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Guest Blogger: Why Mark Hamill is the Greatest Joker to Walk the Earth!

by @zombologist

Call me a purist if you like, but I humbly believe that Michael Keaton was the greatest Batman of all time. The forces of good, however, often bore me with their one track “justice” infused minds. This is why The Joker stands out as one of the more enigmatic and psychologically fascinating villains of all time. (See Comicon panel discussing Psychology of the Joker).

So, special care must be taken when you portray said villain in a moving picture show of any sort. This is where Mark Hamill shines above the rest.

The Competition

Cesar Romero

Pfft. Really guys, if any of you can say he was an amazing Joker (with a straight face), I will post a Youtube video of me back flipping over a bucket of kittens.

*NOTE* Proof is required. I don’t just backflip on command you know.

Jack Nicholson

The fact is that Nicholson played the same sadistic he always has (Shining). Nothing, except for his lines, really measured up to what I thought the Joker could be. This doesn’t mean he was a bad Joker. Before Hamill and Ledger came around, he was THE Joker as far as I am concerned.

Heath Ledger

God rest his talented soul. Almighty aside, many contemporary Bat fans consider Ledger’s Joker a masterpiece. He was fantastic, don’t get me wrong. Often his scenes were chilling and infused with months of character study. In the long run, however, it’s more interesting to listen to stories of his preparation than it is to see him though. I don’t think many will disagree with me when I say his Joker created palpable tension though.

Why Hamill Takes the Cake

Perhaps it’s the way he plays off of Harley Quinn, perhaps it is Dini’s masterful writing. The man aged like an impressionist painting, but we don’t have to look at him to enjoy what he’s done.

I’ve never met anyone that can replicate that voice, that laugh. Dini and Timm’s work is brought to life by a character that combined the campiness of Romero with the Seriousness of Nicholson and Ledger. What made Hamill so great was the range of his character.

In the other Batman iterations, Joker pretty much stays the same. He’s sadistic or campy, never both. His jokes are often tongue in cheek or black humor. Never been much of a fighter either, but Hamill’s “Mr. J” puts the fear in the Bat.

Being a kid’s show also helped the portrayal. Since they couldn’t show any death scenes, his paralyzing laughing gas would create situations usually worse than death. It’s often what we don’t see that horrifies us, something movies may have lost sight of at some point. (See what I did there?)

So roll up the sleeves and let loose kids. Who’s your Joker of choice? Will someone be lucky enough to pitch Cesar Romero in a way that gets me back flipping? Tune in to the comments, same Geek post, same Geek blog!

Zombologist currently resides in a cardboard box with an Ethernet connection that is actually just a cord punctured through the wall of that box. If you want to find this ragged individual, check twitter, where his alias is also @zombologist, or just go read this nifty story he wrote once in between incoherent ramblings.


  1. Great post. I’ve got to completely agree! When I think the Joker I think of the Batman Animated series. Like Scott Mendelson write. I too hear Mark Hamill’s voice when reading a comic with the Joker in it. I even hear his theme music from the show. I haven’t been to pleased with the portrayals of the Joker on film. But he’s a complex character who really can’t be summed up in a blockbuster movie.

  2. Didn’t love Heath Ledger’s Joker. It seemed at the time that everybody was willing to overlook a somewhat hammy performance only because the actor had died.

  3. I think Hamill’s Joker is great, but comparing an animated voice performance to a live TV and/or film performance is difficult at best.

    Hamill had some major advantages over the others. Not the least of which, Hamill (and Dini) had the advantage of time – They were able to build a character over years and years, maintaining consistency while also evolving as the show, writing and characterization matured.

  4. While Mark Hamill is the voice I hear when I read the books and my personal favorite Joker, I find it funny that the once ground-breaking Jack Nicholson performance has now become genuinely underrated.

    Some may carp that it was just Jack being Jack in makeup, but we forgot how shocking this performance really was. There had never been a true comic book villain that was this over-the-top in cinema before. The nonstop cackling, the completely random and wholesale slaughter, and the genuinely perverse pathology, this was all new terrain for cinema. While his campier moments recall The Shining or The Witches of Eastwick, his quieter subtler scenes actually resemble the work he did as Eugene O’Neil in Warren Beatty’s Reds. Unlike Heath Ledger’s deliberate, proselytizing anarchist (and any other screen villain of note prior to 1989), Jack Nicholson’s Joker just committed mass murder purely for the hell of it.

    Oh, and Cesar Romero was exactly The Joker as portrayed in the comics from 1943 to 1973. We may find his comic antics lacking today in compared today’s bloodthirsty versions, but for a good 30-years, that WAS The Joker.

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