There was a lot of discussion online the other day when Jared Leto’s look as the Joker from the upcoming movie “Suicide Squad” released.
My personal feeling is that this is an attempt to re-invent the character for a new generation. Young moviegoers would not be satisfied with the look of the Tim Burton/Jack Nicholson Joker. I wasn’t sold on that interpretation myself.
I’m not sure about the Leto look. “Trying too hard” is one phrase that comes to mind.
What’s important, of course, is how Leto plays the character and how the part is written.
But reinvention has been a constant for the character, who first appeared in the comic book Batman 1, 75 years ago this month.
There’s the unacknowledged inspiration for the “look” of the Joker, taken from actor Conrad Veidt’s appearance in the 1928 movie “The Man Who Laughs.”
There was the classic Joker, of course, “created” by Bob Kane but really created by Kane and Jerry Robinson and Bill Finger.
For kids coming of age in the 1960s, Cesar Romero’s Joker in the “Batman” TV series – painted-over mustache and all – is the most familiar look for the character.
At the time the world thought of “Batman” as camp, comics readers knew the Joker as a madman and real threat to the Dark Knight detective. The Joker’s look in the comics was refined in the art of Neal Adams.
Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” movie needed a big name to play the Joker. Nicholson was cast and brought the right amount of menace to the character, but he wasn’t physically right.
The “Batman” animated series did wonders with a simple Joker design and Mark Hamill’s great voice performance.
Artist Alex Ross made the Joker believable and frightening at the same time.
It’s hard to imagine it was as recently as 2008 when Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” took the Joker in a whole new direction in terms of look and physicality. And Heath Ledger was outstanding in what was considered as unconventional a look as Leto’s appearance is now.
Will Leto’s look be a Joker for the ages?