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If there is one thing that DC Comics does right, it's creating iconic characters that are beloved for generations. Another of the studio's greatest abilities is conceiving classic villains for its heroes to wage war against. And one of these villains of course hails from the mean streets of Gotham City: the Joker.
With his torturous cackle and violent outbursts, he's long caused havoc wherever he goes. With his notoriety, #TheJoker has for years been one of the most recognizable characters to ever grace page or screen. And thanks to Play Arts Kai, we now have a new unique twist on the character we've all grown up with.
Designed by Tetsuya Nomura, the acclaimed director of the Kingdom Hearts games, this Joker is part of the Square Enix DC Comics Variant collection. With inspiration taken from both #KingdomHearts and Final Fantasy, the villain is cast in a different light than we've ever seen him before.
This Joker comes with interchangeable parts, including an exoskeleton-wheelchair, and seven detachable heads. These additions give the character a far greater range to terrorize and insight fear, and there are equally sleek versions of Batman and Catwoman available if you want to make a full set.
With the figure expected to release in October, you can preorder now through the Square Enix Online Store — that is, if you've got a spare $300 lying around.
The seven detachable heads are only a portion of what makes this Joker so unique. He's a villain who has had many iterations over the years, from the white face and eerie grin of the early '40s, to the homicidal, scar-filled Joker of The Dark Knight and tattooed hellion of #SuicideSquad.
Inspired by the 1928 silent horror film The Man Who Laughs, this Joker grew to prominence in the '40s and '50s. Although he was intended to be fatally stabbed through the heart soon after his initial introduction, a last-minute editorial change showed that he survived the attack, and shortly thereafter became a recurring villain and archenemy of #Batman and Robin.
Although he started off as a ruthless killer, thanks to the Comics Code Authority that banned gore and excessive violence in the mid-'50s, the Joker transitioned to a more campy, lighthearted villain.
The Killing Joke And A Death In The Family
Shortly before Tim Burton directed Batman in 1989 — which is still considered one of the seminal interpretations, courtesy of Jack Nicholson — we saw a much darker turn for the Batman comics. In the '70s, the Joker was reintroduced as more dark and insane instead of just a campy trickster. This rebirth paved the way for the most villainous version of the Joker, set to arrive in 1988.
When The Killing Joke revealed (one of many interpretations of) the Joker's origin story as a small-time criminal who fell into a vat of acid, it also introduced a Joker that had no limits. After paralyzing Barbara Gordon and beating Jason Todd to (a supposed) death with a crowbar in A Death in the Family, fans saw the Joker become less a typical villain, more a personal threat.
The Animated Series
After the events of the late '80s, the Joker retained much of the character aspects of Burton's more gothic approach while still being the comically insane, murderous trickster. During the early '90s the Joker was reborn into what is still considered one of the greatest incarnations in animation, with Batman: The Animated Series breathing new life into both the character and Mark Hamill's career.
Batman: The Animated Series pushed new boundaries for cartoons in terms of violence and a dark sensibility that had yet to be touched on by mainstream Western animation. But this portrayal of the sinister clown prince of crime became one of the most significant versions of the character — and also marked the point at which #HarleyQuinn was introduced to his backstory.
The Dark Knight
Many fans count the Joker's portrayal in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight as one of the most brilliant versions of the character. Heath Ledger brought the character to life and gave fans a psychopathic killer that removed much of the humor of previous incarnations while retaining all the insanity.
Throughout the film, the Joker sought to destroy the Batman to the point of forcing him to break his own moral code. Stepping away from the more comical side of the Joker, Nolan's Batman films were dark and carried a much more serious tone, which only made the Joker infinitely more terrifying.
Death Of The Family
After the 2011 continuity reboot, #DC kept the Joker off the comic pages for nearly a full year. This was partly due to the character having his skin peeled from his face by another Batman villain, the Dollmaker. But Joker was not one to go out without a fight and he returned in the Death of the Family storyline in 2012–2013. This series pulled from every Bat-family title as the Joker attacked everyone that Batman cared for.
Believing that the Bat-family had weakened the Caped Crusader as a hero, the Joker wanted to bring his nemesis back to his former glory. Although he was believed to have fallen to his death, the Joker has again returned in the ongoing story arc "Endgame," hinting that he could be immortal.
No matter which version you prefer, the Joker is a character that breaks every boundary and there is always more than meets the eye. With his most recent introductions to both Gotham and Suicide Squad, the Joker looks to have a long future in the comics, animation, live action and now pride of place displayed on your shelf, thanks to Square Enix and Tetsuya Nomura.