Sympathy for the Devil: My Thoughts on the First Image of Leto’s Joker

Posted: April 26, 2015 in Blog
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Yep, we’ve all seen it by now and everyone has their thoughts on the matter. I would have chimed in sooner (as in yesterday, when the picture was released on Suicide Squad director David Ayer’s twitter,  but I was out of town. Still, better late than never.

Now, take my opinion for what it’s worth– which is pretty much a dime a dozen on the internet. There are millions of us comic fanatics out there and, as I said, everyone who has seen this image by now most likely already has their minds made up as to how they feel about it.

First I’ll go through my initial thoughts and feelings about this picture of our new DC Cinematic Universe Joker.  I’ll focus more on the image in general and less on whether or not I think Leto will do well in the role because, well… I think he’ll be freaking fantastic (but I’ll wait until I see some video before I make any real judgments.)


First off and most notably… tattoos. Lots of tattoos. This is probably the only thing I am conflicted about. Let me say off the bat that I have NO problem with Joker having tattoos. One of my favorite comic book images of the Joker is the Jim Lee Joker from All Star Batman & Robin with Joker having a giant dragon on his back. Plus I’ve done drawings in the past where Joker has the card suit symbols tattooed on his knuckles- so I have no issue with Joker having body art.

While All Star Batman & Robin is considered a sub par arch, at best,  the Joker’s scene in this book in which he has sex with a woman before strangling her is cold and chilling to watch. It’s also important to note that this ends up being the same Joker that we see in The Dark Knight Returns. Overall the Frank Miller Joker is hailed as one of the best depictions of the character, and it seems like between this and the way they are styling the new DCCU’s Batman that the film universe is being heavily inspired by Miller’s work.

My issue with this depiction isn’t the fact that Joker has tattoos, but specifically the kind of tattoos he has- at least based on the comment’s I’ve been seeing on the internet. I’ll focus on the body first. I have no problem with the body tattoos. I feel like “meta” is an overused term in today’s entertainment industry, but that’s what comes to mind when I see these tats.  From the smile, to the joker skull, to the comic book-esque “HA’s”—these are all images that are centered around or inspired by the Joker’s character. And the Joker is one of the few comic book characters that breaks the fourth wall in comics, so in a way he’s kind of doing that with his body art as well. He’s acknowledging his comic book origins with the laugh art (the “HA’s”)- that litter the pages he’s on. The skull and the smile remind me of fan art. (and there are TONS of Joker inspired art out there, you needn’t look far)

Now, people seem to have an issue with the art being scattered all over his body. While don’t have a problem with that, I can see where they are coming from. Many people say he looks more like a Joker-goon and less like the Joker. Most of Joker’s goons worship him and have often been depicted as covering their bodies in tats and clown themed body paint. But I can also see Joker getting tattoos himself. I mean… he’s a suuuuper vain character. He only loves himself and… well Batman in his “own way.” So I can totally picture him having tattoos, specifically ones about himself, and maybe a little bat somewhere…
But the tattoos on his face… well that’s another story. I’m just not a big fan of facial tats, period. On anybody. It’s just a personal preference. But for the same reason I can see Joker having tattoos, I can’t see him having tats on his face- he’s vain. He loves himself. So why would he damage his face? But then again, in the comics, he let this happen…

So… who knows. The J under the eye isn’t as nearly as bad as the ‘damaged’ on his forehead. That is the ONE thing I really really hate on this Joker. But once again, I don’t think of the Joker as damaged, as someone who would picture himself as damaged in any way. That word being on his forehead seems forced, “look at me- I’M CRAZY!” The Joker doesn’t need that, and it kind of cheapens this depiction for me.

But in the end… when the Joker dons his garb most of his body will be covered anyway. everything… but his face. Sigh.

Secondly, the teeth. Yes, the Joker has grills in this image. And I may be booed at for this but, I really don’t care about them. I’m not thrilled about it I guess, but at the same time I understood why they were there right away. How many times has Batman, as well as many other vigilantes punched Joker to the point that he ends up losing one or even more teeth? Answer: tons. It happens almost all the time in every medium that Batman and the Joker fight in. It makes sense that Joker would have some false teeth or protected teeth by now. So I have no problem with it really. The silver grills are a bit too “thug” for me, but like I said I understand the creative choice.

Third, his physique is FANTASTIC. Not only does Leto have the acting chops to do the Joker, but his body is perfect (at least in my mind. One of my favorite representations of the Joker is in Grant Morrison’s R.I.P arch, and I think Leto pulls of that look perfectly.

Give this man some razor blades and we are good to go!  I’m actually kind of hoping that Ayer is “damn all” with rating worries and goes all out to make Suicide Squad as brutal as the comics these characters originate from. If that happens and Leto embodies Morrison’s Joker as well as Miller’s  and Moore’s (which he’s also taking obvious inspiration from) he’s literally an Azzarello away from bringing the pan-ultimate horrific combination of Joker’s ever to screen.

Lastly, I want to talk about the overall look of Joker, as far as the facial expression and pose goes. Some may say it’s kind of forcing the crazy, but to me it’s a really nice nod to Moore’s work on The Killing Joke which, anybody who loves the Joker knows that story. 

The inspiration is obvious. And it’s not the first time Ayer and Leto have shown that they are taking inspiration from TKJ as well.

In the end. I want to remind everyone that the film is still over a year away from being released and only just started production a few weeks ago. If this ends up being the Joker we get, as long as the performance is great I can probably get over the look… facial tattoos and all. And…even though we might not agree with all of the creative decisions made on this design, it’s important to note that we don’t know the reasons for these choices. I mean, who knows. Maybe this is just one version of the Joker in a single scene where he’s hallucinating, or “performing” ala Tom Hardy in Bronston style. We just don’t know. Don’t be too quick to judge. Because I remember the reactions when another picture hit the internet several years ago…

And look how that turned out.


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