While many fans agree that The Dark Knight is the new normal for The Joker, others are upset by a seemingly major shift in his origin.
A far cry from most Joker incarnations, the Clown Prince of Crime who appears in Christopher Nolan The black Knight uses makeup to achieve her signature look instead of it being due to an accident. Until then, the Joker owed his pasty complexion, green hair and red lips to an unfortunate fall into a vat of chemicals that permanently disfigured him. However, by the very nature of the film, the villain’s penchant for makeup apparently implies that he never took his famous fall in the comic book chemical plant. Alternatively, he covers his scarred face with face paint and delivers two infamous speeches full of conflicting and unreliable information to explain the origin of his physical condition.
In The black Knight, the Joker terrorizes both Gambol, a Gotham City mob boss, and Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend and love interest, with conflicting explanations for his facial scars. Whereas the Nolanverse Batman films are grittier and more grounded in realism than those of Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero, the Joker skirting the truth around his overall appearance lends to the state of his sanity. The character’s makeup design is entirely rooted in his unstable psychological state as opposed to Nicholson and Romero’s neat, colorful, and impeccably painted presentation.
In a conversation with IGN, makeup artist John Caglione Jr. says he’s developed a “real, not-so-comical approach to makeup.” didn’t spruce up his makeup for two or three weeks, and he never changes his clothes… You think of a clown’s makeup, and for the most part they’re pretty detailed with clean lines, but it had to be the opposite of that.”
Before the theatrical release The black Knight, controversy emerged over the face paint and how Joker’s new appearance may have meant his origin deviated from the source material. In the 1951 comic, Batman Vol. 1 #168, “The Man Behind Red Riding Hood,” The Joker’s revival as Batman’s nemesis apparently began when he was a lab worker-turned-thief who stole a million dollars from the Monarch Playing Card Company. To conceal his identity, he donned a suit, took on the nickname “Red Hood” and fitted an oxygen tube to his hood so he could sneak out of their facility through a pool of chemical waste and survive. . However, her daring escape permanently altered her skin, hair, and lips without her knowing it.
Also, like the conflicting stories of Ledger’s iteration in the Nolanverse, his origin story isn’t exactly consistent in the comics either. In Batman: The Killing Joke, the Joker quits his job at Ace Chemicals to try his hand at stand-up comedy but bombshells. In this version of the villain’s backstory, he has a wife named Jeannie with a baby on the way. Needing money fast to support his family, the Joker makes a deal with local criminals to break into his old job in order to rob them. As in Batman Vol. 1 #168, he wears the Red Hood outfit to disguise himself when tragedy suddenly strikes. Jeannie dies in an electrical accident, but the show must go on, and the increasingly unhinged Joker continues with his plans to steal Ace Chemicals. After a shootout with Gotham City police on the scene, his accomplices die. Then, to make matters worse, Batman shows up to stop him. In a capricious attempt to evade capture, the Joker dives into a lake adjacent to the factory. Unfortunately, the polluted body of water is full of dangerous chemicals that give it its famous appearance.
Again, like in the Nolanverse, the Joker from the comics is an unreliable narrator. About its genesis, he says: “Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another… if I have to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!” Despite this fact, many Batman fans went into the theater expecting to be disappointed with the Joker’s portrayal in The black Knight as he did not seem to align with previous versions of the character. Ledger’s casting news also cast doubt on the film’s credibility before its release, as people didn’t think he could portray the larger-than-life villain based on his previous roles.
Nonetheless, the late actor proved the naysayers wrong and crushed his performance, including the controversy surrounding his makeup in the film. Ultimately, the decision to take a more realistic take on the Gotham City villain better fits the tone of the famed trilogy. Facepaint or not, Nolan’s Batman films set the tone for all future iterations of the character. Although it indicates that The black Knight may have changed a key part of the Joker’s origin, most fans agree that Ledger’s portrayal is the ultimate Clown Prince of Crime to date.
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