When it comes to comics, a hero is only as good as his villain. The contrast between them must be so significant that both are elevated from their respective positions; or, rather, they must be equal in their opposite tendencies. Superman is only as virtuous as Lex Luthor is evil. Same goes for Green Lantern and Sinestro. Or Professor X and Magneto.
Some villains are so twisted, their malevolence exceeds their rival's capacity for heroism; they aren't just at the other end of the "good vs. evil" spectrum, but in a league all their own. Perhaps the most notable of these rare figures appeared in Batman #1, on April 25, 1940, a cold-blooded serial killer who left a signature calling card after poisoning his marks, an act that left them with grotesque smiles similar to his own. His name? Joker. Due to the character's inherent nastiness, there's been some serious gore in the Joker comics.
Joker's true identity is a constantly fluctuating enigma. He inhabits an absolute role, one that doesn't require backstory. There are many, varied origin stories explaining how Joker became who he is, one whose manic grin instills fear, and whose motives are driven only by madness. In some cases, he's been described as not insane, but rather super-sane, a person so intelligent his intellect goes beyond what anyone else could possibly understand.
Joker has been called the Harlequin of Hate. The Jester of Genocide. The Ace of Knaves. And, although he's a fictional character, his deeds are nonetheless the things of absolute nightmares. Read on for a list of some of the goriest moments in the Joker comics.
When He Beat Jason Todd With A Crowbar
This is one of the most iconic moments in comic book history: the demise of Jason Todd, the second incarnation of Batman's sidekick, Robin. During the series's run in 1988, Jason Todd became heavily disliked by Batman fans. This culminated in DC trying to find a way to get rid of him. But how to do so with a signature character like Robin?
The answer came in the form of Joker. When Todd squared off against the Clown Prince, he was met by a series of cracks to the skull with a crowbar, effectively shoving him out of DC one panel at a time. Then, to add insult to injury, Todd was promptly blown up, leaving Batman to find him in only a lifeless, bloody heap.
DC offered readers the opportunity to vote on whether or not Todd survived the beating and explosion. The vote did not go in Todd's favor, and he was officially done for.
When He Skinned Monty Alive
Following the release of the Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight in 2008, fans were aching for another fix of Heath Ledger's nihilistic, awe-inspiring depiction of the Joker.
The answer came in the form of Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo's Joker graphic novel, which had been in the works for years before the movie appeared in theaters. In this fascinating tale, told from the eyes of one of Joker's henchmen, readers are treated to a ground-level experience of seeing a colossus of evil in action after his release from Arkham Asylum.
Joker doesn't take it easy on his enemies in the comic. One guy, Monty, who really gets on the Joker's bad side, is skinned alive and paraded onstage at a club for all to see.
When He Shot Barbara Gordon Through The Spine And Violated Her
On par with the Joker's harsh beating of Jason Todd is his shocking strike on none other than Commissioner Jim Gordon's daughter, Barbara, in Alan Moore's iconic graphic novel The Killing Joke.
In the book, Joker embarks on a twisted mission: to give Commissioner Gordon "one bad day," with the goal of proving that even the most morally principled person can be driven insane, and turned into an animal, by the horrors of the human condition. Joker's mission kicks off with a surprise visit to Barbara's home, where he shoots her through the spine, paralyzing her, then takes off all her clothes and takes photos of her, thus violating her.
The act was so shocking it's still hotly debated to this day, especially after the 2016 release of the DC Animated adaptation.
When He Had His Own Face Removed
Faces are practically begging to be ripped off. In Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter slices a poor guard's mug from his face and uses it as, well, as a face in order to dupe the cops and escape from his cage. In John Woo's marvelously cheesy operatic shoot-em-up Face/Off, both Nicolas Cage and John Travolta's faces are sliced, tweaked, and swapped from their bodies.
Such a grotesque act harkens to the ideology behind masks; what is real, the mask or that which it masks? Why is a mask necessary? Does presenting the idea of a false self make the true self easier to reconcile with? Can masks help unveil the multiplicity of personality?
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that someone steeped in such theatrical grandeur allowed his own face to be given the Hannibal Lecter treatment, an act that transpired during DC Comics's New 52 run, beginning in 2011.
There was blood, sure. But there was also visible facial muscle. Rotting tissue. Even flies and maggots that were eventually attracted to the morbid visage, cementing this act as one of the most shocking and gory the Joker has ever pulled off.