When "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad" come to theaters next year, we'll be introduced to a completely new version of the Joker.
With both films pretty far off, we don't know too much about either film.
Sure, we know an aged Batman and Superman will be duking it out in "Batman v Superman," and that some of DC's villains will be gathered into a crew to work for the government in "Suicide Squad." But there are still a lot of questions, many of which circle around the Joker.
Naturally, fans have been pouring over the few trailers and images we've gotten so far, and a crazy conspiracy theory has emerged regarding the Joker.
Fans think this iteration of the Clown Prince of Crime harbors a twisted secret, and that he may not be the character we think.
What follows is mere speculation, but if you're the sort of moviegoer who likes to go into these things knowing as little as possible, then beware — if any of this is right (and it probably isn't) then it could be a huge spoiler.
Here's how it goes:
What if the original Joker that fought Ben Affleck's Batman (who, when we meet him in "Batman v Superman," has already waged a 20-year war on crime) was dead, and the guy Leto is playing is actually the Dark Knight's sidekick Robin — twisted and broken to become a new, second-generation Joker?
Why would the Joker ever be Robin?
That's a good question! There are a few things you need to know. First: While Batman has almost always been Bruce Wayne, there are several people who have taken on the role of Robin to fight at his side. The first and best known was Dick Grayson — he outgrew the role to become his own hero, Nightwing.
The Robin we want to talk about is the one who takes Dick's place after he left, an angry teenager named Jason Todd. He gets killed by the Joker in a controversial storyline from the late '80s, "Batman: A Death in the Family." The two obviously have a very well-connected past.
So, this theory about the Joker being Jason Todd has been floating around, in some form or another, for at least three months on Reddit's fan theories page.
At first, it seemed to come out of a sense of fan denial, rejecting the notion that Jared Leto's shirtless tattooed getup depicted the "real" Joker. When the first official image of the Joker was revealed in April, many fans were upset with it.
After all, it didn’t look like the previous incarnation of the Joker fans saw on screen in 2008’s “The Dark Knight," or any version of the character fans have come to know.
Fans decided it could only be a red herring, the real Joker wouldn't look like that — and the theorizing bent over backwards to justify this. But that was long before San Diego Comic-Con, before we got a good look at "Batman v Superman" and "Suicide Squad" in new trailers. Once we did, things got interesting.
An image from the "Batman v Superman" trailer showed off a defaced Robin costume that Bruce Wayne keeps on display in what looks like a memorial to his fallen comrade. Knowing what you do about the Joker's connection to Robin, the image sent fans into a frenzy thinking the Joker could be in both "Suicide Squad" and "Batman v Superman."
A number of Reddit users over on r/FanTheories have really taken to the idea that Robin could be the Joker in earnest, but few articulated it better than Jason-G169, who offered the most comprehensive version of the theory yet.
According to Jason-G169, when you consider a number of things — like the possible meaning of the Joker's tattoos, or a few cryptic lines of dialogue — a creepy narrative starts to emerge.
The theory, as proposed by Jason-G169, hinges on a few key points:
- The Robin suit on display in the "Batman v Superman" trailer.
- A line Bruce Wayne delivers to Alfred as footage of the Robin suit appears on screen: "20 years in Gotham, how many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?"
- The Joker's radically different appearance in all things "Suicide Squad."
- This image, which appears sans context in the "Batman v Superman" trailer.
It all comes together like so:
- Batman, at one point, worked with a Robin, Jason Todd, that the Joker then killed (hence the memorial, and that newspaper clipping).
- Batman lays aside his cape and cowl not long after Todd is killed and retires, only to come back to address the threat that Superman presents after his fight in "Man of Steel" levels parts of Metropolis — including a Wayne Financial building (as the trailer suggests).
- The Joker is dead (this is the biggest leap in the theory).
- BUT, before the Joker died, he kidnapped Robin and tortured, tattooed, and brainwashed him. This would help explain the Joker's wild new appearance — the false teeth and the notorious "Damaged" forehead tattoo. (More on this later.)
- There is now a new Joker, and it's the former Robin, Jason Todd.
It's not a bad bit of conjecture, but a lot of it hinged on cues that could be interpreted any number of ways.
Fans are pretty willing to buy this theory though because Robin has turned out to be the Joker before.
2000's animated "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker"— possibly the darkest Batman story ever told — features the Joker kidnapping an even younger Robin, Tim Drake (Jason Todd didn't really exist in the Animated Series) and tortures the boy until he's a mirror image of the Clown Prince of Crime. Years later, when Drake is grown, he returns as a second-generation Joker terrorizing Gotham City.
But then one fan noticed a small detail that seems to connect Robin and the Joker. Remember that defaced costume we brought up earlier from the "Batman v Superman" trailer? And the first official image of Jared Leto as the Joker? Comic Book Resources spotted this update by Redditor DeathByRequest that noticed something eerily similar about the two.
Both The Joker and the Robin costume seem to have been shot twice in the same places.
What's crazy about this idea is that most of the material supporting it doesn't come from the "Suicide Squad" trailer, but the "Batman v Superman" one. This makes it all the more appealing, as it's a sudden twist in the DC mythology that makes the movie universe pivot in a potentially interesting (yet excessively dark) way.
There are a number of possible reasons for doing this, the most appealing one is simple — it riffs on two fan-favorite stories. The first, "A Death in the Family," the comic book story where Joker kidnaps and brutally kills Jason Todd, and Batman is unable to stop him. The second, the animated series in which Tim Drake becomes the Joker we just mentioned.
Batman fans are kind of misanthropic towards the Boy Wonder.
There are also other, real-world justifications for this bit of speculative theory, but they're mostly the product of fan reasoning, and nothing very solid. The thinking is that it's easier to make a new Joker a complete pivot from Heath Ledger's iconic performance — which, undoubtedly, casts a long shadow — if he's technically not the same character.
Of course, there is no reason to think Zack Snyder and David Ayer aren't confident enough filmmakers to just make their own weird Joker and let that be that. Filmmakers do that sort of thing all the time.
However, the theory isn't perfect either.
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is a bit of a huge wrinkle, especially since our deep dive into the "Suicide Squad" trailer shows that the film appears to be taking liberties of its own when it comes to her origin.
Harley's whole deal is that she used to be a psychiatrist named Harleen Quinzel who tries to treat the Joker but ends up being seduced and twisted by him. The trailer is pretty clear that it's Jared Leto's Joker that does this — and that the two go on crime sprees with Batman hunting them down long before what looks like the titular Suicide Squad is assembled.
Whoever Jared Leto's Joker winds up being — and it's very likely that he's just the Joker — we're sure to learn more as the marketing for both films continues.
"Batman v Superman" is in theaters March 25, 2016. "Suicide Squad" hits theaters August 5, 2016.