Tag Archives: Joker

Anti-Heroine, Goddess, Maniac – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DC’s HARLEY QUINN – From Gangster Moll to Pop Culture Icon

new_harley_quinn_sketch_by_vvernacatola.jpg

One of the things I love about Harley Quinn is the sense of fun about her.

She’s a bad girl and she knows it.

The ability to let loose and just unapologetically be who she is – is one of the things that appeals to me most about Harley. She is deeply flawed, and that also makes her more relatable like Batman.

However whether Harley is crazy or not, she is eccentric, vulnerable and easily led. Unlike the Joker who is a deadly kind of dangerous and playful, Harley is a more fun and sexy kind of danger that seems appealing, but Harley can fluctuate from playful to deadly in a heartbeat.

In this article we’ll take a look at Harley’s Quinn’s history, her relationship with the Joker and her exploding popularity from niche background character to mainline DC Icon. We’ll also take a lot at some of her exciting outfits, and see how she is portrayed across various media such as comics, cartoons and video games.

suicide-squad-harley-quinn-cosplay-01-1

 Harley Quinn was the creation of Batman writer Paul Dini. She first appeared in Batman: the Animated Series in 1992. Harley eventually became so popular that she was included in the mainline Batman comic books, went on to star in several of her own comic book titles and started appearing in video games such as Batman Arkham Asylum and Injustice: Gods Among Us. Harley also appeared in the DC Super Hero Girls kids show and has had a lot of action figures, statues and other merchandise bearing her likeness. More recently Harley Quinn appeared in the Suicide Squad movie played by Margot Robbie, exploding her popularity even more.

roller derby new 52 harley quinn cosplay.jpg

DON’T CRY FOR ME PAMELA ISLEY

Harley is forever in this abusive relationship with the Joker, and while it’s sad and horrible, it’s a whirlwind Bonnie and Clyde gangster romance – she loves him and can’t get away from him. It’s very true to life where some battered and abused women refuse to leave their husbands and will run back to them at the first opportunity. In Batman the Animated Series (1992) and the graphic novel tie in  Mad Love by Paul Dini – the Joker treats Harley poorly, kicks her out frequently only for her to come crawling back even when she did nothing wrong.

There is no denying that Harley is attracted to danger and chaos, it’s all fun and games to her, but she is also like that which she finds most attractive. As a rule breaker and agent of chaos, there is no predicting on any day whether Harley Quinn will help or harm someone. Harley also has no real focus in life, and is often easily led or manipulated by others – characters such as the Joker, Catwoman or Batman regularly manipulate Quinn for their own purposes.

The Batman Adventures - Mad Love joker kicks harley out.jpg

In the Gotham City Sirens comic book series Catwoman and Poison Ivy are a positive influence on Harley, questioning her undying loyalty to the clown who keeps treating her so bad. We see the first instances of Harley questioning her own blind love for the Joker and need/infatuation for her abusive lover. This later leads into more solo Harley Quinn stories, and eventually to her second main ongoing solo book in the NEW 52 imprint of DC.

Gotham City Sirens #9 paul dini guillem march cover harley quinn catwoman poison ivy.jpg

THE NEW THE NOUVELLE

In the NEW 52 branded DC books Harley Quinn got another solo title and this is where  Harley is defiantly on her own, a single gal, and really gets to be her own character free of not only the Joker’s shadow, but the Batman family of comics and characters thanks to being in her own title. Her previous solo comic book was still basically tied into the Batman family of books. NEW 52 Harley Quinn is  a rising star, sitting on the comic book store shelves freed of any Batman branding, logos or tie ins.

Freed of the pattern of her reactions to both the Joker and Batman, and with the influence of Ivy, Catwoman and other gal pals, not to mention encounters with the wider DC Universe community Harley for the first time is forced to question her own motivations, character and ethos.

Harley-Quinn-006 new 52 united states of lunacy.jpg

 

THIS USED TO BE MY PLAYGROUND

New 52 Harley takes on a more goth punk aesthetic, and also classical bad girl look of the 40’s and 50s comics – a more sexualized look that is designed to provoke a reaction, but at the same time affirms she is who she is. Harley doesn’t wear crazy weird and overly revealing outfits just to titillate, (well maybe a little)  but because that is what she feels comfortable in, it’s an expression of her personality and of the Harlequin archetype.

Harley embraces her Bad Girl aesthetic, and has crazy adventures while seemingly moving into Anti-Heroine territory. In the wild and woolly (and sometimes pornographic) world of fan art, imagination is set loose, and one meme of fan art that is often repeated is Harley romantically linked with Deadpool.

Harley and Deadpool make sense thematically, they share similar costume colors and are both crazy, but ultimately fun loving GENUINE weirdos who really can’t help but be who they are, they just don’t fit in in our world. And it’s a good thing, they are both maniacs. Apart from existing in different fictional worlds, they are two similar to have any sort of actual relationship. But it’s a fun meme, and for that purpose it works well.

deadpool_and_harley_quinn_valentine_by_m7781 my feelings cant be killed.jpg

The NEW 52 Harley Quinn stories are very similar in tone, style and pattern to the early Joe Kelly solo Deadpool stories that really defined Deadpool as the lovable goofy demented idiot we all know and love. The skewed morality (or lack of it) makes for fun reading.

The Joe Kelly Deadpool run is where Deadpool went from being a really generic boring bad guy with a cool costume, to having the most obnoxious and funny personality in the Marvel Universe. The birth of wise cracking Deadpool is partly a riff on Spider-Man – who used to be the funny guy, but has not been the least bit funny in decades – Deadpool’s costume also is a riff on Spider-Man’s costume right down to the eyes, layout and colors.

EXPRESS YOURSELF

Both Harley and Deadpool are selfish mostly amoral villains, but despite their nature, keep helping people, and listening to others who encourage them not to just mindlessly kill people. A distinction here is that Deadpool is a well paid assassin, who will accept just about any contract (usually children are the exception… *cough*), whereas Harley is a nutcase who kills when it is convenient, and it’s often glossed over whether she actually kills someone, or just kidnaps and incapacitates them etc.

kurotokyo-2-harley-quinn-cosplay-classic

NEW 52 Harley actively tries to help people, when her roller derby term loses and then Harley maims the opposing team members so they can’t win – well it’s Harley’s naive and twisted way of thinking that she is helping. Harley and Deadpool are kind of like kids who grow up with abusive parents, or no parents at all.

The people they have imprinted on have largely been bad bad people, criminals, cons, murderers, assassins and psychos etc. Despite these influences, there is something good underneath in both of these characters that comes through in certain stories, leaving them neither truly villains, nor heroes, but walking a murky moral middle ground. If you’ve seen Spike on the Buffy show, he’s another example of a character with a shady past constantly walking a fine line between good and evil. Likewise, fellow Suicide Squad alumni Deadshot is a villainous assassin, seemingly without morals who conveniently misses targets when its suits him to.

Harley-Quinn runs over roller derby team.jpg

Early in the NEW 52 run Harleen Quinzel sees a patient as a psychologist – an elderly lady who complains her family don’t visit her- Harley turns up at their house with a bulldozer, knocks the wall down, kidnaps and threatens to kill them if they don’t visit their grandmother more often. Turns out the old lady had memory issues and the loving family already visits three times a week.

So Harley’s “help” is often more harmful than if she had just done nothing. A similar theme runs through the early Kelly Deadpool stories, and it’s this cheeky fun loving style that really makes the NEW 52 Harley stories a fun read. It’s these kinds of misadventures that make Harley question whether why she should even attempt to do good in the world, when her trying to be good often ends up being worse behavior than her every day “bad” behavior.

harley-quinn-issue-four-bullzoder-through-the-wall

This similarity to the classic Joe Casey Deadpool stories in one of the things that pisses some Harley fans off, for them it’s TOO similar and lazy, no longer authentically the “Harley Quinn” that they know and love. Others in another camp enjoy the stories for their difference, and then there are newer younger fans who only know the more modern version of Quinn and are not very familiar with her older stories, so the comparison is just not relevant. Chances are that if you love NEW 52 Harley stories, you’ll most likely love the early Kelly Deadpool stories.

Speaking of bad dudes – in the NEW 52 Suicide Squad comic Harley has a fling with Deadshot, and even the notoriously brave, “who gives a fuck” devil may care Deadshot pauses to stop and ask if the Joker will not try and kill him, isn’t Harley “Joker’s Girl”? Harley fucks Deadshot, and while it’s a throwaway moment, another wild impulse from a serial risk taking thrill seeker – it’s also a final nail in the coffin of her relationship with her ex. It’s a gimmick scene for sure – but also another step along the path of Harley being free of the Joker and the Batman Family of books.

harley_by_ai_eye-new-52-and-classic-harley-quinn

SUICIDE BLONDE

In the Suicide Squad movie for the first time we see a Joker / Harley relationship where he ACTUALLY loves and cares for her, rather than just tolerates and abuses her as in all former versions of these characters. It’s unclear whether the film was edited that way on purpose, as there is evidence that the film did contain (at least in some drafts) the classic love/hate Joker and Harley abusive relationship.

Whether that version of the film was just one idea in the mix, or somebody stepped in and cut those parts out? Who knows. I feel the film is better for it. Rumor has it that the Suicide Squad may get a sequel, and Harley Quinn may get a solo film, and then Gotham Girls is also in the mix. Whether we will get one or three films is anybodies guess. I’d like to hope so, but I think it’s more likely we will get one or two films at most, rather than three films so early with Harley – it would seem to me like over-exposure – unless they really staggered the release dates.

harley-quinn-art-1

CRAZY FOR YOU

Harley Quinn was introduced as a sidekick, lover and victim of the Joker, their relationship played up for laughs. But there is no denying that the Joker is verbally, physically and psychologically abusive to Harley – something easy to miss in a kids cartoon such as Batman Animated, or the tie in comic books for kids.

The Batman Adventures - Mad Love harley quinn lingerie sexy Bruce Timm

As Harley became integrated into the official DC Universe through Batman related books,  making the leap from TV screen to comic book page, she also was spun off into other titles including the Suicide Squad, her own ongoing book and various mini-series.

Harley became more of an independent character, she breaks up with the Joker and for the first time we see her develop as a character, being more than just a symbiotic love/hate on again/off again  Joker relationship in Batman Animated. She goes from being just a plot device or background character, to her own more fully developed character. From the object of “she” to DC icon “Harley Quinn”

Harley_ArkhamCity tie in comic joker.png

In Batman Animated, Harley would often leave the Joker (or be kicked out by him forcefully) only to inevitably go running back to him like a battered spouse.

Harley’s integration into the wider DCU meant that when she left the Joker once again, she actually had somewhere to go, other than the confines of the TV show, or just the narrow panel borders of the Batman branded comic books.

Eventually Harley landed in her own book(s), with some mad but fun stories from various writers and artists with Harley as a reluctant anti-Heroine, who can’t help helping people, despite her best intentions to be selfish and a very bad girl.

deadpool-and-harley-quinn-art-50-shades-of-wade comic cover.jpg

Harley Quinn was further cemented as a wider DC Universe character  when she appeared in the big budget Batman Arkham Asylum video game series (again written by her creator Paul Dini). While Harley reverted to her Batman Animated status as the Joker’s gangster moll once more – more people play video games than read comics, so the widespread exposure helped for the move into more of Quinn’s own comic books, and wider DC media exposure including licensed toys.

CRAZY ABOUT THE BAT

Harley also has a love/hate relationship with the Batman himself. It’s not a romantic or sexual thing. If anything, Batman is one of the more stable influences in her life – and depending on who is writing the story Baman can be her personal villain/tormentor, or a father-like figure who tries to forgive her and encourage her to give up the life of crime she has fallen into. Batman believes in the good side of Harley, but Harley inevitably rebels against all types of authority like a rebellious teenager.

The other key relationship Harley has in the DCU is with Poison Ivy/ Pamela Isley. The two have been good friends since the days of Batman the Animated Series and that friendship has continued into other media and Harley’s solo books. Harley and Ivy are very affectionate friends, but whether it’s a more sisterly bond or if Harley is bi-sexual and has been more involved with Poison Ivy off panel and between the sheets – we don’t really know. But it’s something that is hinted at in various stories, but it’s often it’s left up to the readers imagination, that doesn’t stop the writers from having fun with their hints.

ivy and harley quinn.png

harley batgirl

STRIKE A POSE

Further expanding Harley as a multi-media entity has been the vast volume of merchandise proving popular with both male and female fans. Harley being featured in the alternative reality comic book series Injustice: Gods among Us and the much hyped video game of the same name saw Harley’s exposure grow even more outside of her Batman/Joker origins.

harley-quinn-vs-solomon-grundy-dc-injustice

Action figures large and small, with many variants based on her different artistic interpretations across different media significantly helped Harley to become a more iconic character in a relatively short period of time, with her various appearances proving popular with hardcore collectors and casual fans.

harley quinn action figure grid fig12-tile.jpg

If you go on ebay you’ll find Harley action figures, kids costumes and even more adult lingerie type stuff. Some of it official, some of it bootleg by the looks of it. You know Quinn has achieved a certain type of mass popularity when she’s has even getting bootleg merchandise appearing on ebay.

batman-arkham-city-harley-quinn-shut-up

Licensed merchandise and mainstream movies tend to grow a character faster in pop culture than just comics or animation alone. Once Harley reached critical mass with her appearance in the Suicide Squad movie, she had gone as mainstream as it gets in her appeal. Her appeal is also multi-generational with products targeted at different age demographics.

dc super hero girls.jpg

Harley has grown to be more than just a twisted freak, her public persona is one of fun, sexiness and  devil may care “don’t fuck with me” can do attitude. Harley is a fun fantasy character who comes from a background of animation, leapt into the mainline Batman comics, became part of the wider DC Universe, took part in company yearly gimmick events, got loads of toys made, moved on to several solo books, became part of the roster in a fighting video game and back into animation again as part of the kids show DC Super Hero Girls. Her spin off merch, cosplays, fan art and now big screen movie action sees her star continue to rise, and she’s a character that appeals to both male and female fans.

harley quinn bikini1-tile
Some of the Harley themed “clothing” items you may find on ebay

FUCK YOU, I WON’T DO WHAT YA TELL ME

There is a certain punk-rock appeal to Harley that makes her appealing to many fans. She’s “alternative”, but not in a market driven way. Harley got there organically through many costume changes and various writers. Her personality has been pretty consistent in the 25 years she has been around. Yes, the youthful Harley is already a quarter century old in the comic book world.

harley-quinn-injustice-art

Few writers have done anything terribly interesting with the character. Her creator Paul Dini has made the biggest mark on the character, with other writers doing their version of his character, or some alternative version with minor differences such as the Amanda Connor / Palmiotti Harley stories.

Harley Quinn Costumes over the years. Art by LadyDeadQuinn http://ladydeadquinn.deviantart.com
“Classy” Halloween costumes

Harley’s incorporation into the kids show DC Super Hero Girls and it’s toyline sees a more age appropriate version of the character marketed to youngsters. It’s a common tactic these days from the big two to have multiple versions of their characters in each target demographic age group. That’s why you can find tiny versions of Bane or the Joker from Batman suitable for five year olds in stores – even though those characters are horrible killers.

kamikame-cosplay-2

It’s a little at odds with her core character and values to see Harley Quinn lined up with a bunch of true blue superheroes, and call me cynical but it’s clearly DC looking at the successful line of Disney Princess dolls, Barbie dolls and their multimedia products that DC have done their version of that. Which is fine, they are cool toys frankly. I’m a bit weirded out by the heroin-chic skinny dolls with bobble heads inspiring new generations to body dsymorphia – but other than that they look cool. I almost bought the Harley Quinn doll, it’s been at my local shops a long time – but found it a little too creepy looking to put on my shelf. You kind of have to ignore the characters and realize it’s more these are generic characters wearing the costumes of the iconic characters. The personality and character is really not there.

dc-superhero-girls-dolls harley quinn batblog batfan on batman.jpg

Still the DC Superhero Girls show and its tie in comics are decent (if bland and generic) fun for kids, not as exciting as say the Powerpuff Girls (one of my all time favourite tv shows) but it is nice that kids can enjoy a version of these characters where the girls are the stars, rather than second fiddle to the usual majority male cast of the DC universe in print and on the big screen. It’s a bland show, but it’s colorful and stars female characters in the lead, so I’m all for it  – even though it’s inoffensively bland rather than the well written all ages hit that I *wish* it was (like the original Powerpuff Girls).

 

CH-CH-CH-CHANGES, TURN AND FACE THE STRANGE

Harley Quinn’s playful and often sexual nature had made her very popular with adult cosplayers. A quick online search reveals many well conceived and implemented costumed variants, including post-apocalyptic and steampunk Harley Quinn cosplay. Harley is also very popular in pro and fan art both by herself or featured as a couple with the Joker or Poison Ivy. Her licensed toys have really taken off with versions of just about every costume and era represented in the toy lines.

batman-arkham-city-harley-quinn-and-goons

Harley’s looks have alternated from her full body 1600’s inspired Harlequin costume to more flesh revealing gothic, kink, fetish and lingerie inspired outfits, the first most significant departure from the original full body costume appearing in the Arkham Asylum video games.

Depending on the media – each of those designs cross-pollinates giving us new hybrid designs that link past present and future Harley either visually or thematically.

The most consistent motifs are the red/black playing card diamond pattern and colors, blonde hair (which is sometimes died into other colors) and the general theme of the costume and role of the Harlequin popularized in European plays during the 1600s. Sometimes we see Harley in regular clothes, in her civilian identity as Harleen Quinzel (former head shrinker), but not very often. Her identity is well known to anybody and everybody in the superhero community.

harley-quinn-classic-costume-vs-arkham-asylum-game-costume

In Batman: Arkham Asylum (the game, not the graphic novel by Grant Morrison) gone was her full body comical Harlequin outfit. Replaced with tight leather pants, smeared black eye make-up took the place of her domino mask, while Harley’s hair was dyed in the colors that were formerly on her costume, and her domino mask is gone replaced with make up to mimmick the same basic look.

While showing more skin is not really a sign of character development, some of Harley’s  stories do fit with her risk tasking provocative personality. Harley was always an explicitly sexual, dangerous character even if it was not so obvious in the Batman Animated show. When Harley falls for someone or something, her mad passion fixates on that character. Whether’s it’s her relationship with the Joker, anger at Batman or infatuation with Pamela Isley – Harley overly fixates on whatever her manic ADD attention span allows her to.

Some scenes in Batman Animated were toned down from their original scripts, to keep in line with standards for children’s television. But there was never any doubt of Paul Dini’s intentions in creating the character, which was to be in a very specific style. Harley is like a rock star groupie, and the Joker is always on tour in her mind, so the party never ends.

batman_arkham_city_harley_quinn-promotional-art

When Batman: Arkham Asylum was released, many fans and game reviewers were rather surprised by Harley’s “new look” which has an undeniable S&M feel to it, and many game reviewers and fans commented that she looked like a street walker. Those comments were mostly not meant in any negative way, but more as genuine surprise that game developers / artists went with such a bold depiction that offered a strong contrast to her previous costume.

But to be frank Batman is wearing a black full body fetish looking costume and super-heroes and their costumes are fetishistic by their very nature. Come on, how many of them wear their underwear on the outside? That’s just kinky by its nature. We have just gotten so used to seeing their costumes in mass media that we take it for granted.

More important than any specific costume alone for Harley is agency – how does she interact with her world. Is the story about her, or is she just background in a story? With her solo books their is no doubt Harley is calling the shots, while the traditional Batman books have her more as a background character. Harley’s role mixes it up depending on what kind of story she is in. As a trickster and a wildcard – she’s fits in just about anywhere. She can play both heel and face, often in the same story.

In the recent animated movie Batman and Harley Quinn Harley even goes against her Fonfon Ru Poison Ivy – choosing to die with Batman when Ivy and the Floronic Man try to end the world with the Plant-Apocalypse. *Spoiler Alert* Harley doesn’t die, and helps save the day.

batman and harley quinn movie.jpg

 

daddy_s_lil__monster_by_saintyak deviantart.jpg

GOOD LUCK IN YOUR NEW BAND

To Paul Dini’s credit, he enjoys the different contrasting versions of Harley that have popped up in new media. Dini has given several long form interviews on various Podcast shows, and he is quite vocal in his support of the diverse range of artistic interpretations of Harley in comics and other media. It’s not every day that someone can create a character in the Batman universe that sticks around. And it’s even more rare to create a modern character who moves beyond their source material to find new audiences and new media outgrowing the limited line of Batman books.

HARLEY QUINN NEW 52 FUCK YOU I WONT DO WHAT YOU TELL ME 1.png

WE AIM TO MISBEHAVE

While Harley has become a more overtly-sexual, more extreme risk taking character, she is still basically the same character. I was skeptical of this direction at first after the more chaste classic version of Harley I was familiar with seemingly went away for good. It seemed that DC was turning Harley into another dis-empowered stupid female character who just pointlessly runs around in her underwear for the fanboys, and has no real story to tell.

But having read a significant amount of both old school and modern Harley Quinn stories, most of what DC have done with the character fits very well. The thing about Harlequin’s and Clowns and performance art, is to continually fuck with the audience, and keep them guessing about what are the true intentions of this performance? A good showman or showgirl never reveals their secrets. With Harley, it feels like she is somewhat of a chameleon like Joker, or David Bowie or Madonna – going through different looks, different eras that refract societies norms and then go off in strange unpredictable directions. Partly as artistic expression, partly to fuck with the audience and be a provocateur.

the-batman-adventures-mad-love-joker-kicks-harley-out-2

It’s the call of an artist to follow their muse, and Harley expresses herself through wild outfits and outrageous behavior. She’s a punk-rock risk taking teenager who never grew up, doesn’t give a damn what anybody thinks and that is a big part of her appeal. She knows like Poison Ivy that men find her irresistible, and uses that as leverage to get what she wants, but that can also backfire on her with characters like Batman who see through the schtick. Harley is also somewhat genuinely naive (despite her high overall intelligence), with a child like innocence that people find endearing.

Harley’s various looks are also a call back to another era, that of the golden age comics and pulp stories that featured costumed femme fatales that preceded the typical superheroes and typical JLA types. These pulp characters were often sexy, dark or extreme. Like them, Harley as an image is a fetishized object, unlike them Harley does not have a secret identity and pretty much everybody knows who she is. She has a certain kind of fame and notoriety in the DC Universe. Like other performance artists, Harley takes the iconography of femme fatales, harlequins and more, and she owns that behavior, makes it her own and uses it express herself. Harley likes to dress up and be provocative, and she has a lot of fun being a silly, sexy mischief maker.

harley-quinn-art-to-my-puddin-retro-style-bomber-girl

Whether Quinn can be called a genuinely empowered “bad girl” with her punk attitude bucking of social norms, or a more deliberate marketed femme fatale with her increasingly more revealing outfits designed to appeal to men I can’t say definitively one way or another. Harley is a character of contrast who defies simple categorization and that is something that works in her favor. Harley plays at being “crazy” but really she’s more manic and impulsive than anything. At times she has managed to restrain herself from doing something regrettable, but more often she gives in to her wild impulses, and follows her gut instincts.

Harley remains an interesting and intriguing character with some surprising depth to her that is not obvious to the casual viewer. Like the Joker, you can’t really define Harley or keep  her pinned down. She defies categorization, and constantly changes her look, keeping people guessing.

harley-quinn-new-52-issue-four-talking-to-beaver-make-up-scene

LIVING ON THE EDGE

On one level Harley is a fun, silly, sexy manic character who is as funny is as she is unpredictable. Harley refuses to be a boring “good girl”, as she knows its way more fun to be bad and express herself, and damn the consequences. In this way she is a throwback to early pulp femme fatales, the daredevils and risk takers of yesteryear who often had secret identities to protect their wild antics and were synonymous with sexual yearning, and the expressing of normal human desires often suppressed in a patriarchal society, so that even normal human expression becomes some kind of kink or perversion.

arkham_knight_harley_quinn

One big problem with female characters in fiction, particularly north american comic books – is that women are often there solely as plot devices. Just to be the token girlfriend to the main hero, as a one dimensional placeholder figure. There are various actions, reactions and attempts to write around this issue, but often male dominated cinema, film and comics have poorly written inauthentic female characters that misrepresent the other half of the population. It is a constant challenge to not make horrible shit like that in comics books when it’s the norm.

When any half decent new female character comes along there is always the risk of them being pigeonholed into some crappy archetype we are already familiar with, instead of letting them grow organically down their own  path. While the merchandise side of the Harley Quinn empire is very deliberate, to me the character has been allowed to grow beyond her roots, and at least some of that merch is because fans really wanted it.

harley-quinn-suicide-squad-movie-cosplay-1

THE SHOW MUST GO ON

Harley Quinn is fun, sweet, sexy and silly. She’s also manic and unpredictable, an impulsive hedonistic freak, and incredibly dangerous. What I love about the character is that she is someone who says it’s okay to be an outsider, a rebel, a weirdo, a misfit and to have fun being who you are. While her outfits fluctuate from full body suits to showing a lot of skin, she defies the usual beauty standards. While Harley is undeniably hot, the way she dresses is about as unconventional as it gets – her various looks incorporating elements of goth, punk, grunge, circus / harlequin, prostitutes and retro comic book femme fatales.

post apocalypse harley quinn cosplay.jpg

It makes sense Quinn is a popular cosplay, as there as so many options to mix and choose from. While some female comic book characters come across as borderline exploitative, Harley has owned her risque behavior, looks and attitudes from day one. As messed up as she is, she’s not afraid to be who she is. Part of what makes villains, anti-heroes and anti-heroines so much fun is that they let out all the stuff  we “norms” keep repressed and bottled up. They let their freak flag fly in a form of fiction we can find socially acceptable.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

Harley has proved enduringly popular. From multiple video games to cosplays to fan art, two decades of comic books, animation, toys and now her first official live action movie appearance – she was rumored to be first featured back in the 90’s Schumacher Batman films…urgh. Statues, clothing, Halloween costumes, a role in a kids TV show, it seems there is no stopping Harley Quinn’s rising popularity, she’s in just about every media and form you can think of. Harley also got her own starring role in another DC Animated original feature Batman and Harley Quinn – Batman’s name may come first for marketing purposes but make no mistake, Harley is the star of this animated movie.

 

Arkham_Knight_Harley_Quinn-tile SMALL.jpg

IMAGE CREDITS

– in order of appearance –

*Harley Quinn by Vincent Vernacatola

https://vvernacatola.deviantart.com/

*Suicide Squad Harley Quinn cosplay by Kimette, photography by Michaelle Charette

https://www.facebook.com/michaellecharettephotographe/

*Roller Derby Cosplay from Kandinsky Kandall Photography

*Joker Harley comic image from Batman: Mad Love graphic novel

*Gotham City Sirens #9 cover from DC Comics

*Harley Quinn #6 (NEW 52) cover from DC Comics

*My feelings Can’t be Killed by m7781 Marco D’ Alfonso

https://m7781.deviantart.com/

*Hoodless Harley SDCC cosplay by Destiny Italia

https://destinyitalia.deviantart.com/

*Harley driving comic panel from Harley Quinn #4 (NEW 52) by DC Comics

*Harley smashing through wall panel from Harley Quinn #4 (NEW 52) by DC Comics

*SS Harley and Classic Harley fan art by Ai Eye

https://ai-eye.deviantart.com/

*Akrham Knight Harley Quinn official promo art from Batman: Arkham Knight

*I feel Pretty – comic panel from Batman: Mad Love graphic novel

*Harley + Joker panel from Batman:Arkham City official tie in comic book

*Too Many Feeling by m7781 Marco D’ Alfonso

https://m7781.deviantart.com/

*Harley and Ivy panel from NEW 52 Harley Quinn#2

*Harley and Batgirl panels from Batgirl Adventures#1

*Harley and Grundy screen cap from Injustice: Gods Among Us video game

*Batman and Harley screen cap from Batman: Arkham City video game

*DC Superhero girls image from official DC promotional material

*Harley Quinn playing card image from http://gamespot.com/

*Harley alternate costumes by LadyDeadQuinn

http://ladydeadquinn.deviantart.com

*Harley real life halloween costumes image from  https://www.inverse.com/article/21564-harley-quinn-halloween-costume-superhero-costumes-kids-adults

*Kid Harley Quinn cosplay by Kara Adelyne

*DC Superhero Girls dolls image from official promotional material

*Harley and goons screen grab from Batman:Arkham City video game

*Harley comic panel image from Batman: Mad Love graphic novel

*Tied up Harley from Batman:Arkham City video game

*Batman / Harley image from Batman:Arkham City video game official promo art

*Batman and Harley Quinn trailer from Youtube DC Channel

*Poison Ivy screen grab from Batman and Harley Quinn animated movie

*Daddy’s Lil Monster by Saintyak

https://saintyak.deviantart.com/

*Harley Quinn slingshot from Harley Quinn Annual#1

*Harley comic panel image from Batman: Mad Love graphic novel

*Bombshell Harley Quinn by Nathan Szerdy

https://nszerdy.deviantart.com/gallery/

*Harley make up panel from  NEW 52 Harley Quinn#4

*Arkham Knight Harley Quinn from official game art

*Suicide Harley cosplay by Katya Kosova photo by Tim Rise

https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/katya-kosova

*Dystopian Harley cosplay by Jessica Nigri’s

https://www.instagram.com/jessicanigri/?hl=en

https://www.facebook.com/MiniHarleyQuinn/

*Natural-born-killers-harley-quinn-and-deadpool by Saintyak

https://saintyak.deviantart.com/

natural-born-killers-harley-quinn-and-deadpool

Advertisements

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

batman_arkham_origins_joker

“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.

joker and harley quinn 1.jpg

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 -www.crystalinks.com/trickster.html

The Trickster Archetype-tile.jpg

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.

Joker tile small.jpg

 

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.

red hood detective first appearance

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.

batman 1 punch Joker face

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.

Detective193 Joker runs newspaper.jpg

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.

Marshall Rogers Batman Joker art.jpg

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.

Batman - The Dark Knight Returns Joker dead.jpg
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.

Batman RIP Joker Bowie grant morrison 2
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.

Joker-batman-arkham-asylum game.jpg
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.

batman robin adventures JOKER pic
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.

Joker_fights_the_new_Batman
“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.

Cesar Romero Joker 1
“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.

Jack_Nicholson_As_The_Joker 1
“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.

Heath Ledger Joker The Dark Knight_Facing Forward_Looking Up_512x768.jpg
“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.

Joker graphic novel azzarello bermejelo 1.jpg

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.

Detective Comics 168 Red Hood Joker.jpg

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.

Joker Killing Joker allan moore textless cover image.jpg

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.

 

 

 

the_joker__new_52_by_mayan kumar.jpg

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 ComicBookResources.com 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.

Batman Europa 2 cover art by Giuseppe Camuncoli.jpg

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.

joker dr who bettlejuice bugs bunny trickster archetype

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.

 

the_joker__selfie_status_by_mayan kumar.jpg

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.

 

Batman RIP Joker Bowie grant morrison 3

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.

Cesar Romero Joker Heath Ledger Jared Leto Jack Nicholon 1.jpg

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.

Batman RIP Joker Bowie grant morrison

“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.” – TVtropes.org

Joker Gallery.jpg

 

 

Heath Ledger’s Legendary JOKER Performance PT#2

To me superhero comic books are not just stories.  They are windows into other worlds.

They are mad brilliant universes where the rules of physics don’t apply, where the impossible happens everyday.

Heath Ledger Joker Dark Knight Why So Serious Movie Poster

Worlds where a dude gets bitten by a radioactive Spider and instead of dying of radiation poisoning like a good chap, instead he can now jump around ten times his own height and crawl up walls, because… well, THAT makes sense.

Imaginary worlds where a baby in a rocket can land on planet earth and grows up to be a modern day Space Jesus who shoots laser beams out of his eyes.

Worlds where a child’s parents can die in cold blooded murder in front of his face, a baptism of blood.

The solution…  Booze, broads and pills!

NO?

Instead he gets really angry, dresses up like a giant bat and goes out punching crime in the face night after night terrorising the mob and saying  a healthy “Fuck You” to the cops when they try to stop you.  Of course it makes sense, it is only what any of us would do, wouldn’t we?

If comic books are windows, doorways to imaginary universes, then what are comic-book films?

To me, while still clearly fantasy, comic book movies are one step closer to the “real” world, that we live in.  We see actual people disappear into imaginary worlds made of real sets and locations, but somehow slightly askew.  If you think about it too long, your brain starts to hurt, so don’t do it kids, learn from my example!

These exaggerated hyper-worlds are imagineered to life through the magical conduit of special effects, camera tricks, false perspective and good old story telling.  We come to believe that these stories are somehow almost real.

That these fictional characters and events could almost be playing out in a parallel world one step removed from ours,  one that bends a little more to the realm of imagination, and doesn’t bother with the usual rules of a hard line material realm.

When we see Ledger’s Joker in Nolan’s Dark Knight film, it is NOT a performance, Heath Ledger the kind hearted endearing man who is spoken of with great affection by friends and family… goes a-way, and the… Jo-kerr… well, he .. now what was it he did… oh yeah..now I remember… he emerges from the existential void of chaos like the combined ghost of Travis Bickle, Tom Waits and Alex from A Clockwork Orange thrown into a blender set to “crazy town”.

Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance as the lunatic Joker is the most memorable screen villain in recent decades.  He takes a very silly character and makes him believably dangerous and truly frightening.  He makes a cartoonish two dimensional clown come to vivid life before our eyes, and the scary part is, he shows us his madness is not so mad.

That we could become like him with just a little “push” at the right time, a tiny bit of leverage applied in the right way, at the right time and OVER the edge of sanity we go, like Holmes and Moriarty tumbling over the Reichenbach Falls.

Sherlock_Holmes_and_Professor_Moriarty_at_the_Reichenbach_Falls_396x600

If Nietzsche had his Overman / Superman, then what is Heath Ledger’s Joker but the opposite of that?  He is chaos and materialism personified.  He exits in a moral vacuum of his own creation and he insists that the essential element of the universe is chaos.  His living philosophy is that life has no meaning, just chaos, random events and morality is meaningless.

That there are no causes, divine plans, no consequences or purpose to anything.  Just an existential void where you can play paint by numbers at your leisure with the entrails of your best friend or your enemy.  It makes no difference what you do or why you do it, as there is no God, no final judgement, no scales of Justice nor  Karma, just free floating pure selfish egoism in a world of chaos where everybody takes what they can get while they can get it.

The Joker sees all this and laughs, not in desperation, but with mad puppy-dog like glee.  His god is chaos.  His reason is un-reason, as a trickster character like Loki or Pan, he is there to fuck with our beliefs and world view, and he thrives on attention, on dragging people down to his level.

He doesn’t want to see the world burn, so much as light the match that gets the process started.  He would rather somebody else like Batman or Harvey Dent lit that match, and his efforts to do anything are ultimately meaningless.

In a pack of cards, the Joker card is a placeholder.  The Joker card is “Wild” in that it can take the place of any other card, or be anything the players of the card game choose it to be.

The Joker card always matches or beats whatever it is against.  …For each character or group, the Joker has a different manner of speaking.

-Dean Trippe

Comic book creator Dean Trippe observed on his Batman Podcast The Bat Cast that some film critics of Ledger in The Dark Knight found his performance inconsistent.  Something that may not be obvious that Dean pointed out, is that the Joker is a wild card, not just symbolically but literally.

Watch any scene, and you will see Ledger adapt and change into different voices and intonations, his actions seem almost random.  But look closer, and you will see that Heath Ledger as the Joker embodies the idea that the Joker card can match any suit or trump any other card.

Ledger as the Joker matches or trumps the very characters he plays off of.  Whether the police, Batman or the mob, the Joker becomes whatever someone else needs him to become.  He is like a chameleon, hence his varied performance in The Dark Knight, which is clearly intentional rather than accidental as some film critics have implied.

Is the Joker even aware of his chameleon like nature?  There is no real way to know, but if you watch the film again, you will see it.  The way he changes up his behavior, mannerisms, tone of voice and false values, or lack of them to suit who he is dealing with in the moment.

It all adds something to the role that makes you appreciate the research, and attention to detail Heath Ledger put into the role.

Heath Ledger Joker Dark Knight Green My Card

When Batman looked into the existential void after his parents death he decided to make sense of senselessness.  As an adult, he uses the death of his parents as fuel for transcendence. He still feels pain, he just doesn’t make pain into his identity as so many of us do.

Batman acknowledges his pain, loss and grief.  But he moves on and dedicates himself to the ideal of Justice.  He didn’t get there overnight.  He went through his own deeply perosonal dark knight of the soul, he went through chaos and despair, grief and pain, and over the years he emerged on the other side of that.  This deep psychological stuff is hard work, it is not easy, it is not something we can set goals for or plan for in any rational way.

Pain happens, despair happens, depression happens, and we deal with it the best way we know how, and no two people do it in the same way.

The Joker by contrast didn’t just stare into the abyss, he fell in love with it.  He made it his personal god and he jumped into the void head first, dancing and laughing all the way.

There are valid arguments about whether Joker is truly insane, or whether he just enjoys what he does and puts on the theatrics as a cover story for why he does what he does, why he is who he is.  Some would say he is not insane at all, he just loves killing people, causing pain and chaos wherever he goes.  He is in love with being the Joker.  He is the only sane man in an insane world.

There are no real boundaries to what the Joker would say or do. Nothing intimidates him, and everything is a big joke – Heath Ledger

The beauty of Ledger’s Joker is that just when we think we have him figured out, just when we think we have him pinned down – he wriggles away like a snake shedding its skin.  He is undefinable, incomprehensible and his world view is unfathomable.  To try to understand him with logic or reason is an exercise in futility.

The Joker is a true sociopath with no empathy, no reason, who only believes in chaos and no higher meaning to life.  His constant narcissistic retelling of his own self-invented fictional origin is a good example.  He relishes dramatising his own disturbing past for people.  He gets off on the drama of the performance.  Each time inventing a new fiction as to how he became who he is or who he pretends to be for the audience.

He relishes the sheer terror and faint hint of understanding in the eyes of his victims.  That faint hint of sympathy they may have for him is his version of a cat playing with a mouse.  The Joker just can’t help himself, he likes to PLAY with his food before he devours it.

At the end of film, we are still no closer than at the beginning to understanding the Joker, nor his motivations.  He is a wild card, and each game means he holds a different value, a different role to play.  And he knows he plays a role, because life is a game to him, a big cosmic joke.  A twisted, demented game, but a game none the less.

There are elements of the Joker’s personality and habits that appeal to us, that are fun.  Ledger is simultaneously hilarious and horrifying as the clown prince of crime.  It can be fun to give in to our dark side, it can be fun to say “fuck you” to the world, and do things our own way.  It can be a vicarious thrill to not just self-destruct but pull others down to our level.

But unless we are willing to embrace madness or give ourselves over to true nihilism, most of us will eventually crash and burn.  Our darker self will stop being fun, we will cease to be agents of chaos, and instead will be slaves to whatever random impulse enters our sphere of influence on any given day, we become unthinking impulse driven animals, and it is a long climb back to normality from that place of spiritual unconsciousness.

Heath Ledger Joker Dark Knight Green Holding Cell

We can learn from our own dark side, and it is something in us that can not be denied.  To deny we have these impulses is to deny our very existence.  Instead we can make peace with those impulses and feelings, and find a way to express them without destroying ourselves or those around us.  I explored this idea more in depth in a previous article

“I am Vengeance I am the Night” – Exploring the dark Psyche of Batman

Heath Ledger’s role  -if you can call it that, because he IS the Joker, he inhabits him from the inside out – Heath as the Joker became the role of his life.  He really knocked it out of the park, and he will always be remembered for that role. He is iconic, hilarious, terrifying and above all – entertaining.  While I will have more to say about him in future posts about The Dark Knight, let’s end this post with a quote from Heath himself on the role he loved.

It’s a combination of reading all the comic books I could that were relevant to the script and then just closing my eyes and meditating on it,

“I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices — it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath — someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts. He’s just an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown, and Chris has given me free rein. Which is fun, because there are no real boundaries to what The Joker would say or do. Nothing intimidates him, and everything is a big joke”

-Heath Ledger / EMPIRE Magazine Interview

Did you miss part #1 of this article?  Well delay no further dear reader, read the 15 Greatest Quotes on Ledger’s Legendary Joker Performance now!

15 Greatest Quotes on Ledger’s Legendary JOKER Performance

It’s the second stinking hot summer month of 2015 here in Perth, Australia, and I have already watched Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight three times so far.

The Dark Knight is a film I find endlessly rewarding on each repeat viewing, for ONE main reason.  Can you guess what that is?

Heath Ledger Joker Dark Knight_Head_1_640x419

The initial fever-like frenzy that surrounded the cinematic release was the kind of buzz that normally I ignore.  Take for example all the hype for the upcoming Batman v Superman film.

It is the film I most want to see, but read NOTHING about online,

…because I don’t want to know what will happen.

I’ve subscribed to Empire (the film review magazine) for over five years now, and devour each monthly review of new films.

But in the lead up to The Dark Knight, I read not one of their articles, nor their review of The Dark Knight, at least not until AFTER I had seen the film.

Heath Ledger Joker The Dark Knight_Facing Away_Pocket Knife Extended_512x768

Chris Nolan films are films that I truly savor, and look forward to.  I want to know as little as possible about them, other than the cast or the general setting.  In this way I can enjoy the films on my own terms, and not have them ruined by plot spoilers or tainted by caustic reviews.

Watching The Dark Knight (and the other two Nolan Bat-verse) films this month has got me all nostalgic, so I thought why not do a series of articles on the films, looking at the good, the bad and the ugly.

As much as I love the Nolan Batman Trilogy (which is not really a trilogy at all, I’ll tell you why later…) they are not without flaws, especially the giant plot holes in The Dark Knight Rises, which somehow manages to be a decent film, despite the MANY logical flaws and inconsistencies, leaving it an uneven film at best.

Well, there is no rush, I’ve got old cast interviews to read from all three films, in character publicity photos to drool over and some pondering to do before getting into the meat of things (in upcoming articles).   But in the mean time, let’s start with 15 great quotes about Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in Chris Nolan’s film, from popular press reviews of The Dark Knight.  

Because Heath Ledger’s phenomenal performance as the Joker is easily my biggest highlight of the Nolanverse Batman films.

I love acting. Oh, God, I love it. But all this fame and all this bullshit attention. I’m not supernatural. I’ve done nothing extremely special to deserve the position. It happens every couple of years, and it’s happened to hundreds of people before me.  – Heath Ledger / Newsweek

“Batman” isn’t a comic book anymore. Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is a haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy. It creates characters we come to care about. That’s because of the performances, because of the direction, because of the writing, and because of the superlative technical quality of the entire production. This  film, and to a lesser degree “Iron Man,” redefine the possibilities of the “comic-book movie.”

– Roger Ebert

Heath Ledger Joker The Dark Knight_Facing Forward_Looking Up_512x768

“Even without Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker, Christopher Nolan’s pitch-black sequel to BATMAN BEGINS (2005) would be a tour de force. But Ledger’s mesmerizingly damaged agent provocateur is the film’s dark heart, a presence so malevolently unpredictable that it remains palpable even when he’s not on screen.”

“That Ledger stands out in such a powerhouse ensemble is a tribute to his radically unhinged interpretation of a familiar character: The lank hair tinged seaweed green, the darting tongue and faint lisp that call constant attention to the ghastly rictus of his mouth, the nightmarishly smudged make up… taken together, they make previous Jokers feel like, well, jokes.”

– Maitland McDonagh / TV Guide

“Actors are sometimes described as “disappearing into a role.” Never was that term more fitting than in the case of Ledger…  

With his cracked white pancake makeup, black-rimmed eyes, smeared lipstick and greasy, greenish-tinged hair, The Joker bears no resemblance to the strikingly handsome actor who played him. In fact, the character is like nothing we’ve seen or heard before.

Sure, there’s a whiff of Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange in the performance, but Ledger has made this anarchic maniac a singular and supremely unhinged villain. From the clumsily repellant way he flips his tongue around to his sneering, nasal voice, he is a peerless eccentric.”

– Claudia Puig, USA TODAY

Heath Ledger Joker The Dark Knight_Side on_Smile_holding Knife_512x768

“Ledger is so horrifically riveting you can’t take your eyes off of him.

In Gotham City, crime is the force that never ends, and the arrival of the maniacal Joker (Ledger) is a manifestation of its most anarchic impulses.

With his butchered face resembling a wrinkled finger wrapped in a Band-Aid for too long, his love of chaos drives the Joker to take giddy pleasure from dragging everyone down to his murderous level.”

– Joe Neumaier / NY Daily News

“In The Dark Knight, nothing is nearly so cut-and-dried. Whereas the radicalized Ra’s, with his arsenal of dirty bombs and his urge to eradicate Western “decadence,” was a supervillain of the sort that anyone who reads the papers has been conditioned to expect, the Joker of The Dark Knight is all the more terrifying for not having a plan or an identifiable motive.

A committed anarchist in a dusting of floury foundation, a smear of crimson lipstick, and pools of Louise Brooks eye shadow, this Joker isn’t the ebullient prankster of Batman movies (and TV shows) past, but rather a freakishly disturbing embodiment of those destructive human impulses that can’t so easily be explained away.

His only rule is to show others the folly of rules, the absurdity of striving to impose order upon chaos. “Some men just want to watch the world burn,” observes the ever-wise butler Alfred (Michael Caine). Except that this Joker doesn’t merely want to watch; he wants to strike the match.”

– Scott Foundas / Village Voice

“His Joker is wonderfully textured, with a weird lip-smacking facial tic and a shoulder-hunching gait. He’s also very funny—a funniness that has more to do with timing than with the usual villainous catchphrases.”

– Dana Stevens / Slate

Heath Ledger Joker The Dark Knight_Hunched over_Pointing to camera_512x768
“Batman’s stature as a radical symbol of good has invited a more sinister criminal presence to Gotham City — and, as seen in the crackerjack bank-robbery sequence that opens the pic, one who operates in terrifyingly unpredictable ways.

Utterly indifferent to simple criminal motivations like greed, Ledger’s maniacally murderous Joker is as pure an embodiment of irrational evil as any in modern movies.

He’s a pitiless psychopath who revels in chaos and fears neither pain nor death, a demonic prankster for whom all the world’s a punchline.”

– Variety

“Ledger’s Joker is every bit as disturbing as he is disturbed — tongue-flickingly reptilian, and yet disarmingly commonsensical in the way he relies on the dark side of human nature to aid him in wreaking havoc.

He uses crowd psychology to endanger crowds, subverts legal niceties (wait till you see what he does with that one phone call he’s allowed when arrested), and greets the perpetually self-doubting Batman as a fellow damaged soul.

It’s a heart- stoppingly unpredictable performance, haunted by the audience’s knowledge of Ledger’s death earlier this year — and rendering even darker what has to be as dark a superhero fantasy as Hollywood is likely to produce any time soon.

Regardless, the real relationship here is between a Batman in existential crisis and a Joker who’d love to leap with him into the abyss tight-assed yin and anarchist yang in a fantasy franchise that Nolan (in concert with his scriptwriting brother Jonathan) has made as riveting for its psychological heft as for the adrenaline rushes it inspires at regular intervals.”

– Bob Mondello / NPR

Heath Ledger Joker The Dark Knight_Knife_Facing Forward_Arms Crossed_512x768

“Bale, all steely reserve, once again captivates as the haunted caped crusader who must shed morality to beat the devil at his game.

But just as Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman was anchored by the joy-buzzer glee of Jack Nicholson’s party-down Joker, The Dark Knight takes its cue from its Joker and his deadly circus of chaos. Heath Ledger’s mesmerizing, scary-funny performance begins with the creepiness of his image: the greasy long hair, the makeup that looks as if he’d drawn it on with crayons, then messed it with tears.

That ghostly rotting paint job covers his scarred smile (explained by a backstory that gives you the willies, even if he just made it up), and the disturbing thing is that when Ledger’s Joker talks, with those ”Ehhh, what’s up, Doc?” vowels that make him sound like Al Franken crossed with a nerdish pedophile, you realize that the icky sloshing sound you hear is him sucking on his cheeks; he uses his attachment to those scars to fuel his sadistic (and masochistic) whims.

This Joker may be a torture freak, but he also has a lost quality, a melancholy hidden within those black-circled eyes. He turns slaughter into a punchline; he’s a homicidal comedian with an audience of one — himself.”

– Owen Gleiberman / Entertainment Weekly

“And then, of course, there is the Joker, whose wide smile has been carved into his face. He’s a slapstick gargoyle. When Jack Nicholson played the Joker, his campiness was only one step removed from the giggles of the old “Batman” TV series.

By contrast, Ledger doesn’t offer the audience the slightest glimmer of hope or hilarity. His motto is a sick-joke variant on Nietzsche: “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stranger.” Nietzsche had it as “stronger,” and that applies to the Joker as well: He’s fortified by awfulness.

He can’t get enough of it, and nothing – not wealth or fame or anything else – will buy him off. As Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred (Michael Caine) puts it, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

– Peter Rainer / The Christian Science Monitor

Heath Ledger Joker The Dark Knight_Back_512x768

“I can only speak superlatives of Ledger, who is mad-crazy-blazing brilliant as the Joker. Miles from Jack Nicholson’s broadly funny take on the role in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, Ledger takes the role to the shadows, where even what’s comic is hardly a relief.

No plastic mask for Ledger; his face is caked with moldy makeup that highlights the red scar of a grin, the grungy hair and the yellowing teeth of a hound fresh out of hell. To the clown prince of crime, a knife is preferable to a gun, the better to “savor the moment.”

– Peter Travers / Rolling Stone

“That would be the Joker, of course, a demonic creation and three-ring circus of one wholly inhabited by Heath Ledger.

Mr. Ledger died in January at age 28 from an accidental overdose, after principal photography ended, and his death might have cast a paralyzing pall over the film if the performance were not so alive.

But his Joker is a creature of such ghastly life, and the performance is so visceral, creepy and insistently present that the characterization pulls you in almost at once.

When the Joker enters one fray with a murderous flourish and that sawed-off smile, his morbid grin a mirror of the Black Dahlia’s ear-to-ear grimace, your nervous laughter will die in your throat.”

– Manohla Dargis / NY Times

“Admittedly, when Ledger died I was a bit perplexed at the plaudits for a guy who had a couple of above average performances under his belt, but his Joker is almost perfect. Forgotten are the clowning geriatrics of Jack Nicholson’s version, for Ledger makes the Joker his, imbuing the character with such menace and genuine insanity I finally got a sense of what talent he really had.”

– Pete Vonder Haar / Film Threat

Heath Ledger Joker The Dark Knight_Facing Forward_Hands Facing Outard_Why so serious son_512x768

“But the performance that you will remember for years is Ledger’s as the Joker.

Stepping from behind the shadows of Jack Nicholson’s Joker of 1989 (and, briefly, into the red fright wig of Cesar Romero’s TV version), Ledger is a terrifying, unpredictable presence, his shoulders rigid, his head hanging like the business end of a mallet, his fingers splaying about menacingly, his mouth pursed or spewing sneers or little smacking sounds that nauseate as much as they frighten.

Denied any sort of back story, more clever by yards than his pursuers, this Joker is like a dream of irrational evil, a terrorist without a cause, a man without a soul, a nightmare looking for minds to inhabit and discovering that he’s only happy inhabiting all of them.”

–  Heidi Williams / The Oregonian

“One shot, in particular, crystallizes everything that Ledger and Nolan were working for in “The Dark Knight.” It’s a shot that deserves to be anthologized, YouTube-ized and immortalized: The Joker is in the foreground, walking toward the camera, playing (and really, that’s the only word) with a bomb detonator.

Huge explosions are going on behind him as he walks toward us, stiff and happy and hobbling, like a toddler. He’s a child, and this is pure id. At the heart of existence isn’t creation, but chaos.”

– SFGate

“Two hours and 32 minutes long, “The Dark Knight” is grimly magisterial. It’s a summer blockbuster that contemplates near- total civic disaster: Crowds surge, tractor-trailers flip, and buildings explode, but the pop violence feels heavy, mournful.

Yet flitting through this 10-ton expressionist murk is a diseased butterfly with stringy hair and a maniacal giggle. Played by a dead actor, he’s the most alive thing here. – Ty Burr

Light barely escapes the film’s gravitational pull.

It’s not quite fair to say that the late Heath Ledger steals “The Dark Knight” from Christian Bale and the forces of (problematic) good, but, as the Joker, he is the movie’s animating principle and anarchic spark – an unstoppable force colliding with the immovable objects of Batman and director Christopher Nolan’s ambitions.

Much more serious in intent and message than 2005’s “Batman Begins,” “Dark Knight” would be fatally ponderous without Ledger’s nasty little sprite. As it is, the movie strains at its own Wagnerian seams.”

– Ty Burr / Boston (dot)com

And in case you were wondering, the deliriously delicious publicity photos are the property of Warner Brothers, they can be found online by searching for Heath Ledger Joker publicity photos.  Do check them out, as they are many beautiful high resolution photos from the same shoot that look even more spectacular at the full size resolution.

Heath Ledger Joker 9-PANEL-GRID-vert-5_533x800