In the space of over 75 years, we've seen members of Batman's comic universe change in increasingly inventive and varied ways. But there's one character that has always been a bizarre trendsetter of sorts of when it comes to shedding the old skin for a new day. Literally in fact...
The Joker has had numerous iterations since his debut in 1940, even stopping off for a go at being a sentient computer virus - which will be explained just below - amongst other mental things. So come and join me as peer into the past, and check out 6 of the most bizarre alternative Jokers:
1. Batman: Digital Justice (1990)
In a futuristic Gotham City at the end of the 21st Century, the world is completely dominated by high technology - fantastical supercomputers that are, some how still, controlled by humans.
James Gordon, GCPD detective and grandson of Commissioner Gordon, takes on the mantle of Batman to take down a sentient computer virus created by the Joker, who is long dead by this point, and additionally to avenge the death of his partner Lena Schwartz.
Gordon is assisted by the Batcomputer, a sentient A.I. created by the, also, long dead Bruce Wayne, and a robot named Alfred who both live in the Batcave under a long deserted Wayne Manor.
2. Flashpoint (2011)
In Flashpoint's alternative timeline Bruce Wayne is murdered as a child instead of his parents Martha and Thomas Wayne.
The resulting emotional chaos leads Thomas to become the Batman, and Martha, losing her mind, becomes the Joker. Even slitting her own cheeks, which was a hat tip to Heath Ledger's portrayal.
3. The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2001)
A man who bares a strong resemblance to the Joker has been murdering numerous superheroes, whilst under orders for Lex Luthor. This Joker has the ability to shape shift, and has a powerful healing factor.
When the Joker begins attacking Catgirl - Carrle Kelly, The Dark Knight Return's Robin - Batman arrives to aid her rescue. Bats instantly recognises this version of the Joker as Dick Grayson - the first Robin - who, during his tenure as Bat-sidekick, was emotionally abused by Bats, and then fired citing Grayson's "cowardice and incompetence."
I'd be pretty pissed too, I guess.
4. Batman: Nosferatu (1999)
Under the peaceful and enlightened reign of the Super-Man and Lois, Metropolis is a veritable paradise. Though some people are opposed to living in the light of freedom.
As a result on cruel experiments on Arkham Asylum's patients, Lutor - this universe's Lex Luthor - and Dr. Arkham create a cyborg assassin known only as "The Laughing Man," a pale and homicidal monster intent on bloodshed.
After this universes Jim Gordon and Dick Grayson are murdered by The Laughing Man, Wayne becomes the Nosferatu, and takes on The Laughing Man in a fight to the death.
5. Batman: Bloodstorm (1994)
The sequel to Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, Bloodstorm sees the Joker becoming the head honcho of a group of vampires, after Dracula was slain. Joker then uses his new found powerful allies to wipe out the heads and take control of every single Gotham based crime syndicate.
The vampiric Batman, and his were-cat sidekick Selena Kyle, join forces to defeat the majority of Joker's undead goons, but Kyle is soon killed at the hands of the vamps.
An enraged Batman finally succumbs to his vampiric thirst, and drinks from the Joker, and then stakes him in the chest to stop him from ever reanimating.
6. The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
Finally, one of the most iconic and twisted alternate depictions of the Clown Prince of Crime. During the opening events of TDKR, the Joker is in a catatonic state since the Bat disappeared from the skies of Gotham.
But when news surfaces of the return of Batman, the Joker springs into action, persuading his psychiatrist into agreeing upon his rehabilitation. With the aid of his very own publicist, the Joker attempts to destroy the studio of a chat show he is guesting on, in order to get the Bat's attention.
The plan works and Batman chases Joker into the Tunnel of Love at a carnival, and in a frenzy fractures the Joker's neck. In a final F.U. to Batman, Joker twists his own neck around, breaking it and killing himself. This action ends up framing the Bat for murder, making it seem as if he finally broke his one rule.