1. Mad Love (Batman: The Animated Series)
1999: The Slap
Story by: Bruce Timm & Paul Dini
The Almost Moment: Joker creates Harley and Harley almost beats Batman.
Alrighty, well to say the final episode of the New Batman Adventures isn’t the most haunting point of your comic book-obsessed life is quite the understatement. If you’re a fan of Harley Quinn then I don’t want you dawdling around saying otherwise, but this episode also serves as a reminder of just how dark and twisted the inner workings of Batman’s most villainous enemy, The Joker truly is.
This episode is the introductory point of Harley and Joker’s relationship as psychologist/patient, although who the real manipulator is clearly points all fingers to the Joker as he characteristically uses Harley Queen and molds her into his own perfectly dark image. Harley, a well-educated and renowned expert in her field is suddenly believing that the world is a meaningless joke thinks to her discussions with the Joker. Harley easily becomes a competent and controlled criminal, one who we may even say far exceeds the Joker by successfully capturing Batman. This particular episode completely changes the animation world with the Joker pimp-slapping Harley for causing him to feel inadequate as a true adversary to Batman. I have to say this is by far one of my most favorite episodes because it truly depicts Harley as a broken woman who is wrongly devoted to the Joker even in instances of domestic violence, and as fans often question what happened to the calm, collected psychologist that was brave enough to try to delve into the inner workings of a true madman?
1966 TV Series: Cesar’s ‘Stache
Almost Got Him: Every death trap, every gag, every cliffhanger.
I can’t help it for the life of me I’ll never love Batman the way I love Adam West’s Batman. It’s the campy vibe from the series or the introduction of villains being hit so hard that words flashed upon the screen–I’m not sure what it is actually, but it was obvious that it would be my gateway drug into my long battle with comic book obsession. The outrageous costumes, silly dialogue and crazy plot points were all just paths to making the Joker even more sinister then we believed he was. That hidden ‘stache beneath white clown makeup and just above a painted-on smirk still haunts me at times.
How many times had the Joker almost gotten Batman–half a dozen and because of that Romero’s Clown Prince of Crime still defines what the Joker is to many fans.
3. Batman #1:
The First Appearance (1940)
Story by Jerry Robinson, Bob Kane, and Bill Finger
Almost Got Him: It all began here. Joker committed murder right under Batman’s nose until Batman figured out the eternal game.
We legitimately cannot talk about Batman without referring to the introduction of one important character’s first appearance. The Joker, of course defies the limits and expectations of which we had previously set for villains. Everything, that anyone could ever want to know about the character stems from this introduction. The Joker is quite obviously the same as he was back then: His use of poison gas, his terrifying penchant for popping up out of nowhere, his need to intellectually challenge Batman, all add up to relatively the same character that exists today.
The Man Who Laughs was a huge influence on the creation of the Joker through Conrad Veidt’s work. There had never been a villian that lasted for longer than one story arc until the introduction of this one which is why he probably has withstood many changes from the original character in 1940.