Joker vs Joker
Both Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix have brought us an excellent representation of the Joker, but which is better?
Ledger’s menacing face and Joaquin Phoenix’s clown makeup Source: CBR
This article is the second in a series of compares and contrasts of comic book characters. If you don’t have a brief context of the comics, it may seem a little confusing. I also recommend you read my other articles comparing the last two Batmans if you happen to enjoy this read.
The 2019 movie Joker is solely focused on the character of the Joker, while Heath Ledger’s Joker appears as a villain in “The Dark Knight.” However, we get enough material to compare both of them. And that’s what I will do in this article.
This Joker is an innocent child living in a man’s body; he aspires to become a comedian and hopes to someday appear in the Murray Franklin Show, a show he idolizes along with the star in it, Murray Franklin. This Joker constantly has hallucinations and goes to the therapist; he also has a disorder that makes him laugh whenever he’s feeling a strong emotion- whether it be fear, sadness, guilt, happiness, or anything else, he will laugh uncontrollably. The turning point in this character’s personality is when three men start bullying him on a subway. He kills the three and doesn’t feel any remorse whatsoever since he’s never been loved. This Joker goes insane after the murders and jokes about suicide, murder, death, and many more taboo topics. One of his “best” jokes, according to him, is a knock-knock joke that goes along the lines of:
Nobody. Your son is dead. He got hit by a drunk driver.
That’s a joke to this Joker. This Joker is not very smart and we can see how he misspells words in his journal a lot. He also has terrible handwriting and hopes his death makes more cents than his life.
Heath Ledger’s Joker
This Joker is more of a philosopher and his plans revolve around the theory that it only takes one bad day to drive a man crazy, which is basically what happened to the Joker in every variation of his backstory. This Joker is also trained in combat and has a very high IQ; he does not hallucinate like the 2019 Joker and doesn’t seem to have a laughing disorder, yet he shares his joy through comical facial expressions and some gestures. This Joker is feared because of all the things he CAN do while the 2019 Joker is feared because of all the things he MAY do.
The 2019 Joker has a very simple design that does not follow the classic purple suit Joker design. He wears a red suit with red pants and a yellow shirt underneath. This one has a hairstyle that resembles Heath’s long hair and still keeps the classic green color. The makeup this Joker wears is more similar to a clown’s.
Heath Ledger’s Joker
TDK’s Joker does have the classic purple suit, though this one is more of a trench coat. He wears a green vest with a light blue shirt with octagons underneath, and when he’s not wearing the suit, he rolls the shirt sleeves back up to his elbow and it looks really clean. The makeup this Joker wears is more intimidating; he uses black paint around his eyes and red paint on his mouth scars; his hair is messy, long and feels like its losing color. It's perfect for a Joker that has a lot of experience and is supposed to pose a threat to Batman.
I will always prefer Heath Ledger’s Joker over any other one, but Joaquin Phoenix is my second best. The reason I chose Heath over Phoenix is because I prefer how his Joker was written: he’s comedic, twisted, scary, and intelligent while Phoenix’s is an early Joker that's basically a child with a laughing problem. I would say that my opinion doesn’t come down to the actor, rather the character itself. Of course, this only applies to these two Jokers… I do remember that Jared Leto exists. But that might be a discussion for a future article.