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Top 10 Problems With the Joker Nobody Wants to Admit

VO: Adrian Sousa WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
Does he really always get the last laugh? Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 problems with the Joker nobody wants to admit. For this list, we’re looking at issues prevalent across many different incarnations of Batman’s arch-rival, from the beginning to the present day.
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Does he really always get the last laugh? Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 problems with the Joker nobody wants to admit.

For this list, we’re looking at issues prevalent across many different incarnations of Batman’s arch-rival, from the beginning to the present day.

#10: He Was Only Meant to Be in One Issue


Batman himself showed up way back in 1939 and very quickly got his own solo line of comics – and has had his own solo comics consistently for eight decades. And it was a year after the Caped Crusader’s debut that the Joker first reared his head, showing up in “Batman #1”. This also marked the first appearances of Catwoman and Dick Grayson’s Robin, but neither of them were killed off at the end of the issue. Joker, however, was supposed to be a one trick pony, and it was only by the editorial intervention of Whitney Ellsworth that he survived and went on to become the most famous villain in comic book history.

#9: Gaggy Gagsworthy


These days we always think of Harley Quinn as the Joker’s right hand, but she’s actually a relatively recent addition to the world of Batman, showing up in the 1990s. Before that, the Joker could sometimes be seen in the company of Gaggy Gagsworthy, who shared the clown gimmick and first appeared on pages in Batman #186. He arrived in an era when the Joker was toned down somewhat, but certainly wouldn’t by published today as he was made the butt of many offensive jokes for being a little person.

#8: Solo Joker Comics Don’t Sell


Lots of villains have had successful comic book lines of their own, the Joker’s own jaded jester to name just one outrageously popular wrongdoer. But the same magic that catapulted Harley to new heights didn’t work on Mister J, whose own solo series began in 1975 and published only nine issues until it was abandoned by DC. The main problem was that for the Joker to be a good protagonist, he had to be toned down and sanitized. Unfortunately, doing this means he loses everything that actually makes him the Joker, not to mention the fact that Batman didn’t show up once.

#7: He’s Not Crazy


It might surprise a lot of people to hear that the poster-boy for insanity isn’t crazy at all. He’s far from well-adjusted, clearly, but none of the symptoms he exhibits corroborate a medical diagnosis of “insanity”. Professional psychologists have carried out evaluations of everything we know about the character, and usually settle on a diagnosis of psychopathy. Someone could be a psychopath – that is, showing no remorse and having no empathy – but not actually commit any crimes. The Joker belongs in Blackgate more than in Arkham.

#6: 'Harley & Joker' Is Toxic


It doesn’t matter how much faux-romantic merchandise outlets try to peddle, the fact remains that Harley Quinn and the Joker’s relationship is not to be idealized. Ever since her character was initially conceived and introduced to “Batman: The Animated Series” by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, they’ve been portrayed as highly abusive on purpose. We’re supposed to root for Harley to escape from the Joker and become her own antihero, not stay with him and suffer. But for some reason the mainstream media – looking at you, “Suicide Squad” – don’t seem to understand this.

#5: He’s Not Funny


It’s hard to think of an example where the Joker’s ever said something genuinely hilarious – at least hilarious to somebody other than himself. Even his henchmen don’t always get his jokes, Harley included. It seems odd that a character built so firmly around gags and comedy, whose name is literally “the Joker”, is practically incapable of telling a funny joke, but them’s the breaks. Maybe it’s part of his supposed madness, but it would be refreshing if one of these days we get a Joker who can actually make us laugh as well as making our skin crawl.

#4: Batman’s Greatest Enemy?


The Joker is constantly touted as Batman’s arch-rival, his nemesis, the yin to his yang, two sides of the same coin – et cetera. But is he really? With more appearances than any other Batman villain, it also stands to reason that he’s been caught and incarcerated more than anybody else, too, so he could well be one of the easiest recurring villains to defeat. Other characters are much more formidable foes for the Dark Knight, like the immortal assassin Ra’s al Ghul and Venom-fuelled Bane – the latter of whom manages to snap Batman’s spine at one point. Surely, it’s time to let some other villains have their turns in the spotlight?

#3: Superpowers


There’s a certain degree to which everybody has to suspend their disbelief when reading comic books or watching movies, but the Joker repeatedly pushes that to the limit by exhibiting superhuman abilities. While he’s supposed to be just a mortal deep down, as is the famously non-superpowered Batman, he bounces back from things that would kill an ordinary person. He’s even capable of holding his own in hand-to-hand combat against the Bat, and has been described by celebrated writer Grant Morrison as having “super-sanity,” meaning his issues stem from having heightened perception that constantly overloads him with sensory data.

#2: Clown Cliché


The Joker is constantly being reinvented in the movies in an attempt to escape from the tired old jester gimmick he’s been rocking since the 40s. He may be one of the original psychotic clown characters, but there’s getting to be an over-abundance of crazy clowns in the media. Be the terrifying Pennywise, Twisty from “American Horror Story,” or even the bizarre clown craze that shook the world in 2016. The Joker is now one in a long line of cliché comedians, arguably overused in DC properties, and even at his darkest isn’t quite as scary as some of the other clowns out there.

#1: Inconsistencies


Like any comic book character the Joker has had a million different versions; but while Batman is always the moral bringer of justice, the Joker is wildly inconsistent. Sometimes destroying Gotham and creating mass hysteria is his goal, while other times he wants to rob a bank because he’s running low on cash. While many of these inconsistencies can largely be put down to the tone of whatever he’s appearing in – since comics and video games are typically allowed to be much darker than movies and TV shows - there’s just no telling which Joker he’ll be from one issue to the next.
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