The Joker is a fictional character, a comic book supervillain published by DC Comics. He is the archenemy of Batman, having been directly responsible for numerous tragedies in Batman's life, including the paralysis of Barbara Gordon and the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Created by Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger and Bob Kane, he first appeared in Batman #1 (Spring 1940).
Throughout his comic book appearances, the Joker is portrayed as a master criminal whose characterization has varied. The original and currently dominant image is of a highly intelligent psychopath with a warped, sadistic sense of humor, while other versions have placed varying emphasis on humor, eccentricity, and pranks. Similarly, throughout the character's long history, there have been several different origin tales; they most commonly depict him as falling into a tank of chemical waste, which bleaches his skin and turns his hair green and his lips bright red, giving him the appearance of a clown.
The Joker has been portrayed by Cesar Romero in the Batman television series, Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton's Batman, and Heath Ledger in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, which posthumously earned Ledger the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Larry Storch, Mark Hamill, Kevin Michael Richardson, Jeff Bennett and John DiMaggio have provided the voice for the character in animated form.
As one of the most iconic and recognized villains in popular media, The Joker was ranked #1 on Wizard's list of the 100 Greatest Villains of All Time. He was also named #2 on IGN's list of the Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time List, was ranked #8 on the Greatest Comic Book Characters in History list by Empire (being the highest ranking villain on the list) and was listed as the fifth Greatest Comic Book Character Ever in Wizard Magazine's 200 Greatest Comic Book Characters of all Time list, also the highest villain on the list. On their list of the 100 Greatest Fictional Characters, Fandomania.com ranked the Joker at number 30.
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Official Site: DC Comics
Links: Wikipedia: The Joker DC Database: The Joker DCcomics.com: The Joker (PDF file)