Batman’s most infamous arch-nemesis, the Joker, is a hard character to really pin down, isn’t he? The Clown Prince of Crime, the Ace of Knaves, the Leonardo of the Larcenous Laugh… the supervillain formerly known as the Red Hood — whose real name may or may not be Joe Kerr — has as many possible backstories as he has unnecessarily convoluted nicknames. So it follows that it’s hard to imagine what an average day is like for the Harlequin of Hate. How can we know how he spends his time if we can’t even say for sure how he got his scars?
For example, it would first mean reconciling the two most common interpretations of the character: the gimmick-ridden prankster thief of the Golden Age and the twisted, super-intelligent sociopath of the Silver Age. Or the Jokers from Earths Two and One respectively, if you want to use in-canon logic. Then there’s the current DC continuity matter of Batman sitting in the omniscient Mobius Chair in Justice League #42 and learning that there are actually three Jokers in existence. A conundrum we won’t have explained until the release of Geoff Johns’ forthcoming Batman: Three Jokers.
Even then, if this identity crisis could be resolved, there’s still the Joker’s psychological nature to contend with. How does a criminally insane person spend their downtime? To complicate this question, Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth takes an alternative view of the Joker’s mental state, suggesting that he takes on an entirely different personality from day-to-day. So how can we even begin to think about what a routine looks like for the Jester of Genocide?
Well, it turns out that, for all of his existential and psychological issues, the Joker’s behaviour remains pretty consistent. There’s lots of crime, violence, plotting and general fist-shaking in the Dark Knight’s direction. So, we’ve taken a look at the evidence gleaned from the comics, games, movies and TV series to put together a picture of a typical day in the life of the supervillain. Without taking into account the obvious time required for loo breaks and maniacal laughter, that is…
Morning Has Broken… Out
The assumption here would be that the Joker’s day starts when he wakes up. But does he even sleep? There’s not much in the various portrayals of the character that supports the idea that he needs 40 winks, but assuming that his personality disorder isn’t supernatural, we can safely say that he does.
At the very least, in Shadow Of The Bat #37, the Joker talks about a dream he’s had in which “the world had suffered a terrible disaster”. This certainly suggests he’s accustomed to visiting the Land of Nod on occasion. In fact, sleep is a key theme in The Joker: Devil’s Advocate, and the criminal clown says at one point: “It was hours before the screaming stopped. I almost didn’t get to sleep that night.” This suggests that not only does he sleep, but that getting some shuteye is important to him.
However, given the Joker’s sporadic nature, it makes more sense that he would catch some Zs where and when he can rather than sleep at night like normal folk. In which case, a much more likely start to the day would be something that he is seen to do consistently, time and time again: escape from incarceration.
So it’s safe to assume that the Joker’s day begins with him leaving either the Gotham State Penitentiary or Arkham Asylum, which, according to Batman: War Crimes, he appears to do freely. In fact, it is suggested in this arc that he uses Arkham as a base to rest between his “performances”.
Just as with sleep, there’s little evidence of the Joker regularly eating breakfast, and it’s hard to imagine the mastermind of The Killing Joke sitting down with a bowl of cornflakes every morning. But it’s safe to assume that he needs some kind of sustenance ahead of a busy day of crime.
In any case, the Joker has certainly referenced the most important meal of the day, most notably in Batman: Arkham City, where he can be heard saying: “I’ve killed your girlfriend, poisoned Gotham, and hell… it’s not even breakfast! But so what? We all know you’ll save me.”
Obviously, the Joker is keen on early starts and knows the benefits of getting to work early. Up and at ’em.
The Joker has had a few different looks over the decades, but he has always had a thin, wiry frame. Still, he has often shown himself to be good in a fight, which means that he’s maintaining some incredibly lean muscle somehow, and that means he’s doing some kind of regular workout to stay subtly jacked.
The best reference point for this is Jared Leto’s actual real-life regime for playing the character in Suicide Squad, which involved a healthy mix of cardio and weights, utilising bench presses and dumbbells alongside cycling and yoga. Granted, it’s difficult to imagine the Joker doing any of the latter, but it’s the only way to keep himself toned — and fight the inevitable stress that being a criminal mastermind brings. Me-time is important, too, if he’s to maintain that (skewed) sense of humour.
Prepping His Tools
Before the Joker can embark on any of his myriad criminal activities, he’d set about preparing a host of his custom-made Joker-branded tools, equipment and weapons. You need to look no further than the 1966 Batman TV series to see the range of gadgets and gimmicks that the faintly moustachioed clown cooked up, including trick streamers, sneezing powder and gigantic springs.
Of course, there’s precedent in other mediums too. A fan favourite is the gun that the Joker first uses in Batman #321, which releases a classic BANG flag only to then shoot out the flag as a deadly arrow at the second pull of the trigger.
The Joker might not just be crafting, testing and customising gadgets though. He’ll also need to use this time to batch up his famous venom, which kills his victims with a poison that causes them to laugh uncontrollably and die with a contorted smile on their face. Whether it’s as a grenade, a dart, or a flower on his lapel, Batman’s arch-nemesis has to prepare his method of dispensing the Joker Juice before going out for the day.
First Crime Spree of the Day
Starting the day off with some light crime, the Joker’s less serious crime sprees can include anything from robbing Gotham Museum for jewels or kidnapping royalty to using remote-controlled gadgets to entice new recruits to his cause (all taken from the 1966 TV show, of course).
An alternative to this kind of comic crime can be seen in 2008’s graphic novel Joker, in which the Harlequin of Hate robs a bank before killing a bunch of thugs and setting a strip club on fire, all because Harvey Dent is ghosting him. Things could well take a darker turn, then — but, hey, it’s all in a day’s work.
Losing the Plots
Quite often, an average crime spree of robbing banks and rich folk simply won’t cut it for the day, particularly when all efforts will inevitably get thwarted by Batman. This is where the Joker’s all-consuming obsession with the Caped Crusader steps in, causing him to drive himself round the bend — again — thinking of ways to defeat and kill the world’s greatest detective. He probably takes some time in his day, therefore, to plan strategies for taking on Batman.
In these moments, nothing can distract the Joker from his thoughts, as seen in an episode of The New Batman Adventures entitled “Mad Love” (adapted from a one-shot comic of the same name), which explores these moods from the perspective of the Joker’s unconventional girlfriend, Harley Quinn. Their relationship is put to the test when Harley discovers that no amount of skimpy lingerie can tear her Puddin’ away from his plotting and scheming. It’s clearly the most mentally taxing part of his day.
With great criminal enterprise comes power, responsibility and, presumably, a clear structural hierarchy from which the Joker can effectively line-manage and oversee his direct reports. Basically he needs to have a group of henchmen to boss about at all times.
His particular management style leaves a little to be desired though, when — for instance — he employs a ‘Five-Way Revenge’ in Batman #251, trying to kill five of his goons because he suspected that just one of them had betrayed him.
Plus, of course, all of this inspiring leadership can be tiring, and the Joker may need to take a brief moment to take a break and enjoy some time out with some of his favourite things… like the 500 or so knives, guns and grenades he is seen enjoying on the floor in Suicide Squad.
Once again, there aren’t many instances of the Joker actually eating food in the canon, but he has form with a drive-thru for particularly busy days. Although, if Detective Comics #826, in which the Joker kidnaps Tim Drake and takes him to a burger joint, is anything to go by, the staff at the fast-food restaurants should be careful.
After giving a giant order and declaring his fondness for their apple pies and mint chocolate milkshakes, the Joker becomes frustrated when the clerk doesn’t understand his instructions… and he just kills him instead.
It’s likely that there might have been some injuries sustained from an earlier encounter with Batman, which often results in the Joker needing surgery… and this might not just be your average bullet or stab wound that needs patching up.
In Batman and Son, the Joker is shot in the face and later, in Batman #663, he receives reconstructive surgery, which he then corrects with a little help from Batman’s fist, giving himself a permanent grin.
Of course, then there’s the Batman: Death Of The Family story arc, which sees the Joker reattach his entire face after it was removed by the Dollmaker. It’s a far cry from the days when he simply put on some make-up.
Lead a Criminal Empire
Not content with small-time crime, the Joker will always eventually make a play for the big leagues, taking control of a massive criminal empire through strategic planning, masterful manipulation and, yes, more killing. Part of a typical day for the Joker will involve meetings — impromptu or otherwise — and his particular brand of negotiating, in order to expand his operation and increase his stranglehold over organised crime.
This is particularly true in movie versions of the character. Jack Nicholson’s Jack Napier in Tim Burton’s Batman shocks the rival head of a criminal gang to a grisly death with his hand buzzer before killing another with a feathered pen. Meanwhile, Heath Ledger’s Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight steals money from a mafia bank, which he then uses as a bargaining chip to make the collective crime bosses hire his services to kill Batman.
Another Crime Spree
For his second ‘job’ of the day, the Joker is likely to embark on something more grandiose, something that gets the attention of the whole city of Gotham, all in keeping with the Ace of Knaves’ colourfully eccentric ways.
A perfect example would be the parade that he puts on in 1989’s Batman movie, which becomes a huge celebratory spectacle promising to give away $20 million to the public, only to gas them with Joker Venom from giant helium balloons.
Captured and Locked Away
Just as escaping from a prison cell is the most obvious way for the Joker to start his day, so too it should end with the Joker getting caught — it’s inevitable — and it often comes with a twist that implies that it will be the final time.
Take Joker: Last Laugh, for example, which sees the Clown Prince doing time in the Slab penitentiary and infecting the inmates so that they all become Jokerised version of themselves, before escaping and making it rain down Joker Venom and plotting to kill President Lex Luthor.
When he is eventually tracked down and caught by the extended Bat family – not before being beaten to death by Nightwing and then revived by Batman – he is returned to the Slab, only this time it is situated on an iceberg. He’s placed in a cell with no way in and no way out, taking the consummate performer away from his audience thereby ensuring he suffer the most extreme punishment he could possibly face.
And that would be the last anyone sees of him: put away for life, never to wreak havoc on the streets of Gotham again. At least until tomorrow, that is, when he wakes up and does it all again.
Joker hits screens in the US and UK on October 4, and Australia on October 3.