The Joker is, as always, pretty much everywhere. The Dark Knight’s premier adversary is starting to outgrow their relationship, at least supposedly, as Warner Bros. look to include the character in several films going forward.
There’s the Suicide Squad sequel, the purported Joker/Harley “rom-com” (blegh), another solo film involving Jared Leto’s character, and a few other appearances sure to follow. The one worth the most attention, however, is WB’s planned origin story being produced by Martin Scorsese and written by Todd Phillips. Joaquin Phoenix is set to star as the titular character, which is said to be a loose adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s seminal, albeit controversial comic, The Killing Joke.
Phillips et al. should tread carefully however. The Clown Prince’s origin, though detailed in that particular storyline, has never been definitive; part of the fascination surrounding the character stems from the fact that he’s constantly changing, and that no one truly knows his story. As the rogue says in Moore’s comic, if he’s to have a past, he’d prefer to be “multiple choice”, and with so many Joker stories to choose from, the old adage applies to audiences too.
With schemes involving murder, Dick Sprang-style murder machines and even fish, these are the stories that’ll make this particular film one worth exploring.
7. The Killing Joke
You’d struggle to find a Joker story more controversial than The Killing Joke, and yet, there are few as influential as it. Moore, as with plenty of his other DC works, has since disowned the tale, but there’s no denying how compelling his version of the Joker’s origin is – even today.
Centred around Batman’s efforts to track down the Clown Prince after his latest escape from Arkham Asylum, The Killing Joke is most famous (or rather infamous) for the Joker’s horrendous assault on the first Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, and the subsequent torture of Jim Gordon. While that particular aspect of the story could probably remain sequestered away for the time being, the book’s flashbacks to the Clown Prince’s ostensible origin are worth developing – with the caveat being that the film doesn’t treat it as the definitive origin tale.
With the film also said to be set in the 1980s, spotlighting a version of the clown who once worked as a failed comedian, it certainly looks to be paying homage to Moore’s story. If Phillips and Phoenix can convey the tragedy of this particular origin, then it could end up being a massive success – just as long as they don’t forget to sew seeds of doubt regarding its authenticity.