THREE GUYS AND… COMIC BOOK MOVIES
series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson
“DARK KNIGHT JOKER VS. SUICIDE SQUAD JOKER”
written by Dominick Cappello
Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight” was met with universal praise whereas Jared Leto’s Joker in “Suicide Squad” was lambasted. Sure, Leto’s interpretation of the character does have fans, but most people pine for the days of Heath Ledger. Not that you can blame them. “The Dark Knight” is brilliant. It’s “The Godfather, Part II” of comic book films. “Suicide Squad” isn’t devoid of charm, but after people overreacted to the grim tone of “Batman v Superman”, some bigwigs at Warner Brothers had the moronic idea to edit “Suicide Squad” so it would have the frenetic pace of a music video. But, let’s set aside the overall quality of these films and focus solely on The Jokers who inhabit the worlds within these films.
Dark Knight Joker gives the impression that some horrific tragedy befell him, and whatever the tragedy was, it warped his mind. He gives us multiple choices for what the tragedy was from him being the victim of child abuse to the love of his life rejecting him. A popular fan theory is that Dark Knight Joker is a solider suffering from PTSD, but it’s best that his backstory was left ambiguous. Instead of Batman literally dropping him into a vat of chemicals as in most retellings of The Joker’s origin, it was more like society dropped him into a figurative vat of chemicals, damaging his psyche beyond repair. He didn’t choose the clown life. The clown life chose him. Dark Knight Joker wants to expose society for being barbarous. To do this he must tear down the trinity of Batman, Lt. Gordon, and Harvey Dent because they are who can inspire the people of Gotham City. Knocking them off their pedestal will make people lose hope. “I’ll show you… when the chips are down, these civilized people… they’ll eat each other.” You could argue that Dark Knight Joker was successful in that respect because Batman and Gordon needed to sweep the truth under the rug so to protect Harvey Dent’s reputation as Gotham’s White Knight.
On the other hand, we have Suicide Squad Joker. When I first saw Jared Leto in the Skrillex & Rick Ross “Purple Lamborghini” music video, he seemed like a gangster who dresses as a clown for effect. This is someone who likely adopted The Joker persona so to ascend the ranks of Gotham City’s seedy underworld. However, after seeing the actual film, despite his limited screen time, I got the impression that Suicide Squad Joker has fully embraced his alter ego. At first, maybe it was just to intimidate other criminals, but at some point, he became obsessed with the persona. Almost like an addiction, he was empowered by the fear he inspires. There’s was a line deleted from the theatrical cut which was reinserted in the special edition where he says to Dr. Harleen Quinzel, “You helped me by erasing my mind. What few faded memories I had!” That’s very interesting. Did Dr. Quinzel purge him of what little humanity remained because she was infatuated with the clown? If that’s so, then we have a chicken or the egg dilemma in the DCEU. Did The Joker create Harley Quinn or did Dr. Harleen Quinzel create The Joker?
No doubt, Heath Ledger’s Joker is iconic. I remember New York Comic Con 2009 and how there were Heath Ledger Joker cosplayers around every corner the same way New York Comic Con 2016 was filled with Harley Quinn cosplayers. NYCC use to be held in the winter, before the summer blockbusters were released, so that’s why 2009 was the year Heath Ledger’s Joker was the most popular cosplay. Now it’s held in the fall, so NYCC 2016 was only two months after “Suicide Squad” was released and everyone was crazy for Harley Quinn. I’m guessing that Wonder Woman will be the most popular cosplay this year. But, I digress. Heath Ledger’s outstanding performance doesn’t negate the possibilities of exploring Jared Leto’s take on the character. And as far as the Jared Leto is the worst Joker of all time hyperbole, you should see The Joker from “The Batman” (2004 – 2008) who looked like Sideshow Bob and was turned into a vampire.
– Dr. Rochester