ByRoss Fox, writer at
The Admittedly Less Fantastic Mr Fox.
Ross Fox

Jared Leto's Joker has been causing comment section controversy since he was first rumored as a contender for the role, and the confirmation of the casting decision last December was met with a fair mix of groans and cheers. The first official image of Leto's Joker was released on Twitter the following April and the groans were a bit louder. Riddled with tattoos and a mouth full of chrome-capped teeth, Leto's Joker was not entirely welcomed among fans, many of whom questioning the decidedly less classy look and the unsubtle nature of the word "damaged" being tattooed on a man's forehead. In July, a teaser trailer was released, giving fans their first real glimpse of Suicide Squad's Mr J in action. The necessary elements of the character all seemed to be there, but so were the teeth and tattoos, confirming the earlier image was not a joke as some fans had hoped. Nonetheless, the comment wars among fans died down a bit after the trailer dropped, with only the most hateful of the haters continuing to troll the interwebs bashing the new look. That is until today, when images from the new issue of Empire were released, hitting the internet like a crowbar to the head of a teen vigilante. The controversy is somehow new again, though I can't fathom why. Joker looks much the same as he has in previous images from the film, but sporting a new take on his purple coat. Sure, it's a tad pimped out, but we've all seen the first image and the teaser by now -- were we seriously expecting something else? Regardless, isn't it possible that the Joker's new look might actually work in the movie?

I'm not ashamed to admit I was one of the groaners last December and again this past April, nor am I ashamed that I've always thought of Jared Leto as little more than a too-pretty face and a huge, undeserved, ego. But time and, far more importantly, a wickedly impressive trailer, have allayed most of my initial dread and I'm stoked to see this unique vision of the Joker come to life onscreen. Putting the tatts and caps aside, this Joker looks a lot like the Joker of Grant Morrison's run (2006-2013) in Batman comics, which is one of my personal favorite takes on the character. The mannerisms of Leto's Joker are spot on, his voice is like rusty scalpels scraping concrete, AND THAT LAUGH, that beautiful goddamn disaster of a laugh, like something out of an old funhouse (or maybe an old madhouse), is sheer perfection. But my mind circles back again to those silly caps on his teeth and those ridiculous tattoos which quietly scream "Nicholson's too old and Ledger is dead, so pay attention to me, dammit!!" And then I'm back to wondering who in their right mind decided Joker needed to look more gangsta. Does this new look say something about the personality of the Joker in the DCEU? It almost has to. But what?

Images from the film, in addition to interviews and teaser trailers, have given us some insight into this incarnation of the Joker. We know he's been fighting the Batman for years, that he's probably a little older than we might have previously assumed, and that he's been locked up at least once. Now, this is just conjecture, but if the Joker is already an established villain in DC's movieverse, it's not much of a leap to assume he is already Gotham's notorious "Clown Prince of Crime," as he is in the comics. Perhaps those tattoos are prison tatts, possibly obtained in Blackgate Penitentiary or even Belle Reve, two of the fictional prisons of the DC Universe. Of course, none of that tells us what the tattoos say about the character, but supposing I'm (close to being) right about those first two things, and supposing this Joker has the same willingness to abase himself for the sake of a good joke as he is in the comics, isn't it possible he got those prison tatts to mock his fellow inmates, specifically the garden variety street thugs of Gotham, knowing full well that he is a different breed of criminal altogether? The new look would suddenly serve a purpose, giving us a visual representation of Joker's disdain for everyone and not just the law abiding citizens of Gotham.

I've been nursing this little theory for some time. Some days I like it, some days I don't. It would be interesting, I think, for such a painfully obvious visual to belie a more nuanced sense of humor, but would it be enough to forgive the on-the-nose appearance of our new Joker? As mentioned above, this is all just conjecture, nothing more than the ramblings of an unstable geek, but what do you think, co-Pilots?


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