Here at the Smack, we’d have to say that he’s the most iconic comic book villain of all time. The Joker just turned 75, by the way, having first appeared in Batman #1 back on April 25, 1940.
So happy birthday, you green-haired, crazy-eyed, psychopathic criminal, you!
As a straight-up birthday present to fans, Suicide Squad director David Ayer just tweeted out a clear look at the Joker as he’s going to be portrayed by Jared Leto. Impossible as this may sound, Leto’s Joker is as surprising today as Heath Ledger’s was when we first saw him.
I mean here’s Oscar-winning Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), now appearing as what one Internet pundit calls “a shady, skeezy guy in the corner of a rave, selling ecstasy to kids.” Frankly, we think it’s a good look. The cosplay types at the next Comic Con are going to have a field day with the tats, that’s for sure. And the grill. Definitely the grill.
One thing we can count on is that the fans are always going to go into shock when a new version of a beloved character comes out, and that means comedy. One video making a lot of noise at the moment uses an About Schmidt clip to show how Jack Nicholson, who made a pretty fair Joker himself for director Tim Burton, takes the news.
Although the Joker had a pretty active life in comics, it wasn’t until the 1960s Batman television series that he got turned into a celluloid character played by Cesar Romero. He wasn’t scary at all, but he had a distinctive cackle that fans used to love.
Then came Nicholson in Burton’s 1989 Batman, a villain disfigured when he fell into a vat of chemicals during a fight with Michael Keaton’s title character. Also possessed with a unique sense of style, Nicholson’s performance got him listed 45th on a list of the American Film Institute’s 50 greatest film villains of all time.
Heath Ledger, though, turned the Joker into an honest-to-God terrifying dude in director Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. The performance was highly acclaimed, and Ledger said he viewed the character as a “psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.” He was brilliant.
Sadly, Ledger’s untimely death prevented him from returning in the role. This has opened the door for Leto to play him in 2016’s Suicide Squad (and maybe to flash a cameo in Batman v. Superman, which also comes out next year). Obviously, the filmmakers and studio have decided not to try to compete with Ledger and have gone in a completely different direction.