Monday, August 15, 2011

Batman/Joker Relationship on paper and screen


The Tim Burton movies are based primarily on the Golden Age, the original Kane/Finger vision. For clearer picture of the influences of this era check the Comic Book Influences in movies Part I and II articles, and for quotes and further examples check Batman in movies Part I article.
 In the earliest issues, Batman was only an obstacle on Joker's way to his goals. Naturally, obstacles have to be removed, and Joker's were Batman and Robin. Once Batman started intervening and ruining Joker's plans time after time, Joker's hate towards Batman grew, and so did his eagerness to kill him, either with guns...(panels below from Batman #1 and Batman #4)


Or just about anything available (panel below from Batman #4), giving his best in hand to hand fight

Which was never nearly enough (panel below from Batman #8)

There's a common misconception that Joker was a physical match for Batman in the early issues. While some may say it's true, it would have been taking things out of the context. Back in those days, every villain was a physical match for Batman , and they fought the same way (kicks and fist punches) getting the same results: Either temporary knocking him down,  fighting him long enough to make an escape or simply be ineffective and got beaten up. But Batman always had an upper hand, even if he absorb good hits

The Modern Age Joker didn't even try against Batman, knowing he stands no chance whatsoever, unless he already had advantage of Batman being dizzy or down and some kind of a weapon next to him. The Bronze/Modern Age Joker certainly wasn't thrilled about getting beaten up (Panel below from Shadow of the Bat #4)

Joker pretty much tried to kill Batman in every era aside from Silver Age, despite his contradictory claims in Bronze and Modern Ages. (Panel below from 1981's Detective Comics #504)

Batman of course didn't want anything else than to put Joker away and was ready to do whatever it took. He beat him up on many occasions when he finally had a chance and also tried and even thought he killed him a few times, sometimes by accident, sometimes in self defense

In Bronze and Modern Age, sometimes Batman was ready to kill Joker out of pure hate (Panel below from 1983's Detective Comics # 532)

Panel below from 1987's Detective Comics #570

During the Golden Age Joker became jealous/in awe of Batman's customized gadgets and started to imitate all that, creating customized cars and planes that visually represented him just like Batmobile and Batplane represented Batman in its visual design. That was mirrored in the movie by the line "Where does he get those wonderful toys" and his knack for customized equipment as well. (Pages below from 1946's Batman #37)

The Joker simply had his own plans which Batman always interrupted, which made Joker hate Batman even more and prepare traps for him to get rid of him. This type of relationship from the earliest comic books was the one which was the inspiration for the 1989 story, which, as almost everything else, was primarily based on the earliest version of Batman mythology, going back to the roots.

There were some elements from other eras as well naturally. In latter years of the Golden Age and then during the Silver Age, Joker was obsessed with coming out on top and being better than Batman. This mirrors Joker's frustration from Batman stealing his thunder in the media. This has also happened often with 70's Joker who wanted to be the villain in Gotham and be the headline (Panels from various issues of Dennis O'Neil's Joker comic books)

The 1989 movie drew primarily from the early 1940's but also a lot from the 1980's. It is interesting to note that during the movie's filming, the conclusion to "Death in the Family" was released in January of 1989 in which Joker kills a member of the Batman "family", the second Robin Jason Todd. Since then, Batman's flashbacks and obsession switched to thoughts about Joker killing Robin and Joker became a villain on a very personal level. (Panel below from Detective Comics #617)

Batman very often couldn't contain himself from killing him, just like Joe Chill. Joe Chill was the murderer of Wayne's and the murder and murderer was constantly on Batman's mind, as was Jason's death (panel below from Detective Comics #606).

That sort of personal revenge motif of the late 80's was well in full swing when Batman premiered months after, and it also included that same motif. Batman's hatred and pain was geared towards Joker for murdering those close to him.
In the comics books it wasn't Joe Chill who haunted batman's head when gased with Scarecrow's poison, it was now Joker. It can be said that Chill and Joker were merged together, became one, from a certain point of view.


Certainly the feelings toward him, the obsession with finding him and the personal hatred was the same.

Batman was close to killing Chill when his anger and hunger for vengeance were clouding his judgment (panel below from Batman: Year Two)

The same with Joker. There were instances where Batman nearly killed him thinking about the "family" member he killed. Example from 1993's Batman #496

There were also some interesting dynamics presented in the movie. The movie hints that both Joker and Batman are the same in some ways, both insane but manifest their insanity in different ways and for different purposes. The notable moment was when both Joker and Bruce say the exact same thing when they enter Vicky Vale's apartment - "Nice place, lots of space"

Bob Kane echoed this theme: [Bruce Wayne] became, in his own way, as psychotic as the Joker, except the Joker fights against justice and for evil. They're mirror images of each other. (People, 1989)

It was also Batman who actually created Joker. Panel below from 1980's The Untold Legends of Batman


Christopher Nolan's movies were based primarily on graphic novels and one shots or limited series' from late 80's and early 90's. For The Dark Knight, the earliest Joker appearances were also cited as influence.

The relationship between Joker and Batman started changing 2 years after the introduction of the Joker character. Starting with 1942's Batman #12, Joker did not want to just kill Batman to get him out of his way. He decided that it was too easy to just dispose of Batman by killing him in "simple" ways.

Instead he started coming up with very imaginative traps, tests and games for Batman to play and get killed in

Facing off Batman became something of a fun for Joker and something he actually enjoyed and thoroughly planned.  He still wanted to kill him but enjoyed the prospect of setting up the traps and trying to outwit Batman. The idea was restated in 1942's Detective Comics #62 when Joker didn't want Batman to get unmasked

Years later the same motif was restated in 1978's Detective Comics #475. Joker doesn't want to unmask Batman and tries to prevail his secret identity, as did Joker in The Dark Knight. As time progressed, Batman became pure fun for Joker.

While beginning with Batman #12 Joker doesn't want to kill Batman in any "conventional" way and instead has fun trying to kill him with most imaginative ways involving games,  he doesn't always stay true to his vouch and simply gets fed up with Batman to the point where he just wants him dead. The first time he contradicted his mantra was as early as in 1943's Detective Comics #71

And it happened many times since (panel below from 1977's Batman #286)

The relationship was developed even more in 1977's Batman #294 when Joker states that he doesn't want to kill Batman, simply because he has so much fun with him. The panel below shows Joker once again trying to prevail Batman's identity by wiping out his face

 It was then restated in 1987's Detective Comics #570

Panel below from 1988's Batman #400 and #429

But as before, Joker sometimes just gets fed up with Batman or just simply wants to kill him for fun. After all, it's Joker and he changes his mind whenever he wants, whenever he finds something to be fun. Even though he seems to have a bond with Batman in 1988's The Killing Joke, in the very same issue he's trying to kill him by stabbing him

And it also happened many times since when Joker wanted Batman dead one way or another, sometimes even just trying to simply shoot him because he either got fed up with Batman's interference..(panel below from 1990's Detective Comics #617)

Or out of rage if he gets beaten up by Batman (panel below from 1993's Batman #496)

Or simply because he feels like it

The same pretty much happened in the movie when Joker says he doesn't want to kill Batman after all because he's too much fun and gives him the speech about the special bond the two share, yet tries to stab him during the fight at the end.

Christopher Nolan: We wanted the Joker’s final taunt to Batman to be that they are locked in an ongoing struggle because of Batman’s rules. There’s a paradox there. Batman won’t kill. And the Joker is not interested in completely defeating Batman because he’s fascinated by him and he enjoys sparring with him. It’s trapped both of them. That was really the meaning of it ( 2008)

Joker addressed the flip flopping on the issue in 2005's Batman: Dark Detective #3. His explanation makes no sense whatsoever, proving that Joker doesn't really think logically and just goes with the flow of his thoughts. He's crazy after all

In The Dark Knight, the relationship between the two also gets personal because Joker kills Rachel, a love interest of Bruce. Batman goes ballistic but even tho he's sometime close, he never really plans or intends to kill Joker. Panel below from 1987's Detective Comics #570


  1. Here's a link.

  2. Loaded with info and great examples. Thumbs up

  3. I hope at some point every fan of Batman movies will find this site. Before reading the article I believed that Joker never wanted to kill Batman based on what some say on the internet.

  4. ^I always knew its bull. I may not be such a well informed fan like most but I did read some Batman comics and I had at least 2 where Joker tries to kill Batman. I have never even heard about Joker wanting to do otherwise until TDK

  5. Anon: so you never knew about the special bond and relationship Batman had with the Joker? You thought its just another supervillain wanting to just kill the Bat? Wow, you missed out big time

  6. Joker is not just another supervillain. He never was. The guy himself is so interesting, without needing to have a special affection for Batman

  7. Whoever writes this blog is an encyclopedia of Batman

  8. This blog is fantastic. Great job

  9. Best Batman site on the web ... glad I met this guy on SHH. I wish he would post his TDK Joker blog from his other blog spot on this one. And do a similar character evaluation of Nicholson's Joker.

  10. Thanks! And Im definitely gonna have to do something Nolan related next time. Im finishing up writing about 1989's Batman impact on the caped crusader, then its of to Nolanworld

  11. Yea, but you need to post that character evaluation you did of TDK Joker from the Joker fan page, on this main blog of yours. Maybe add a few things like Joker's dark humor (magic trick, burning fire truck, gas bomb in bank manager's mouth) ... Joker instead of leaving grinning faces of death via chemicals, but with chelsea grins cut into their faces ... Joker trying to drive good guys mad (In Killing Joke it is Gordon, in TDK it's Dent) ... Not caring for human life, shooting people without looking (In the graphic novel Man Who Laughs, he fires on police officers w/o looking and w/o care ... In TDK he shoots one of his own hired thugs w/o looking at him, and fires on innocent civilians with a machine gun while focusing on Batman only) ... the Joker being a master of disguise (In Batman #1 looking like a police commissioner, in TDK dressing up as honor guard GPD, and dressing up as nurse) and it would be perfect. Along with the usual awesome and most haunting visual grabs of the character from the film. I'd suggest what I consider to be one of the strongest visuals of the film, which is Joker hanging out that cop car in sick sadistic enjoyment

  12. Thanks, but I cant take credit for that. I only have this blog, and I believe youre referring to the blog of a good buddy of mine -

    He is also a poster at SHH called The Joker

    I touched up on the subject in this blog as well in the "Comic Influences' articles where the comparison of Jokers to their comic book counterparts are included

  13. I am very much pleased with the contents you have mentioned. I want to thank you for this great article.

  14. Surprisingly good! Much better than I could expect. It is very well filmed and there are very nice action scenes, particularly for a production from the 40’s: footage of fighting, climbing, spying, falling down, disguising… Although lightly plump, Lewis Wilson not only did a good job as the dark knight but also had one of the best representations of Bruce Wayne ever in my opinion, as the fake playboy. Batman was already frightening on the eyes of the criminals, as he intimidated them (the bat’s cave has been created for this movie serial, > reviews batman 1943
    though it was not his back office yet, but kind of a psychological torture and interrogation room, accessed through the clock). Batman fights a lot, most of the time against two or three thugs, but he is far from the skillful martial artist he would become in future versions; indeed, he receives lots of punches and loses the fights a lot of times, not dying by luck. There was already a charming black car, though it was not properly a batmobile, but a 1939 Cadillac, generally driven by Alfred. Douglas Croft was a typical Robin, and although his visual was true to the character, we got accustomed to the hair and the mask of Burt Ward decades afterwards, making his upright curly hair and his pointed-nose mask a bit strange
    See More:
    > arrival putlockers
    > the revenant putlocker
    > 2k movies

  15. nice blog.... i am satisfy with information and content. thanks
    for sharing..


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