Caesar Romaro played the madcap version. Jack Nicholson portrayed the manic, erratic side of him. But it was Heath Ledger who gave the best performance of a terrifying madman. A man with no compassion, no empathy, but at the same time, brilliant.
The eternal Yin to Batman’s Yang, locked in a never-ending struggle with the Dark Knight Detective. He started his life in Batman No. 1 as a murderer, turned into the Caesar Romaro character because of Romaro and the Batman TV series and, thanks to Denny O’Neal, returned to being a sociopathic killer in the ’70s and hasn’t looked back.
He’s killed Jason Todd, the second Robin (who has returned as the Red Hood), he’s killed Commissioner Jim Gordon’s beloved Sarah (who has not returned), he crippled Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl (who can now walk again) with a bullet to the spine, and he has killed more innocents for no reason than cancer. But never Batman.
Much like Batman has sworn never to take a like, Joker has his own twisted logic regarding the World’s Greatest Detective, believing the two will forever be adversaries locked in battle. And Batman has given him good reason to believe this. Numerous times, Joker has been near death and Batman has saved him. Now, Batman has not tried to kill Joker; someone else has targeted the Clown Prince of Crime. Batman could just let him go. Let him die and dozen, hundreds, potentially thousands of innocent lives would be spared.
But he can’t do it. Batman can’t let Joker die.
Joker has become the petulant, spoiled child always allowed to get his way from a parent, acting out knowing the repercussions may be a severe beating and a return trip to Arkham Asylum. Neither are effective. Joker has an amazing tolerance for pain and Arkham is as successful at holding the Joker captive as I am kicking water uphill.
One of the legion of Arkham psychologists who have attempted to get into the Joker’s skull came probably the closest to understanding the Murdering Madcap’s psyche. The Joker possibly suffers from a case of hypersanity, living so totally in the moment, being so completely unaware of societal norms, that he not only is not responsible for his actions, but may be the sanest man alive.
Whether that’s the case or not, he’s the ultimate serial killer. He can’t be tracked or traced because he has no M.O. He has no M.O. because he acts without thought, killing without reason, logic, or plan. Rarely angry, he commits the coldest, most brutal murders with a smile on his lips and a laugh in his heart. He is true evil.
No wonder Heath Ledger couldn’t sleep at night.