I will start this off with a bit of personal insight. You know what the fundamental difference between a villain and a bad guy is? I say, a hero. It’s a rather unbecoming sort of dichotomy if you ask me, but let’s try to look at it within the confines of what this writeup is about: comic books. Do you remember a single popular hero or villain that has existed in isolation, without the presence of the other? Nemesis, arch-enemy, antagonist, whatever you may choose to call it is an important part of a hero’s journey and story, and while we prefer to tell stories and lores of heroes, I also think that but we’d not have much to talk about if not for the villains.
I do not for one second tend to glorify the acts or the concept of villainy, but I think you’ll agree what I say holds a lot more merit when we narrow down on whose fictional history this article is about: the Joker, and his nemesis Batman, with that order being completely intentional.
When it comes to nemeses, they really don’t come in better form than the Joker and the Batman: the perfect foils to each other, the perfect antithesis, the yin to the other’s yang. Now the yin-yang is another interesting insight: it doesn’t just simply mean that they are opposites. It also implies that the two are complementary, and that one may not survive without the presence of the other and vice versa. This also feeds directly into Batman quite literally being responsible for the creation of the Joker during the Ace chemicals incident in Gotham, now part of legend. However, this is just one of many accepted and debated over theories on the Joker’s origins, and with multiple origin stories, come multiple possibilities of the Joker’s real name.
Part of the enigma (no pun intended) and intrigue around the Joker comes from his relatively unknown or obscured over origins, sometimes deliberately by the Joker to throw someone off, adding to the ever-increasing popularity of the villain. He said it himself in ‘The Killing Joke’: “I’m not exactly sure what happened. Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another. If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!” Why we are here is to explore those “multiple choices” of who the man behind the bleached skin and green hair once was, and what was his real name. Read on.
The Red Hood Origin Story
The thing about ambiguity is that it won’t stop leading to speculation, especially when the fandom is as eager and dedicated as the Batverse’s. While most Joker origin stories make sure they don’t provide a definitive look at his fictional history, resorting to merely hinting toward it, Alan Moore went on to write what is now considered far and wide to be the accepted norm when it comes to an origin of the psychopathic villain in his superb one shot graphic novel ‘The Killing Joke’. The same story (albeit with minor adjustments) also features in ‘Batman: Under the Red Hood’ and the ‘Batman: Arkham Origins’ video game as well.