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The Man Who Laughs

"The Joker." He is the Batman villain everyone loves to hate. With his clown make-up and colorful visage, The Joker is a character full of complexity and madness. All of it is manifested through the rouge, blood thirsty, delirious smile that has become the character's trademark.

The visual likeness of the character was inspired by actor Conrad Veidt's portrayal of the character "Gwynplaine" in the silent film "The Man Who Laughs" (1928). It is in the film that Veidt's character, as a boy, is sentenced to have his face permanently disfigured into a permanent grin, a Glasgow smile.

There has been a long-standing dispute over who created The Joker and the camps have been split between comic book artists/writers Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger and Bob Kane. However, all of them agree on the fact that it was from one photograph of Conrad Veidt as his tragic character "Gwynplaine", that sparked the inspiration for "The Joker." In an interview with Bob Kane, Kane said that Bill Finger was the one who showed the photograph to him and said, "Here's The Joker."

Twelve years after "The Man Who Laughs", The Joker began to wreak havoc in Gotham City for the first time in "Batman #1" in the Spring of 1940. Since The Joker's debut, Batman's arch-nemesis has transitioned from page to television screen, to silver screen with some of the most recognizable faces and voices in entertainment bringing the character life every time. Actor Cesar Romero was the first to play "The Joker" in the campy, classic "Batman" tv series of the 1960s. It is said that Romero refused to shave off his famous mustache for the role, so heavy make-up was applied in order to hide it.

In the 1990s, actor Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame, voiced "The Joker" for "Batman: The animated series" for television. And when Gothic director Tim Burton was at the helm for bringing Batman to the silver screen, Jack Nicholson was cast in the role; his iconic smile and naturally creepy persona fit Burton's ambiance. In 2008, actor Heath Ledger embodied "The Joker" in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" and at the time of his unexpected death, Ledger won a "Best Supporting Actor" posthumously for his tremendous characterization.

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