Play Me the Joker – Leave Bane Be.

July 22, 2012 5:44 pm

Batman is perhaps the most admired superhero of all time. He has enchanted not only his true supporters, who read and collect comics, but also a huge mass of movie-goers. Thanks to film lovers everywhere, The Dark Knight is one of the most successful movies of all time and with a cumulative gross of over $1 billion around the world, it has secured its position in Hollywood-history.

Can Bane live up to the Joker?

Whenever the film is spoken of, it seems inevitable the conversation will turn to arch-villain Joker. In my view, the film’s success is indebted to this character. Will the new release, The Dark Knight Rises, manage to recreate the same success without such a vital character?

Joker was created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger; most probably they were inspired by a friend bringing over playing cards. The core of the character was inspired by The Man Who Laughs (1928) which itself was based upon a novel by Victor Hugo.

Before the Joker became what he is to this day, he had led an ordinary life. He lived in an ordinary flat with an ordinary wife and they were expecting to become ordinary parents. Then the accident happens. Joker falls into a canal with chemical waste; his hair turns green, his skin becomes white, his lips turn a bloody, gluttonous red and widen across his face. Significantly, his mind is disturbed. Although he becomes a psychopath, he stays cunning and develops a twisted wittiness. However, he becomes a criminal, who lives by cruelty. His sarcastic laugh is his calling card from now on. These changes make Joker the most recognizable, the most powerful and the most iconic of The Dark Knight villains and perhaps the entire Batman world.

Joker, originally created by Bob Kane and Bill


In spite of the fact that they fight against each other, Batman and Joker remain similar in one respect. They are both driven by obsession. Joker has the obsession to hurt and kill people, Batman is driven to avenge his parents’ death. What is more, Joker seems to be the super-villain, who has enough power to fight and even overcome Batman one day. Their struggles are always fascinating as they represent different worlds and yet they are not so distant.

Two modern onscreen depictions of Joker have been fabulous. In Batman(1989) Joker is memorably played by Jack Nicholson. He created an amazing character who captured audience attention immediately. His violet tuxedo, hat and painted face gave the twisted façade to the way he spoke and moved and to watch him is to see an example of almost perfect acting. Such is his mastery, many thought he could actually be Joker in real life. Nicholson gave Joker a madness which was bizarrely elegant and audiences and critics alike have praised him and declared him perfect for the role. It seemed he would never be topped –and then came 2008.

Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson as the Joker.

In this year The Dark Knight was released. Heath Ledger takes his turn as the Joker, but his Joker is gloomy and the manic, hysterical laugh has subsided to become deep, uneasy, distressing. From the first moment he is seen he is a frightening, half-human monster terrorizing people. Ledger was reported to live in dark and spooky hotel rooms to experience life similar to his character in order to get into his skin. It is said that he was snorting amphetamine to prepare better for his role and there has been speculation this caused his tragic death. A posthumous Oscar for the Best Supporting Actor was, in my view, an appropriate tribute to this great actor.

Although it will be disputed whose Joker is better, it should be easy to agree that both are outstanding. The two actors filled their character with complexity and made him powerful. The strength and appeal of Joker culminated in a new comic published in 2008, written by Brian Azzarello and brought to life by Lee Bermejo.

In some respects, I would argue Joker is a more interesting and colourful figure than Batman. He is the reason people want to engage in the stories. When one hears his laugh, it can incite a feeling of being thrilled, excited or disgusted. But no-one could be indifferent. Can Bane ever compare?

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