There is a very particular reason that The Joker frightens us. At first glance, you might not find his skinny build or dilapidated style or clownish visage all that horrifying. But when you look beyond, when you look into the mind of the Clown Prince of Crime, you peer into the void, and that void asks you a question best captured by a line in Alan Moore’s “Batman: The Killing Joke”.
“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.”
What’s frightening is not that The Joker is inhuman or possesses superpowers or is possessed by some evil entity. He is none of these things. He’s just a man. It’s what he reminds us of that frightens us—that the difference between us and him is not so great as we’d like to imagine, and that's why the painted supervillain is so compelling.
The Joker is set, once again, to thrill and terrify us in David Ayer’s film, “Suicide Squad,” where he is portrayed by actor Jared Leto. This latest, and very different, incarnation of The Joker stands at the head of a long and fascinating 75 year legacy. Let’s explore that legacy in this brief history of The Joker.