A Beginners Guide To The Best Story Arcs Featuring The Joker

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The Laughing Squid explains that the Joker is a character inspired by Gwynplaine, from the 1928 silent film The Man Who Laughs, the Joker remains one of these most popular villains in comics.

He has no superpower, but he uses insanity and anarchy to terrorize the city of Gotham, the Gotham police force, and Batman. According to Bill Finger, the Joker was to be a throw-away character, but he decided to keep the character because he saw the potential for something on-going. Damn, can you imagine comics without the Joker?

There are so many great story arcs that involve the Joker that it can be overwhelming for a comic beginner. Many fans would mention The Killing Joke as one of the best stories featuring the villain, but what else would fans suggest for a beginner? Check out this list and let us know if you agree with our choices.

Batman Vol 1. #1

by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson.

This is the Joker’s first appearance  in comics and of course, he makes a bloody first impression. And ‘bloody’ is meant literally. You see Finger, Kane, and Robinson didn’t hold back as the Joker character is established as a flamboyant, ingenious, murderous, bastard from the start. He manages to kill at least four people before Batman can apprehend him, thus proving himself to be a formidable foe for the dark knight.

In this issue, the Joker’s goal is to rob and kill the richest and most influential in Gotham. His first victim is wealthy socialite Henry Claridge who died with a smile on his face. The killer smile has become a trademark of the Joker. Thus, the reason why he is crowned: “The clown prince of crime.”

Why you should read this comic: Batman Vol one, issue one, highlight’s what is at the core of the Joker and it lays the foundation for what fans will see in the future.

The Man Who Laughs

by Ed Brubaker And Doug Mahnke

In The Man Who Laughs, the Joker commits a murder on live television. This crazy S.O.B has no shame about publicly announcing who he plans to kill next. What makes him so deadly in this issue is that he has developed a clever way to kill his victims without touching them. Those touched by the Joker poison, laugh hysterically while turning powder white and then drop dead from cardiac arrest. This poison can be administered in any way he sees fit, and he is rather successful at killing his desired targets. Not even Batman can get in fast enough to save the victims.

Why you should read this comic: The Joker’s confidence and ability to outsmart the Batman is what makes him so dangerous. This is one of the first times you see the Joker manage to gets the best of the caped crusader. It’s a reminder that Batman is only human.

Mad Love

by Paul Dini And Bruce Timm

With the current popularity of Harley Quinn among comic book fans, many forget her first appearance was on the Batman Adventures television series. In Mad Love, Batman is a secondary character as it’s all about the budding and highly dangerous relationship between the Joker and Harley. The character creator, Paul Dini, thought Harley would be a great addition to the Joker crew. However, the Joker shows how much of an asshole he is by physically and mentally abusing her. Paul Dini told me in an interview that Harley is an extension of Dini and an abusive situation he encountered during his younger years.

“I wanted to create this arc for Harley Quinn to show her struggle, and progression as a character. Eventually, she wises up and becomes more independent, but I felt it was a good place start as it makes it clear why she is so crazy and crazy in love.”

Why you should read this comic: This is a unique story arc for the Joker as it draws its style and source material from the Batman Adventures television show. Mad Love is the comic introduction of this beloved character and Joker’s “girlfriend” Harley Quinn.

Death Of The Family

by Scott Snyder And Greg Capullo

In the beginning of the New 52 launch at DC comics, the Joker is in hiding and stays away from Gotham for one year. Upon his return, he kills a lot of people to get Batman’s attention. He announces that he knows the identities of the Bat-family to include Batgirl, Batwoman, Nightwing and Robin. The Joker remains unaware of the true identity of Batman but he does plan to find out. To add insult to injury, the Joker kidnaps Alfred Pennyworth and claims to know where the Batcave is. Things get out of control while Batman manages to piss off the whole Bat-family in the process.

Why you should read this comic: In a legendary story of cat and mouse, Death of the Family shows the Joker’s treacherous ways know no bounds. He gets inside Batman’s head and manages to string him along throughout this story arc.

There are a ton of fun, well-written stories involving the Joker. Some are a bit of the dark side, other stories can be light-hearted in nature. You just have to find a story that fits your interest. If any Joker fans have any other suggestions, leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Feature Image: Drawing 4 Food
Images: DC Comics

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