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75 Years of Batman: Best Joker Stories of All Time

“And Here… We… Go!”


I’ll admit it.  Even though we haven’t seen him in what seems like FOREVER, I’m still sort of reeling from the devastation caused by the Joker in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Death of the Family” storyline, And because he always likes to overshadow his greatest foe, I am offering up a primer of the best of the best Joker stories of all time, in no particular order. Because even though it’s the Dark Knight’s 75th anniversary, even the Caped Crusader himself has to admit: he’s defined by his greatest enemy.  Feel free to comment, vote, and argue at the bottom. Spoilers below (duh)!

A Death in the Family

Batman 426-429 (1988-1989)

A little story about a Robin named Jason Todd, and the fans who hated him enough to have the Joker come out of nowhere and beat him to death in front of his mother, and then blow up his corpse just in time for Batman to arrive and not save him.

The Joker’s Tale

Birds of Prey 15-17 (2000)

Joker visits a war-torn Middle Eastern country and they appoint him as their Ambassador to the United Nations (wacky terrorists!) so he plans to detonate a neutron bomb in the heart of New York City. He plans to kill millions, and he even plans to get away with it, because he will have diplomatic immunity.


Joker Graphic Novel (2008)

Probably the sickest, most vile, and terrifyingly realistic approach that has even been taken in regards to the character. He is not funny in this. He is an agent of chaos in every aspect of the concept, and he is absolutely bat-shit crazy. This arguably Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s best work.

No Man’s Land

Crossover in All Batman Titles (1999)

The conclusion to this epic Batman storyline features the Joker not only murdering Commissioner Jim Gordon’s wife, Sarah, but also capturing every newborn baby in Gotham City and threatening to kill the last slice of hope of an already devastated Gotham City. When Gordon shoots an unarmed Joker, he complains that he may never walk again, but then immediately starts laughing as he gets the irony. “Good one, Commissioner! Like your daughter!” Evil.

The Killing Joke

Batman: The Killing Joke Graphic Novel (1988)

Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s seminal graphic novel meant to be an annual but destined to be much more. The Joker shoots Batgirl and then kidnaps her father, making Commissioner Gordon watch helplessly as he shows him pictures of what he did to his daughter. This is also the first time we get a glimpse into what kind of man the Joker was before he became the savage he is today.  And yes, I am a firm believer that this is an Elseworld tale.  The reason the laughing stops at the end?  Batman flat-out murders the Joker.  Ever think of that before?  Mind.  Blown.

The Death and Return of Bruce Wayne

Batman 655-702 & Batman & Robin 1-16 & Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne 1-6 (2007-2011)

Honestly, Grant Morrison’s whole run is brilliant. But every time he uses the Joker, we actually start to get uncomfortable. He is so terrifyingly insane that it’s almost as if he’s real. And looking out of the pages at you.

Mad Love

Batman Adventures: Mad Love Graphic Novel (1994)

The story that gave us Joker’s sidekick and on-again off-again lover, Harley Quinn. Just as crazy. Just as funny. And just as deadly as the Clown Prince of Crime himself, Harley stole America’s heart every time she killed someone and said “oops” right after doing so.

The Long Halloween

Batman: The Long Halloween 1-13 & Batman: Dark Victory 0-13 & Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special 1-3 & Catwoman: When in Rome 1-6 (1995-2005)

Arguably the most important origin story ever told, this Bat tale uses the formula of a murder mystery to reintroduce and reinvent the characters of the Batman universe. And of course, even though he is not a focal point, the Joker’s scenes literally steal the show. This is Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (and the Joker) at their finest.


Crossover in All Batman Titles (1993-1994)

Though this is actually the story of Bane and how he broke the Bat, the Joker has a few important scenes. And the fact that him and Scarecrow team up is a concept that needs to be repeated more often. This tale also started the nearly yearly tradition of having a Batman crossover event, which is fantastic.


Batman 608-615 (2002-2003)

One issue in this storyline features the best thing that has ever been shown in comics history: The Batman ruthlessly beating the Joker, almost to death, only to be stopped by his friend, the retired Commissioner Jim Gordon. Many fans speculate what the Bat would have done if Gordon had not shown up when he did. And how many Gothamites would have blamed him.

Broken City

Batman 620-625 (2004)

Batman visiting Joker in his cell at Arkham Asylum needs to be used more often. And even though it can never be duplicated, this was the story that perfected it. Think about Hannibal Lecter being interrogated by Sherlock Holmes, but cooler.

Emperor Joker

Crossover in All Superman Titles (2000)

Joker takes Mr. Mxyzptlk’s powers and proceeds to take over the universe. And one of his favorite pastimes is killing and resurrecting Batman, over and over and over again.

The Demon Laughs

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 142-145 (2001)

Joker teams up with Ra’s al Ghul. Now that’s two polar opposite forms of craziness.

Joker’s Wild

Robin II: Joker’s Wild 1-4 (1991)

Batman leaves Gotham. Joker kills Mr. Freeze and takes over his gang. And a young Tim Drake must stop the madman from killing everyone in Gotham City… while convincing him that Batman is just waiting in the wings. This is the very first comic series I read, so it has a bit of nostalgic goodness to it for me personally, but it’s a classic, no matter your age.


Batman/Punisher: Lake of Fire Graphic Novel & Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights Graphic Novel (1994)

Punisher chases Jigsaw to Gotham City, where he encounters the Joker and decides to do what Batman should have done years ago: Kill him. But this two-parter has one of the simultaneously great and idiotic scenes in comic book history. Rather than let the Punisher kill the Joker, Batman not only tells the Joker to “run,” but he also beats the crap out of the Punisher and tells him that if he is still in Gotham in the morning, he will lock him up in a cell at Arkham next to the Joker.

Robin on the Brain

Robin 85 (2001)

We get a nice look into the brain of the Joker. And my god, is he crazy! His favorite pastimes include: Pulling pranks on Batman, killing Robins, causing chaos in Gotham City, killing Robins, and, oh yeah! Killing Robins! I think the greatest moment of this single issue story is the part where Joker continues telling his various origin stories and he actually blames Batman for his insanity every single time. Things range from the origin from The Killing Joke, to a couple new ones here and there, and other variations on the same “tragic villain” story, but the best is the one where Joker is a happy little kid with a pony, and Batman kills it. I kid you not. That is how he sees his own origin and why he justifies killing people for fun the rest of his life.

Joker’s Last Laugh

Crossover in All DC Titles (2001-2002)

Some genius tells the Joker he’s dying, so he escapes and spreads Joker toxin throughout the DC Universe. Antics, chaos, and lots and lots of murder ensues.

Under the Red Hood

Batman 635-650 & Batman Annual 25 (2005-2006)

The return of Jason Todd. And his revenge against the man who killed him.

Hush Returns

Batman: Gotham Knights 50-74 (2006)

This is the often-forgotten, sometimes0despised, but secretly genius psuedo-sequel to two classic tales: Hush and The Killing Joke. Simultaneously weaving the Riddler into a longer version of what might be the Joker’s origin and the revenge plot that features the villains of Gotham City going to war with one another and literally choosing sides out of fear of one man: And no, for once, it’s not the Joker.

Rock of Ages

JLA 10-15 (1998)

The newly re-formed Injustice Gang makes the mistake of inviting crazies like the Joker into their roster. Chaos and lots of death follow. There is a scene where Martian Manhunter and Superman are trapped inside the Joker’s mind. Let’s just say it’s nothing short of wacky.


Batman: Flashpoint 1-3 (2011)

An alternate reality where Bruce Wayne was shot and killed instead of Thomas and Martha. In this terrifying world, Bruce father becomes the Batman and his mother goes of the deep end, transforming herself into the Joker.

Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum Graphic Novel (1989)

Grant Morrison’s first portrayal of the Joker, not to mention the other crazies at Arkham, and beautiful and haunting art by comics legend, Dave McKean. This is quite possibly the Watchmen of Batman comics in terms of importance and long-lasting relevance.

The Dark Knight Returns

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns 1-4 (1986)

Aged and grumpy Batman with nothing to lose versus aged and sane Joker with something to prove. The final battle that everyone spent decades waiting for, from comics master Frank Miller. This comic is the reason that comic book movies exist. It made them popular again. It made them readable in public. And most of all, it made them cool to the mainstream.


Detective Comics 826 (2007)

Batman: The Animated Series veteran Paul Dini weaves a one-shot tale of terror when Joker kidnaps Robin and ties him up in a stolen car, driving into and killing innocent Christmas shoppers who cross the street in this high-octane, nothing-is-off-limits, death ride of a story.

The Clown at Midnight

Batman 663 (2007)

The whole epic story is brilliant, as is every time he uses the Joker, but this one-shot taking place in the middle of Grant Morrison’s run in particular is genius. He even hints that Joker has known for quite some time who Batman really is and just doesn’t care. After all, secret identities are fun! Not as much fun as killing people, but still pretty darn fun!

Harley Quinn

Batman: Harley Quinn Graphic Novel (1999)

Harley Quinn makes her triumphant crossover from the animated Batman universe to the DC Universe proper, with a script by her creator, Paul Dini and a classic cover by the legendary Alex Ross.

Infinite Crisis

Infinite Crisis 1-7 (2006)

The epic reality-changing, continuity-affecting, and earth-shattering DC universe-spanning tale features larger than life villains, a cast of hundreds, and dozens of heart-breaking deaths. But at the tail end of the series, readers get one of the most satisfying cameo appearances in recent comic book history. The big bad united all villains in the universe for his plans, and after the heroes save the day and he gets away, he is gunned down by the least likely of heroes: The Joker. “Your biggest mistake?” Lex Luthor points out… “You didn’t let the Joker play.”

The Man Who Laughs

Batman: The Man Who Laughs Graphic Novel (2005)

Yet another legendary take on what might be the Joker’s origin, running parallel to the classic Batman: Year One story.

Speeding Bullets

Superman: Speeding Bullets Graphic Novel (1993)

What if Clark Kent was found in Gotham City instead of Smallville? And what if his parents got shot and he became Batman and not Superman? Well, naturally, Lex Luthor would become the Joker. Naturally.

Legends of the Dark Claw

Legends of the Dark Claw One-Shot (1996)

The short-lived Amalgam Age of Comics was great, but pretty much immediately forgotten due to company rivalries and trademarking and copyright nightmares. Long story short, DC and Marvel put together a crossover title in which their respective characters fought, teamed up, and fought some more. But they also released twenty-four one-shots featuring new characters, which were combinations of their classic heroes and villains as if they were original. This one featured Batman and Wolverine becoming The Dark Claw, their sidekick, a combination of Jubilee and Robin, their love interest, a combination of Carol Danvers and the Huntress, and of course, their greatest nemesis, a combination of the Joker and Sabretooth, known as the Hyena. I wish they had kept going, but that’s part of what makes the Amalgam Age of Comics such a grand one. It wasn’t around long enough to get bad.

Batman VS the Joker

Batman 1 (1940)

The Joker’s first appearance. A great character, even from the very beginning.


Spider-Man/Batman: Disordered Minds Graphic Novel (1995)

Spider-Man’s craziest adversary, Carnage and Batman’s craziest nemesis, the Joker, vs the web slinger and the caped crusader in a battle anything short of, well… Crazy.

Going Sane

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 65-68 (1994-1995)

Batman is dead, so what is left for the Joker to do in his now meaningless life? Get a job. Fall in love. Get married. And become a normal, rational, average human being. Only one problem with this scenario: Batman isn’t really dead. But shh! Don’t tell the Joker.

The Laughing Fish

Detective Comics 475-476 (1978)

The classic Denny O’Neill tale that introduces the concept of the Joker trying to poison everyone with this own sickness. And his master stroke involves making fish look super creepy. This idea has been used time and time again, both in comics, and expertly in a special episode of Batman: The Animated Series, one of my own first encounters with the character Joker. Not until years later did I read this classic tale. And has and will forever remain one of my personal favorites.

Soft Targets

Gotham Central 12-15 (2006)

Joker targets Gotham’s finest in this classic tale from the fan-favorite series by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, themselves veteran Batman writers.

The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge

Batman 251 (1973)

The classic cover and the title say it all. A perfect comic in every way imaginable.

Salvation Run

Salvation Run 1-7 (2008)

The villains of the DC Universe are forced to choose sides: Lex Luthor or the Joker. The smart ones choose Lex. The dumb ones die. And the rest join the Joker.

Lovers & Madmen

Batman Confidential 7-12 (2007-2008)

The crappy art and the terrible dialogue can be overlooked just for the sheer bravery of DC allowing a has-been and a relative nobody retell the Joker’s origin for new fans. Often times forgotten, this is yet another important tale in regards to what could very well be the true story of the Joker and how he came to be.

The Joker

The Joker 1-9 (1975-1976)

A short-lived but neat little series about the life and times of the Clown Prince of Crime. Plus: Guest stars galore!

Underworld Unleashed

Underworld Unleashed 1-3 (1995-1996)

Most villains of the DC Universe sold their souls to the demon Neron in exchange for power, wealth, and revenge. But the Joker proved his wackiness once and for all by giving away his mortal soul for a nice box of cigars.

The Nail

Justice League: The Nail 1-3 & Justice League: Another Nail (1998-2004)

The Joker kills Robin and Batgirl in this alternate reality tale. So Batman does what he has always wanted to do: Snaps his neck. But when Batman visits the underworld in the sequel, guess who’s there to greet him?

Batman/Captain America

Batman/Captain America Graphic Novel (1996)

Joker teaming up with Nazis to destroy Batman and Robin once and for all. There are many classic moments in this wacky alternate reality tale set during the height of the second World War, but one of my personal favorites is when Joker and the Red Skull try to kill each other after just minutes of one-upping one another. And fail. So they team up instead.

Bad Cop

Batman Confidential 22-30 (2008-2009)

Joker turns an ordinary and honorable family man and good cop into a psychopath after he kills his family and blames society for his crimes. He does all of this from the confines of a jail cell.

The Sins of the Father

Anarky 8 (1999)

On-again, off-again hero/villain Anarky is revealed to be the illegitimate love child of the Joker. Naturally, the Joker doesn’t remember this and tries to kill him the first chance he gets.

Preludes & Knock-Knock Jokes

Harley Quinn 1-8 (2000-2001)

Harley leaves Mr. J. after one cruel joke too many and becomes a hero (sort of, kind of, not really) for a little while. Plus: Team-ups with Catwoman, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, and even Batman, Robin, and Nightwing. Neat!

Gotham Emergency

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 200 (2006)

Joker places a bomb in the emergency ward of a hospital. Batman tries to stop him. An explosion seemingly takes his life yet again, but of course, there is no body to be found.

Kingdom Come

Kingdom Come 1-4 (1996)

The Joker is actually only in a flashback sequence, but my god, it is stunning. He kills Lois Lane and the rest of the Daily Planet staff, and brags in front Superman that he will just get put away, break out, and do it again. And then anti-hero Magog shows up and does the unthinkable: He murders the Joker. And the public loves him for it. But turning this happy into an immediate crappy is the war between immortals and gods. These events lead to the super hero apocalypse. So, in an sense, the Joker, even in death, gets the last laugh.


Batman 450-451 (1990)

Someone steals the Joker’s identity. And he gets grumpy. Bloodbaths ensue as the original comes out of retirement to put the pretender in his place once and for all.


Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 50 (1993)

Two words: Joker. Cat.


Justice 1-12 (2006-2007)

Joker and the rest of the re-imagined Legion of Doom vs Batman and the rest of the re-imagined Super Friends. With stunning Alex Ross artwork. For twelve complete issues. Nerdgasm.

The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told

Various Joker Appearances Collection (1940-1988)

And last but certainly not least, an essential reprint collection of various classic Joker tales.

Joker in Other Mediums

(In Order of Release)

Batman (Series)
Batman (Movie)
Batman (Movie)
Batman (Video Game)
Batman: Return of the Joker (Video Game)
Batman: The Animated Series (Series)
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (Movie)
Superman: The Animated Series (Series)
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Movie)
Justice League (Series)
Justice League Unlimited (Series)
The Batman (Series)
The Batman VS Dracula (Series)
The Dark Knight (Movie)
DC Universe VS Mortal Kombat (Video Game)
Lego Batman (Video Game)
Lego Batman 2 (Video Game)
Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Series)
Batman: Arkham Asylum (Video Game)
Batman: Arkham City (Video Game)
DC Universe Online (Video Game)
Batman: Under the Red Hood (Movie)
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (Movie)
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 (Movie)
Lego Batman (Movie)
Batman: Assault on Arkham (Movie)
And there you have it!  Some laughs.  Some deaths.  Some dismemberment.  And some more laughs!  Did your favorite make the list?  Did I leave one out?  Leave your comments below and be sure to share as we await the Joker’s inevitable (and most likely deadly) return!

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