Is the Joker based on another character, or a real life person?

montage of multiple pictures of the Joker, from cartoons/film/etc

  • 4
    I'm strongly resisting the urge to be an evil clown and post a link to the tvtropes page for "Monster Clown" and burn your day (and possibly weekend). :)
    – Deepak
    Nov 18, 2016 at 13:41

1 Answer 1


According to this article, Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger created the Joker based on a combination of the playing card (obviously) and the character played by Conrad Veidt in the 1928 silent movie The Man Who Laughs, who looked like this:

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And in the middle picture here, side by side with the card and the Batman villain:

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Compare with the earliest Joker design in the comics:

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The article quotes Bob Kane saying:

Bill Finger and I created the Joker. Bill was the writer. Jerry Robinson came to me with a playing card of the Joker. That’s the way I sum it up. But he looks like Conrad Veidt – you know, the actor in The Man Who Laughs… So Bill Finger had a book with a photograph of Conrad Veidt and showed it to me and said, “Here’s the Joker.”

And here's the description of the character in The Man Who Laughs, who always had a smile on his face because he'd been disfigured as a child:

Based on Victor Hugo’s novel L’Homme Qui Rit, The Man Who Laughs tells the tale of Gwynplaine, a man who had a permanent smile carved into his face as a child as punishment for having a rebel-rousing nobleman for a father. Deformed, he now works in a traveling circus and is in a relationship with a blind woman named Dea. Matters get complicated when the femme fatale Duchess Josiana takes a perverse fancy to him and the Queen learns of Gwynplaine’s noble lineage.

  • 36
    So that's how he got those scars! Nov 18, 2016 at 16:31

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