As Batman's undisputed arch-enemy, The Joker has been featured in literally hundreds of DC storylines (as well as dozens of crossovers with various other companies). The most prominent of these storylines are listed below.
See Also: Appearances of The Joker in comics.
A Death in the FamilyEdit
One of The Joker's most prominent post-Crisis on Infinite Earths appearances was in this four-part storyline, which takes place shortly after The Killing Joke. Here, he has a nuclear missile in his possession, which he intends to sell to Arab terrorists in hopes of replenishing his funds, as the government had seized his previous assets. Batman and Robin (Jason Todd) follow him there to the Middle East, but are too late to stop the terrorist leader from launching the missile. Luckily, however, the missile detonates in mid-launch (thankfully not setting off the warhead), but as it explodes, it also incinerates the payment that Joker received for it.
Distraught, Joker travels across the Middle East, looking for another way to gain funds. Eventually, he finds a perfect chance to do so in Ethiopia - one of the country's relief workers, Sheila Haywood, had once been a Gotham doctor who was blacklisted for "unethical experiments on teenage girls". Joker uses Sheila's past to blackmail her into giving him medical supplies, which he intends to sell on the black market. Shortly after, Sheila is revealed to be Jason Todd's mother, and the two share a brief reunion. Subsequently, however, Sheila betrays Jason as part of a cover-up of her embezzling from the aid agency, and hands him over to The Joker, who beats him with a crowbar and kills both him and his mother with a bomb.
Batman is furious over Jason's death, and resolves to take his vengeance on The Joker. Unfortunately for him, The Joker, as a result of delivering the medical supplies to several Iranian contacts, has been deemed Iran's ambassador for the United Nations, meaning that Batman is now forbidden by the government to do anything to him. Undeterred, Batman, as Bruce Wayne, attends a UN general assembly where The Joker is speaking. As expected, The Joker attempts to murder the assembly with his Joker Venom, but thanks to Superman's timely intervention, a massacre is prevented. Joker, however, is furious at Superman and Batman for interfering, and begins indiscriminately shooting the various delegates before attempting to escape by helicopter. Batman, however, refuses to let the Harlequin of Hate escape, and jumps on-board the helicopter. A massive fight ensues, culminating in The Joker being shot several times in the chest by his own men. Subsequently, Batman leaps out of the copter just before it crashes, but knows that The Joker's body would not be found.
This story arc, spanning across multiple Superman comics, featured The Joker receiving the reality-warping powers of Superman's nemesis, Mr. Mxyptlk. With the imp's godlike abilities at his beck and call, The Joker wasted no time in transforming the entire universe to satisfy his warped sense of humor. As a result, the Earth is turned into a cube with continents shaped like his face, most villains of the DC Universe are turned into "heroes", and the Justice League of America are turned into villains (not to mention mere caricatures of themselves). The worst fate of all, however, is reserved for Batman, whom "Emperor Joker" kills in a different way every day, only to resurrect him every night.
Superman does not escape The Joker's rewriting of reality, but, due to his strong moral convictions, he is the only one that senses something is wrong. Eventually, he is able to convince his former JLA teammates that the universe was not always the way it is now, and, after Mxyptlk has been freed as well, the Last Son of Krypton resolves to stop The Joker, especially after being informed that Mxyptlk's powers, combined with The Joker's insanity, is slowly tearing the universe itself apart. In the end, however, the god-like Joker proves to be too much for even the Man of Steel, and is only defeated when his most crippling weakness - his obsession with Batman - is exploited. The Ace of Knaves finds himself mentally incapable of erasing the Dark Knight from his mind, even with god-like powers, and as a result, loses all of his abilities, subsequently bringing the universe back form the brink of Armageddon.
At the conclusion of the story arc, though most aspects of the universe have been returned to normal, Batman is still haunted by the memories of the tortures that Joker had inflicted on him. The Spectre (who had the entire time been advising Superman) explains that he cannot simply erase the memories, as they have left far too big of an impression on Batman. In spite of this, however, Superman is able to heal his friend's psyche by having Spectre transfer the memories elsewhere - onto The Joker. As a result, the Ace of Knaves is rendered catatonic in his cell at Arkham Asylum.
When the story was first printed in the various Superman titles, who was behind the mixed-up DC universe was a tightly-kept secret, and the storyline itself was titled "Superman: Arkham". It was only when the fifth installment of the storyline (Superman: Emperor Joker #1) came out the the Harlequin of Hate was revealed to be responsible.
Along with many other of Batman's enemies, The Joker was manipulated by the duo of Hush and Riddler during their war on Batman in "Hush". The Joker's "role" in the scheme was to set himself up as the murderer of Thomas Elliot (really Clayface in disguise; the real Elliot is Hush), thus prompting Batman to attack him in a blind rage (as Thomas was a childhood friend of his) and nearly kill him. Harley Quinn and Catwoman both attempt to stop the Caped Crusader, but without success, and it is only with the timely arrival of (the as-of-then retired) James Gordon that Batman was able to stop himself from killing his hated foe.
Later on, The Joker is released from the charges of killing Elliot by a reformed Harvey Dent, who later reveals that he was the one who had told Gordon to go to the alley where Batman had nearly killed Joker. Later on still, Riddler mentions that at first, The Joker had been uncooperative with their scheme, but that "once he heard the Jason Todd gag, he couldn't resist".
The Killing JokeEdit
- Main article: The Killing Joke
Alan Moore's landmark graphic novel The Killing Joke featured the Joker as a sympathetic figure (something rarely, if ever, done beforehand), portraying him as a struggling lab worker and failed comedian trying his hardest to support his pregnant wife. It should be noted, however, that his various flashbacks throughout the course of the story are of questionable authenticity, as his insanity could mean that any part of the story (or perhaps even all of it) are entirely made up - a fact that Joker himself references.
Regardless, the version of the Joker presented in the graphic novel is one of the most deranged and violent interpretations of the character to date. At the very beginning, he escapes from Arkham Asylum (installing a fake in his place) and "purchases" a decrepit, abandoned amusement park (killing the real estate agent at the end of their "deal"). From there, he continues on to the home of Commissioner Gordon, and shoots his daughter, Barbara (known as Batgirl at the time of the comic's publication, though Joker did not know this) in the abdomen, crippling her.
The bulk of Joker's plot, however, is to drive Commissioner Gordon to madness, in an effort to prove that only "one bad day" is needed to destroy the sanity of even the most upstanding, moral man. To this end, he kidnaps the commissioner, putting him through a variety of tortures at the amusement park he had purchased. In the end, however, Batman shows up to rescue the commissioner, and, while chasing down Joker, points out to the Ace of Knaves that his efforts to drive Gordon mad had failed - Gordon is, in fact, still sane, and even insists that Batman bring Joker in "by the book".
A short but brutal battle in the amusement park's house of mirrors ensues, Joker insisting the entire time that nothing in the world makes sense, and that insanity is the only way to live in such a chaotic setting. As he is subdued by the Dark Knight once more, Batman offers him a chance to truly rehabilitate, not wanting their feud to continue. Joker tearfully refuses, stating that it is "too late" for him, but before he returns to Arkham, he tells the Caped Crusader a joke, reflecting upon their similarity, that finally makes him laugh.
The Joker appears several times throughout the (in)famous Knightfall saga of the 1990s. He is amongst the many inmates of Arkham that Bane frees, and once free, attempts to capitalize on the chaos that has seized Gotham as a result of the Arkham breakout.
Before he even leaves the asylum, Joker takes his revenge on its administrator, Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, by tying him up with a length of string rigged so that if the doctor's knees buckle, a gun would shoot him in the head. By forcing the doctor into this contraption, Joker hopes to drive him to madness, and though Batman does eventually show up to free Arkham, it would appear that the Ace of Knaves had somewhat succeeded. Later on, Joker hires the cannibalistic Cornelius Stirk to kidnap Commissioner Gordon, but due to Scarecrow's interference, Stirk attempts to kill Gordon instead. Disgusted with Stirk's short-sightedness, Joker abandons him, and runs into Scarecrow himself. Scarecrow is initially furious at Joker for going to Stirk for spreading fear instead of going to him, but agrees on a partnership with the Ace of Knaves to bring the city to its knees.
To achieve such a feat, the two break into the home of Gotham's mayor, Armand Krol. Using Scarecrow's fear gas as "persuasion", the two force the mayor into making all sorts of phone calls that add even more chaos and destruction to the city. Soon, their little "game" culminates in the two of them taking Krol into a tunnel and blasting to bits any police vehicle that comes to rescue him. Eventually, Batman steps in to help (despite being extremely exhausted from dealing with all of the other Arkham escapees), and though he manages to subdue both Joker and Scarecrow (thanks to Scarecrow's fear gas making him hallucinate the murder of Jason Todd, thus giving him an extra boost of strength stemming from fury), he is forced to let them go when Scarecrow uses a missile launcher to blast a hole in the tunnel, causing it to flood.
Later on, briefly after Batman had been defeated by Bane, the duo decide to go their separate ways. Before, however, Scarecrow sprays Joker with his fear gas to discover what the Ace of Knaves fears, only to find out that the toxin has no effect on him. Joker proceeds to beat him into submission with a chair, and leaves.
The Joker's Last Laugh, a mini-series published from late 2001 to early 2002, featured one of the most dangerous and powerful versions of the Ace of Knaves to date. In it, he is led to believe that he is suffering from a terminal brain tumor, and as a result, infects dozens of supervillains with his Joker Venom, causing them to go insane. These "Jokerized" prisoners are then released into the world, creating mass chaos, as part of Joker's effort to "go out with a bang". Though the ensuing events are enough to challenge the entire Justice League of America, Joker is still not satisfied, and, with the assistance of villains Stormfront and Mr. 104, creates a "crazy rain", making his venom fall from the sky in an effort to "Jokerize" the entire world.
In the end, the heroes are able to round up the infected supervillains, and restore them to normal with an antidote created by Kirk Langstrom and Harley Quinn. While they had been busy with containing the situation, however, Joker had moved on to the next stage of his grand finale - assassinating president Lex Luthor. Before he can succeed, however, Nightwing catches up to him, and, thinking that the event had caused Robin to be killed by Killer Croc, brutally beats the Harlequin of Hate to death. Subsequently, the rest of the Bat-family (Robin included) arrive on the scene, and revive The Joker so that Nightwing will not have to carry the guilt of murder. After the crisis has been completely resolved, The Joker is shipped back into incarceration - but this time, in a cell without any doors or windows. As Shilo Norman states: the only way to punish a a performer is to take away his audience.