Not much is known about the Joker's early life. On one occasion, he was implied to have been a high school dropout. In addition, Batman once noted that he was a well-known hypnotist before he turned to a life of crime.
Intelligent and creative, yet totally amoral, the Joker engaged in a wide variety of crimes throughout his life and clashed with Gotham's law enforcement - especially Batman and Robin - on numerous occasions.
As a career criminal, the Joker was no stranger to incarceration within Gotham State Penitentiary. Though he made daring escapes from the institution on several occasions, and managed to get lawfully released from it on several others by feigning reformation, he would always find himself returned to its confines by Batman and Robin.
Utility Belt Caper
One of the Joker's earliest crime sprees began with an ingenious escape from Gotham State Penitentiary, facilitated during a softball game in the penitentiary's exercise yard. Once free, the Clown Prince of Crime immediately set out to rob Gotham Museum of its new jewel collection, but was quickly foiled by Batman and Robin, and barely managed to evade capture. Attributing this defeat to Batman's gadget-laden utility belt, the Joker decided to create a utility belt of his own.
The belt - and the gadgets that it contained - soon proved a wise investment for the Harlequin of Hate. The Joker's next two heists - at a performance of the opera Paliagacci and at a warehouse storing valuable African masks - saw him hold his own against Batman and Robin before making clean getaways. In the former case, the Joker even came within a hair's breadth of unmasking the duo. Soon, public confidence in Batman and Robin plunged, and crime rates soared across Gotham City.
Drunk on victory, the Joker sought to finish off the Dynamic Duo at the launch ceremony of the S.S Gotham, where Batman was to perform the ceremonial champagne-smashing. The Clown Prince of Crime tampered with the vintage champagne bottle to be used in the ceremony, leaving a bottle that would release paralyzing gas when smashed. On the day of the launch, the Joker's plan went off without a hitch: the gimmicked bottle soon rendered both heroes helpless, and the Joker and his gang were able to swoop in and kidnap the Dynamic Duo.
A gleeful Joker brought the paralyzed heroes back to his hideout and eagerly televised his victory, threatening to have the heroes executed unless his demands were met. Soon after, however, he was treated to a rude surprise: the Dynamic Duo were up and about, having caught on to the Joker's ruse shortly after they had been handed the bottle (since the new bottle's cork was not discolored with age, as that of a true vintage bottle would have been). Knowing this, the heroes had taken antidote pills before smashing the bottle, and had been faking helplessness the entire time. The heroes then quickly defeated the Joker and his men, and returned them to the penitentiary.
Back to School
Some time after the utility belt caper, the Joker was released from the penitentiary, but quickly returned to his old ways. The Harlequin of Hate soon created a series of remote-controlled gadgets to carry out his schemes with. Among these gadgets were several vending machines rigged to deposit money, which the Joker planted inside Woodrow Roosevelt High School, as part of a gambit to tempt students into joining his gang with promises of easy wealth. The other machines, meanwhile, were stationed inside various businesses across Gotham, and assisted the Joker's men in committing ordinary robberies.
The Joker's antics soon attracted attention from Batman and Robin - attention that the Harlequin of Hate openly encouraged, to the point where he openly attended an anti-crime lecture being given by Batman at Woodrow Roosevelt. Soon enough, the arch-criminal's promises of easy living snared one of Woodrow Roosevelt's most prominent students: Susie, the school's cheerleader captain. With Susie's help, the Joker was able to successfully carry out the next stage of his plan - stealing the answer key to the Nationwide Pre-College Exam. As a pleasant bonus, Susie even earned the confidence of Batman and Robin, whom she quickly lured into the Joker's latest deathtrap.
A sudden blackout, however, foiled the Joker's deathtrap seconds before it could slay the Dynamic Duo. Frustrated, but left with no other options, the Joker was forced to flee, and Batman and Robin resumed their investigation. Shortly afterward, the lawmen pinpointed Susie as one of the members of the Joker's gang, and Robin - in his civilian guise of Dick Grayson - attempted to infiltrate the Joker's gang through the cheeerleader. The rest of the Joker's gang, however, quickly saw through the ruse and informed the Clown Prince of Crime. Upon learning of the incident, the Joker deemed Susie a weak link in his gang, and sought to dispose of the cheerleader by giving her a "gift" of perfume that had secretly been poisoned. Batman and Robin, meanwhile, were fed a false lead that led them to another of the Joker's traps.
Confident that he had neutralized every potential liability, the Joker went on with the final stage of his plan. The Harlequin of Hate tricked Woodrow Roosevelt's basketball team into picking up his stolen answer key, and promptly snapped an incriminating photograph of the scene. With the picture, the Joker intended to frame the team as cheaters, and get Woodrow Roosevelt disqualified from an upcoming game. In doing so, the Joker hoped to hand victory to the opposing school, as he was gambling a large sum of money on Woodrow Roosevelt losing. Unfortunately for the Joker, Batman and Robin intervened, having outwitted his trap and saved Susie from the poisoned perfume; out of gratitude for saving her life, the duo revealed, Susie had testified to the Joker's scam. His plans scuttled, the Joker attempted to flee, but was apprehended once more.
Powers and AbilitiesEdit
The Joker possessed no superhuman capabilities.
The Joker was adequate in hand-to-hand combat for a man of his size. Though he was seldom a match for Batman and Robin in a fair fight, he was incredibly resourceful in combat and certainly not above resorting to sneak attacks and other tricks.
However, the Joker's intellect more than made up for his combat skills (or lack thereof). A genius in several branches of science, the Joker invented dozens of complex gadgets over the course of his career, including a formula that could turn all water into jelly and an entire army of robots duplicating the appearance of ordinary citizens.
- Smoke-bomb softball: Specially-designed softball that exploded into smoke when struck. Used to in conjunction with the giant spring to concoct an escape from the Gotham State Penitentiary.
- Gigantic spring: Coiled spring secretly built in Gotham State Penitentiary's machine shop; hidden beneath the softball pitcher's mound in the penitentiary's exercise yard. Activated once the smoke-bomb softball went off, springing the Joker over the penitentiary's walls.
- Comedian Statues: Specially-rigged busts of the Joker himself and four legendary comedians (Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, Ernie Kovacs, and W.C. Fields) planted in Gotham Museum's Comedian Hall of Fame. These busts (complete with pedestals) could hide full-grown men inside, allowing the Joker and four of his henchmen to bypass the museum's security.
- Utility Belt: Meant to mimic Batman's utility belt; contained several pouches that stored the Joker's own set of gadgets.
- Smoke Bomb
- Replica Utility Belt
- Paralyzing Gas Cork
- Trick Streamers: Ordinary-looking but unbreakable party streamers, usually deployed during battle to tie up enemies. Tend to be hidden up the Joker's sleeves.
- Sneezing Powder: Typical prank item that induced uncontrollable sneezing. Tended to be thrown in opponents' faces during battles as a distraction tactic.
- Rigged Vending Machines: Vending machines gimmicked to dispensed coins and valuable stocks & bonds instead of refreshments. Positioned inside Woodrow Roosevelt High School as a way of undermining student morale.
- Shackle-Dispensing Vending Machine: A vending machine meant to entrap Batman and Robin. Shot out shackles when a coin was inserted, cuffing the captive's legs to the machine. A hidden nozzle at the top sprayed knockout gas, sealing the captive's fate.
- Squirting Flower: Fake flower attached to the top buttonhole of the Joker's jacket; connected to a hose that allowed it to squirt water, knockout gas, etc.
- One Endless Night: A half-pint bottle of - according to the Joker - high-grade Canadian perfume. Its contents were laced with poison, as it was meant to discreetly execute Susie the cheerleader.
- Funny Ray: A remote control-like device that emits a ray which - according to the Joker - will neutralize the gadgets in Batman's and Robin's utility belts for at least an hour.
- "John Doe & Sons" Moving Van: A special van designed to hold captives in the Electric Chair/Fruit Machine Combo deathtrap. To power the deathtrap, it had a line that could be connected directly to Gotham City's power main. The van's dashboard also contained a trick microphone that allowed the Joker to disguise his voice when speaking to captives.
- "Gayfellows" Cleaning Van: A van that has its exteriors outfitted with folding mirrors. When on a monochrome environment (such as a golf course), the mirrors can be deployed to cover the van with reflections of the surroundings, turning the van invisible.
- Electric Chair Fruit Machine Combo: A pair of electric chairs connected to a slot machine. It dispensed fifty thousand volts of electricity into the bodies of the victim(s) when all three reels on the machine landed on the "Lemon" symbol.
- Drowning Chamber: A re-purposed smokestack from the Katz, Katz, & Katz Refinery. Once the victims are locked inside, deadly gas is pumped into the confined space. The walls are almost perfectly smooth, without footholds of any sort; the only opening is fifty feet above the base.
- Hand Buzzer: Typical prank item hidden in the palm of the Joker's glove. Allowed him to stun others with a simple handshake.
- Rigged Jukebox: A jukebox containing a double-barreled shotgun mounted on a turret, planted inside a Gotham bistro and operated via remote control from the Joker's hideout. Inserting a coin caused the turret to reveal itself and sweep the gun back and forth, intimidating bystanders so a robbery could be conducted. Also contained a speaker for the Joker to taunt his victims through.
- Firearms: The Joker has used ordinary guns on a few occasions, such as when he held heiress Baby-Jane Towser at gunpoint in order to coerce Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred into leading him to Wayne Manor's safe, as well as during the Zodiac Trilogy when he fired upon the Dynamic Duo during a chase.
Behind the Scenes
This incarnation of the Joker was played by Cesar Romero, an American actor of Cuban-Italian descent. Prior to Batman, Romero had performed - as a dancer as well as an actor - for thirty-odd years, most famously as "Latin Lover"-type characters in a variety of films, as well as Duke Santos in the original Ocean's 11.
Though Romero was nearly sixty at the time he was offered the role of the Joker, he infused the role with a powerful enthusiasm. Adam West, who played Batman, would later note, "Cesar Romero brought an enormous amount of energy to the role. His piercing eyes, his laugh... I dunno how he did it, because he wasn't 22!".
Romero, rather (in)famously, refused to shave his mustache for the role of the Joker, even though the character had always been (and still is) portrayed as clean-shaven in the comics. As a result, the makeup that Romero wore to imitate the Joker's chalk-white skin tone was applied directly over the mustache, leaving the mustache partially visible during filming.
Though Romero wore a green wig to mimic the Joker's traditional hair color, the lighting on the show's sets often resulted in the Joker's hair appearing other colors - orange, yellow, etc. - when filmed. Romero would later go on to state that the wig bothered him more than any other part of the Joker's costume, as it was glued to his forehead and tended to give him headaches.
According to the notes of series producer William Dozier, Romero was not the first choice for portraying the Joker; several other actors, including José Ferrer and Gig Young, had been considered. Romero himself was perplexed as to why he was considered for the role, commenting, "Why Dozier wanted me I'll never know". Dozier's wife Ann, according to Romero, believed that Dozier had been inspired by one of Romero's previous roles.
The 1966 Batman series' incarnation of the Joker marked the first time that the character was depicted in non-comics media, setting a standard for future depictions of the Clown Prince of Crime (especially where live-action works were concerned). Romero's seemingly-boundless energy, shrieking laugh, and many creative deathtraps left a powerful impression on many audiences at the time, and continues to be remembered fondly even today, decades after the series had ended. Even the mustache that remained so conspicuously visible on Romero's face during Batman's filming has achieved a certain level of fame, becoming accepted by many as the most recognizable element of this particular incarnation of the Joker.
References in Other Media
The 1966 Batman's version of the Joker has inspired references, parodies, and the like in several other works:
- The character of Papí Boulevardez from the Disney Channel animated series The Proud Family is a rather obvious homage to Romero's Joker. Much like the Joker, Papí sports green hair and is often seen in a purple suit; as a reference to Romero specifically, he speaks (and tends to insult others) in Spanish. In addition, other characters on the show have nicknamed him "Cesar" several times.
- The Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Game Over for Owlman!" makes a variety of references to deathtraps that the Romero Joker had used throughout the 1966 series. The Electric Chair/Fruit Machine Combo (from "The Joker Goes To School"), the Giant Clam (from "The Joker's Hard Times"), and the Keycutter (from "The Impractical Joker") were all featured inside the Batcave's trophy room. In addition, the climax of the episode features Owlman offering to let the Joker operate a deathtrap closely resembling the Wax Spray Chamber on Batman - another callback to "The Impractical Joker".
- A figure of Cesar Romero's portrayal of the Joker has been confirmed to be part of Mattel's upcoming series of action figures based off of the 1966 Batman series.
- According to a slide in the episode "The Joker Goes to School", the Joker stands 6'6". In real life, Romero stands 6'2".
- The Joker appeared in nineteen episodes of Batman (in addition to the theatrical film), tying with the Penguin for most commonly-appearing villain on the show.
- 11 Appearances of Joker (Batman 1966 TV Series)
- 9 Images featuring Joker (Batman 1966 TV Series)
- 4 Quotations by or about Joker (Batman 1966 TV Series)
- Character Gallery: Joker (Batman 1966 TV Series)
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|1966-1968 Batman television series and the 1966 Batman feature film. This template will categorize articles that include it into Batman TV Series Characters.|
|Batman Villain(s) from the 1966 series |
This character, team or organization, was primarily an enemy of the Batman in either the 1966 film or related television show. This template will categorize articles that include it into the "Batman (1966 TV Series) Villains category."