The Joker is probably one of the most prolific of all the Batman villains, as well as the Caped Crusader’s toughest arch rival. He has also had many different versions on screen and off, making him not only complex of mind but challenging to keep up with. No wonder Batman has such a hard time. The Joker has been around since the 1940s and has seen a variety of reincarnations, although they all have the same themes that run throughout. His eerie face paint and his colorful suit, as well as other similarities come together to create one of the greatest super villains the world has ever seen.
The first origin story (1951)
You can still see today how this first story has influenced other versions since its release. The Joker himself had actually already been a massive villain since the 1940s, but it took this long for writers to give him a backstory. The story goes that the Joker was originally a villain called Red Hood, but, to escape Batman, he had to jump into a vat of acid. If that doesn't ring any bells of familiarity, then we're not sure what will.
Building on a character (1988)
It wasn't until 1988 that one of the greatest foes of all time would have his character’s original story built upon. This time the Joker has a wife who is with child. He decides he's going to quit his job at the chemical company he works at and pursue his dream of being a comedian. He agrees to help two criminals, trying to earn himself something by leading them through the company he used to work at so they can rob the store next door. His wife passes away as a result of an accident, but he's not allowed to get out of the deal. He gets caught by Batman and gets away via the vat of acid, which severely disfigures him.
The petty gangster (1996)
This Joker is probably one of the lesser-known versions and strays from the original story. The Joker is a powerful gangster who becomes unsettled and has an itch he needs to scratch. To be incognito, he becomes Red Hood to be able to carry out some common crimes himself. This version of the Joker only pretends to be insane.
The big league gangster (2006)
This backstory changed things up quite a bit. Forgetting everything we know about the Joker from before, this Joker is a criminal by trade and wants to get Batman's attention. This is nothing more than a boredom tactic but ends with this version of the Joker, called Jack, gaining his famous grin as a direct result of Batman's Batarang.
This movie uses parts from previous Joker stories. According to this depiction, the Joker, Jack Napier, was the cause of Bruce Wayne's parents passing. This then leads on to the Batman battle in which he falls into a vat of acid, returning as the Joker.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Heath Ledger’s performance as this version of the Joker received massive acclaim, being hailed as iconic and impressive. This Joker actually uses many of the past iterations to explain a variety of origins, making sure no one really knows what's happened to him or where he comes from. The fact he uses a backstory linked to many of the past versions is a testament to the writers.
With the new upcoming Joker movie, many are intrigued to find out how this complex character’s origins will be portrayed, and which road they'll go down.