10 Most Iconic Joker Panels In Batman Comics
The Joker is one of the most famous supervillains in the superhero genre, and many of his iconic moments come in Batman comic panels.
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The Joker has become one of the most iconic villains in pop culture alongside the likes of Darth Vader. He’s made Batman’s life miserable ever since the supervillain’s first appearance in 1940 and has appeared across multiple mediums including films and television shows. Similar to the Dark Knight himself, part of the appeal of a character like the Joker is how so many different renditions of him can be done.
He’s a psychologically complex and horrifying character that invites varying interpretations of him. This can be done while still retaining elements that make him such an interesting character to write in the first place. Many of his stand-out panels in comics have achieved their statuses by keeping this in mind.
Seeing The Funny Side (The Killing Joke)
The supposed “origins” of the Joker in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke is arguably one of the most iconic, haunting panels of the character. He’s understandably thought of as Batman’s greatest supervillain and this one-shot comic book is a big part of why many fans agree. It also set the precedent for modern interpretations of the character.
While he serves as a sort of unreliable narrator of his beginnings, his possible origin from Ace Chemicals and the open-ended nature of it makes the story enticing. Seeing him emerge from the water with his bleached skin, green hair, and fractured mind will stand the test of time of what fans first see when hearing the name “Joker.” Brian Bolland’s artwork is only made better in the Absolute edition of the comic, which enlargens the art and brings out all the subtle details in the pencils and inks.
“To Prove A Point” (The Killing Joke)
The Killing Joke alone can make a collage of memorable panels, and the comic’s turning point is among them. While it’s one of the best Batman comics of the 1980s, it wasn’t without its controversy due to Barbara’s fate. The Joker is responsible for why she spent so much time confined to a wheelchair and forced to leave the mantle of Batgirl.
It’s one of the darkest moments in comics, and the sheer sense of dread when Joker shot Barbara in her home is palpable off the page. Especially so with how sudden the scene started. The sharp transitions from panel to panel, with an ironic beach-tourist Joker’s gleaming white eyes, and no dialogue made the scene all the more oppressing.
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One… (Death Of The Family)
The New 52 gave Batman one of the best and most consistent comic book runs in recent memory. Death of the Family is even one of Batman’s best comic arcs from the 2010s. It was such a good story arc that both it and Endgame could have — and should have — concluded Joker’s tenure in the comics.
At this point in the run, Joker had been mysteriously quiet for a year. But his absence was just preparation for his biggest scheme. It’s an explosive, hyper-aggressive take on Joker that was a culmination of years worth of conflict. He went to every length possible to rid Batman of what he believed was holding their dynamic back — his family. Taking the fight directly to Wayne Manor and attacking Alfred with a hammer made for some thrilling slasher-horror tones, complete with his stapled-on face and vintage morbid “humor.”
It Hurts You More Than It Hurts Me (A Death In The Family)
Though Barbara’s cruel fate in The Killing Joke is one of the most heinous things Joker’s done, he’s been the catalyst for much more. It’s another controversial moment, but Joker murdering Robin in A Death in the Family had a deep impact in comics.
The supervillain traps Jason in a building and beats him within an inch of his life with a crowbar, painstakingly emphasized in the visceral art. Batman desperately races to him, but Joker’s bombs explode and kill Jason before he can. While he was revived years later, Robin’s death was cemented in Batman’s mind as the Dark Knight’s greatest failure.
Two Sides Of The Same Coin (The Killing Joke)
The Killing Joke’s ending is occasionally a subject of speculation. Some fans claim that Batman finally snapped and killed his arch-nemesis. The Dark Knight apprehends Joker after exposing him for his cowardly behavior. The cowardice, in this case, is Joker using a tragedy as justification for becoming a sadistic murderer.
However, the clown manages to tell a joke that made even Batman laugh, with the scene panning away to the police lights and rain. Ultimately, though, it’s likely that this was just a twisted reminder to Batman that, while he chose the side of justice, the two are mentally unstable sides of the same coin. It’s a fascinating concept in this dynamic, with The Killing Joke inspiring Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
First Appearance (Batman #1)
The air of mystery surrounding the Joker’s beginnings was set at the start of the villain’s history. Batman made his debut in comics a year earlier in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, with the Clown Prince of Crime’s arrival in Batman #1 in 1940. Though this was generations ago, this pulpy, noir tone set things in motion for how this world would evolve over the decades.
Joker was established from the start without origin stories. Fans knew immediately that this was a sadist for a preference of the theatrical in everything that he does. His initial artwork for the issue will remain a classic and a landmark in comic book history.
Return To Form (Joker’s Five-Way Revenge)
Batman’s comics began as pulpy, crime-noir-style stories that were popular at the time. But by the 1960s, DC had turned the character heavily toward campiness. Batman’s return-to-form hit its crescendo in the 1980s, but Dennis O’Neil began Batman’s comeback in the early 1970s.
Part of this strategy included returning the Clown Prince of Crime to his roots as the flashy killer. Joker’s Five-Way Revenge did exactly that by having Batman stop a string of murders. The opening art of Joker laughing maniacally is another comic-book milestone, as he was no longer the campy prankster or one-off villain in earlier comics. His expression, with his dead eyes and impossibly large grin, signifies this Joker mean’s business and will kill anything in his path for the perfect punchline.
A Comeback With A Vengeance (Endgame)
Following up on Death of the Family, Endgame capped off a stunning two-part Dark Knight/Joker story. Fans of the superhero are well aware of the mayhem this villain can cause, but this one felt far more personal. Even by his twisted standards, Joker has never been this ruthless.
There was something demonic about this version, as he’s almost supernatural and hellbent on his goal. Endgame’s final issue exemplified this with another horror-inspired scene of Joker emerging from a fire when Gordon assumed him dead. It’s a chilling pair of panels that emphasize this is a version of this character fans haven’t witnessed.
Ghost Of Christmas Present (Haunted Knight)
The Long Halloween justifiably takes up the spotlight, but Haunted Knight is the underrated collection of shorts that made it and its sequel possible. Haunted Knight is three Halloween Specials that see Batman confront his rogues and his psyche. The final story, “Ghosts,” sees Bruce visited by three Christmas spirits.
It’s a story that highlights to Bruce that Batman cannot become all that he is, with Joker being the Ghost of Christmas Present. “Joker” confronts Batman in Wayne Manor, eerily seated by the fireplace and a hog-tied Alfred. It’s an overlooked story and panel, but it embodies everything the villain is.
“Trick Or Treat” (The Long Halloween)
The Joker isn’t the focus of The Long Halloween, but he makes his presence known with the time he has. This arc takes place during Batman’s early years and in a transitionary period. Organized crime had Gotham in a vice-grip even before the Dark Knight, but this grisly case would turn the tide in favor of more colorful rogues.
Carmine Falcone was seeing his empire fall apart the longer this dragged out. Finally, after Harvey’s descent into Two-Face, he takes his vendetta directly to the “Roman” alongside his new partners-in-crime. Joker makes a great centerpiece of this panel and drives home the “rise of the freaks” theme in Gotham.