Top 5 Joker Stories of All Time
While the Suicide Squad, DC’s latest film, has left many with a bad taste in their mouths, the consensus highpoint of the 120-or-so minutes seems to be Jared Leto’s take on the Joker. And why not? There’s decades of sinister comic book story lines to draw from, and Leto’s acting chops are among the cream of the Hollywood crop.
But if there’s one resounding qualm among the many surfacing, it’s that we want more Joker.
Well, here he is. We’ve listed, in no particular order, the five best Joker stories of all time. And if you’re looking for Joker comics to add to your collection, they can all be found listed on Collectors.com.
“The Killing Joke” (1988, One-shot Graphic Novel)
In what perfectly depicts the Joker’s innate need to make people suffer for the sake of entertainment, Alan Moore tells one of the many Joker origin stories out there (because no one knows for sure where exactly the Joker comes from). But this one-shot take on one of comics’ most notorious villains might as well be the origin story. The Joker tests a theory that his existence as a criminal mastermind stems from one really, really bad day, which eventually led to his breaking point. The Joker puts his theory to the test on Gotham’s biggest do-gooder (other than Batman), Jim Gordon. Main characters are shot, and crippled, but at the end of it all, Batman of course saves the day. All in all, this story is arguably the most compelling read in the Joker’s lore, and a highly regarded piece in general.
Prime examples of this iconic Joker story can cost as much as $5,000, while the off-the-shelf graphic novel can be yours for $15. (And you should absolutely read it.)
“A Death in the Family” (1988, Batman #426-429)
If “The Killing Joke” is a study in Joker’s sinister nature, “A Death in the Family” is a cum laude Ph.D. The Joker, freshly escaped from Arkham for the millionth time, attempts to sell a nuclear weapon to terrorists in Lebanon, amongst a civil war. Jason Todd (the second Robin), who recently had a tiff with Batman, has gone rogue and attempts to apprehend the vicious criminal himself. So what happened? Well, you can infer that from the title, as the result of a reader poll decided Jason Todd’s death before the comic was even penned. The Joker’s antics aren’t always fun and games.
The entire four-issue run of this story can cost $100 to $700, raw and un-graded.
“Mad Love” (1994, One-shot)
What’s the Joker without his equally off-the-wall love interest/lackey? The answer is “incomplete,” at least since Harley Quinn’s first appearance in 1992’s Batman the Animated Series. The tomato to Joker’s twisted tomahto, Quinn attempts to finally win her boss’ affection in what is both a heartbreaking and eye-opening graphic novel. In “Mad Love,” Quinn decides that the only way to finally win the Joker over is kill Batman, once and for all. Naturally, she opts for a classic Dr. Evil-type, death-by-piranha execution, which Batman expertly counters. But the story of Quinn’s rebirth from psychiatrist to evil sidekick and futile attempts at affection actually makes readers empathize with her — sort of.
Encapsulated examples of this comic are listed for as high as $6,000.
“Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” (1973, Batman #251)
What started the Joker’s violent tendencies in the DC universe? With the exception of the next comic we’ll list, you can trace the villain’s violent beginnings to “Joker’s Five-Way Revenge,” the comic in which he transformed from his early-iteration harmless goofs to violent criminal, not to be trifled with. (During the ‘60s, DC attempted to tone down the villain, opting instead for crimes in the form of games and trickery.) This take on the Joker roughened his edge a bit. Rather than focusing on Joker’s irksome pranks, the story delved into the villain’s multilayered madness, a focal point of modern Joker depictions. For the first time, Joker’s henchmen were seen as utterly expendable, and the complex nature of the Batman-Joker dichotomy was explored.
An original copy of “Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” can be found for a few hundred dollars. This example is valued at $187, though better examples of this comic can be found for north of $500.
“The Joker” (1940, Batman #1)
Here’s the comic that started the Batman lore and introduced the world to the Joker, a mysterious killer with a maniacal grin, painted face and an appetite for violence. In the first issue of Batman, the Joker announces his intentions of murder and theft over the radio, sparking interest from an inexperienced Caped Crusader. This ticks off local crime lords, who see the clown’s antics as an infringement on their Gotham turf. One of Gotham’s original bad guys tries to set a trap for the worst guy — you know who — and gets killed in the process. Meanwhile, Batman, tracking down his new, mysterious foe, nearly gets killed as well. The entire story is fraught with mischief, murder and intrigue, setting the stage for decades of head-to-head encounters between the comic world’s greatest detective and most iconic bad guy.
At nearly 80-years-old, this particular comic is vital in the grand scheme of Batman, in that it set the tone for future crime fighting, sleuthing and criminal shenanigans at the hands of Joker. The item pictured is listed at $80,000.