Is Heath Ledger’s, of course. His was the most plausible version of the Joker in film or television so far. I have to admit I have not seen Jared Leto’s Joker yet, but from what I’ve heard he’s barely in the Suicide Squad movie anyway. Ledger’s performance was based on how such a character would be in the real world. He wasn’t dropped into a vat of nasty chemicals that bleached his skin and snapped his mind. His mind was snapped somehow, the audience is never told how, but I’m certain a vat of chemicals wasn’t involved. His clown look was achieved with simple, mundane makeup.
In fact, until I read Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke many years ago, as I started getting interested in Batman, I had no idea the Joker didn’t wear clown makeup. I had been a Marvel kid for most of my life, what did I know about DC’s universe?
However, I’m not going to heap more praise on Ledger’s Joker here. No, I’m going to praise the creepiest Joker. Cesar Romero’s Joker. To my mind, that was the most creepy and scary version. Of all the portrayals of Batman’s archest villain, Romero’s was the most clown-looking one. And that clown look is pretty unsettling.
I’m also taking into account the fact that the Batman TV series in the ’60s was my earliest exposure to Batman and Robin, Batgirl (Yvonne Craig – yum), and all those villains. And being a kid when I first watched that great series, I took it seriously. I didn’t realized the campy take of the show. Adults watching the show caught it and liked it for that. But we kids didn’t pick up on the humor. We believed it!
So, the fact I was a naive kid watching Batman, taking it all so seriously, probably still plays into how creepy I think Romero’s Joker is. There was something about Cesar Romero’s voice and laugh that really felt like lunacy. And I think that Romero’s insistence to not shave his mustache and have the clown white applied right over it also added to the creep factor. Of course, adult fans of the show at the time probably felt the makeup over mustache look just added to the camp factor of the show.
Regardless, Ledger may have made the Joker seem real. But the Joker I get skeeved out the most by and still like the most is by the originator: Cesar Romero.
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