First introduced in Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s Batman #1 in 1940, the Joker is a terrifying clown with a twisted sense of humor and a talent for murder. His purple suit, white skin, and ghoulish red smile have become a staple in Batman’s stories, and readers can’t get enough of his rampages in the comics, on TV, and on the big screen.
The Joker is one of the greatest villains in all of comic book history because he’s incredibly ruthless. He’ll kill anyone for any reason, and even for no reason at all. This has led him to commit a lot of heinous acts, but some stand out above all others. His horrible acts have all contributed to his elevated status among other Gotham City rogues.
16 Joker Violently Beat And Killed Jason Todd
Batman #427 (December 1988) by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo
One of the Joker’s worst crimes came at the instructions of the readers. In 1988, DC allowed fans to vote on the fate of the new Robin, Jason Todd. In “Death in the Family”, Todd searched for his biological mother, though he was unaware she was working with the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime captured Robin, and he ruthlessly beat the Boy Wonder with a crowbar.
The Joker left the young Robin beaten in a warehouse, which he then blew up with a bomb. Robin’s death scarred Batman for years as he felt responsible, and initially left him unwilling to take on new sidekicks. It also caused Batman’s feud with the Joker to become much more personal. Jason Todd eventually returned as the Red Hood, but the scars on Batman have remained.
15 He Framed Batman For His Own Death
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #3 (August 1986) by Frank Miller
Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is one of the best graphic novels ever. An aging Bruce Wayne in the near future left retirement to confront new and old enemies. This included The Joker, who manipulated the doctors and the system to get himself declared legally sane. In a final fight in the sewers under Gotham City, Batman broke the Joker’s spine but refused to kill him.
The Joker, knowing the police were on their way, pushed his own neck to the breaking point and took his own life. The police found the Joker’s body and launched a manhunt to arrest the wounded Batman for murder. The Joker got his final revenge on Batman by using his own death to turn the Dark Knight’s allies against him, giving Joker the last laugh.
14 Joker Turned Gotham Into Zombies
Batman #36 (February 2015) by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
During the “Endgame” storyline, the Joker released an airborne disease in Gotham City that turned infected into violent Joker-ized zombies. Joker kicked off his plans by using a custom toxin to turn the Justice League’s strongest fighters against the Dark Knight. It took all of Batman’s skills, technology, and patience to escape and subdue his friends.
The Joker tried to turn everyone against Batman, including everyone in Gotham City. The Joker also used Batman’s secret identity against him to make the attack even more personal by exhuming and desecrating the remains of Bruce Wayne’s parents. The Dark Knight’s allies found a cure for the zombifying toxin after the apparent death of Batman and the Joker, but casualties were high.
13 The DCEU’s Joker Tortured Harley Quinn
Suicide Squad (2016)
“Oh, I’m not gonna kill you. I’m just gonna hurt you really, really bad.” Those words introduced the DCEU’s new Joker, played by Jared Leto, in the first trailer for 2016’s Suicide Squad. In flashback, The Joker manipulated his psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel (Margot Robbie) emotionally in order to escape Arkham Asylum.
The Joker repaid Dr. Quinzel by strapping her down to a bed for a brutal electroshock “therapy.” He tortured her before dropping her into a vat of toxic chemicals to transform her into Harley Quinn. It was incredibly cold-blooded and proved to be hugely problematic to a lot of moviegoers and fans.
12 Joker Skinned His Ex-Partner Monty Alive
Joker (December 2008) by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo
2008’s Joker explored the Clown Prince of Crime’s release from Arkham Asylum as seen from the perspective of one of his henchmen, Jonny Frost. As he’s driven around by Frost, the Joker settled old scores and reclaimed his criminal organization.
The Joker took his brutal revenge against a former lackey named Monty. He followed Monty into the backroom of a strip club to “discuss” everything that happened since his incarceration. Monty stumbled out minutes later, skinned from the neck down before he collapsed in a fleshy heap. Monty learned the hard way to never cross the unforgiving Joker.
11 He Killed People To Test His Original Venom
Batman: The Man Who Laughs (April 2005) by Ed Brubaker and Doug Mahnke
2005’s Batman: The Man Who Laughs retold the story of the Dark Knight’s first encounter with the Joker from Batman #1. The Joker announced a series of murders, taunting the police and Batman with their inability to stop him even with fair warning. He used a powerful Joker Venom that would become his calling card to carry out his initial murders.
However, the Gotham City Police Department located a factory filled with nine corpses, showing that the Joker used them as practice to test his toxic venom. When he announced his seemingly unstoppable murders, The Joker made Batman feel helpless. It was the beginning of the Joker’s career and his rivalry with Batman that showcased his ruthlessness early in his career.
10 Joker Murdered Gordon’s Wife, Sarah Essen
Detective Comics #741 (February 2000) by Devin Grayson, Greg Rucka, Dale Eaglesham, and Damion Scot
Sarah Essen’s long history with Commissioner James Gordon began with their affair in 1987’s “Batman: Year One” storyline. They dated and married shortly after Gordon’s divorce from his first wife. Unfortunately, the Joker stepped in to end their happiness. The Joker kidnapped dozens of babies and hid them in the basement of the Gotham police station.
hen Essen pulled a gun on the Joker, he tossed a baby at her as a distraction. When she caught the baby, he shot her in the head and left her bloody corpse with the kidnapped babies for Gordon to find. Gordon nearly killed the Joker but chose to shoot him in the leg instead. Batman consoled his old friend, but the horrible act broke the Commissioner.
9 Joker Brutally Slaughtered 19 Police Officers
Batman #13 (December 2012) by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
The Joker kicked off the New 52 reboot in dramatic fashion as he had his face removed before he completely disappeared. He returned in equally dramatic fashion during the “Death of the Family” crossover event. As Commissioner Gordon worked with his police, a figure appeared at the door of the station that he immediately recognized as the Joker, just before the lights went out.
As Gordon frantically tried to restore the lights and find the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime tore through the station. He tried to tell jokes while brutally murdering the police officers, starting over time he had to stop and kill someone. By the time the lights came back on, Gordon was alone and surrounded by 19 dead bodies. Their deaths were just the beginning of the Joker’s reign of terror.
8 He Made Broken Glass Rain On Gotham
Batman Confidential #11 (January 2008) by Michael Green and Denys Cowan
One of the Joker’s most brutal and vicious crimes came after he decided Gotham needed a dose of his own medicine. He sent a blimp over the city and blew it up, but he didn’t fill it with explosives or any of Joker’s usual deadly gadgets. Instead, it contained broken glass tainted with his Joker venom, and the explosion sent shards raining down onto the terrified city.
It wasn’t the first time the Joker had used his poison to kill and leave a grisly smile on his victims. However, it was more horrific to get caught in a rain of broken glass than sprayed with a squirting flower from his lapel. Unfortunately, Batman was in the hospital at the bedside of his girlfriend, Lorna Shore. All those casualties and he didn’t even succeed in getting Batman’s attention.
7 Joker Blew Up A School Full Of Children
Batman: Cacophony (January 2009) by Kevin Smith and Walt Flanagan
Batman fought to defend himself from Onomatopiea and his city from Maxie Zeus and the Joker. Zeus combined Joker’s venom with ecstasy to create a new street drug called “Chuckles.” Joker didn’t take kindly to the use of his poison and started a gang war to try and stop its spread. The Joker then met with Maxie Zeus and blew up a school full of kids to prove his point.
The deaths of so many children would usually stun most fans, but it’s unfortunately common for the Joker. It’s the casual way that Joker blew up the school that really made it so horrible. He blew up the school as a punchline and to make a point about stealing his Joker venom, which taught villains like Maxie Zeus not to mess with the Clown Prince of Crime.
6 Joker Poisoned Random Beauty Products
Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman introduced Jack Nicholson’s iconic but twisted portrayal of a homicidal Joker with a permanent smile as he brutally took over the criminal underworld. He also made his name by terrorizing the public and contaminating random hygiene products in Gotham City with a chemical toxin called Smylex.
The Joker’s dark obsession with his own disfigurement inspired his decision to poison beauty products. Since no one knew which items Joker poisoned, everyone just stopped using them. That left a city too afraid to put on makeup or even deodorant. He wanted to make everyone else feel the same way he did after his transformation, and in part, he succeeded.
5 He Gave Away Poisoned Cotton Candy
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #3 (August 1986) by Frank Miller
The Joker doesn’t shy away from killing anyone, and that includes children. After Joker killed everyone at a late-night talk show and escaped in The Dark Knight Returns, he set up a booth at the county fair. The Joker and his accomplice handed out free poisoned cotton candy to 16 Cub Scouts, killing them all.
Killing hundreds of people in a TV studio was a terrible thing to do, but poisoning the Cub Scouts highlighted just how far he was willing to go in his final scheme. Batman stopped the Joker from killing more fairgoers with a Batarang to the eye, but he wasn’t quick enough to save some of Gotham City’s children.
4 Joker Tried To Copyright His Laughing Fish
Detective Comics #475 (February 1978) by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers
When Gotham City discovered fish in the harbor with a ghoulish smile, the Joker announced he was responsible and wanted to copyright them. Unfortunately, he was told that he couldn’t copyright fish. The Joker went on a killing spree and targeted city officials to meet his demands, but he was asking for the impossible and a lot of people died.
It’s the senselessness of these murders that ranked them higher than some of Joker’s other brutal crimes. The Joker didn’t target anyone who could actually let him copyright the Joker Fish, making the whole exercise just an act of torture, and another example of some of the Joker’s brutal but sometimes meaningless actions.
3 He Made Superman Kill Everything He Loved
Injustice: Gods Among Us #1 (March 2013) by Tom Taylor, Axel Giménez, Mike S. Miller, and Jheremy Raapack
2013’s Injustice: Gods Among Us was a fighting game that pitted DC heroes and villains against each other in a dark alternate reality where Superman and his faction of the Justice League had imposed totalitarian rule. Fans eventually learned that the Joker was responsible for the event that pushed Superman over the edge.
The Joker stole a nuclear submarine and dosed Superman with a kryptonite-laced version of the Scarecrow’s fear gas. Superman mistakenly thought he was fighting Doomsday, only to discover he had fought and killed his pregnant wife, Lois Lane. Her death then triggered the detonation of a nuclear bomb in Metropolis. Superman lashed out and killed the Joker, starting his dark fascist turn.
2 Emperor Joker Ate All Of China For A Joke
Superman found himself in a bizarre and twisted world where his enemies were the heroes and the heroes were the villains in Superman: Emperor Joker. After the Joker stole the reality-altering powers of one of Superman’s most iconic villains, Mister Mxyzptlk, he used his newfound abilities to create twisted versions of superheroes. He also killed and resurrected Batman multiple times.
One of his most gruesome acts during this phase saw him eat the entire population of China, which is home to over a billion people. The worst part is that he just did it so he could make a bad joke about Chinese food. It’s hard to top a body count like that, but thankfully Joker lost his stolen abilities and everything was reversed. That mountain of skulls is still a lingering memory for fans.
1 Joker Paralyzed And Assaulted Barbara Gordon
Batman: The Killing Joke (July 1988) by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
The Killing Joke was a dark and twisted story that featured one of the Joker’s cruelest attacks on the Bat Family. The Joker tried to drive Commissioner Gordon insane. He captured the commissioner when he was visiting his daughter. Joker shot Barbara Gordon, paralyzing her from the waist down.
The Joker then put Commissioner Gordon through a twisted ride featuring pictures of Barbara that implied Joker further assaulted her after the shooting. The Commissioner retained his sanity, but Barbara Gordon’s career as Batgirl was over. The Joker crossed the line with focused cruelty and the intimate viciousness of the attack, leading to a seemingly fatal encounter with Batman.
NEXT: 10 Scariest Versions Of The Joker, Ranked