Jack Napier was a Gotham City gangster, the second-in-command of crime boss Carl Grissom. After discovering Napier was having an affair with his mistress, Grissom sent him to raid Axis Chemicals, where unknowingly to him a corrupt cop, Lt. Eckhardt, was sent to kill him. The plot was foiled by the arrival of police commissioner James Gordon, who wanted Napier taken alive, and Batman. Batman captured Napier, but released him when Bob the Goon held Gordon hostage at gunpoint. Batman vanished, and in the confusion, Napier shot and killed Eckhardt, then attempted to shoot a re-emerged Batman. The latter deflected his shot, sending shrapnel into Jack's face. Napier fell over a railing into a vat of chemicals, presumably to his death.
Although Napier survived, the chemicals wrought a horrible toll: his hair was dyed green, his skin was bleached chalk white, and a botched attempt at reconstructive surgery severed critical facial nerves, leaving him with his now ruby-red lips spread in a permanent fiendish grin. While Napier was already erratic, the whole disfigurement incident left him completely insane. Calling himself "The Joker", he killed Grissom by playing target practice with him and usurped his criminal empire, killing one of his rivals with an electrical joy buzzer and striking down another with a sharp feather pen. His first scheme was to spread terror in the city by creating hygiene products that could kill by fatal hilarity when used together, known as "Smylex." Following the death of a news anchor on-air, the city became paralyzed with fear.
Making war on several fronts, the Joker set a trap at the Flugelheim Museum for photographer Vicki Vale, with whom he had become smitten after Alicia had her face disfigured and then later killed herself. Batman intervened and saves Vicki, to whom he then gave the secret of the Joker's chemical combinations. In typical fashion, Batman then rendered Vicki unconscious, and she awoke inside her home. Angered, the Joker vowed to eliminate Batman for interfering with his plans.
Vicki's apartment was then the scene of a confrontation between the Joker, who has come to woo her, and Bruce Wayne, who has come to try and confess about his double-life. After Bruce challenged the Joker to a fight, the Joker pulled a gun and asked him, "Tell me something, friend. Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?" He then shot Wayne, apparently killing him. The Joker then left amid his own hoopla, and Vicki was shocked to see that Bruce had disappeared, leaving behind only a metal platter which he had used as an impromptu bulletproof vest.
Later, Bruce remembered that the night his parents were killed, one of the thugs responsible uttered the same quote used by Napier while holding Bruce at gunpoint, realizing that the Joker was indirectly responsible for the origin of Batman.
The Joker had put his own plans in motion to upstage the city's canceled 200th anniversary celebrations with a grand spectacle: a nighttime parade at which he would dispense $20 million in free cash. Vicki and Knox were there to cover the pandemonium, and they noticed strange tanks attached to the giant helium balloons. In the middle of his generosity, the Joker began gassing the crowd. Batman arrived in his Batwing and snatched the deadly balloons away to carry them out of the city. Furious, the Joker arbitrarily shot Bob the Goon, his number one thug. Batman returned to make a strafing run on the Joker, who responded by shooting down the jet. Vicki approached the downed craft but was captured by the Joker, who lead her to the top of Gotham Cathedral. Dazed but not finished, Batman pursued them. At the top of the cathedral, the two adversaries confronted each other in single combat.
In a moment of opportunity, the Joker pulled Batman and Vicki off the belfry, where they clung to the ledge for their lives. The Joker's helicopter appeared and he grabbed hold of a dangling ladder, about to escape. Batman shot a wire around the Joker's leg, connecting it to a stone gargoyle on the ledge. As the Joker was lifted away, the wire pulled the gargoyle loose and he plummeted to his death. When police officers surrounded the Joker's body, they heard a sound of laughing. It turned out to be a laughing sound box in his pocket.
The memory of the traumatic murder of his parents at the hands of Jack Napier would continue to haunt Bruce Wayne for years even after Jack Napier's death, eventually leading him to get psychiatric help from Dr. Chase Meridian.
- This version of the character is exclusive to the continuity of the Burtonverse film series and is an adaptation of the Joker. The original character was created by Jerry Robinson, Bob Kane, and Bill Finger and first appeared in Batman #1.
- The Joker was portrayed by Jack Nicholson
- In the flashback scene showing the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, the killer is not explicitly named and portrayed by an uncredited actor. Some have identified the actor as Hugo E. Blick. The film is unclear as to the connection between Napier and the killing of the Waynes with the only link being a catchphrase spoken by one of the assailants and remembered by Bruce.
- In Batman Forever, a nightmare sequence is shown recounting the murder of the Waynes from Bruce's perspective with only one gunman. While the character is not explicitly names with event the credits listing him as "Shooter", the theory has been put forward that this must be Napier since both films are considered part of the same canon. The actor has been identified by some as David U. Hodges .
- This version of the Joker was very well received, with Jack Nicholson being nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical/Comedy. It also ranked #45 in the American Film Institute's list of the top 50 film villains of all time.
- To accept the role, Jack Nicholson traded his salary for a percentage of the box office gross. His estimated income was $50 million.
- 7 Appearances of Jack Napier (Burtonverse)
- 3 Images featuring Jack Napier (Burtonverse)
- 3 Quotations by or about Jack Napier (Burtonverse)
- Character Gallery: Jack Napier (Burtonverse)