Category Archives: Batman Villians

Batman’s “Joker” as Mythic Archetype – The Clown Prince of Crime


“When it comes to the Joker, I think there’s a lot more self-doubt than there is with other characters. He really is his arch-nemesis. He is the devil in his ear. He tells you all the things you’re most afraid of are true about you.” Scott Snyder on the Joker as Batman’s nemesis

The Joker is a character that writers love to play with, a character open to various interpretations each rich in their own subtext.

As an archetype the Joker is a Trickster – he disobeys societies rules and conventional behavior. He is a shapeshifter, a clown, he is the best class of criminal that Gotham has ever seen.

Where Batman is about control, precision and discipline and serving a higher good, the Joker is  about unrestrained spontaneity and wild glorious mayhem in a whirlwind of chaos. He serves only himself. If he has a higher calling it is to cause as much harm and destruction to the people of Gotham while fucking with Batman’s mind any way he can.

The Trickster Archetype

Joker as Trickster

The classical Trickster archetype performs a range of functions.

In its most benign form the Trickster is a playful mischievous character (sometimes a shapeshifter) who brings attention to whatever is repressed in our individual or collective psyche. A Trickster is often an inversion of social norms.

The Trickster then is not only a character in a story, but an outer analogue for our own inner psyche. Whatever we are afraid of, whatever we keep repressed or don’t want to face, whatever is unpopular of should not be spoken of in polite society – the Trickster is going to bring attention to all of these things in its own unique way.

With the Trickster (and all archetypes) we are able to take an interior event of our psyche (1st person) and project it on to a character or archetype (3rd person) via story, film etc – in a way that personifies the qualities of that archetype. All archetypes (according to Carl Jung) live in our Unconscious mind, both individually and collectively.

This 3rd person mental abstraction (or character, exterior) then allows us  a chance to work with the archetype and reintegrate our own often unconscious or disowned qualities back into our psyche (back to 1st person interior).

Carl Jung Psyche model Archetype

While classical Jungian psychology allows for and encourages a healthy relationship with archetypes, to the modern world we are most familiar with archetypes through stories – movies, novels, comics, animation, art etc. The Trickster often is an inversion of our values, of whatever we outwardly say is important. But if the Trickster were merely the opposite of who and what we are, then there would be no truth in the Archetype.

So while the Trickster may appear bizarre, abhorrent, or at least unwelcome, it is merely a reflection of a part of our psyche that we refuse to look at, to integrate or become familiar with. The Trickster then is ultimately a servant of the mind, it exists to allow us a change to come to terms with the ideas we struggle with in a playful way. The Trickster is also a representative of primal forces likes sex, death, procreation and animal instincts.

Archetypes exist in all of our world stories, myths, and legends. They reoccur whether we want them to or not for all stories are reflected aspects of ourselves, and the purpose of stories is not just to entertain but pass on symbolic life lessons and help us transition into different eras of our lives.

Stories and symbols (such as Archetypes) can contain coded information that interacts with out mind at different stages of our lives, the same story can have very different meanings as we grow and evolve. Stories then are also a kind of technology for passing on information critical to human growth. Art is not only essential to human growth and development, but has always been and will always be part of what we are at a fundamental level.

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The Joker reoccurs throughout Batman mythology and follows Batman around like a bad smell. You just can’t get rid of him. For Batman to kill the Joker is to become that which he hates – those who would enforce the philosophy of death/execution on any they disagree with. For all of Batman’s psychological hang ups, he believes in the right of all people to live, he will even risk his own life to save those who would do him harm.

This could be viewed as a virtue, or as further evidence of Batman’s nuttiness – why the heck would you go out of your way to help someone who is trying to kill you? It’s one thing to say pull out an unconscious criminal from the wreckage of a prison bus hanging on the edge of a cliff. It’s another thing entirely to try and save someone from falling off a building who is awake and firing bullets at you while you do it.

The trickster is an alchemist, a magician, creating realities in the duality of time and illusion. In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior

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Joker as Shapeshifter

The Trickster archetype can also be a shapeshifter, taking on the form of the opposite sex or an animal – which goes some way to explaining the different versions of the Joker across different media, and his personality varies according to whoever the current popular writer may be. The Joker’s ad hoc multiple origins and rebooted continuity (depending on what era of Batman comics you are reading) also fits with the Trickster archetype. Trying to understand the Joker or pin him down is futile.

Heath Ledger’s Joker famously made up multiple origin stories that he would tell to people just to keep them guessing. One ongoing theme in the comics is Batman trying and failing to understand the Joker. Joker’s personality and methods shift with his various incarnations. A shapeshifter is ultimately whatever it wants to be, but also sometimes reflects a twisted version of the values of the hero or protagonist.

Trying to figure out what makes the Joker tick is like asking what is the essential nature of water. Is it liquid, steam or ice? The answer of course is that water is all three of these states, and it will shift between them depending on the conditions of its environment. The Joker can change persona’s and origin stories as easily as changing clothes.

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The Joker’s Many Incarnations

Bill Finger gave us the first version of the Joker, a career criminal and killer with a clown motif. Later as the Joker’s background was expanded it was established that he had been a regular criminal who fell into a vat of acid. Instead of dying a painful death – his skin and hair were chemically bleached, his mouth was damaged giving him a permanent grin. He dressed in a purple suit and went with the whole “clown prince of crime” theme. But these elements were not added until years later, so in his earliest appearances, you would assume the Joker’s face to be make-up.

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Further adding to the Joker’s origins was the Red Hood persona, a simple red helmet and cape that created a new mystery man in Gotham whom Batman and Robin would have to catch. While the Joker has had a number of redacted origins over the years, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson deliberately kept the Joker’s origin ambiguous and unknown. It was only later writers who made attempts at adding a true origin to the character, or more accurately an origin of who the Joker was before he was the Joker.

The Red Hood as a gimmick is a common one in superhero genre material. Create a “mystery” character, and tease out who they really are for as long as you can, keeping the readers on the edge of their seats. The strength of this trope is that the character can be anyone, and when revealed, often the character is not whom you suspected – because the writers usually don’t know who it is either. So they throw out multiple clues for different people the mystery person could be. Then they may change the identity at the 11th hour, leaving readers puzzled and often quite angry with all the false clues.

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With the  censorship and forced overly conservative stories throughout the 1950’s the Joker became more a criminal who played a lot of gags on Batman, and was not particularly threatening.

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It was not until the 1970’s that the Joker got his teeth back, and returned to being the more sadistic gleeful killer and maniac he had been in his earliest pre-comics code appearances. When Neal Adams and Denny ‘O Neil worked together on Batman, they made a deliberate attempt to take Batman back to his Gothic roots.

Gone was the barrel-chested smiling cop Detective, and in his place was was the lithe gymnastic Batman, the first Batman who looked like he really knew martial arts, a globe trotting James Bond in a Batman costume. This 1970’s Batman incarnation was the beginning of the modern day  Batman and paved the way for the Dark Knight we know and love today. As Batman grew darker and more Gothic once again, so the Joker returned to being more  of a maniacal killer, and less an annoying clown.

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From the 1970’s onward the Joker has gotten progressively darker, more psychotic, more… ‘evil’ for lack of a better word.

Frank Miller made the Joker an integral part of his Dark Knight Returns story. While the Joker’s role in Dark Knight Returns is small, it sets up the nature of the ongoing adversarial co-dependent relationship of Joker and Batman for the next several decades up to the present day.

To Miller’s Joker, Batman is his world, without him Joker’s life has no meaning. Without the “game” of playing with Batman, Miller’s Joker becomes a catatonic nobody, until Batman returns from retirement.

Meanwhile, Miller’s Batman (having moved on and retired from being Batman) has no real interest in the Joker, other than stopping him once again after they both come out of retirement. A brutal fight ensues where the Joker dies after repeatedly stabbing Batman is something of a sidebar in the larger story of Batman in The Dark Knight Returns. Yet that scene remains one of the most defining moments in the history of Batman’s encounters with the Joker. The Dark Knight and the Clown Prince coming alive again to face one another, two archetypes locked in an eternal symbolic struggle, the warring conflicted selves of man’s psyche.

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Sadistic Soldier and Killer Clown

Grant Morrison’t Joker is both villain and temporary friend when he assumes yet another identity during the R.I.P. and Return of Bruce Wayne / Batman Incorporated story arc.

Morrison plays up the trickster angle of Joker being both benevolent and potentially harmful. Menacing and deadly in one story arc, benevolent and seemingly a friend in another story arc. I won’t give any spoilers here even though the run finished a number of years ago. If you have not read Morrison’s run on Batman it is great fun, as is Scott Snyder’s NEW 52 Batman run.

Scott Snyder’s interpretation of the Joker has become the most depraved and disgusting version of the Joker yet. While there are elements of Snyder’s Joker that I just don’t agree with, he clearly set out with a particular unique vision of Batman and the Joker, and he accomplished what he set out to do in his five year run. It is no easy task to come up with a different take on a character who has been around for 70+ years and exists across a diverse range of media.

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The Thin White Duke of Death


The other notable portrayals of the Joker in the modern era have been Paul Dini’s – both his incarnation in Batman Animated –voiced by Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame, and the Paul Dini penned Arkham Asylum game series by Rocksteady Studios.

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Clown, Killer, Psychotic, and all around funny-man

In the Arkham Asylum video games and Batman Animated series Joker is a wild fun mix of his various elements and incarnations. More toned down violence in the Mark Hamill voiced cartoons, while more ramped up over the top and graphic violence in the video games. This is the same character, again, morphing and twisting to suit the audience (meaning the age ratings and what level of violence was permitted).

He’s the same clown putting on a show, no matter the venue. If you thought Deadpool was very “meta”, self-referential, funny and psychotic – then you really need to experience more of Mark Hamill / Paul Dini’s Joker tales, because the clown prince does murder, mayhem, psychosis and hilarity better than the Merc’ with a Mouth any day of the week.

In Batman Animated the Joker manages to be just as menacing and scary as any other incarnation -despite writers having to cater to network television rules for children’s entertainment  – thanks to Star Wars’ Mark Hamill voicing the animated Joker in a fan favourite performance – on and off from 1992 to 2016. That’s 24 years. No other performer has even come close to playing the Joker for that length of time.

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The friendliest and funniest psychotic killer ever conceived in children’s television


Mark Hamill gave us a version of the Joker who was over the top, the right mix of laughter and menace. To satisfy the requirements of a network TV show, the Batman Animated version of the Joker could not be overly violent or shown to be directly killing people in a show aimed at kids. But clever writing that satisfied the censors still managed to make him a menacing character, particularly in the direct market animated feature Batman Beyond: Revenge of the Joker – where Hamill’s Joker gets cut loose – he is every bit the gleeful sick sadistic psychopath made famous in the comic books.

“Ah, the new boy. The ears are too long and I miss the cape, but it’s not too shabby”

In live action we have the big three icons – Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger. Each bringing a unique vision of the Joker to life.

Cesar Romero’s Joker was a comical joking buffoon, a slapstick clown who jumped around everywhere and was very animated and over the top. Many fans found Frank Gorshin’s Riddler to be closer to the Joker from the comics. Cesar Romero’s Joker while  clearly a unique take by a talented actor just has no menace at all. He’s more annoying than scary.

Compare him with his opposite in Heath Ledger’s Joker who is all menace with little to no humor. In the middle you have Jack Nicholson who is both deadly and funny. While Keaton’s Batman is a world away from the comic book Batman, Nicholson’s Joker is much closer to the comics, only one-upped by Mark Hamill who manages to be the most definitive Joker on screen in Batman Animated.

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“Oh how delicious it is”

Jack Nicholson’s Joker was a great performance that veered between gleeful lunatic and unapologetic homicidal maniac. Burton’s Batman and Joker went back to Batman’s roots, emphasizing the Gothic elements of Batman like O’ Neil and Adams in the 70’s. Nicholson’s Joker was true to the earliest golden age appearances of the Joker. A career criminal who falls into a vat of acid and emerges as the Clown Prince of Crime.

Visually, Nicholson’s outfit is the closet to classical Joker we have seen on the big screen. In contrast Keaton’s Batman look is remarkable different from the comics being all black, rather than black/grey or black/blue. Keaton and Burton’s Batman look (the film and the costume) set the tone and style for all future theatrical incarnation’s of Batman, and even cosplayers today typically go with the all black costume when dressing up as their favourite Dark Knight Detective.

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“Have you ever danced with the Devil by the pale moon light?”

Heath Ledger’s Joker is a fan favourite performance, some would even say it was the performance of Ledger’s career. A more urban Joker whose hair is matted, whose face is a mess, but who still wears a nice suit with a dirty almost punk rock feel to it, Ledger’s Joker was all menace. A gleeful sadist who loves to torture Batman with indecision and doubt and keeping everybody guessing what his real plans and intentions were.

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“You have nothing, nothing to threaten me with”

Another interesting take on the Joker was the Brian Azzarello / Lee Bermejo graphic novel “Joker”. This take sees the a hired goon tag along with the Joker for the day, and we see him get up to all his usual tricks. It’s a great read, and noteable for showing a more realist take on the Joker. Not so much his personality, but the overall setting and mood is closer to say Marvel’s the grim tone of  The Ultimates or Watchmen than the usual Batman monthlies.

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Origins of the Joker

The Red Hood first appeared in Detective Comics #168. In a rather convoluted page of exposition the Joker reveals to Batman the “one secret I’ve kept from you all these years”. That Joker was a lab worker who decided to steal $1,000,000 and became the Red Hood. He later swam through a chemicals making his getaway which bleached his skin and hair.

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The Joker / Red Hood story is a bit silly, as were many Batman stories of its era. His origin would be told and retold over the decades, each time adding to or taking something away from the various stories he has told about who he is and why he exists. Fans still argue the true origin of the Joker to this day, and some theorists will state factually that his earliest origins are “most true”, but given 70+ years of fiction, and various writers – those details are up for debate and interpretation.

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Allan Moore did his part to confuse things by writing The Killing Joke graphic novel. Moore wrote it as an out of continuity one-off story. One where he crippled Batgirl/Barbara Gordon. Then when DC published it, they went ahead and made it canon. Leaving poor Babs permanently crippled, something Moore has said he regrets adding to Batman. More ideas for  Joker origins are thrown up in the air in The Killing Joke, which became a semi-canon. Until they were not any more. Well apart from Babs being crippled. They kept that part for some reasons and threw out pretty much everything else, until DC’s NEW 52 where both Joker and Babs get rebooted.




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Joker as Mythic Archetype

In Snyder’s NEW 52 Batman story “End Game”, hints have been dropped that the Joker may be immortal. With images of the clown prince showing up old in photographs taken before Batman and the Joker were born.

The logical rational answer, the answer Batman has to go with is that the Joker is playing another cruel trick. The answer is that after taking a rare chemical called Dionesium (the precursor of Lazarus pits) the Joker is miraculously healed from life threatening injuries. The kicker is that photographic evidence exists putting the Joker at a least a century or two old. Older than Gotham itself. In Snyder’s end to his Joker stories (Death in the Family and End Game) the Joker gleefully torments Batman with the idea that he has been around a long, long time and is possibly immortal. Batman refuses to believe it of course, and the tale is left open ended for the reader to decide the ultimate truth of the Joker’s story, which again plays into the Archetype of the Trickster –  a storyteller with multiple origins and many twisting lies and tricks.

In interviews with the site Snyder and collaborator (artist) Greg Capullo talk about their vision for the Joker in the NEW 52.

CBR: What was your and Greg Capullo’s thinking behind that and how he appears now versus “Death Of The Family,” or even that very first “Batman” issue when Dick was pretending to be him in jail?


Snyder: The most important thing is that he looks scary, you know? The other most important thing, when we were talking about him, was that he looks reborn in some way. Classic, but a little bit darker. We talked about different possibilities. We talked about the purple suit, and then we realized, no matter how you cut it and what the suit is, it just makes him not scary in a lot of senses. So for us it became about giving him the black suit with the purple handkerchief, give him a more funeral look. Make the hair shorter on the sides, make sure his eyes are very wide, very bloodshot, the wider grin with the clownish chin and nose. Make him a little less witchy and a little more scary, someone who is in the shadows, looking at you, who is clearly a Joker, young and restarted. He’s come back saying, “This is it. If I’m moving on, I’m starting over without you.”


Batman 40 new 52 joker archetype

The cover to Batman #40 depicts and angelic Batman about to stab a Joker themed demonic creature with a staff / spear adorned with the Bat-symbol. It’s  a great cover that emphasies the mythical archetypal relationship of the two adversarial characters in symbolic form.

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Snyder: And to me, the reason Batman is inspiring isn’t only because he terrifies criminals, but because he empowers us to go out and overcome our own fears, and to overcome the worry that what we do doesn’t mean anything, and that we can’t make a difference, we can’t change our situation. Batman is the ultimate example of how you overcome tragedy, or you take chaos and random violence and turn it into something meaningful.

Greg Capullo: Are you trying to say that they’re kind of like married, kind of like the yin and yang?

Snyder: Exactly. And I think Bruce knows that in some way. The Joker represents everything he fights against all the time.

wilee coyote bugs bunny trickster

Trickster characters are often inversions of popular beliefs and attitudes. Tricksters take whatever is repressed, hidden or unconscious and bring it out in the open for everyone to see.

The very act of bringing unconscious material to light makes the Trickster character if not unpopular at least confronting and unpleasant.

Not all trickster characters are malevolent, Bugs Bunny for examples is a lovable non-threatening character who plays tricks on his nemesis (Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck), he is playful and challenges the ideas, values and perceptions of those he encounters.

Examples of classical mythological Trickster figures include half man-goat Pan, norse God Loki, and the African spider god/godess Anansi.

Modern Trickster figures include Bugs Bunny, Beetlejuice, The Joker and Dr. Who.

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Joker as friend or benefactor to Batman

The trickster is not just a serial pest, but also acts in service to a higher purpose by bringing to light the very ideas and values we may find repulsive, and cannot stand to see in another, but which are in fact deeply embedded within our own psyches.

The more we are bothered by an other’s behavior, the greater the chance that there is some aspect of ourselves we are repressing, or refusing to own.

In this way, the trickster can symbolically help us to see our own Shadow  qualities through story, song and performance.

Once these qualities or aspects of our own psyche are brought our attention, we still have to do the work of what Carl Jung refers to as “individuation” – being the war of opposites or dynamic tension between our higher and lower natures from which the “work” of real psychological growth and maturation into fully human beings comes.

The Joker at times has become a friend or benefactor to Batman (at least in his own warped view of reality). Joker sees himself as challenging Batman to be the best Batman he can be. He claims to know Batman better than anyone, as aspect that both Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison emphasized in their respective runs on Batman books.


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Joker as Madman and Cipher

The Joker as a foil to Batman reminds him of his own darker impulses, and is a constant reminder of walking next to the abyss but not falling into it. Of Batman not giving in to to his impulse to simply kill the criminals and lunatics rather than catch them.

In the mythical sense, the Joker can be viewed as an aspects of Batman’s own personality given personification. Where Batman does not kill, and rarely laughs or makes Jokes, and is all about discipline and control – the Joker is wild unrestrained Chaos. Pure hedonism, the embodiment of lower animal drives and desires which in themselves are not evil (fight or flight response, sex, death, survival etc) but which unrestrained make us no better than living in an animal state of consciousness.

However, animals generally kill for food or to protect themselves, whereas the Joker kills for the sheer fun of it, making him in a sense even less evolved than an animal. He is sub-human, a gross perversion of culture and humanity reflected back on itself.

The Joker is decadence and self-indulgence and greed and excess and wanton destruction of self and environment personified.

He is chaos and a man like Batman who looked into the abyss of his own soul and rather than finding the line between his higher and lower impulses, fell in love with chaos and and raw unimpeded impulsiveness.

Will the real Joker please stand up?

The Joker can be a blank slate, a blank canvas onto which a writer can project whatever they need to for the story they wish to tell. Joker is the dark side of humanity twisted beyond recognition, a gross reflection of the chaos and unpredictability of life itself. His meanings and symbolism change with the times, reflecting cultural patterns and ever shifting values. In more conservative times he is the silly annoying clown who is more of a pest than a true threat. In more progressive times Joker is the psychotic mass murdering lunatic, always pushing the boundaries of sanity and crime as an art form.

The Joker is the nameless nobody criminal, who reinvented himself as the costumed Red Hood, who reinvented himself becoming the Joker, the clown prince of crime, avatar of chaos and madness.

Whether the Joker is genuinely insane, or merely plays at being insane because he loves to hurt people and cause trouble is up for debate. There is no “correct” answer, both versions are valid, and each Batman writer creates their own version of the Joker, with evidence to support their views in the Batman canon.

Scott Snyder’s Joker seems to be a true psychopath who enjoys murder, mayhem and torture, and his recent End Game storyline is possibly building the Joker up as as some sort of immortal, devil or pure archetypal trickster character.

The deliberate invocation, or even the suggestion that the Joker may be more than some criminal lunatic who dresses like a clown makes for compulsive reading, and leave the reader with a sense of confusion at the end of the tale.

Similar ideas have been hinted at in stories such as Dark Knight Returns, that Joker and Batman give each other meaning, and that the Joker continues to push himself to new depravities just to fuck with Batman.


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An End to Madness and Laughter?

The Joker’s characterisation varies by writer and era. Sometimes he is a loveable fun trickster, at other times career criminal. He plays at being a gang leader only to routinely kill his employees. Joker has been a lunatic, psychopath, sadist and clown. Or any combination of these qualities depending on what elements a given writer wants to emphasize.

The strength of the Joker, and the Trickster archetype is that he can be put into just about any kind of story, and he works. Like water that once poured into a glass becomes the glass, the Joker becomes whatever is needed in a given story. He is the clown prince of crime, career criminal, lunatic, shapeshifter, trickster and more. He is all of these things and yet not limited by any of these facets of his personality. He evolves and devolves, taking on new forms for new stories.

Each new interpretation of the Joker adds something to the collective archetype of “The Joker” in Batman media. Each writer or actor that comes along has their choice of which elements they want to use from all the interpretations so far, as well as adding something unique of themselves to the character.

One of the great things about the Joker is that if you don’t like a particular version – there is always a new interpretation right around the corner.

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The Joker and Batman have a symbiotic relationship, as do most classic heroes and villains throughout literature and film, each hero and villain representing the aspects of human potential and personality through stories. Within each person are all archetypes and possibilities, the different aspects of our psyche being reflected symbolically in stories of exciting characters having adventures, facing challenges and becoming more than what they were, or simply entertaining us with a mindless distraction from our daily lives.

When we read a comic book the page is flat and two dimensional, but beyond the borders of the panels of simple ink on paper – our imagination soars as we expand those worlds to infinite dimensions. We see hear and feel the moments of simulated joy, sorrow and high drama our heroes and villains encounter. Those larger than life characters, however spectacular they may be ultimately remind us of how human we are.

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“In mythology and religion, the trickster deity breaks the rules of the gods or nature, sometimes maliciously but usually, albeit unintentionally with ultimately positive effects. Often, the bending/breaking of rules takes the form of tricks or thievery, and their actions often end up changing the rules in the process of breaking them, much like an act of “civil disobedience”. Tricksters can be cunning or foolish or both; they are often funny even when considered sacred or performing important cultural tasks.” –

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State of the Art – BANE on the Brain

Bane is a pretty one dimensional character in my opinion, and I am not a fan.

Although I do like seeing the different interpretations of the character across various DC related media.

This article is the first then in a visual series showing the comparative look at the art style and redesigns of Batman characters in the comics, and other mediums.

These articles are designed so that you can skip up and down the page to see the contrasting pictures, reading the comments is up to you.  It it not intended to be comprehensive, I am not going to show every version of Bane, because that would be boring.  I will choose whatever I find unique, interesting, or just damn cool art showcasing how Bane is interpreted in different mediums.

Batman Vengeance of Bane one shot cover Chuck Dixon

The Vengeance of Bane one-shot written by Chuck Dixon was the prelude to the Knightfall Saga.  In the story we meet Bane first as a child born in a South American prison, who inexplicably remains in prison for life despite not committing any crime, and despite all good common sense.

Bane reads a bunch of stuff, works out some and decides to “break” Batman.

Batman whom Bane has never met or even seen a picture of, nor has any reason to hurt, nor any proof that Batman even exists.  Bane just decides that he has to break the symbolic champion of Gotham.

Why not? I guess it beats sitting around in a cell all day.  The cover here shows us his eventual costumed look, that of a mexican wrestler with the typical full face mask.  Of course Bane is a lot taller and bigger than the typical Mexican wrestler, but the basic look is an obvious homage to a show wrestler, right down to the lace up boots and hunched over aggressive macho posture.

Of note here are the the long pants and shoes which Bane only appears to wear on this cover and not in subsequent stories. The footwear may be shoes or boots covered with the leg of the pants, it it not clear.  The prominent tubing from Bane’s head to his arm tells us this is a significant aspect to the character by being highlighted in yellow.

The way Bane is looking out at the reader suggests some urgency to the character, he has beaten (and possibly killed) some men in uniform, and is eagerly looking to move to his next target, or get on with his quest / mission.  He is clearly a man of action.

Batman - Knightfall Bane first full apearance

On this page we see the first full image of Bane in costume in a Batman comic.  A previous page shows him without his mask in profile and partial views, putting on his outfit, (he has a rubbish hair cut) leading to this dramatic splash page that announces to the reader that Bane is here and he means business.

Here we can see Bane with mask, tubing from his head, wearing pants that look more like fabric, but could be leather, and a wrestler style open vest, that conveniently turns into a more traditional singlet depending on who the artist is.

Batman - Knightfall Bane 5 Batman off a building

The previous chapter in the Knightfall story ended with Bane breaking Batman’s back. Here at the beginning of the next chapter, Bane is standing on top of a building, boasting of his victory, then he throws Batman to the ground.

Batman should really be dead at this point, your life expectancy tends to go down when being thrown of off a building while unconscious with a broken back.  Also, when I re-read this story now, it is impossible not to hear Tom Hardy’s Bane voice .  Go ahead, read the speech bubbles in the following picture below and try NOT to hear Tom Hardy’s Bane voice in your mind when you read you read it.

Batman - Knightfall Bane 6 Batman off a building

Re-reading the Knightfall story this year (in preparation for more blog posts, and to see the similarities to the film) I now can not hear anyone’s voice but Tom Hardy’s when I read Bane’s dialogue.  Significant in this scene is the unobstucted rear view of of Bane’s mask and tubing, which is clearly connected to his his head, braced at the neck/upper shoulder region and connected to his wrist/forearm.

Batman - Knightfall Bane knightfall cover1

This art by prominent comic artist Kelley Jones became synonymous with the Knightfall / Bane saga.  First used as the cover to Batman #497, and later used on the cover or insert to later trade paperback collections of the Knightfall storyline.

This image show Bane maxed out on the Venom drug, with a grotesque physique that is over exaggerated in every way for emphasis, and showing his total domination over Batman.  It’s a great functional piece of art, in that it sells the book, and I want to know more about the story inside.

Kelley Jones is known for his moody Gothic style art, some people hate the extra long ears on Batman, I don’t mind them.  My favourite work of his is the Batman Elseworlds Vampire Trilogy where Batman becomes a vampire, punches the undead in the face and kills Dracula to save Gotham.

Batman - Knightfall Bane3 Broken Batman backk

Apart from being the critical moment, the money shot of when Bane breaks Batman’s back in Knightfall (the same scene would be pilfered and recreated in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises) this art is also notable for Bane having excessively hairy shoulders, which is typical of a man with high levels of testosterone.  I guess he had time to stop and shave them between breaking Batman’s back in this scene, and then throwing Batman off a building soon afterward.

Jokes aside, this image is brilliant.  You have the visual shock of a splash page, the look of pain on Batman’s face, the unusual jagged panel border sells the scene.

Batman the animated series Bane_800x533

Here in Batman the Animated Series, Bane’s costume becomes a full wrestler outfit with pants that are likely tights, the one piece swimsuit style singlet, a prominent belt and of course his mask looks even more like a Mexican wrestler mask than his earlier incarnations in the various Batman comic books.

I think he looks a bit goofy here, but the look does the job for the show so I can’t complain.  I mean does he want to hurt Batman or just pin him for a three count?

Bane concept art arkham asylum video game by Chuck Dee
Concept art for Batman Arkham Asylum by Chuck Dee

Chuck Dee drew a lot of fantastic character specific concept art  that was used in the character designs for both Batman Arkham Asylum and Batman Arkham City.  Of note here is the massive, almost Incredible Hulk like proportions of Bane, his arms and biceps drawn as thicker than his legs.

The image recalls the overly-exaggerated look of Bane from the earlier Kelley Jones Bane art, particularly the cover with Bane breaking Batman’s back.  In this image, Bane is clearly Hulked out on the Venom drug, hence his over-exaggerated un-natural and grotesque physique.

The orange pants are a prison uniform, as are the shackles on his feet and wrists, which have been incorporated into his Venom delivery system for reasons unknown.  Bane’s belt glows red, whether an artistic flourish or whether it has anything to do with the Venom delivery here is unknown.

Instead of one main tube connecting from his head to wrist here Bane has multiple tubes directly into his body, and a much larger module on his upper back which is no longer just a bracing point, but clearly has tubing connected to it, rather than just held in place.  The straps seem to connect his back, making the overall Venom kit more like a backpack than the old tiny canisters in previous versions of Bane.

Bane wears a metal mask and collar, which are presumably part of his prison restraints.

Chuck Dee concept art for Bane DC MMO game

Chuck Dee art here again, this picture of Bane is concept art for DC’s MMO.  I don’t know what the final look was in the game as I’ve never played it.  I downloaded the game on PS3, but it took like twenty minutes to even get the game booted so I just deleted it, but I think the concept art here is pretty cool.  This design uses all the main Bane characteristics established in other incarnations.

Mask, mean looking, belt, wrestler singlet and pants, chunky belt and of course the Venom drug delivery tubing.  Of note here is the spiky collar which gives Bane a slightly goth punk or fetish look in combination with the all black outfit and small silver studs on his wrist braces, belt and padded knee boots.  But I have to wonder is Bane tuly angry, or are those pants just a bit too tight?  This look seems to have been influenced by Bane’s look in The New Adventures of Batman and Robin.

Bane Arkham Asylum concept art by Chuck Dee

Further conceptual designs for Bane in the Arkham Asylum series by Chuck Dee.

The side on view of the metal mask is very Hannibal Lecter, while the knuckle dusters just seem like overkill for a character who is already very strong. While menacing, something of Bane’s essential elements are lost without his traditional mask here, he could be just another Venom fueled goon.

The overtly fetishized costume, belts and mask to me suggest maniac or psycho, overall not a great look for Bane in my opinion.  But the look can serve as the opening to a story, once Bane is back in more regular clothes, he would look much better.  The great thing about concept art is that an artist can really cut loose and play around with different experimental elements before arriving at a final design.

I like all of Chuck Dee’s concept art for the Batman Arkham games, a fair amount oh his work was used in video game articles, online wallpapers and other promotional ways for the game series, such as the covers on the tie in comic books. His Joker art is to die for.


This image is a CG render of Bane as he looks in the first two Arkham Aslyum video games.  You can see that the orange prison pants and the giant wrist straps have turned into restraints that also double as wrist gauntlets.

The neck collar / dog collar delivers electric shock to uncooperative prisoners in Arkham Asylum / Akrham City.  The action figure of this version of Bane was a really nice toy [see below], and looks just the same as the CG render here.  The Batman toy by contrast looks good, but the eyes (pupils) are really creepy.

I know because I have that same Batman toy on my desk here as I’m typing, and yeah the eyes just ruin an otherwise great action figure if you ask me.  I’m going to put some white out on the eyeballs at some point, so he looks more like the white eyed creepy Batman, who is creepy in a good way, and not in a silicon valley way.

DC_Collectibles_Batman_Arkham_Asylum_Batman_Bane RESIZED

BANE Batman-Arkham-Origins RESIZED

The follow up to the Rocksteady Arkham City video game was Arkham Origins, a prequel game that is set in the early years  of Batman’s career.  I played through all three games in the Arkham series multiple times, and this version of Bane was my favourite.  You fight Bane twice in the game.

The first time he looks like this and later in the game you fight Bane again as the final boss fight, and he looks absolutely horrific maxed out on Venom.  You fight Bane three times all up, as the second battle is in two parts, and the third time he goes insane as he overdoses on Venom and swells up to Incredible Hulk sized proportions.

In the first fight he runs away after the battle and jumps into a helicopter, then the Joker fires an RPG at the helicopter, a pretty awesome scene with plenty of explosions and just pure chaos courtesy of Mr J, who basically tries to murder the guy he hired to kill Batman just for fun. I wish joker had managed to kill Bane at the start of the game so I didn’t have to fight him again at the end of the game.  Stupid Bane.

BANE Batman-Arkham-Origins Render front and back

When you fight Bane again at the end of the game, he pumps himself up with drug of choice, the ever reliable Venom.

Overall I really like this look, Bane is big and muscly without looking freakish, and the boss battle while a little boring and predictable, is still good fun, unlike the third fight that follows, which made me Hulk out and turn into Al Swearengen from Deadwood.  %$#%&^*$%$ing Bane!

Bane Arkham Origins Final Boss Fight Version CG Render

After you beat Bane in the fight at the end of the game, he later overdoses on the Venom drug, and then basically Hulks out, going totally nuts.  You can’t damage Bane directly in this fight, which means you have to make him do dumb things like run into walls, electrocute him, all the usual stuff really.

The final Bane boss fight is tedious and annoying, you die easily, while Bane takes a fair bit of damage to beat.  If you stuff up some of the environmental cues (parts of the scenery you can use to damage Bane) then he becomes impossible to beat as there is no way to damage him, and you just have to start again.  I enjoyed all the boss battles in Arkham Origins, except for this one.

Injustice-gods-among-us-bane-render RESIZED  This is another CG render of Bane.  This time from the Injustice: Gods Among Us fighting game.  I recently got around to playing this game, and well, it is awful.  One of the worst fighting games I have ever played, terrible controls, un-intuitive combat.

Some of the character renders look decent, this is not one of them.  I think Bane looks awful in this game, and the art style I don’t care for at all.  He look sto angular and spiky, and I don’t find him threatening at all.

The relatively rubbish spin off comic based on the story of the game (which has Batman fighting Superman) was more enjoyable then the game, but that is not saying much.  I really wanted to like this game, but yeah it is rubbish in terms of game mechanics.  Some nice Dragonball Z style knock back attacks and supers, but that is about it.

You can watch a Youtube video in a few minutes of the best animations, and then forget this game ever existed.  Not even my cat like this game, and he normally loves everything with Batman.  The mobile/tablet version of the game looks excellent, but gets boring after five minutes, and it takes forever to upgrade your characters, so steer clear of that one too.

Bane Batman the Animated Series later seasons

I was never a fan of the gimp mask and spiky collar combo from The New Adventures of Batman and Robin.  But like it or not, the look works, the art style works, and of course this one of my favourite versions of the animated Batman.  I didn’t care for Batman’s redesign in the JLA cartoon, I think here in New Adventures he looks timeless and classic.  At least this version of Bane looks mean and genuinely threatening.

Bane Batman Brave and the Bold

This version of Bane is from Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a great show that is under appreciated in my opinion.  Yeah, this version, it looks crap if you ask me.  Did the animators go out to lunch and get the work experience boy to whip this one up?  I mean Jesus, LOOK at him, what were they thinking?  If they were aiming for the worst looking version of Bane, then they succeeded .  I don’t know WHAT they were going for this design.

The basic elements and motifs are there, the mask, the green Venom cable tubing, the wrestler pants belt and singlet.  But the face, and the overly rounded silly looking shoulders just make me want to laugh at Bane, rather than be afraid of him.  The less said about this version the better.  Let’s move on.

Bane THe Batman show

Wow!  What is going on here.  This redesign is from The Batman (another animated Batman show) and is the most dramatically different version of Bane so far.  It is weird looking.  I don’t know if the red parts are meant to be a costume or he has read skin?

Overall I like that something different was attempted here, but I don’t think the look really works.  He looks a bit like Red Hulk after a night out in a fetish club.  I don’t love it, or hate it, but it is an interesting redesign.  The Batman show also gave the Joker a dreadlocked Rastafarian look, that show really changed up the look of the villains with some bizarre choices.

So this strange looking Bane is not that strange when you look at him in context with the other characters on the show, who are basically all weird looking.  I give them credit for mixing things up.  But weird for the sake of it does not equal good in my book.

Bane Justice League Animated DOOM

Now this is more like it.  This version is from JLA: DOOM, a pretty bland direct market animated feature.  Bane looks like a bad-ass.  Don’t mess with this guy!

Except… wait a minute, did he accidentally burn a hole in his clothes?

Why is there a giant Superman diamond shaped hole on the front of his one piece?  Overall, I love this look, but the open chest piece looks ridiculous.  Either cover it up or put him a proper singlet, not this bastardised piece of clothing.

I’m starting to sound like a real misery guts here, and I gotta tell ya, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Bane Young Justice 2 RESIZEDBane from the Young Justice animated show (a great show, well the first season is brilliant, second season not so much).

Another good look. Stripped back, no spiky collar or silly straps and junk all over him.  Just lean and mean.

Mask?  Check.  Venom cable (in fashionable red) and the classic prison tough guy singlet.  This is Bane before he hulks out on Venom of course, so he looks a bit skinny, but that is just the art style of the show, and for me it works.  i like than in the show he appear to be genuinely Mexican, rather than speaking with an accent and basically being white.  That always bugged me.

I can’t stand when characters of various non-caucasian races are anglicised for comics, or because they ran out of ink at the printers again.  Yeah, sorry old man whitey at the printer, that excuse may have held up in the forties, but don’t be pulling that shit now!


Sweet Jesus what were they drinking the day they came up with this one and where can I get some?

This is (sadly) the most camp version of Bane from the Batman and Robin live action movie.  In the film Bane just grunts and mumbles, and doesn’t talk. He is a mindless henchman to Poison Ivy.  His skin is so green and scaly you could almost mistake him for Killer Croc.  The spikes on the belt are just silly, not scary.  The prominent crotch is offensive.

Batman 66 did camp on purpose, and the villains in that show still look great today.  Cesare Romero’s Joker,  Julie Newmar’s Catwoman, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler.  Love or hate the show, the costumes worked in context, and the villains really popped on screen with their vibrant gaudy colours. The show looked like a comic book.

In contrast, Bane in Batman and Robin looks like the drawing of some ten year old kid who had never seen Bane, and based his drawing based on a description his mate told him of what Bane looked like.  Nothing about the costume, the overall look or the style works here in my view.  Utter rubbish.

This version of Bane was played by Robert ‘Jeep’ Swenson, a pro wrestler who sadly died in the same year Batman and Robin came out in 1997.  His physique was impressive, imagine what he could have been like in a modern comic book movie instead of the lousy Batman and Robin. He will be missed.

Bane Secret Six Cover MaskAn issue of the Secret Six comic book. Secret Six is another book that takes a bunch of DC super villains and puts them into a ad hoc team, similar to the Suicide Squad.  The results are mixed, some issues are great fun, others are pretty bland.

Depends on who is writer is really.  The cover is pretty cool.  Bane’s mask reminds me of Spawn, or Venom, take your pick. This cover may even be a homage to Spawn?  I don’t know, stranger things have happened.

Bane Lego Batman 2

This little fella is rather cute.  Bane from the Lego Batman video games of course.  His Venomised version basically looks like Hulk from Lego Marvel but with a a different skin.

Marvel vs DC 2 Bane vs Captain America shield slap to the face

I didn’t need to include this one, the costume is classic Bane and unremarkable.  I only included this image because I love seeing Bane doing a face plant after getting shield slapped by the good Captain.  Eat pavement idiot!

Every artist has the right to express their unique version of a character.  How boring would it be if Batman and his rogues gallery still looked exactly the same as they did in the fifties?  Pretty boring.  I love artistic diversity.  I don’t love Bane, but it has been fun looking at some of  the different artistic interpretations of one of my least liked Batman bad guys.

I hope you enjoyed seeing the visual comparisons too, and didn’t mind my criticisms too much.

Soon I’ll be doing visual comparisons of the different looks of other Batman characters, and eventually Batman himself, along with the Joker.

If I had to pick a favourite version of Bane,  I would go with the less pumped up look from the Arkham Origins game.  That was the first time I felt that I enjoyed Bane as a character, other than of course the cinematic version that I like – in my view the definitive Bane – Tom Hardy’s Bane in Dark Knight Rises.

Bane is awesome_publicity shot_dark knight rises 549x600
Tom Hardy Bane from The Dark Knight Rises

At first I did not care for this version of Bane but after watching the film multiple times, this look has really grown on me to the point where I like it.  Except for the part where the mask does basically nothing, and is attached to nothing, that still really bugs me.

I had a  words or two to say about Tom Hardy’s Bane, so check out that article if you missed it.  Mostly I ramble on about how rubbish the fights were in Rises, but there is some other stuff in there too, so take a look.

No Pain No BANE – Tom ‘Hardman’ Hardy

Do you love or hate Bane?  Do you like the comic book, animated, video game or movie version best?  I’d like to hear from you, so leave some comments people!