(Warning - fan theories and the like abound below, so if you prefer to leave The Dark Knight as is, and to not look too closely into its back-story, then proceed with caution...)
So. The Joker.
Now, over the years, there have been a whole lot of theories as to just what the Clown Prince of Crime's deal is - and in particular about exactly what the mysterious version of the villain Heath Ledger portrayed in The Dark Knight had been up to before unleashing his particular brand of crazy onto Gotham.
The big question, though, with so many theories floating around?
What Was the REAL Origin of Heath Ledger's Joker?
Well, there are a whole lot of options out there - but sadly (or happily, depending on your views on movie mysteries) without confirmation from director Christopher Nolan, it's ultimately likely to remain as up in the air as ever.
Here, though, are five of the most intriguing possible origins for the iconic villain:
5. He's a Direct Response to Batman
After all, when The Joker was first teased at the end of Batman Begins, it very much seemed that he was a new threat to Gotham. Is it possible, then, that The Joker was actually just a regular, everyday crook, who saw how effective Batman's adoption of a theatrical, fear-based crime-fighting model was, and adapted it for his own criminal purposes - becoming obsessed with Batman in the process.
In other words, is it possible that The Dark Knight's Joker was essentially all an act - the villainous equivalent of Bruce Wayne becoming Batman by donning a suit and deepening his voice?
4. He Was One of Scarecrow's Victims
Now, it's actually entirely possible that this one could fit in with the former option - or indeed any of those below - but since it could just as easily have also been completely separate, it gets its own section. The basic premise? The Joker could have been an inmate of Arkham Asylum back when Dr. Jonathan Crane was roaming around as Scarecrow, messing with people's heads.
The whole 'anarchist insanity' bit, then? That could simply have been the result of days, weeks, months, or even years, of brutal psychological torture at the hands of Scarecrow.
Another option, though?
3. He Was a Soldier
Specifically, he was a soldier who came home with incredibly severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and - suffering from a serious lack of faith in the ability of society to look after its own - became an anarchy-seeking super-villain.
That line about a truckload of soldiers - "if, tomorrow, I tell the press that … a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all part of the plan" - then becomes less a throwaway line, and more a revealing glimpse at a possible cause of 'that' disfiguring facial scarring. Plus, it explains why he's so good with explosives, guns and strategy...
An alternate possibility?
2. He Had Serious Daddy Issues
Or, if you prefer: 'He was actually telling us the truth in the movie.'
Specifically, that classic 'why so serious?' monologue might just have been a whole lot more honest than it seemed:
"Wanna know how I got these scars? My father was...a drinker. And a fiend. And one night he goes off crazier than usual. Mommy gets the kitchen knife to defend herself. He doesn't like that. Not. One. Bit. So - me watching - he takes the knife to her, laughing while he does it! Turns to me, and he says, "Why so serious, son?" Comes at me with the knife... "Why so serious?" He sticks the blade in my mouth... "Let's put a smile on that face!" And... why so serious?"
Now, sure, The Joker also offered up an alternative, wife-themed explanation - seemingly suggesting that he was lying all along - but when it comes to his severe psychological issues, not to mention the facial scarring, an origin story like that would sure make a lot of sense.
Perhaps the most intriguing option of them all, though?
1. Even He Doesn't Know for Sure
Y'see, while it's entirely possible that the above story about The Joker's father is true, it's also entirely possible that the story about his wife is true...
"So, I had a wife, who was beautiful...like you, who tells me I worry too much, who tells me I oughta smile more, who gambles and gets in deep with the sharks...(she squirms, he pulls her back) Hey. One day they carve her face. And we got no money for surgeries. She can't take it. I just want to see her smile again. Hmm? I just wanted to let her know that I don't care about the scars. So, I stick a razor in my mouth and do this... to myself. And you know what? She can't stand the sight of me! She leaves! Now I see the funny side. Now, I'm always smiling!"
...much as it's entirely possible that they're both completely made up.
If they are a self-constructed fiction, however, that doesn't necessarily mean that The Joker is intentionally lying to his audiences. Instead, it's possible that The Joker simply has no idea about his own origins, having suffered some kind of severe trauma, and lost his own memories.
After all, what more perfect embodiment of the ever-mysterious Joker could you have than one who doesn't even know his own origin?
The even more intriguing part, though?
If You Combine All Five, You Get a Classic 'Comic Book'-Style Origin
Specifically, this one: He's a man abused by his father as a child, who developed deep-seated issues with authority in the process, and then joined the military to escape his troubled home life. There, he was horribly injured, and both lost his memory and suffered some severe facial scarring. Placed into psychiatric care, he came into the orbit of the disturbed Jonathan Crane, and was driven mad by the 'good doctor's' ministrations. Upon release - or, more likely, escape - he became obsessed with the Crane-defeating Batman, and - lacking any memory of who he truly was - developed a theatrical persona to match, giving himself purpose by re-imagining himself as Batman's necessary polar opposite.
Or, y'know, he's just a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in some shiny silver foil...
What do you think?