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How The Joker Was Even More Evil Than You Think

In the canon of superhero villains, few dispute the Joker's place atop the hierarchy of evil. The "Clown Prince of Crime" has been the foremost doer of dastardly deeds since the character was first introduced over 80 years ago in 1940 with the launch of "Batman #1." In that iconic issue, the Joker goes on a killing spree with his infamous Joker gas, which paralyzes its victims as they die grinning from ear to ear.

From comics to cartoons, and on the silver screen, the purple-suited clown strikes fear in the hearts of even the most ruthless villains in Gotham City while relentlessly torturing its citizens. He's taken part in so much senseless violence that it's hard to conceptualize just how horrific some of his crimes are.

When you really break it down, though, the Joker is eviler than most of us give him credit for. Even diehard fans don't always consider what makes the Joker so rotten. So here are merely a few reasons why he deserves to be held in regard as the most wicked villain of all time.

He has no actual goals

Most D.C. villains are in pursuit of some personal goal, whether it's simply dominating Gotham City or a righteous crusade against climate change. At the very least, they're in it for the money. The Joker, meanwhile, literally throws his money away. He doesn't care what he's getting out of his schemes so long as he's able to cause pain and chaos. Often, his only real goal is to torment Batman and his associates.

In "The Killing Joke," which is perhaps the most in-depth examination of the Joker's psyche (even its writer, Alan Moore of Watchmen fame, says he may have gone too far), he shoots Commissioner Gordon's daughter Barbara in the back, paralyzing her, and then torments Gordon with images of her abuse. As the Joker puts it to Jim, "We are not contractually tied down to rationality." According to the Joker, life is a series of unending horrors, and the only way to cope is to give in to madness.

In his analysis of life as "mad, random, and pointless," the Joker invokes the famous 17th-century social theorist Thomas Hobbes, who described the natural state of man as "nasty, brutish, and short." But while Hobbes wrote in search of a model that would help humanity to thrive, the Joker uses the same logic to defend his senseless brutality. Were it not so terrifying, it would be pitiable.

He's an abusive boyfriend

No one would expect a supervillain to exactly be a caring partner, but there's a long history of bad guys who care for their loved ones in superhero media. Think Kingpin's desperation to reunite with his lost family in "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" or Bloodsport's heartwarming commitment to his daughter in James Gunn's "The Suicide Squad." Joker, on the other hand, can't date someone without physically dominating and psychologically manipulating them.

Let's put it this way: the Joker is such a terrible boyfriend, there's an entire movie and two seasons of a television show wherein Harley Quinn reckons with how badly he messed her up. He's shot, imprisoned, betrayed, and assaulted her countless times, continuously gaslighting her into staying with him. Some fans have even theorized that Harley has the (mostly pseudoscientific) condition of Stockholm Syndrome.

To her credit, Harley has proven herself to be a strong and brilliant person in her own right, able to finally escape the Joker's clutches and even dish out a little revenge of her own in the process.

He murders children ... a lot

A lot of villains would think twice before harming children, but not the Joker! Whether beating Robin to death in "A Death in The Family," or kidnapping all the children in Gotham, the Joker is willing to sink to levels of depravity that cause even his fellow villains to be wary.

The Joker's most infamous act of pedicide arrived when he notoriously murdered Jason Todd. Interestingly, it wasn't entirely the Joker's fault. "Batman" writer Jim Starlin and editor Dennis O'Neil had long wanted Robin written out of the comics, so they set up a phone line where readers could call in and vote for whether they wanted him to survive. By a slim margin, the votes were tallied in favor of the Boy Wonder's death. So, in that famous issue, Joker beats Todd half to death with a crowbar, then finishes the job with a bomb.

That wasn't rock bottom for the clown, either. In "No Man's Land," a comic which has been adapted for both Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" and the animated "Harley Quinn" show, Gotham is cut off from the rest of America and the world when an earthquake devastates the city. In the ensuing chaos, Joker reigns supreme. But when he finds out Lex Luthor is planning to fund a restoration of Gotham, all bets are off for the Clown Prince of Crime. He kidnaps every baby in Gotham and locks them in the abandoned police station. When Sarah Gordon finds him and attempts to rescue the infants, he shoots her in the head while she's holding one of them.

Oh, and there was that one time he blew up a school.

He's a copyright troll

Perhaps most unforgivable of all, the Joker once attempted to copyright fish. After poisoning Gotham's waterways, causing the fish to mutate into Joker lookalikes, Joker went down to the copyright office to file the "Joker fish" as his intellectual property. Of course, he knew such a thing was impossible, but that appears to have been the entire point. When he was denied a copyright, Joker tormented the bureaucrats with Joker gas. While this is far from the Joker's most violent scheme, it demonstrates the workings of his demented mind. He probably didn't want a copyright (and let's be honest, who hasn't been frustrated by copyright laws?) but rather to manufacture a situation in which he could justify violence on the flimsiest of pretexts.

In the end, with Batman in dogged pursuit after a fight-out in the copyright office, the Joker leaped from a pier in Gotham Harbor to swim with the fishes.