One of comics' biggest mysteries is about to be revealed, thanks to a storyline in Justice League #43 that allowed Batman to ask any question he wanted and have it answered. That question was "Who is the Joker?"
The Joker's origins and identity have always been a mystery within DC comic history — there are popular theories, fan theories and out-of-left-field theories — but Batman's reaction to finding out the Joker's identity has added a whole new layer of speculation to the question of the Joker's origins.
Even though Batman is all clued up, DC readers will have to wait until Justice League #50 to find out who he is. In the meantime, here are five possible theories about who the Joker could be, and where he came from:
1. Red Hood
One of the most popular theories taken from the controversial The Killing Joke (1988) built on the 1951 idea that the Joker began life as a down-on-his-luck comedian. He had a pregnant wife who he could not provide for, so got involved with the Red Hood gang to support his family and his failing career. During a heist gone wrong, and Batman's interference, he falls into a vat of acid, disfiguring him, turning him insane and, well, into The Joker.
However, other versions of this story have been used, forgotten, and changed, never to be confirmed as the true origin story. It was also unlikely for Batman to have that kind of shocked reaction to a failing down-and-out comedian.
2. Jason Todd
Another popular theory is that the Joker is Jason Todd a.k.a. (another) Red Hood a.k.a. (briefly) Nightwing. Jason was brutally beaten to death by the Joker in 1988's 'Death In The Family' storyline. In all honesty, this would be a little difficult to explain: Jason Todd beaten to death by the Joker who happened to be Jason Todd all along. But hey, stranger things have happened in comic book history.
3. Alfred Pennyworth
Another theory is that the Joker has been one step ahead of the World's Greatest Detective all along, by standing right beside him. The theory has been touched upon before — especially in 2009's 'Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader' storyline which had the Joker cut off Alfred's face and wear it as his own. Did someone say Silence Of The Lambs? Okay, so the Joker and Alfred aren't the same in this arc, and it's a dream, but is it still a compelling theory? Sure.
Hopping over to the DCTV universe now, where last year's Gotham plot line pointed towards Oswald "The Penguin" Cobblepot eventually morphing into the Joker. Now, the Joker and Penguin are two separate Batman villains, I know, but the Gotham theory kinda made sense (for the TV show).
According to cohenside on Reddit:
Oswald Cobblepot is supposed to be dead. He knows that with such an unusual name it's bound to get back to Fish Mooney that someone named Oswald Cobblepot is still in Gotham. So he hires a short fat kid to go around telling people his name is Oswald Cobblepot. This kid idolizes the Joker so he does everything he can to be more like him. He dresses like him, he walks like him, he carries an umbrella just like him
Meanwhile original Cobblepot realizes he has to hide his identity if he's going to continue to operate as a gangster in Gotham and develops the Red Hood identity.
This short fat kid with the big long nose becomes the Penguin. The original Cobblepot has some kind of industrial accident and becomes the Joker.
Could there also be two Penguins in the DC Comic Universe? Could the TV and comic universes be slowly coming together? It's just a theory, but only time will tell.
5. Thomas Wayne
One of the biggest — and most likely for Batman to have that reaction — is that the Joker is his father, á la Star Wars. In the theory, Thomas Wayne has somehow survived the alleyway shooting and, unable to cope with the loss of his wife, goes mad and becomes the Joker.
Even though this theory is riddled with plot holes and is totally predictable, if executed correctly, it would change the make-up of the Batman comics as we know it.
Justice League #50 hits shelves May 25.