The Man Who Laughs: The Joker of Each Generation
Iconic is an understatement. The Joker is the quintessential pop culture villain. Money doesn’t motivate him and emotion doesn’t faze him. He’s motivated by chaos in and of itself. Which is a scary proposition for Batman and comic book nerds alike.
The make-up caked villain of the Batman universe has enjoyed many lives (and many voices) over the decades. He’s been a nefarious, one-line-loaded trickster. He’s been a dark, brooding, evil genius. He’s been at once a nemesis to the great bat in Gotham, and an ally to the outcasts and misanthropes of the real world.
Strip away the makeup and explosives though, and you may recognize a few popular faces and names. The Joker has been brought to life so many times over the years, and in so many different ways, that his “resume” deserves a second look.
Today, we explore the many faces of the man who laughs.
Millennials may not recognize the name but surely, they’ll remember the vibrant purple suit. Cesar Romero brought Joker to life in the 1966 Batman television adaptation featuring the venerable Adam West.
Akin to the Silver Age portrayal of the character, Cesar Romero’s Joker was a flashy and campy trickster. His arsenal of weapons included the Joy Buzzer, the Joke Flower, Sneeze Powder Pellets, and his world famous jumping beans, which when released, would cause the perfect distraction for a clean getaway. Romero played the Joker from 1966 to 1968, including three TV seasons and a full-length feature film.
Tim Burton tapped Jack Nicholson as the Joker in his 1989 Batman flick. And the world is forever grateful.
Nicholson brought muscle, fear, and stage presence to a character that certainly deserved it. In the film, the gangster Jack Napier is dropped in to a vat of acid, transforming him into the blood-thirsty, purple suited clown.
Nicholson set the early standard for the Joker, immortalizing the character on the big screen for all to see. Though the Joker has been scarier, funnier and more ruthless in his other interpretations, Nicholson’s timeless performance will always be revered.
Few actors have enjoyed the Joker gig for as long as Mark Hamill. While Hamill never played the clown on-screen, his resume is impressive nonetheless.
Hamill played the Joker in the iconic Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, Justice League, Robot Chicken, and heck of a lot more. Hamill set the standard for the Joker’s characteristic with eardrum-piercing laugh. Plus, his impact on the character cannot be understated.
If you were ever a cartoon-crazed adolescent, then it’s safe to say that Hamill was your first Joker. And that’s certainly not a bad thing.