We all know The Joker has been Batman’s greatest nemesis pretty much since he first donned the cowl. What you may not know is, in the DC universe, there are a number of Dark Knights from universes that exist parallel to the main continuity.
In these parallel universes called Elseworlds, if there’s a caped crusader, chances are there’s a crown prince of crime not too far away, plotting to make his life a living hell. Let’s take a look at 10 of these substitute psychopaths.
10 Joker, Lord Of The Vampires
In the 1994 sequel to Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, Batman has destroyed Dracula (yes, the Dracula) but was himself turned into a bloodsucking fiend. After Dracula’s defeat, his undead followers are left without a master, a position that this universe’s Joker is more than willing to fill.
In the power vacuum left by the Dark Lord, Joker (sporting a criminally stylish gothic purple top hat) seizes control of the most influential of Gotham’s organized crime families by turning them all into vampires. Batman struggles to keep his bloodlust in check while fighting for the very soul of Gotham.
He teams up with Catwoman, who’s been turned into a “werecat” by one of Joker’s followers, Commissioner Gordon, and Alfred. They want to loosen Joker’s stranglehold on Gotham’s underworld and purge Gotham City of the damned.
9 Sinestro + Joe Chill = Joker
Batman: In Darkest Knight
This one gets a little convoluted even for a comic book. Have you ever wondered what would happen if a Green Lantern ring flew through Bruce Wayne’s study window instead of a bat? Probably not, but the answer is insanity. Batsh—t insanity happens.
This story combines Batman and the Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s origins but leaves out the Hal Jordan part. Instead of the ring choosing Hal, it flies through Bruce’s window. One of the first things Bruce does with the ring is encounter Red Hood, the man who would become Joker at a chemical plant.
However, instead of knocking Red Hood into a vat of chemicals as the original story dictates, Bruce just scoops him up with his newly acquired power ring and turns him over to the police, seemingly avoiding the Joker ever being “born.”
Bruce is then sent by the Green Lantern Corps to bring in the rogue Green Lantern Sinestro, who is traditionally considered Hal Jordan’s archenemy, and things pretty much play out how they did for Hal. Greenbat Manlantern succeeds. Sinestro is imprisoned, escapes, creates a yellow lantern ring, and sets his sights on revenge. Now this is where it gets weird.
Sinestro goes to the Gotham City Police Department and kills Commissioner Gordon after uncovering Bruce’s identity and the whereabouts of Joe Chill, the man who killed Bruce’s parents. After finding Joe, Sinestro does a mind meld and absorbs Joe’s personality and memories.
Sinestro now has Joe’s personality existing independently in his mind. He also has a crazy smile and is wearing a waistcoat and bow tie, having become this universe’s Joker. If you’re thinking that this doesn’t make much sense, let us assure you that the comic fails to explain it better than we just have.
Sinestroker gives out Yellow Lantern rings to Harvey Dent (aka Two-Face) and Carol Ferris (aka Star Sapphire) and enlists them to help kill Bruce Lantern. The trio make it to Wayne Manor, promptly murder Alfred, and just wait for Bat Lantern to get home.
Bruce and most of the Justice League, who are now also Green Lanterns, arrive. But Joekestro and his posse escape, with Mangreen Lanternbat taking off into space after them for revenge. Batsh—t.
8 Retro Cyborg Joker
If you’re a fan of superheroes, post-humanism, and early 20th-century German expressionist cinema, then, oh boy, do we have just the comic for you. Nosferatu’s art style and setting are inspired by the 1922 film of the same name as well as similar films of the era.
In this time line, Joker is referred to as “The Laughing Man,” likely a nod to the 1928 film The Man Who Laughs, which was the real-life inspiration for the Joker’s iconic bleached skin and tortured grin. He is a cyborg created by Lutor (this universe’s version of Lex Luthor) to assist Dr. Arkham in his “psychomancy” seances, a grotesque technological and supernatural form of divination. He’s sort of a Frankenstein’s monster of a Joker, consisting of machinery and various body parts from Arkham’s former patients.
The idea behind psychomancy seems to be this: If you have a mind that’s far removed from reality and in a constant schizoid state, it has the ability to see reality from a greater vantage—past, present, and future all at once. The patricians of this universe’s Metropolis attend these seances as a sick curiosity.
Arkham uses The Laughing Man as a tool to carry out political assassinations. His first two targets are this story’s analogues of Commissioner Gordon and Dick Grayson. (These poor guys don’t tend to live past the first 20 pages in an Elseworlds story.) After discovering that Arkham was the one responsible for the murders of his closest friends, Bruss Wayne-son (we think you can figure out who that one is) is then targeted by The Laughing Man.
After seemingly being killed, Bruss returns as the Nosferatu, a mix between the familiar vampire from the film of the same name and the Batman. The battle that ensues resembles a gothic deathmatch between two Edward Scissorhandses.
In fact, this entire book looks inspired by Tim Burton more than the 1989 Batman film. The fierce battle ends abruptly with the Nosferatu tearing out The Laughing Man’s organic heart from his metal breastplate, a moment that should feel cathartic to any Batman fan who feels frustrated by Bruce constantly allowing Joker to live and kill another day.
7 Pirate Captain Joker
Detective Comics Annual Vol 1. #7
This version of The Joker is probably the most like his main continuity counterpart so far. In this alternate take, we find Batman as the privateer Leatherwing. (Get it? Like a bat.) Eventually, he comes toe to toe with the mad pirate captain known as . . . The Laughing Man again.
The story is set in the Caribbean sometime in the 1500s as Captain Leatherwing patrols the coasts defending sea-lanes for the British Crown. Shortly after we’re introduced to our hero, his first mate, Alfredo, and the orphan Robin Redblade, the focus turns to The Laughing Man.
This book came out the same year as Steven Spielberg’s Hook, and the similarities in appearance and demeanor between Joker and Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook are undeniable. While both costumes are traditionally what you would expect a pirate to wear, it looks like someone is doing a mash-up cosplay. That being said, the art is gorgeous, especially on the splash page where we’re introduced to Joker.
While this Joker might not be as “out there” as some of the others on this list, his cruelty and twisted wit really shine as being a bloodthirsty cutthroat really seems to suit him. He manages to convince this universe’s Catwoman, called Felina, to seduce and betray Leatherwing by leading Joker and his crew to the Batcave, which is called Bat’s Cay here.
The final conflict doesn’t last long, though, as Felina has a change of heart, alerting Leatherwing to The Laughing Man’s advancing ship. Leatherwing and Joker square off, with Robin taking a bullet for Bruce. Enraged Leatherwing plunges his cutlass through The Laughing Man’s heart and into the main mast. If only Batman prime would take some pointers from his less squeamish counterparts.
6 Bruce’s Mr. Hyde
Batman: Two Faces
It’s often been said that Batman and The Joker are two sides of the same coin. This story really takes that concept to heart. Taking place in Gotham in 1886, this story takes inspiration from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well as the myths surrounding Jack the Ripper. It explores the dual nature of Batman and The Joker’s relationship, Two-Face, and Batman himself.
When we’re first introduced to Bruce Wayne, he is attending a gala in honor of the twilight orchid, a flower from Asia that blooms during the day and turns into a shriveled weed at night. Bruce had the flower shipped to Gotham at great expense in hopes of using it to cure Harvey Dent/Two-Face of his bipolar nature.
While experimenting with the flower, Bruce concocts a serum that would mend Dent’s fractured psyche. To test it, Bruce drinks the serum himself. (This Bruce Wayne isn’t all that bright.) After a moment of pain, he finds that he’s faster and stronger than he was before and decides to take on the mantle of a bat to bring justice to Gotham and end Two-Face’s crime spree (because, of course, he does).
As soon as The Batman begins dismantling Harvey’s operations, a new villain begins murdering prostitutes in Gotham’s myriad dark alleys. The only evidence of the killer’s identity is notes left on the bodies that attribute the murders to The Joker and a ghastly smile cut into their cheeks.
After Joker paralyzes Catwoman with a knife in her spine, Bruce redoubles his efforts and makes an even stronger potion. This batch, however, leaves Bruce unconscious and he has a revelation when he awakes.
He requests to meet Dent and Commissioner Gordon on the roof of the Gotham courthouse to reveal that he himself is The Batman and The Joker. After giving Harvey a vial of the serum to hopefully cure him, Bruce transforms into the Joker.
After a rooftop scuffle, Bruce momentarily regains control of himself as he hangs from the roof with Two-Face clutching his arm. Bruce implores Harvey to let him fall and to take the serum so that Gotham will finally be rid of Two-Face and The Joker.
Harvey fulfills his old friend’s final wish and lets Bruce fall, taking the serum shortly after. We’re to believe that the serum worked because a flash-forward shows Batman still protecting Gotham. The only difference is his mismatched eyes under the cowl.
5 Joker Hellspawn
JLA: Another Nail
The Nail and its aptly titled sequel, Another Nail, focus on a world similar to the main DC continuity. But instead of Superman growing up on Kent Farm, he is found and raised by the Amish. They encourage him to not involve himself with worldly concerns and to keep his abilities a secret.
Toward the beginning of the first story, Joker has taken control of Arkham Asylum using technologically advanced Kryptonian gauntlets and has begun murdering inmates. Batman, Robin, and Batgirl arrive to find the asylum covered in an alien force field that denies entrance to anyone except the Bat Family.
Batman orders the other two to stay outside while he rushes in alone, being almost immediately immobilized by Joker’s new alien weaponry. Having Bruce at his mercy, Joker laments not having had the opportunity to take care of his sidekicks first.
Immediately after, Robin and Batgirl rush to Batman’s aid, but they are immobilized as well. Joker starts to flay the skin from their bones with the alien gauntlets, all while forcing Batman’s eyes open and making him witness his partners’ torture and eventual deaths.
Shortly after, Catwoman shows up out of nowhere, attacking Joker and distracting him long enough to loosen his grip on Batman. Enraged, Batman attacks Joker, beating him to death as Arkham Asylum burns around them. Needless to say, this messed up Batman badly as he spends most of the rest of the book in a near-catatonic state, reliving the tragedy in his mind.
Although it’s an exceptionally heinous act, the murder of Batgirl and Robin is something we would expect from the Joker, having killed a member of the Bat Family in nearly every one of his incarnations. The sequel is where things start to get really wacky.
Another Nail picks up a year after the events of the last story. Batman is continuing his crusade against crime alongside Catwoman, who has taken up the mantle of the new Batwoman. Though Bruce has resumed his quest to bring justice to Gotham, he hasn’t fully recovered from the events of the previous year.
He periodically hallucinates, having visions of his dead sidekicks accompanied by maniacal laughter that no one else can see or hear. These tormenting apparitions eventually lead Batman and Batwoman to the ruins of Arkham Asylum.
At Arkham, they are confronted by a horde of minor demons from Hell as well as Joker in a new, demonically powered (and for some reason, super-stretchy) body. The two brawl for a while until a portal to Hell is opened and Joker attempts to drag Batwoman through with him.
Bruce intercepts Joker, saving Batwoman and entering the portal himself. Bruce attempts to sacrifice his soul to keep Joker imprisoned in the underworld. But at that moment, the spirits of Robin and Batgirl intervene, trapping Joker themselves and allowing Batman to forgive himself for their untimely fates as he returns to the world of the living.
These stories also boast an evil Kryptonian Jimmy Olsen, Green Arrow’s mind being transferred into an android, the near-collapse of the multiverse, World War II biplanes dogfighting in space, and the death of Darkseid. But Joker has nothing to do with any of it, so that’s another list for another time.
4 Lex As Joker
Superman: Speeding Bullets
Superman and Batman are two of the first and probably most well-known superheroes in existence. Everyone has his favorite. (Batman is the correct choice.) But what if there had never been a Batman and a Superman and instead their most defining traits had been compiled into one character?
This Elseworlds story explores that concept as infant Kal-El is found by the Waynes instead of the Kents. The Waynes decide to raise the orphaned alien as their own, naming him Bruce and sending the Kryptonian down the path that will eventually lead to him becoming The Batman.
The story is the same until that fateful night in Crime Alley. The Waynes are gunned down by Joe Chill as usual. But in the moments following their demise, Super-Bruce’s powers manifest. In a rage, he unleashes a blast of heat vision directly at Chill, vaporizing his head.
Years pass with Bruce having repressed the memory of what happened that night. Then a group of burglars break into Wayne Manor, attracting the ire of Bruce and reminding him of what he is truly capable of. That night, after reading his adopted father’s journal, Bruce learns of his true origin and decides to become The Batman. Unlike the Batman and Superman we’re most familiar with, however, this version has no rule against killing.
Shortly after The Batman’s debut, Lex Luthor moves from Metropolis to Gotham to attempt to take control of his new home in the same way he did with his previous one. Not long before his relocation, Lex was involved in an explosion at one of his chemical plants and was nearly killed.
With Batman waging his one-man war on crime and Luthor waging his one-man war on Gotham, their paths eventually cross. Lex, now calling himself The Joker while sporting the usual attire and bleached skin (except bald and pudgy), kidnaps this universe’s Lois Lane and takes her to a rooftop.
Batman comes to the rescue and nearly throws Joker to his death before seeing the horror in Lois’s face and having a change of heart. At the last second, Batman catches The Joker. He is sent to jail as Bruce realizes his true purpose and adopts the iconic “S” of his home world with the red-and-blue costume. Finally, he becomes the man he was meant to be—the Superman.
3 King Cobra Joker
Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
In this 2015 crossover, everyone’s favorite heroes in a half shell, along with Master Splinter, Shredder, and an army of Foot Soldiers, find themselves teleported to a strange alternate New York City in a strange alternate universe. If you haven’t picked up on the theme yet, it’s Gotham. Batman lives there. So Batman and the Turtles team up to defeat Shredder and send the Turtles back to their home dimension.
While Joker isn’t in this story all that much, the scene in which he’s revealed is just too good not to include on this list. Shredder’s trail leads to Arkham Asylum, where our heroes discover that all of Arkham’s most dangerous inmates have been treated with the same mutagen that originally transformed the Ninja Turtles and Splinter.
When Batman arrives, Arkham resembles a literal zoo. Its inhabitants have changed into animal-human hybrids similar to the Turtles. Penguin is a penguin, Mr. Freeze is a polar bear, Mad Hatter is a white rabbit, and Joker is . . . a king cobra because he’s the crown prince of crime? And he’s sneaky . . . we guess?
Regardless of how appropriate his transformation is, it looks incredible. The fact that Batman and the Ninja Turtles are together in one room fighting Batman’s nearly entire rogues’ gallery along with Shredder and the Foot Clan is the Saturday morning dream of any kid from the 1990s.
Of course, everything is resolved neatly, with the bad guys defeated and our heroes back in their respective realities. But the story really gets sentimental when Raph and Batman have a heartfelt goodbye, with Raph giving Bruce his red mask. Right after that, we learn that this all happened on the anniversary of the deaths of Batman’s parents, which is obviously symbolism for . . . we have no idea.
2 Martha Kane As Joker
This one actually ties into the main DC continuity as Flashpoint was a universe-wide event leading into The New 52. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, don’t worry about it. It’s better this way. Trust us. All you need to know is that the Flash is silly and broke the timestream again.
In this universe, there are many differences. But we’ll focus on the one that takes place in Crime Alley again. This time, Bruce Wayne’s parents aren’t gunned down. It’s Bruce himself. Instead of Bruce taking up the mantle of the bat to cleanse Gotham of crime, it’s Thomas, his father who is driven by guilt for allowing his son to be murdered.
Throughout the story, we get hints at all the horrific things this alternate Joker has done—like paralyzing Catwoman in a manner similar to Batgirl in the main continuity. The most recent affront is kidnapping Harvey Dent’s twin son and daughter.
Commissioner Gordon tracks Joker to an abandoned and deteriorating Wayne Manor but doesn’t inform Batman. Gordon makes his way upstairs. In a dark room, he sees a figure resembling Joker who is pointing a gun at one of the children.
Gordon shoots the figure in the chest only to find that it’s actually Dent’s daughter. She’s gagged and made up to look like Joker. While Gordon tends to the child, Joker sneaks behind him and slits his throat. (This guy really can’t catch a break in any time line.) Batman then gets a video message from Joker that shows Gordon bleeding out on the floor.
Batman arrives on the scene, throwing open the doors of the mansion as he screams, “What have you done this time, Martha?!” This reveals that this time line’s Joker is Martha Kane, Batman’s former wife and Bruce’s mother who has been driven mad by her son’s senseless death.
Batman finds that the girl is still alive. He administers first aid before being viciously attacked by Martha with a hammer. The ensuing scuffle ends with the both of them falling out a window to the ground below.
Thomas tells Martha that he might have a chance to change things and bring about a world in which they die instead of their son. Martha asks Thomas what becomes of Bruce once they’re dead. Thomas responds that their son follows in his father’s footsteps.
The realization that Bruce would become Batman is too much for Martha. She runs away cackling and throws herself down a hole into the Batcave below, becoming The Joker’s final victim.
1 Patriot Joker
This one takes place in 1945 and involves pretty much the same Joker we all know and love to hate. While this Joker isn’t really different from the campy Silver Age version, it’s still technically an Elseworlds story and includes one of our favorite Joker moments of all time.
As you can probably tell from the title, this story is a crossover. Captain America teams up with Batman to stop Red Skull, Captain America’s longtime nemesis, and Joker from stealing an atomic bomb, dropping it on Washington DC, and turning the tide of the war to ensure Germany’s victory.
Red Skull enlists the help of Joker to steal Fat Man, the product of the Gotham Project which is the comic book parallel of the real-life Manhattan Project. Throughout their communication, Red Skull keeps his identity hidden until Joker is successful in retrieving the bomb. This leads Joker to believe they are going to use it to ransom the country for a million dollars. Upon delivering the bomb, he finally learns Red Skull’s true identity as well as his actual plan.
Joker is appalled by this revelation. He tells Red Skull, “I may be a criminal lunatic, but I’m an American criminal lunatic.” Joker attacks Red Skull before being knocked unconscious by one of Red Skull’s men. Skull orders that Joker be locked in the bomb bay of the plane to be brought back to Germany as a prisoner of war.
As Red Skull nears Washington, Batman and Cap cut him off in the Batplane and board the Nazi craft. Red Skull retreats to the bomb bay as our heroes steer the plane toward the ocean.
Red Skull attempts to drop the bomb while they’re still over land but is tackled by Joker after he regains consciousness. The two villains trade blows on top of the bomb before accidentally knocking it loose.
Luckily, Joker is able to stall Skull just long enough to make it over the ocean. With Skull and Joker following behind, the bomb falls and hits the water with a brilliant flash. So Joker effectively saves the country and, in turn, the world, ensuring that the Allies will be victorious. Joker may be a lot of terrible things, but at least, he isn’t a fascist.
Wes is a huge comic book and video game enthusiast, but you can just call him a nerd.