Joker: The True Story | NowThis Nerd

– Hi everyone, I'm Moose, and I've been feeling kinda funny lately (suspenseful music) (maniacal laugh) – Is this a joke to you? See there's a new 'Joker' movie just around the corner, and it's already stirring up controversy, along with rave reviews

But who is responsible for giving birth to this clown prince of crime? How did he evolve and adapt throughout the years? And why do we just– – Love that Joker? (maniacal laughing) – This is the true story of the Joker 80 years after he first appeared the canonical origin of the Joker is still shrouded in mystery And fittingly enough for the man with a multiple choice past, no one really knows who exactly came up with him either So let's start with what we do know about his creation Three men have claimed the honor of creating the clown prince of crime

There's artist Bob Kane, who for decades was the only byline on Batman, getting all of the cash and accolades despite having a fairly minimal role in shaping the world of Gotham There's also writer Bill Finger, arguably the real brains behind Batman, who died penniless and unacknowledged until just a few years ago And finally, there's Jerry Robinson, one of Kane's assistants who did a lot of the actual ya' know, drawing for him Much of the argument revolves around who came up with what first, but if we take everyone at their word, it kinda goes something like this Robinson dreamt up a character made of contradictions

A comedic clown and an ice cold killer all in one So he jotted down this playing card sketch and showed it to Bill Finger Finger wasn't super impressed, but the concept reminded him of a still he had seen from an old silent movie, 1928's 'The Man Who Laughs' Based on an 1869 novel by Victor Hugo, it tells the story of Gwynplaine, a boy punished for his father's actions by mutilating his face into a permanent rictus grin And these illustrations from the 1800s are creepy enough

But it was clearly actor Conrad Veidt's portrayal that provided the blueprint for Batman's arch nemesis Bob Kane whipped up a design based on Finger and Robinson's ideas, plus a little inspo from this creepy Coney Island mascot And on April 25th, 1940, the Joker was born Today, all three men share the credit for his creation, although, as often happened in the Golden Age of comics, only one of them got rich For such an old character, the Joker actually appeared fairly fully formed in his first appearance

But thanks to congressional hearings and a national censorship campaign, Mistah J was forced to undergo some changes In his debut story, the Joker brazenly announces that he's going to murder three of Gotham's most prominent citizens A simple plot that established so much about his character from his twisted sense of humor, to his callous disregard for human life And it directly inspired Heath Ledger's iconic turn in 'The Dark Knight

' In 1942, just two years after his first appearance, the Joker committed what would be his last murder for decades as he morphed from a psycho killer into a harmless prankster Towards the end of the Golden Age, the comics industry was rocked by a moral panic as concerned parents around the country blamed a perceived rise in juvenile delinquency on those awful, nasty comic books The newly established Comics Code put the kibosh on Joker's killing sprees, though this period wasn't a total loss as far as his development goes Once guns and knives were off the table, DC had to be more creative with the clown's criminal tools, leading to his iconic arsenal of deadly joy buzzers, acid-spewing boutonnieres, and all sorts of wonderful wonderful toys Also, in 1951, we got our first tantalizing glimpse at what could be the Joker's origin

As the Comics Code tightened its grip on the medium, DC eventually phased out Mister J altogether, pitting Batman against aliens and other silly sci-fi villains instead But while the character was hibernating in the comics, the Joker made his debut outside the printed page in the 1966 'Batman' TV series (suspenseful music) (maniacal laughing) And, in what would become a tradition with casting the clown prince of crime, the person behind the makeup wasn't really who you'd expect Cesar Romero, a Cuban-Spanish actor known as the Latin from Manhattan, was mostly famous for romantic roles

But with his luscious mustache covered with greasepaint, he was the perfect flamboyant foil for Adam West's deadpan Dark Knight – It's time for you to sing a different tune my crooked clown – Songs are for parties my caped copper – Starting in 1973, Denny O'Neal and Neal Adams returned the Joker to his violent roots Their exquisitely evil take on the character was so popular that Mistah J

even got his own solo series Although it only lasted 9 issues, since DC mandated that the Joker had to be caught and punished at the end of every story And where is the fun in that? Still, the stage was set for the Joker renaissance And from the '80s through the modern era, different generations of writers and artists began to explore and expand his twisted character Frank Miller's 'Dark Knight Returns' and Grant Morrison's 'Arkham Asylum' introduced a queer subtext to Batman and the Joker's relationship

'A Death in the Family' and 'The Killing Joke' made their feud even more personal And in the legendary animated series, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm introduced us to the greatest thing to happen to Joker since Gotham got rid of the death penalty – Knock, knock, warden Say hello to your new, improved Harley Quinn – Mistah J

continues to evolve in the pages of DC comics today From the existential terror of 'The Clown at Midnight,' to the faceless Mr Fixit from the Snyder and Capullo run But when it comes to the Joker, comics are only half the story Because arguably his character has made the most impact onscreen

Over the years there's been plenty of actors who put a smile on their face to portray the Joker Troy Baker, Kevin Michael Richardson, Cameron Monaghan, Zach Galifinakis, just to name a few But, great as they may be, there are few Joker performances that are clearly a cut above the rest, (suspenseful music) – Why so serious? and redefined how the entire world perceives the character Tim Burton's 1989 'Batman' was a watershed moment in the career of the caped crusader It's when he went from beloved character to global phenomenon

And it's largely thanks to some killer casting Jack Nicholson was always the first choice to play the Joker But when he didn't want to play ball the studio offered the role to Robin Williams instead The comic jumped at the chance – I am sitting on a gold mine

– But it turns out they were only using him as bait to get Jack to join Williams did not appreciate it And he refused the role of the Riddler for 'Batman Forever' as a result But that was a bridge kinda worth burning though because Nicholson was absolutely the right man for the job – Wait till they get a load of me

(suspenseful music) – He had a blast playing the bombastic bad guy probably due to the fact that he had just inked literally the greatest deal in Hollywood history Earning $90 million for one role is enough to make anyone happy, but Nicholson looks genuinely gleeful in the guise of the Joker His co-star Michael Keaton once told a story about when they were both sitting in their makeup chairs getting suited up And Nicholson just kinda leans over to him and says, "Well, we just gotta let the wardrobe do the acting kid" That's true after all man, you just work the suit

– Nicholson left some pretty big shoes to fill, but nearly 20 years later, Heath Ledger escaped from his shadow with 'The Dark Knight' – This town deserves a better class of criminal (dogs barking) And I'm gonna give it to 'em – Like most fans, I was skeptical that the pretty Australian dude from '10 Things I Hate About You' and 'A Knight's Tale,' could pull off a convincing killer clown But Ledger threw himself into the role completely

He holed himself up in a hotel room for a month, researching killers, writing a twisted in-character journal, and discovering the vocal tics that made the character so unforgettable – I locked myself away for six weeks in a room and I kinda came up with this creep Walkin' around like a mad man, and finding posture, finding stance, finding his voice is very important Because when you find the voice, you find the breath within the voice – A twisted sociopath who utterly lacks empathy, this stripped-down, back-to-basics Joker never fell in a vat of chemicals, he doesn't use fancy poisons that make people smile when they die

He is simply a chaotic force One that resonated with people for all the right and wrong reasons After Heath's tragic death, he was awarded a posthumous Oscar for his work The first and so far only time the award has gone to a comic book character The reigns passed to Jared Leto, a fine actor slash musician slash possible cult leader

But his performance just kinda seemed like a discount Dark Knight with face tattoos – Are you sweet talkin' me? – And only time will tell if we ever see him rumble with Robert Pattinson Now, there is one glaring omission I haven't talked about yet Mark Hamill's definitive portrayal of the Joker that began with the Batman animated series (maniacal laughing) It is wild to think that arguably the greatest Joker of all time was actually the second choice

Originally, Tim Curry was cast in the role fresh off his portrayal of Pennywise in the 'It' miniseries But after he was laid up with bronchitis the producers quickly replaced him with Mark Hamill And what a great substitute He's got the goofiness of Romero, the ruthlessness of Nicholson, and a deranged charisma all his own (maniacal laughing) – His laugh should be like a musical instrument

It should sort of illustrate his mood – Hamill's Joker is the benchmark by which all others are defined And while it might not have inspired hundreds of edgelords to paint their faces for Halloween 2008, his portrayal has held up through the ages as, let's face it, the greatest Joker of all time – You were so busy thinking of Mark Hamill as a celebrity, you forgot that he's also a talented voice actor – What's a voice actor? – However, he may have a contender in Joaquin Phoenix

(maniacal laughing) Judging from the early buzz, 'Joker' could be the second time in history that two different actors win an Oscar for portraying the same character Which would put this silly super villain up there with Don Corleone in the annals of the Academy – You're not gonna mess with my boy – It's become one of those roles like King Lear or Willy Loman, an archetypal character that a skilled actor can completely inhabit, shape, and transform Every generation has a Joker to call their own, and just like the character in the comics, he changes to fit the times

Nicholson's sleazy gangster embraced the excess of the '80s and '90s – Ever dance with the devil in the pale moon light? – What? – I just like the sound of it (lightning striking) (screams) – Ledger's anarchist agent was the perfect fit for the post-9/11 political atmosphere – I'm an agent of chaos – While Leto is the poster child of a studio desperately stumbling into the shared universe craze

– I am not someone who is loved I have an idea – As for Mark Hamill, he's just timeless (maniacal laughing) And while we don't yet know history will reflect on Joaquin Phoenix's unconventional take on the character, critics are already concerned that he's a little too reflective of our current chaotic environment The Todd Phillips film strips away the comic book origins and the caped crusader, to paint the picture of a disturbed man warped by the times he lives in

– All I have are negative thoughts – It's a throwback to the bleak, grimy, contemplative films of the '70s And whether you love it or hate it, It's hard to argue that it's not authentic to the character, because there is no one Joker He's whatever his environment shapes him to be A blank slate, a primordial force

The Joker simply is And that is why he's endured – We mustn't compare ourselves to regular people We're artists

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