There’s a fan theory making the rounds concerning the Joker’s true identity in the DC Cinematic Universe. The theory is that Jared Leto’s Joker is none other than Batman's former sidekick, Jason Todd. The theory points to the perceived age difference between Joker and Batman, as well as two scars on the Joker’s shoulders that seemingly match up to bullet holes in a defaced Robin costume seen in the most recent Batman V. Superman trailer.
Making Jason Todd the Joker would be an unprecedented move for the DC Cinematic Universe, a twist that would create plenty of controversy for years to come. Much like DC’s decision to reboot its publishing line 2011 or the controversial neck snap that ended Man of Steel, a Jason Todd Joker would polarize DC fans. Some will hate it with the passion of a thousand burning suns, while others will love the twist and defend it to the death.
If DC didn’t have a reputation to not kowtow to its hardcore fanbase, this Jason Todd as Joker theory wouldn’t be attracting so much attention today. Personally, I’ve gone back and forth on the idea of Jason Todd as the Joker of the DC Cinematic Universe. A Jason Todd Joker would be a bold decision that breaks from continuity and really sets the tone for what sort of universe the DC movies are set in. However, I think the move is short sighted and would ultimately backfire on DC.
My main problem with a Jason Todd/Joker twist is that it’s counter intuitive to how WB is building the DC Cinematic Universe. DC’s decision to make a Batman V. Superman film then jump immediately into a Justice League film rests on the idea that most of their characters are instantly recognizable and known by casual movie viewers. People know who Batman is. They know who Wonder Woman is. They even know who Aquaman is (even if it is through prodding jokes). DC can throw all these characters into a movie without needing to explain much. However, Jason Todd, despite his recent popularity as the Red Hood, is still a footnote at best to the casual superhero fan. Leaked set pictures already revealed Bruce Wayne visiting Dick Grayson’s headstone, so one Robin is already a part of the DC Cinematic Universe. That means that Batman V. Superman (or whatever other future movie the twist would appear in) would need to touch on multiple points in Batman’s history to really give Todd and his impact on Batman the necessary depth to sell a twist to viewers. Otherwise, a Jason Todd/Joker twist would only appeal to hardcore DC fans, while leaving the average movie watcher scratching their heads.
If WB were building their DC Cinematic History differently, I think a twist like the rumored Jason Todd/Joker could work. Take Captain America: The Winter Soldier and its reveal that Bucky was a brainwashed Winter Soldier. The reason that twist worked in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is because fans watched him die in the first Captain America movie. His “turn” mattered because fans were already familiar with the character. But a Jason Todd/Joker twist would be WB trying to have its cake and eat it too. You can’t build a movie universe expecting fans to know who DC’s major characters are from the get-go, and then ask them to buy into a major change in one of its greatest villains.
There’s also the matter of why WB would need to make such a drastic change to the Joker’s character. The Joker’s past has always been a mystery as the villain didn’t “come alive” until after he plunged into a transformative vat of chemicals. Part of Joker’s “charm” is that the character didn’t have a motivation for most of his actions outside of raising chaos and a personal hell for Batman’s hell. While turning the Joker into a character from Batman’s past would separate the DC Cinematic Universe’s version from other iterations of the Joker (like The Dark Knight’s Joker who gave multiple and conflicting origins about his past), it feels unnecessary and would cheapen the conflict between the Dark Knight and his greatest foe.
If WB really wants to give the Joker a defined history, there is one way to simplify this fan theory and get rid of the need to put multiple Robins in the DC Cinematic Universe. Since Batman V. Superman draws heavily from The Dark Knight Returns, what if WB is using that book’s less popular sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again for their big Joker twist? Maybe these clues are pointing towards a bigger and even more controversial twist, one that involves the Robin even casual fans know. Maybe the Joker isn’t Jason Todd or another second tier Robin, but the first and original Robin, Dick Grayson. After all, we know Grayson existed in the universe, we know he’s “dead,” and we know that Batman now works alone. If WB were to remove Jason Todd out of the equation, the whole Joker twist theory becomes a lot easier to swallow.
Jared Leto’s Joker won’t appear until next summer’s Suicide Squad, so we’re at least a year away from getting any resolution on this whole theory. Unless WB is ready to invest some major time in Batman V. Superman in prepping fans for a major twist, just leave Jason Todd in the past and keep the Joker’s identity a non-issue. After all, no one really cares about who the Joker was before he became the Clown Prince. So let's keep this as one joke without a punchline.