In the ’60s, Batmania ran wild thanks to the Batman TV series starring Adam West. It was a campy take on the comic that also introduced Cesar Romero as the Joker. But when the television show ended, it left both the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime in uncharted territory. The comics had shifted their tone to match the show. It took someone like Neal Adam to restore both Batman and the Joker to their former glory.
For SYFY WIRE’s latest Batman At 80 video, we spoke with Adams about his quest to reinvigorate DC’s iconic characters. First, Adams had to win over his editors at DC Comics and reestablish Batman as a serious character. Amazingly, the Joker wasn’t used in the comics for nearly half a decade. That changed in Batman #251, “Joker’s Five-Way Revenge,” a story by Adams and writer Denny O’Neil.
“The question was ‘what do we do with the Joker?,'” recalled Adams. “Do we make him the same way he was? Kind of silly… yeah, we have to do that. Can we make him more deadly? Actually, he was pretty deadly back in the old days. Why don’t we just do the Joker? Maybe a little bit more deadly, but really, the old Joker was pretty darn good. So, we introduced the Joker in that one comic book and everybody re-fell in love with the Joker.”
As noted in the video, Adam and O’Neil’s interpretation of the Joker influenced all of the versions of the character that came later, including Heath Ledger’s unforgettable performance in The Dark Knight.
Adams also shared a few thoughts about the psychological similarities between Batman and the Joker, but you’ll have to watch the entire video for those details!