“You Get the Joke!”: Joker Is Only Evil Because a Marvel Villain Corrupted Him

Summary

  • The Joker was once cured of his insanity and became harmless, but was re-corrupted by Marvel’s Carnage.
  • Carnage’s interference prevents the Joker from re-entering society as a reformed individual.
  • Without Carnage, the Joker could potentially be a sane and regretful person, as shown in previous examples.


Despite being one of DC’s most dangerours villains, the Joker was once cured of his insanity entirely and was almost ready to re-enter society as a productive citizen who would never hurt a fly. Unfortunately, this redemption arc was prevented, and the Joker was re-corrupted by Carnage, Marvel’s most terrifying serial killer.

The Joker’s Carnage-caused corruption takes place in the classic team-up story Spider-Man and Batman #1 by J.M. DeMatteis, Mark Bagley, Scott Hanna, Mark Farmer, Electric Crayon, and Richard Starkings. In this story, Cletus Kasady and the Joker are both cured of their murderous insanity by Dr. Briar and her bio-technic chip, which she inserts into their brains. With this chip active, both serial killers become completely harmless.

Eventually, Cletus short-circuits the chip and returns to his villainous ways thanks to the Carnage symbiote. Instead of leaving the Joker behind, Carnage kidnaps him and removes the Joker’s implant as well, returning the Clown Prince to a life of villainy as well.

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Carnage Restores the Joker to Pure Madness

Comic book panels: The Joker pushes Carnage while smiling.

Notably, while Cletus breaks from Dr. Briar’s conditioning, this is entirely due to the Carnage symbiote. Since the Joker doesn’t have an alien symbiote attached to his mind or body, Briar’s conditioning essentially completely cures the Joker of his madness — for good. While under the effects of the chip, the Joker shows no signs of hostility and is actually outright afraid of Carnage, begging Batman to protect him from Cletus. Without Carnage’s direct interference, the threat of the Joker would have been over for Gotham’s citizens. It’s only because Carnage wanted a partner in crime that the Joker is still evil to this day.

There’s no reason to believe that, without Carnage’s “help,” the Joker would eventually break out of his conditioning or that, even as a “normal” person, he’d somehow still be evil. There have been a few examples of the Joker gaining sanity and immediately regretting the things he’s done, including when Martian Manhunter reordered the Joker’s psyche to the point where he gained sanity. When this was done, the Joker immediately begged for forgiveness for the crimes he committed. This proves that a sane version of the Joker would feasibly be at least somewhat of a “good” person. Unfortunately for Gotham City, the Joker’s cure in this Marvel crossover doesn’t last long, as Carnage immediately brings the Clown Prince of Crime back.

The Joker and Carnage Make for a Brutal Team-Up

Comic book panels: Carnage and the Joker shake hands.

The Joker is a terrible serial killer, but he’s not some supernatural being or alien monster. At the end of the day, he is just a man, and he can be cured — at least theoretically. This has been proven several times, and Marvel’s Dr. Briar has a chip that makes it so the Joker could be permanently cured. The only reason the Joker is still the mass-murdering monster that he is in the DC Universe isn’t because no one tried to cure him or that Batman hasn’t killed him yet — it’s because the Joker was corrupted by Marvel’s very own Carnage.

Spider-Man and Batman #1 is available now from Marvel Comics!