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The Joker was the chosen alias of Jack Napier, a hood whose appearance was radically and permanently altered by chemicals. He became Batman's first, and greatest foe, and the two shared a secret past that made them greater enemies than either first realized.


Early life

  • Young Jack Napier.

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Born in Brooklyn, Napier would come to live in Gotham. In his school years, Jack Napier proved himself to be emotionally unstable, but highly intelligent, showing aptitude in art, science, and chemistry. He also turned to a life of violent crime. When he was fifteen, Jack was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.

Years later, as a young man, he and his partner in crimemugged Bruce Wayne's parents, Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife, Martha.

When Thomas interceded to protect his family, Jack stepped from the shadows and shot both him and Martha in cold-blooded murder. Jack pulled the hammer back on his gun and next pointed it at Bruce. Jack inquired "Tell me, kid, you ever danced with the Devil by the pale moonlight?". Before Jack could fire, his panicked partner urged him to leave ("Let's go, Jack!"). Jack decided to spare the boy and left, saying, "See you around, kid".

Grissom's Number One Guy

"He can't run this city without me..."
―Jack Napier[src]

As Jack Napier aged, he worked his way up in the mafia ranks, eventually becoming the consigliere of Boss Carl Grissom. He often toyed with a deck of lucky cards, twirling the cards in small tricks. In stark contrast to his later hilarious attitude, Jack Napier's persona was rather sarcastic and grumpy

He doubted the competence of Grissom's leadership of the crime family, and also snidely retorted to a news broadcast of Mayor Hill's speech about decent people living in Gotham that "Decent people should live somewhere else".

Napier entered into an affair with Grissom's girlfriend, Alicia Hunt, prompting the angry crime lord to set his right-hand man up to be killed by the corrupt police officer Lt. Eckhardt at Axis Chemicals. When Grissom informed Napier of his entrusted task with stealing incriminating documents from the plant, Napier was again toying with his lucky deck. He turned a random card's face towards him as he inquired "me?". The card happened to be a Joker (which, coincidentally, would be the very thing he would later become). 

Grissom's plan went awry thanks to intervention by both Batman andCommissioner James Gordon. After killing Eckhardt, and then catching a ricocheted bullet through his cheeks, in a panic, Napier lost his balance, and fell into a vat of toxic waste. Though Batman caught Napier's arm and attempted to pull him back up to safety, Napier's leather glove slipped through Batman's, and he plummeted into the chemical vat below him.

Napier survived, and was washed into Gotham Harbor by a drainage pipe. Still submerged, he stretched an arm upward through the water's surface, where his lucky deck lay floating.

Jack Napier's long chemical submersion permanently wreaked a horrible toll: his hair follicles were altered from gray to emerald green, his skin pigmentation was blanched chalk white, his soft flesh, such as his mouth and lips, were flushed ruby red. His permanent grin, a result of the surgeon attempting to repair his face where the ricocheted bullet injured him, with rusty, inadequate surgical tools in a poorly lit room.

He accepted his changed appearance in a twisted way by smashing the mirror; arguably losing whatever mental stability he had left.


"Jack? Jack is dead, my friend. You can call me... Joker! And as you can see, I'm a lot happier!"
―The Joker to Carl Grissom, moments before murdering him.[src]

After seeing the horrible result of his chemical encounter, Jack turned to a hack plastic surgeon, desperate to have his cheek wounds fixed. Despite going through the long and careful procedure, the surgeon informed Jack that he simply could not fix his face, due to both the sheer extent of the damage sustained and the surgeon's own lack of effective tools. Upset with the result, and reflecting on all that had transpired, Jack, though apparently trying at first to let it go and failing, lost touch with whatever sanity he had left. He began laughing maniacally and convulsively, and then smashes the mirror he held on the table that held the surgeon's tools, and stumbles out of the room, laughing into the night.

With his mind completely snapped after seeing his bizarre new appearance, he assumed the new identity of the Joker. He killed Grissom as revenge for setting him up and took over the crime lord's empire, engaging in a violent, chaotic crime spree, the motive being to "outdo" Batman, who he felt was getting too much press. During a mob summit with the rest of the crime lords, he claims that Grissom was just in hiding, and left him to be the acting president and declared that their action this anniversary is to "run the city into the ground". However, most of the mob bosses, including Antoine Rotelli and Vinnie Ricorso, were suspicious of Jack Napier's apparent orders from Grissom, and Rotelli wondered what would happen if he said "no." Jack Napier then responded with a handshake and that would be it. Unfortunately for Rotelli, Jack Napier meant by that statement that it would be it for Rotelli, as he fried and electrocuted Rotelli with a lethal joy buzzer, horrifying the rest of the Mob bosses and with Jack Napier joking about his demise and laughing at it. Jack Napier then dismissed the mob as his own gang rushed in and held them at gunpoint. Joker then orders Bob the Goon to tail Alexander Knox, and then decides (by talking to Rotelli's charred corpse as if he were still alive) to "grease" all of the mob bosses at the summit. He then arrives at the City Hall and, after claiming that the check was written with a dead hand, murders Riscorso (who was claiming that Grissom landed him with the check with his signature) with his quill after claiming that he was his "Uncle Bingo" and has his mime faction of his gang open fire at the City Hall. Later on, the Joker and his gang defaced many of the paintings at the Flugelheim Museum. He also tried to woo Gotham Globe reporter Vicki Vale, Batman's love interest. When Bruce Wayne learned about Joker, he was shocked about Jack Napier's survival, but when he attempted to protect Vale the next morning, upon hearing the Joker state "Ever dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight" and surviving the Joker's gunshot with an impromptu bulletproof vest, he recalled the night of his parents murder and realized that Jack Napier was the gunman who murdered his parents, and that Napier was responsible for his oath to protect the innocent of Gotham as Batman.

Death and legacy

"Sometimes I just kill myself!"
―Joker, prior to his death[src]

Announcing on the television that he would be reigniting the previously cancelled Gotham City's 200th Anniversary Parade, The Joker threw twenty million dollars into the crowd (the comic adaptation of the film as well as a deleted scene reveals this money was fake one dollar bills with the Joker's face on them). After that, he released a gas form of Smylex out of his balloons. Batman arrived in the Batwing and took away the balloons, releasing them in the night sky. Batman then made a strafing run on The Joker, but the crazed clown blew up the Batwing with an explosive round fired from his long barreled gun. He then took Vicki Vale into Gotham Cathedral and forced her to dance with him. After walking up to the belfry, Batman, after defeating a small army of The Joker's men, confronts The Joker, and vows to kill him for murdering his parents years ago.

During their confrontation, Batman repeatedly beats up the Joker and manages to knock him off the balcony, but the Joker reached both his arms up, and managed to pull Batman and Vicki down, themselves holding on for life from a narrow ledge.Joker's Helicopter arrived to retrieve him to safety. Batman used a grappling hook to tie Joker's ankle to a large, heavy gargoyle. The Joker sealed his fate when he broke it loose.

Unable to break free from the heavy burden of the gargoyle, The Joker lost his grip on the helicopter's rope ladder and fell to his death, hitting the cathedral's flight of steps below hard, breaking every single bone in his body.

Ironically, just a few seconds beforehand, he said "Sometimes I just kill myself!" Commissioner Gordon came upon The Joker's body, hearing a repetitive laugh which drew him ever so slowly. He reached into The Joker's coat and pulled out a laugh box that had been activated by the landing.

Bruce Wayne would continue to have bad memories of Jack Napier slaying his parents for several years.


Jack Napier, in the beginning of the film, is seen as being quite vain, with a penchant for nice suits and Alicia as his trophy girlfriend. In a contrast to the Joker, Napier is quite humorless. However, he is still equally as psychotic, although not as outwardly. Like many criminals before him, he was just as terrified of Batman when he first confronts him. When he seeks out surgery after falling into the chemicals, Napier probably finally loses his remaining sanity when he sees his new appearance, although he explains to Batman that he tried to get over it. The Joker is born, cackling madly. Throughout the film, we see The Joker's skill for using all sorts of gadgets as weapons. He kills a mob boss with a quill, another with a supercharged joy buzzer and is frequently seen using a flower that squirts acid. Also, he has a tendency to wear gag chattering teeth so that he could shock the enemy if punched in the face long enough to attempt a retaliatory blow, as he attempted to do with Batman in their final encounter. In addition to his trademark gadgets, the Joker also has a macabre sense of humor, which is both surreal and morbid. The Joker is also quite sadistic, as seen when he enjoys killing Lt. Eckhardt, shoots Carl Grissom and laughs, deliberately disfigures Alicia Hunt (it's strongly implied also that he throws her to her death out of a window) and finds humor in killing Mob boss Antoine Rotelli. It's also implied when he kills Carl Grissom that he actually seems to enjoy death in itself, and not just the deaths of other people, even going as far as referring to it as "therapy" from his experience. This belief is contradicted near the end of the film, though, when he is seen screaming as he falls to his death, however this might be because there was no way he could have survived.

Police Case History Folder

Bruce Wayne asked for Alfred Pennyworth to bring him a copy of the GCPD's Case History Folder on Jack Napier. Included were two mugshots, one of Napier from recent years, and one of Napier from the time period that he murdered the Waynes. The following are known segments of their report. All underscores indicate sections of words or numbers that are currently unverifiable.

Jack Napier - Police Case History Folder

Name: Jack Napier. Sex: Male. Address: 1379 P__ 565, Gotham City. Age: 38. __:5 ft. 8". __: Gotham. Height: 5 ft. 11". __: JN7. __:265-784. __ by: __. __: 2846287.

Assault: AC+D = __ N (8-29-76)

__: AC+D = __ A (2-16-78)

__: AC+D = __ A (11-6-80) Can not prove

Extortion: AC+D = __ J (12-16-81)

Bruce Wayne then summarized the remainder of the report. "Jack Napier, assault with a deadly weapon, age fifteen. Results of psychological profile: Violent mood swings, highly intelligent, emotionally unstable. Aptitudes include science, chemistry, and art."


  • See: The Joker (Jack Nicholson)/Gallery for additional images


  • Batman
  • Batman Forever (In Flashback Only)

Behind the scenes

  • The 1989 Batman film, directed by Tim Burton, offered a somewhat different origin for Joker, portrayed by Jack Nicholson, and at the same time made him part of Batman's origin. Joker's real name in the movie is Jack Napier, the surname of actor Alan Napier, who had played Alfred in the 1960s series, and the first name of Jack Nicholson, the actor who played Joker.
  • According to the wanted posters handed out by Lt. Eckhardt at Axis Chemical Co., Jack Napier was born in Brooklyn.
  • During the flashback sequence of the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, the young Jack Napier is played by Hugo E. Blick.
  • In the flashback for Batman Forever, the young Napier is played by David U. Hodges.
  • The first draft of Batman Returns was intended to be a direct sequel to the previous film. As a result, subplots and continuity from the first film that would have been addressed included further revelations into the past of the now deceased Jack Napier a.k.a Joker.
  • In the canceled sequel to Batman & Robin, named Batman Triumphant the Joker would have returned as a hallucination caused by the Scarecrow's Fear Gas. Harley Quinn would have also appeared as his daughter trying to get revenge on Batman for his role in his death.
  • Jack Napier could mean that "Jack" was a play off of serial killer Jack the Ripper, whereas the "Napier" part of his name is similar to "Naipe", Spanish for "playing card". Jack could also be a play on the card of the same name. It may also be a play on the word "jackanape."
  • In an original draft for the 1989 Batman Film, Joker was apparently supposed to let go from the Helicopter ladder to his death due to bats swarming on him from the Bell Tower and not from a gargoyle being tied to his legs. A similar fate was eventually used for the Penguin in the following film.


  • This is one of the only versions of the Joker which has been given an identified real name, "Jack Napier"
    • This name was carried over to Batman: The Animated Series as an alias.
  • The Joker's line "Take thy beak from out my heart" (said at Vale's apartment) is from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven". The full line is 'Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!' (the "beak" being of the raven)
  • Jack Nicholson said of his role, "The thing I like about The Joker is that his sense of humor is completely tasteless."
  • A scene was cut from the parade sequence (but made it in the comic book version of the script) where the crowd discovered that all the money that the Joker was handing out was counterfeit. In a follow-up to the Joker's earlier line that he wanted "My face on the one-dollar bill," all the dollar bills that were thrown to the crowd had the Joker's picture in place of George Washington's.