Joker will soon be flashing his twisted grin in an evil origin movie, and everyone in Gotham and beyond is speculating where in the DC Universe he could have crawled out of.
The closest we’ve gotten to an origin story for the Joker is Alan Moore’s alternative history in Batman: The Killing Joke, where the man who will eventually lose all semblance of humanity and turn into a grinning menace is an ex-lab assistant and struggling stand-up comedian who has no idea what a tangle with the Red Hood gang will get him. When a run-in with Batman during a heist leaves him no other escape, he jumps into a chemical basin—and emerges as the Joker.
You would probably go just as insane after you saw how those corrosive chemicals warped your face.
Joker’s memory of his own past is nebulous. As he says in The Killing Joke, "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another ... if I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!"
Here are 7 multiple choice answers that could possibly be in the cards.
Being born into a family of magicians is probably the most obvious way for the Joker to materialize in the DC Universe. While there is a later DC storyline in which the evil magician Loixas is revealed to be the Joker, what if the history reaches even further back to unearth him as the misfit of the Zatara clan who has a Faustian urge to delve into the forbidden shadows of magic after he grows bored with the more acceptable side? The family denounces him after an experimental spell that releases a potentially lethal demon, and while Zatanna and the others try to get him to see the light, he is resentful of their wanting to stop his exploration of black magic and severs all ties. While drifting through the streets looking for other occultists who practice sacrifice and summoning demons, he picks up the Joker nickname after performing card tricks for extra cash at a few sleazy dives. He starts using his supernatural powers in his stage show and involves the unwitting audience, his menacing laugh echoing through the night as he magically murders victim after victim.
You know how John Constantine supposedly strangles his twin brother in the womb? And how that twin brother goes on to become an illustrious magician in a parallel universe? Backtrack to this universe for a second. Imagine that twin brother is blue in the face and taken for stillborn but still has a few breaths left in him, and that he is left for dead when a band of rogue magicians who practice the black arts think he’s a prime offering for tonight’s sacrifice. Except he won’t die. When they try to plunge the knife in him, the nameless baby’s tiny hands twist it around and nearly stab the head necromancer in the heart. Their realization that this kid has powers (he does come from a bloodline of powerful mages) leads them to raise him as one of them and teach him the ways of darkness. Joker gets his name from randomly grabbing the card of the same name when rifling through a box of magic paraphernalia and bursting into a sinister, uncontrollable laugher. He later stalks the streets and slinks through occult circles after vowing to seek vengeance on his brother.
Half-human and half-demon with a Gotham-born human mother, Raven is another superhero whose twisted brother could be the Joker. What makes this theory especially plausible is the demon blood that runs through her veins. She could go full-on demonic if she doesn’t suppress the beastly urges inherited from her father, Trigon. Think of Joker being the example of what happens when you don’t have mastery over monstrous genes. Whether the doesn’t want to bother learning to control himself or is just unable to after much frustration could be up for debate. Bitterness at the inability to control his inescapable demon blood could make an especially strong case for Joker feeling his entire existence is a cruel joke and wanting to annihilate everything that breathes. When even Raven has the tendency to lose control sometimes, imagine what happens when it slips through Joker’s white gloves. In Raven’s case, she steels herself to fight Trigon’s power. In Joker’s case, he gets crafty with knives and venom as a sort of revenge on a fate he never asked for.
Joker already looks kind of dead, so what if he gets his start as a supervillain when he already is dead? Imagine him having been an outcast in life who was always laughed at and is now crawling around in some kind of purgatory when John Corrigan’s spirit arrives and is barred from entering the afterlife. When the Voice shoots him back to Earth, Joker seizes the opportunity and hitches a ride. With an unquenchable thirst for revenge himself, he identifies with the Spectre incarnation of Corrigan whose path of vengeance sends him to kill his own killers, especially entertained when one of the thugs who killed Corrigan turns to a skeleton just by touching him. Joker wants the same revenge on his bullies—only to end up livid when he finds out they have long since died. Outraged at the trick of fate that has brought him back into the realm of the living only after his tormentors are six feet under, he descends into madness and murders anyone who remotely reminds him of them, laughing maniacally at his victims before they ever have the chance to laugh at him.
Captain Atom (post-Crisis)
Being framed for a crime you didn’t commit and being condemned to death could set you on the path to crazy. So could agreeing to be a human test subject in an almost certainly lethal atomic experiment as your way out of execution. Adam might have stayed sane through it all—but what if the future Joker was one of his platoon who was accused of conspiring to do the same thing? Imagine him in the death row cell right to Adams’s, probably with a morbid sense of humor as some grim foreshadowing. Say the same explosion which gave Adam his powers was so intense that Joker’s cell walls were smashed, but instead of getting Adam’s card of unearthly abilities through bonding with alien metal (even though it did involve eighteen years of everyone assuming was dead), Joker gets the dregs. He’s literally dealt the joker of the deck. Think a disfigured face and green hair as well as that twisted humor now on steroids. Forget Adam—Joker can now escape through the busted wall, but the horror of his sentence and accidental punishment has now made him murderous.
Martian Manhunter (post-Crisis)
So this is really out there, but what if Joker is another species of Martian, whose humanoid form has green hair instead of green skin? And what if he’s also pulled to Earth by Dr. Erdel’s teleportation beam and also stranded on this alien planet? Inject that with the trauma of their tumultuous past on Mars, and that is where any similarities between J’onn J’onzz and Joker end past the Martian DNA connection. J’onzz may end up counteracting crime on Earth, but not everyone who suddenly finds himself over 30 million miles from home because of a scientist who went too far with extraterrestrial technology is going to think of positive ways to pass the time. Say Joker sneaks off from the lab to which he was beamed down into after unsuccessfully trying to murder Erdel in his sleep, bitter and ravenous for revenge. He feels the whole incident was darkly laughable—which is the onset of his deranged clown persona. When he can’t track Martian Manhunter, he wanders off on a murder spree, lurking in sewers and dark alleys until he arrives at Gotham and obsesses over killing the Batman.
While the Joker could have been spawned alongside other superheroes in the DC universe, what if he actually was one of those heroes before he became a homicidal maniac? Hypothetically, he could have been anyone before he got his clown face on. That someone could have been Kent or Ken Thurston. Both were murdered by agents of evil, though superheroes tend to get revived so often that it wouldn’t seem bizarre for him to claw his way out of the grave. This would especially go for Ken Thurston, who is annihilated not just because villains are villains but actually betrayed by the Stan Silver version of the Ray. Whether or not the former Invisible Hood’s mission after revival is chasing Silver in vain (since he’s not exactly on Earth anymore) really doesn’t matter. It could just be a general vengeance towards humankind that makes the former Ken maniacal about torturing victims in all sorts of twisted ways. As for the face, assume his invisibility cloak has vanished since his death and he dreams up a terrifying new disguise that is a special kind of insane.