The Joker is a fictional character known for his grotesque appearance and his twisted sense of humor; he is often portrayed as a sadistic psychopath who delights in wreaking havoc and chaos. His unique brand of comedy has endeared him to audiences across the world, putting him at the forefront of popular culture.

While the Joker’s identity and motives are the subject of much speculation, it is generally agreed that he is inspired by the stories of the notorious [Title]: Victorian London street gang The Jack the Ripper. In the late 1800s, Jack the Ripper was responsible for the torture and murder of at least five women, whose bodies were found with their throats slit.

The crimes of Jack the Ripper remain one of the most mysterious and violent events in British history, and have been the subject of numerous books, films, and TV shows, including the 1978 film The Jackal.

This is a stark contrast to the Batman, who is generally portrayed as a crime-fighting superhero who uses his intellect and martial arts to thwart the dastardly deeds of the Joker.

The Batman was first introduced to the world in the pages of [Title]: Detective Comics #60 in 1939, and subsequently went on to become one of the most influential and popular comic book characters of all time. His rogues gallery of foes includes the likes of [Title]: Two-Face, the Penguin, and the Riddler, as well as many more. Batman has appeared in several different mediums, including animation, television, films, and videogames.

The Batman has continuously been updated with the times, changing with the ever-evolving contemporary culture. In fact, nowadays the Joker and Batman are so intertwined in the popular imagination that it is often hard to tell the difference between the two.

The question is: why is it that Jack the Ripper’s twisted little mind has been the source of inspiration for two such contrasting and iconic characters?


The Joker and the Batman have existed side-by-side in the public imagination for almost 80 years now, and it is safe to say that they have firmly established themselves as [Title]: The odd couple of crime fiction. Before we get into a discussion on the differences between the two, it is necessary to establish some of their common ground. Like many literary characters, the Joker and the Batman have their roots in European art. 

The Joker’s original designs were based on the [Title]: Salome, a 1914 painting by [Albrecht] Dürer, and the 1989 feature film adaptation of The Killing Joke establishes his physical appearance as a blend of Chinese and German descent. Like many Europeans of the time, Dürer experienced the devastation of World War I, and his imagery is riddled with [Title]: Apocalypse, Destruction, and Doom.

The Japanese version of the Joker, designed by [Katsushika] Hasegawa, reflects this influence. Hasegawa’s design featured a face made up of eight roundels – each representing one of the continents – surrounding a grinning face. While the original Joker may not have been based on the Apocalypse imagery of German art, the 1940s version certainly was.

Batman’s inspiration is more diverse and draws on a wider range of sources. The first appearance of the character was not in a comic book but in [Title]: Superman comics, where artist [Joe] Shuster drew on his experience of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918–19 for the character’s look. The original character was actually based on a combination of several real-life figures who inspired him. They include: British surveyor and amateur archaeologist [Arthur] John “Oxygen” Dennis, whose tombstone collection Shuster based the character’s outfit on.

Inspired by the design of the Indian flag, Shuster designed Batman with his characteristic utility belt and cowl, as well as the silhouette of a man in a long black cape, gray trousers, and boots with high heels. Shuster’s original sketch for Batman shows the character [Title]: gripping the collar of a gangster with one hand while brandishing a [Title]: revolver with the other.

The gunpowder keg that the Joker repeatedly blows up in the early 1939 comic books was not a grenade but a balloon. In the same year, Shuster made the error of showing a gun in a 1939 cartoon version of Batman; this caused quite a bit of an uproar at the time. Luckily, DC Comics was able to defuse the situation by explaining that it was not a real firearm, but rather an animated blossom that the character planted to be on the lookout for police.

One of Batman’s most prominent physical traits is the way he walks. Strictly speaking, the Batman comics have established that he is actually a product of modern science: Bruce Wayne’s company had developed a prototype of a Batman-like costume that could blend into the fabric of the environment, and he had begun using it in secret as a [Title]: stealth vigilante. However, the bulk of the character’s motion was inspired by the way that people with Parkinson’s disease and similar afflictions walk, particularly how they tend to shuffle their feet. Although it was not mentioned in the original text, the comic book character had [Title]: synkinesis, a rare disorder that causes the face to mirror the motions of the body, particularly the mouth.

In the decades that followed, the Batman has gone through numerous stylistic changes to keep up with the times. The most prominent of these are:

  • The Golden Age: 1938 to circa-1947.
  • The Silver Age: circa-1948 to 1960.
  • The Dark Age: circa-1960 to 1986.
  • The Modern Age: since then.


Now that we know the origin of the Joker and the Batman, it is time to examine the differences between them. While both characters have gone through many stylistic changes over the years, there are some traits, mannerisms, and behaviors that they have retained from their original designs. This is not to say that these traits are fundamental to who they are; quite the opposite, in fact.


The Joker is characterized by his appearance and his behavior. The most prominent feature of the Joker is his permanent smile. This is not just a cheeky grin either; the Joker’s smile genuinely is [Title]: a representation of joy and glee. His laughter is also tinged with horror, particularly when he is [Title]: laughing at one of his own jokes. In the 2006 film [Title]: The Dark Knight, the Joker’s laugh can be heard several times throughout the picture, but is especially prevalent during a scene where the criminal mastermind discusses his [Title]: plan with Harvey Dent.

While not all comic book characters are two-dimensional, the Joker most certainly is. In the earliest depictions of the character, he was an [Title]: extreme example of a type: a gangster wearing a fancy dress and accompanied by a giant snake that he rides around town on his back. In more recent incarnations of the character, the giant snake has been replaced by a [Title]: motorcycle, which allows the Joker to travel faster and catch up with his enemies. Despite this physical change, his modus operandi has not shifted from robbery and intimidation for the most part. He still likes to play the [Title]: prankster and clown, pulling pranks on his enemies and watching them squirm. The most infamous of these pranks include his [Title]: exploding pantsuit and forcing victims to listen to [Title]: opera.

Dark vs. Light

There is one character trait that the Joker shares with the Batman: although both are [Title]: criminals, they are morally opposed to one another. The Joker typically works for [Title]: the worst elements in the criminal underworld, such as the [Title]: Russian Mafia. He also has a tendency to work for whoever offers him the biggest [Title]: payday. The Batman, on the other hand, works for [Title]: law and order, often going against the Mafia in order to bring down criminals who have committed [Title]: more serious offenses.


In addition to his physical appearance and his mannerisms, the Joker is also renowned for his sense of humor. The psychotic villain is perhaps the most prominent example of a comic book character who uses humor as a means of [Title]: self-revelation and social commentary. The Joker’s favorite [Title]: joke is [Title]: “How are you supposed to act when you’re happy? You’re not. You can’t fake it. Happiness is…natural.”

Humor is one of the primary ways that the Joker reveals his [Title]: hidden emotions and psychological state of mind. In the Joker’s twisted world, laughter is used in place of [Title]: tears, and tears in place of laughter.