There is perhaps no greater rivalry in the comics than between Batman and the Joker. The two have been bitter enemies ever since Batman No.1 in 1940, and their warfare has unfolded throughout the great DC Multiverse with chilling consequences for a number of characters in Gotham and beyond.

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The two characters completely define the other, with Batman’s strict refusal to kill being the main reason the Joker persists as such a dangerous antagonist. The Joker is nothing without Batman, a figure of order and justice who he says still occupies the same darkness as in any universe.


ten For a long time it wasn’t a rivalry

The Joker's Five-Way Revenge

Although the Joker is considered Batman’s greatest villain and possibly the greatest villain in all of comics, their rivalry was all but suspended in the ’60s. For four years between 1969 and 1973, the character was no longer not at all appeared in the Batman comics. This followed a period through most of the 60s where it appeared less and less.

His position as the best villain in one of the greatest Rogue galleries in all of comics was restored with Batman # 251. “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” featured the return of a more sinister Joker, written by Denny O’Neill.

9 Clown Prince of Darkness

A Joker car races at Batman and Robin DC Comics.

Like Batman, the Joker has oscillated between spooky and silly times. Fans may not know that very early on, the rivalry between Batman and the Joker was very dangerous. The Clown Prince of Crime would regularly kill people, either by shooting them or infecting them with his Joker Venom, a precursor to the toxin he would use in his later incarnations.

During his first comic book appearances, he derailed a train with dozens of people on board and repeatedly attempted to kill Batman and Robin, which wouldn’t seem out of place to modern readers.

8 The man behind Red Riding Hood

The Joker in The cover of The Man Behind Red Riding Hood

Part of the reason the rivalry is so toxic is that it literally started in a vat of toxic chemicals. At least it could have. One of the countless origin stories of The Joker involves Batman pushing or letting the Joker fall into these chemicals. The first version of this story appeared in Detective Comics # 168.

At the time, the Joker was a common criminal in Gotham called Red Hood. Versions of this story would reappear in later iterations of DC Comics canon, as well as various TV shows and movies, but the true origin of the Joker remains a mystery to this day.

7 The Joker kills Batman (and brings him back)

Emperor Joker kills Batman

One of the times the Joker has proven himself to be an absolute monster is when he killed Batman. This gruesome end came when the Joker became Emperor Joker by acquiring cosmic power from Mister Mxyzptlk.

The Joker capitalizes on their rivalry by not killing Batman just once, but once a day for the very longest time and in the worst possible way imaginable. Batman is only saved by Superman, but the trauma of his experience is so great that Batman cannot cope. The Specter transfers his anguish to Superman, who assumes it for his friend and colleague.

6 Batman saves the Joker

Nightwing kills the Joker in Last Laugh # 6

Fans might expect Batman to be okay with any prejudice suffered by the Joker after his experience, but he actually saves the Joker from death at the hands of Nightwing. When Dick Grayson defeats the Joker to death after mistakenly thinking that Tim Drake was killed by the supervillain, Batman resurrects him.

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The Joker: Last laugh The miniseries take an unexpected turn when Batman performs CPR on his foe to make sure Dick Grayson doesn’t fall like a murderer. It wouldn’t be the only time Batman kept Joker alive.

5 Under the hood

Jason Todd in DC Comics

The brutal murder of Jason Todd at the hands of the Joker is one of the most shocking deaths in DC Comics history. It would make sense for a resurrected Todd to shoot for the Joker, but he probably didn’t expect Batman to resist.

Jason Todd takes on the character of Red Hood once associated with the Joker to force Batman into a situation where he must kill the Joker, but despite all the terrible things that have happened in their rivalry, Batman refuses to break his code. He knows that if he killed the Joker it wouldn’t end there.

4 The white knight

A healed Joker stands behind Batman.

There are endless versions of Batman and The Joker in the DC Comics Multiverse, and their rivalry sometimes takes on strange dimensions. One of the strangest is in The white knight storyline, where an encounter between the two enemies ends with the Joker turning a new leaf after Batman forces him to take stolen pills.

Their dynamic is turned upside down when this reformed Joker ends up aligning with the Gotham City Police Department to form an anti-terrorism unit dedicated to stopping vigilantes like Batman.

3 Breaking point

Batman Joker Flashpoint romance Martha Wayne Thomas

The multiverse also gives fans the most unique portrayal of the rivalry. In the alternate reality of Breaking point comic book event, Batman and Joker are husband and wife. This is because the two are actually Thomas and Martha Wayne, the parents of Bruce Wayne, who in this story was killed by Joe Chill.

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The death of her son plunges Martha Wayne into madness and Thomas Wayne in a quest to avenge Bruce. Things tragically end when Martha Joker commits suicide after finding out that the proper timeline made her son Batman and the Joker’s greatest enemy.

2 The real name of the Joker

Mobius Batman 3 Jokers Chair

Despite decades of bitter enemies who perhaps know each other better than anyone, Batman does not know Joker’s real name. At least he didn’t until he sat down in the Mobius chair in the comic book storyline “The Darkseid War” and learned the Joker’s real name.

The name is withheld from the reader, but it stuns Batman. Despite the story released in 2015, the name has still not been revealed and is unlikely to be, as it could dispel the character’s mystique. This suggests that Joker may be much closer to Batman or Bruce Wayne than he realized.

1 The truth is confused

The three different Jokers of the Three Jokers miniseries

In the same way that the Joker plays with the truth of his origin, it’s possible that Batman will do the same with their rivalry. In The three jokers 2020 miniseries Bruce Wayne reveals he knew Joker’s true identity a week after meeting him for the first time.

This is in direct conflict with what is presented in the Mobius Chair incident as well as with the canon established throughout DC Comics history, where Batman does not know the truth. It could be the uncertain nature of DC’s canon, or it could be that Batman’s take on their rivalry is as fluid as the Joker’s.

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