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.