Ever since his first appearance in Batman #1, way back in 1940, the Joker has been a villain with one simple but genius gimmick: he's a man who finds crime funny. When you boil it all down, look at all the different iterations over the years, that is the one constant. The Joker loves to have a laugh, and there's nothing that makes him laugh more than some good ol' fashioned criminal activity.
The problem is, he's always searching for the next big laugh. Small, victimless crimes can quickly become overdone and lose their sense of levity. Joker is chasing the thrill of his misdeeds, eager to find the ultimate punchline that'll leave him laughing forever.
This has, on occasion, led to him taking things much too far, leaving anyone reading feeling very disturbed and very much not in on the joke.
With Joaquin Phoenix's recent turn as the Clown Prince of Crime receiving big Oscar buzz, we thought it was high time to revisit Joker's comic book roots. Here are some of the worst things the Joker has ever done, and all of them were just for laughs.
10. Murdered By Popular Vote
The Joker has killed countless people in his time, but what makes this murder so egregious is that he turned comic readers into his accomplices. In the 1998 Batman storyline A Death in the Family, one issue ends with the Joker viciously torturing Jason "Robin" Todd with a crowbar, and leaving him for dead in a warehouse with a time bomb. What happened next ensured this story arc's place in comic book history.
On the last page of the issue, readers were encouraged to phone in to a special number, and vote on whether Robin should live or die. The Jason Todd version of the character had replaced the beloved Dick Grayson as Robin, and had proven unpopular with many readers. For this reason, his fate was put in the readers' hands, to see just how unpopular he really was.
As it turns out, he was indeed very, very unpopular! Although the votes were incredibly close, at about 51% to 49%, the decision had been reached that Jason Todd must die. This made Joker's graphic torture of him in the previous issue seem even more unpleasant, knowing that it was the last thing he would ever experience.
Oh, it's also worth noting that this storyline began with Joker selling nuclear weapons to terrorists because he was strapped for cash. Wow. This Joker guy sounds like a real jerk!