, and at times find yourself almost rooting for him.

The Joker spent most of his life delighting comic book readers, but has been brought into the mass of our generation through Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, with the award winning portrayal by Heath Ledger.

But I find myself, a fan of the comic book Joker, appreciating Tim Burton’s take on the character more than Nolan’s (which is really saying something, because I love Nolan as a director and love the Dark Knight). Burton’s Joker (portrayed by Jack Nicholson)  was more well rounded. An enemy created by Batman. A straight laced gangster, through and through. The peak of elegance, which brilliantly juxtaposed the unease of his mind. Compare that to Nolan’s Joker who is as slobbish as he is deranged. Before you even really know who he is, you know that he is insane.

But, perhaps, the biggest difference is seen in these following clips:

Jack Nicholson Joker

Heath Ledger Joker

While I don’t think anyone will ever argue that Ledger’s performance was not the better PERFORMANCE of the two, the writing fell flat. Nolan’s Joker was a madman with make-up. Burton’s was a masterful killer clown. Nolan’s Joker lost the humor. There was no laughter or joy in Dark Knight. But in Batman, you see the Joker pulling pranks. Albeit, insane pranks. But that is what the comic book villain is all about. The joy. The insanity.

That is not to say that I agree with everything that Burton did with The Joker in Batman. Burton changed the background of the characters to say that the Joker, while he was still Jack Napier, killed Bruce Wayne’s parents. This changes the entire point of Batman to a story of revenge, instead of the traditional dark guardian propelled out of his misery. This choice made no sense, but is not really representative of the Joker.

That is not to say that Dark Knight is not a good film. In fact, it’s probably the stronger film of the two. While I did enjoy Burton’s Batman, the plot was lacking intensely, the characters weren’t nearly as developed as they should have been, and there was perhaps a bit too much camp. It was quintessential bad eighties. But it was a fun ride, and if you are a fan of the Joker, it is a MUST.

But for my money, the best Joker award still goes to Mark Hamill:

Mark Hamill Joker

6 thoughts on “Joker V Joker V Batman

  1. You should check out Kevin Smith’s podcast “Fatman on Batman,” he does two entire podcasts (an hour and 36 min each) talking to Mark Hamill.

    Also, check out The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller if you haven’t already.

    • I’ll have to check that podcast out…as for Returns, I read it, and it is one of my all time favorite graphic novels. Other great Joker comics include Joker (a Joker story from his perspective, instead of Batman’s), The Man Who Laughs (Frank Miller’s take on the Joker’s origin) and The Killing Joke.

      • The Killing Joke is great, I actually have a first edition copy of it! Coincidentally, I just read The Man Who Laughs this weekend, and really enjoyed it, but I don’t think that’s Frank Miller. Once I get some free time I’m looking to read The Long Halloween, which is one of the main stories Nolan based his film series on. Sadly though I think that it’s Joker-less.

        • You’re right, not Miller…I had meant Alan Moore. Whoops. But yeah, I need to read that one, too…I’m waiting for it to show up in the library again! haha.

  2. I watched both Batman movies again this past summer. I was thinking of using Burton’s Batman in the class, but as I watched it, I found it to be agonizingly slow and dull. I remembered the film being so great when I first saw it. It seems that I was wrong.

    And you are right the two actors/films present two completely types of Jokers. Of course, there was the Joker from the television show, as well.

    • Oh yes, I absolutely love that Joker portrayal as well…I was just using the idea of film against film. But I agree, Dark Knight is a much stronger film overall…I just wanted to see the Joker do some things for fun!

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