The Joker exists in many iterations, some more human than others, and all terrifying in their own twisted way — but there is a level of madness and depravity from which there is no return. Nightmare Joker, which just crawled into the Sideshow Nightmare collection next to his Bat-nemesis, might just invade your nightmares.
"We took the insanity of The Joker and made his makeup a tableau of bas-relief Easter eggs of his entire existence," Sideshow Creative Director Tom Gilliland told SYFY WIRE in an exclusive interview.
Gotham's Clown Prince of Crime can already give you the chills at a distance (you might not be warm-blooded if he doesn't) until you creep closer and realize this terrifying version has climbed out of a vat of swampy green acid. The acid has morphed him into a demonic version of himself made entirely out of the Easter eggs that define him as much as his scars.
It took the twisted imaginations of concept artist Paul Komoda, concept artist and sculptor Martin Canale, sculptor Guillermo Barbiero, print artist Fabian Schlaga, Art Director David Igo, and Creative Director Tom Gilliland to bring this monstrosity into being. Sideshow had previously conjured a Nightmare Batman, but the creative team wanted to do something even more shocking for the Joker, easily beating out the scariest visions of the Dark Knight you might have ever seen.
"When we were discussing the idea of a 'Nightmare'-style Joker, a lot of ideas were thrown around by various team members, and I kept thinking to myself, ‘How cool it would be to amalgamate everything that makes the Joker who he is, and put it all together into one huge Gotham Monster?" Igo told SYFY WIRE.
The team ended up providing Komoda and Canale with a swarm of ghastly ideas that could possibly be incorporated into the design as it evolved. Dreaming up a character literally made of nightmares came to Komoda almost as naturally as falling asleep, since his younger self was plagued by them.
"Nightmares tended to loom largely in my psyche during my childhood," he admitted. "That fluidic, biomorphic look to the forms was done to suggest a kind of hallucinogenic delirium, which is an element that's in all my work."
Using the Joker as his Freddy Krueger fueled the artist to turn pure horror into an art form. He was also influenced by an early '90s Horizon Joker model kit sculpted by Taishiro Kiya and Simon Bisley's "very creature-ish" Joker in the Judge Dredd crossover Judgement on Gotham. The methods Komoda worked with for this project were mostly traditional, starting with a pencil sketch on recycled paper so he could really bring out the forms and lighting with white gouache. Sometimes he would render the monster in acrylics and watercolor paints to bring him to life before the art was scanned and refined in Photoshop.
If you look at this terror of terrors, you can imagine the complexity that went into sculpting him, and so did Canale when Sideshow Project Manager Anthony Mestas sent him the mind-blowing concepts, which he and Mestas used to translate Komoda's ghoulish vision into three dimensions.
"It was a true honor and a real challenge to take Paul Komoda's beautiful and crazy design and translate that to a 3D figure," Canale said of the process that went into making Nightmare Joker a tangible entity.
The demonic spirit of the original drawings lives on in the sculpt, which Canale, Mestas and Barbiero designed digitally and kept as true to what Komoda envisioned as they possibly could — with the exception of relocating some Easter eggs and taking out a few others that were somewhat disconnected.
Everything else came together almost supernaturally, from Red Hood being positioned precariously on the front left leg to make him appear as if he is about to fall in that infamous acid tank to the Arkham Asylum back art. That gloriously deranged back art was influenced by Dave McKean's haunting work that grins and sneers on the pages of Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth and was the result of Canale fusing architectural elements from the Hospital with the centerpiece of a melted straitjacket.
More elements from the comics appear almost magically if you allow yourself to be sucked in by the Joker's sick charms. He isn't wearing shoulder pads — the Death in the Family storyline inspired Canale to perch a broken porcelain doll masquerading as Robin on one shoulder and a Mr. Punch puppet grinning as an evil clown on the other. Gotham City and its shadowy buildings rise out of the base, modeled and sculpted by Barbiero. Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Brian Bolland, and Dave McKean's ghoulish Jokers also went into this anthropomorphic nightmare. There is no way any Batman fans can't see the Killing Joke reference.
"I don't want to give all the Easter eggs away," said Canale. "It will be enjoyable for collectors to find them as they study, but there are more classic comic book text and onomatopoeia worked into the body and costume."
Canale and Barbiero played mad scientist with the carnivalesque Sideshow Exclusive variant head. The skin's corpselike texture is comparable to someone who actually used the skincare advertised on TV in 1989's Batman as a secret "only your undertaker knows for sure." Mutant teeth emerge around the eyes, and his green hair curls out of control, the base making the Joker's disembodied head look like it's popping out of a jack-in-the-box.
While Sideshow is known for the meticulously rendered horror creations it unleashes, Nightmare Joker could certainly be crowned the most extreme. The intent was to push boundaries with the Joker in which he was irredeemably warped but still recognizable. He stands slightly taller than Batman, which makes metaphorical sense in that he is always the pervasive fear overshadowing the Dark Knight.
Schlaga's accompanying limited edition art print (which sold out faster than the Bat-signal can flash in the dark) turns Gotham City into a carnival of horror that looks even more surreal as a backdrop for the Nightmare Joker. Drenched in blood-red skies, swarming with bats and overseen by a Joker controlling an entire theme park of unstable roller coasters and other creepy carnival attractions, this freakshow screams "Ride at your own peril."
"Gotham is essentially a character of its own, and it would adapt to the Joker taking over part of it," said Schlaga of his concept. "The Joker is essentially growing out of the city, which has laid the foundation for him to exist, warping it in the process."
You can still get your purple gloves on the Joker: Gotham City Nightmare Collection statue right here. Just watch out for that trick flower, because it probably squirts poison.