The Joker – A Comic Book Herald Reading Order

There are few comic book villains with a higher popularity rating than DC’s Joker.

Although The Joker isn’t my favorite all-time comic book bad guy (take a bow, Victor Von Doom), he’s unquestionably the #1 one rogue in Batman’s gallery, which itself is the all-time best roster of villains in superhero comics.

Joker’s blend of chaotic evil and psychotic charm is at once enthralling and terrifying, allowing the character to electrify everything from cartoons (Batman: The Animated Series) to video games (Batman: Arkham Asylum) to Christopher Nolan’s artistic film The Dark Knight.

It says all you need to know about the Joker that every time he shows up in a comic, the comic suddenly becomes an event. Below you’ll find a detailed and meticulous guide to chronological appearances of the Joker throughout DC Comics history.

As always, smile, and enjoy the comics!

Joker 75 Years

The Joker Comics

The Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years

Collects: Batman #1, 5, 25, 32, 85, 163, 251, 427, Batman #15 (The New 52), Detective Comics #64, 168, 180, 475, 476, 726, 741, 826, Detective Comics #1 (The New 52), World’S Finest Comics #61, Superman #9 And Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight #66

Includes a slew of classic Joker stories, such as “Joker’s 5 Way Revenge” and “The Laughing Fish,” and will take you from Joker’s golden age origins through some of his earliest New 52 appearances. I’d recommend holding off on the New 52 books until you make your way to that section of the guide, which is highlighted in detail below!

The Batman Archives Vol. 8

Collects: Detective Comics #155 To #171

Most notably, this Batman Archives collection includes Detective Comics #168, a story titled “The Man Behind the Red Hood.”

Batman: The Man Who Laughs

Collects: Batman: The Man Who Laughs, Detective Comics #784-786

Original graphic novel by Ed Brubaker and Doug Mahnke detailing the origins of Batman and Joker’s first meeting, back in the Red Hood days of crime.

The Joker: The Clown Prince of Crime

Collects: The Joker #1-9

1975 to 1976 solo series in which the Joker takes on a variety of DC Universe heroes and villains like Lex Luthor and Green Arrow.

Joker Death in the Family

The Joker In the 1980’s

Batman: A Death in the Family

Collects: Batman #425 to #429

If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if a Robin took on Joker by himself, here’s one of the most impactful Joker stories. Joker captures Jason Todd, the second Robin, and wounds Batman in a way he never has before. Influential story for both the DC animated universe and Batman: Arkham Knight video games.

Batman: The Killing Joke

Collects: The Killing Joke

Original graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. Explores the origin of the Joker, with some of the longest lasting ramifications for Batgirl and the Batfamily of any DC Comics.

Batman Arkham Asylum

Collects: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s classic graphic novel is largely out of continuity, but features one of the best instances of Joker running the Asylum in all of Batman comics.

Batman and Joker

The Joker Comics In The 1990’s

Robin Vol. 2: Triumphant

Collects:  Batman #465, 467-469, Robin Ii #1-4, And Robin Iii #1-6

In Tim Drake’s earliest days as Robin, he takes on a recently escaped Joker solo!

Punisher Batman: Deadly Knights

Collects: Marvel + DC crossover miniseries

Obviously out of continuity, this Marvel Comics and DC crossover finds Batman and Punisher teaming up, and exploring the limits of Batman’s “No Kill” policy. As you’d expect, The Joker is test case #1.

Batman: Dark Legends

Collects: “Masks” And “Images”

Includes a fan favorite look at Batman’s first encounter with the Joker.

BATMAN: GOING SANE

Collects: Legends Of The Dark Knight #65-68 And #100

Joker finally defeats Batman, and with no Dark Knight left to pursue finally… goes sane!

Joker: The Devil’s Advocate

Collects: Joker: The Devil’S Advocate One-Shot

Joker is finally declared fit to stand trial in this story by Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan.

JLA: Rock of Ages

Collects: JLA #10 to #17

The Grant Morrison and Howard Porter run on JLA features an excellent Injustice Gang story early in the run, with the Joker playing a core part of the gang taking over the Watchtower.

BATMAN: NO MAN’S LAND VOL. 4

Collects: Batman Chronicles #18, Batman #572-574, Detective Comics #739-741, Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight #125-126, Robin #73, Batman: Shadow Of The Bat #93-94, Azrael: Agent Of The Bat #59-61, Catwoman #75-77, Nightwing #38-39 And Batman: No Man’s Land #0

Joker strikes at Gotham and (yet again) at the Gordons as Batman and the Bat family attempt to stave off complete chaos in the wake of Gotham’s Cataclysm.

Batman: Harley Quinn

Collects: Batman: Harley Quinn #1, Batman: Gotham Knights #14, #30, Detective Comics #831, #837, Joker’S Asylum Ii: Harley Quinn #1, Batman: Black And White #1, #3, Legends Of The Dark Knight 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 And Detective Comics #23.2

In particular, Batman: Harley Quinn deals with Joker and Harley’s relationship following the events of Batman: No Man’s Land.

Joker Gotham Central

Joker Enters The 2000’s

Superman: Emperor Joker

Collects: Superman #160-161, Adventures Of Superman #582-583, Superman: Man Of Steel #104-105, Action Comics #769-770 And Superman: Emperor Joker #1

Emperor Joker Reading Order:

Superman #160

Adventures of Superman #582

Superman: The Man of Steel #104

Action Comics #769

Superman: Emperor Joker #1

Superman #161

Adventures of Superman #583

Superman: The Man of Steel #105

Action Comics #770

The Demon Laughs

Collects: Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #142 to #145

This four issue run on Legends of the Dark Knight involves Batman actually working with the Joker (and then some) in order fight Ras and Talia Al Ghul.

Justice Leagues: Justice League of Arkham

Collects: One-shot

Joker starts his own Justice League within Arkham Asylum, which is a pretty perfect Joker concept.

Batman: Joker’s Last Laugh

Collects: Joker’s Last Laugh #1 to #6

Largely reviled DC event, featuring a six issue Joker miniseries and tie-ins across just about every comic DC was publishing in the early 2000’s.

Not recommended, but if you’re a Joker completist, I’d look for the tie-ins in the following order.

Joker’s Last Laugh Reading Order

Joker’s Last Laugh #1

Young Justice #38

Azrael: Agent of the Bat #83

Orion #19

Joker’s Last Laugh Secret Files and Origins #1

Joker Last Laugh #2

Batman: Gotham Knights #22

Birds of Prey #36

Nightwing #62

Superman #175

Impulse #79

Joker’s Last Laugh #3

Detective Comics #763

Harley Quinn #13

Batgirl #21

Superboy #93

JSA #29

Spectre #10

Adventures of Superman #597

Joker’s Last Laugh #4

Flash Vol. 2 #179

Superman: Man of Steel #119

Supergirl #63

Green Lantern #143

Wonder Woman #175

Joker’s Last Laugh #5

Batman #596

Robin #95

JLA #59

Action Comics #784

Titans #34

Joker’s Last Laugh #6

Batman: Hush

Collects: Batman #609-619

In a rare twist, Joker isn’t Batman’s primary foil, but he certainly plays a role in the ongoing Hush saga from Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee.

Gotham Central, Book 2: Jokers and Madmen

Collects: Gotham Central #11 To #22

Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark’s all-time great Gotham Central produces one of the finest and most terrifying Joker stories of the 2000’s in “Soft Targets.”

Batman: Under the Red Hood

Collects: Batman #635-641, #645-50 And Batman Annual #25

Joker’s past chaos comes back to haunt… well, mostly it comes back to haunt Batman.

Infinite Crisis

Collects: Infinite Crisis #1 to #6

DC’s mid-2000’s mega event is far from Joker-centric, but tell the Joker he’s not the center of attention and that’s sure to cause some problems.

The Joker

Collects: Joker Ogn

Original graphic novel by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, dealing with a drugged up, lord of crime Joker. For all intents and purposes, out of standard continuity, but an interesting adaptation of Joker.

Batman: Europa

Collects: Batman Europa #1 to #4

This miniseries (released closer to DC Rebirth, but fitting more in the 2000’s timeline) features an unexpected partnership between Batman and the Joker, in many ways mirroring themes explored in the Arkham Asylum video games.

Star studded creative roster includes Brian Azzarello, Jim Lee, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Matteo Casali.

Batman: Dead to Rights

Collects: Batman Confidential #22-25 And 29-30

What was it like for the Gotham City Police Department the first time Batman brought the Joker in for incarceration?

Batman: Joker’s Asylum

Collects: Joker’s Asylum #1 To #5

Miniseries showcasing Joker interacting with the rest of the DC Universe.

Batman Jokers Asylum II

Collects: Joker’S Asylum #6 To #10

Joker’s Asylum continues with team-ups between Joker and Riddler, Harley Quinn, Clayface, and Killer Croc, among other villains.

Birds of Prey: Platinum Flats

Collects: Birds Of Prey #119 To #124

Barbara Gordon, former Batgirl and current Oracle, takes on the Joker after the damage done to her in the Killing Joke.

The Joker in Batman RIP

Grant Morrison Batman Run Featuring the Joker

Batman: Batman and Son

Collects: Batman #655-658, #663-669 And #672-675

Grant Morrison’s run on Batman consistently incorporates the Joker throughout, including a memorable prose story from the Joker’s point of view early in the run.

Batman R.I.P.

Collects: Batman #676-683 And Dc Universe #0

Another classic reminder to always send an invite to the Joker.

JLA: Salvation Run

Collects: Salvation Run #1 To #7

Joker and Lex Luthor lead competing factions of villains in the DCU during the build to Final Crisis.

Batman & Robin, Vol. 1: Batman Reborn

Collects: Batman & Robin #1-6

Dick Grayson as Batman and Damian Wayne as Robin develop their partnership just in time to deal with the latest scheme from Joker and the Black Glove.

Batman & Robin Vol. 2 Batman vs. Robin

Collects: Batman & Robin #7 To #12

Batman & Robin, Vol. 3: Batman & Robin Must Die

Collects:  Batman #13-16 And Batman: The Return #1

Batman Death of the Family

New 52 Joker Comics Reading Order

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: Faces of Death

Collects: Detective Comics #1 To #7

There’s a whole thing with Joker’s face.

Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family

Collects: Batman #17, Catwoman #13-14, Batgirl #14-16, Batman And Robin #15-17, Nightwing #15-16, Detective Comics #16-17, Red Hood And The Outlaws #15-16 And Teen Titans #15, Plus Pages From Batman #13, Batgirl #13, Nightwing #14, Red Hood And The Outlaws #13-14, Suicide Squad #14-15 And Teen Titans #14 And 16

Death of the Family Reading Order:

Batgirl #13

Catwoman #13

Catwoman #14

Batman #13

Batman and Robin #13 to #14

Suicide Squad #14 to #15

Batman #14

Detective Comics #15

Batgirl #14 to #16

Batman #15

Batman and Robin #15 to #16

Detective Comics #16 to #17

Nightwing #15 to #16

Red Hood and The Outlaws #15

Teen Titans #15

Red Hood and The Outlaws #16

Teen Titans #16

Batman #16 to #17

Batgirl #17

Batman and Robin #17

Red Hood and The Outlaws #17

Batman, Vol. 7: Endgame

Collects: Batman #35-40

The Joker: Endgame

Collects: Batman #35 to #39, Batman Annual #3, Detective Comics: Endgame #1, Batgirl: Endgame #1, Arkham Manor: Endgame #1, Gotham Academy: Endgame #1

Batman Endgame Reading Order

You should read Batman #35 to #37, and then read the tie-ins listed in the order above. From there you can move to Batman #38 to #40.

Justice League Vol. 7: Darkseid War

Collects: Justice League #40 to #50

Not a Joker story, but does include major revelations about Batman’s investigation into the Joker’s identity that will continue into DC Rebirth.

DC Rebirth Joker comics

DC Rebirth Joker Comics

You can see how the Joker will play a role in the context of the DC Universe as part of Comic Book Herald’s complete DC Rebirth reading order.

Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Joker Loves Harley

Collects: Harley Quinn #7 to #12

Joker actually makes his first official DC Rebirth appearance in Harley Quinn #9. I’d also encourage you to check out DC Universe: Rebirth #1. It not only sets the stage for DC Rebirth as a whole, but also briefly focuses on Batman’s continued investigation into the Joker mystery presented in the New 52 Darkseid War.
batman the dark knight returns

The Future of The Joker

The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade

Collects: Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade

Frank Miller’s Dark Knight trilogy is given a prequel chapter detailing the Joker’s return to Arkham Asylum.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Collects: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Graphic Novel

Frank Miller’s all-time great original graphic novel finally delivers the final confrontation between Batman and the Joker. Essential reading for any fan of Batman, Joker, or comic books in general.

The New 52: Future’s End Vol. 1

Collects: Future’s End #0 to #17

You certainly don’t have to read Future’s End to understand the Joker, but if you want to understand the Jokerborg (the time Brother Eye melded Batman and Joker into one unholy cyborg), well, this is the comic for you.

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year One: The Complete Collection

Collects: Injustice: Gods Among Us 1-12 And Injustice: Gods Among Us Annual 1

The Joker plays a crucial role in launching the immensely popular and fascinating Injustice alternate reality.

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