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The Batman Confirms What We Suspected All Along About The Joker's DC Future

The following article contains spoilers for "The Batman."

"The Batman" offers significant changes to characters general audiences thought they knew well. All you have to do is take a look at the Caped Crusader, played by Robert Pattinson, himself. While he's the World's Greatest Detective in the comics, that side of his had never really been explored in a live-action film before. He's mostly stuck to being a ground-level superhero who saves the city from guys dressed as clowns and ladies who like plants. That all changes in "The Batman" as he's on the hunt for a mysterious serial killer going by the name Riddler (Paul Dano). He has to solve the clues, and to further add to the detective aesthetic, Batman speaks in voiceover like an old-school noir film. 

Of course, some things are destined to remain the same forever, such as Batman's eternal struggle with Joker. In virtually every iteration of the character, the Caped Crusader has to tussle with the Clown Prince of Crime, and lo and behold, Joker does make an albeit brief appearance in "The Batman." After Riddler's safely in custody, he speaks with his next-door cellmate, and while he never mentions a name, it's fairly obvious this character, played by Barry Keoghan, is supposed to be the newest version of Joker, which hints at something major for the future of DC films.

The Batman exists in a separate universe from anything that's come before

For years, all of DC's cinematic efforts came to exist under the banner of the DC Extended Universe. Similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this meant that all of the characters existed under one roof, so Batman could appear in a Superman movie and vice versa. However, unlike the MCU, this venture has become stilted in recent years as the massive team-up film "Justice League" failed to ignite a franchise. Since that time, some movies have kept the series going, like "Birds of Prey." However, other DC projects have come to exist in their own continuity, such as 2019's "Joker." 

Prior to its release, there was confirmation that "The Batman" would exist in its own separate continuity (via Cinema Blend). However, there were questions if it would connect with any other DC efforts, particularly "Joker" where Joaquin Phoenix portrayed the titular villain. With the above-mentioned scene in "The Batman," we now know once and for all that "The Batman" won't connect to anything that's come before. A new Joker is in town, and if he appears in a follow-up, he'd more than likely be played by Barry Keoghan. 

However, that doesn't mean "The Batman" will exist in a vacuum. It's already been confirmed that two spinoffs are in the works on HBO Max. The first will center on the Gotham Police Department while the other focuses on Colin Farrell's Penguin (via Screen Rant). There's even a possibility that if "The Batman 2" filmmakers don't want to use Joker as the villain in that movie, he could pop up in one of these shows to wreak havoc. It would seem "The Batman" is forging a new path ahead for DC projects, and while he may be the Dark Knight, the future couldn't be brighter.

How many live-action Jokers are there exactly?

With DC tampering with the multiverse in the upcoming "Flash" movie, it's clear that while some films will exist within the DCEU, others will exist separately in their own universes. Of course, as Marvel has already shown us with "Spider-Man: No Way Home," the multiverse is a delicate concept, and it can easily break to the point where other realities merge with others. 

As of right now, three live-action Jokers have appeared in DC theatrical films as of late. In addition to Barry Keoghan's cameo in "The Batman," there's also Joaquin Phoenix's Oscar-winning portrayal as the Clown Prince of Crime in "Joker." Jared Leto also recently revived his version of the character for "Zack Snyder's Justice League" after playing him for 2016's "Suicide Squad." That makes for three live-action Jokers out there, not even getting into all of the cartoons and video games that have featured him in recent memory.

It's an intriguing development, especially seeing how DC Comics has introduced the concept of three Jokers in the mainline DC continuity. In the limited series, "Batman: Three Jokers," Batman realizes that different versions of Joker are out there. Not only does it make for a thrilling adventure, but it also serves as a meta-commentary on the purpose and function of the villain in these stories. Could a live-action version of this story materialize with the three Jokers we have now uniting for one wild and crazy escapade? It's a long shot, but wilder things have happened.