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!
The Joker Comics
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!
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.”
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.
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.
The Joker In the 1980’s
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.
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.
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.
The Joker Comics In The 1990’s
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!
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.
Collects: “Masks” And “Images”
Includes a fan favorite look at Batman’s first encounter with the Joker.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 Enters The 2000’s
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:
Adventures of Superman #582
Superman: The Man of Steel #104
Action Comics #769
Superman: Emperor Joker #1
Adventures of Superman #583
Superman: The Man of Steel #105
Action Comics #770
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.
Joker starts his own Justice League within Arkham Asylum, which is a pretty perfect Joker concept.
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
Joker’s Last Laugh Secret Files and Origins #1
Joker Last Laugh #2
Batman: Gotham Knights #22
Birds of Prey #36
Joker’s Last Laugh #3
Detective Comics #763
Harley Quinn #13
Adventures of Superman #597
Joker’s Last Laugh #4
Flash Vol. 2 #179
Superman: Man of Steel #119
Green Lantern #143
Wonder Woman #175
Joker’s Last Laugh #5
Action Comics #784
Joker’s Last Laugh #6
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Collects: Joker’s Asylum #1 To #5
Miniseries showcasing Joker interacting with the rest of the DC Universe.
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.
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.
Grant Morrison Batman Run Featuring the Joker
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.
Collects: Batman #676-683 And Dc Universe #0
Another classic reminder to always send an invite to the Joker.
Collects: Salvation Run #1 To #7
Joker and Lex Luthor lead competing factions of villains in the DCU during the build to Final Crisis.
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.
Collects: Batman & Robin #7 To #12
Collects: Batman #13-16 And Batman: The Return #1
New 52 Joker Comics Reading Order
Collects: Detective Comics #1 To #7
There’s a whole thing with Joker’s face.
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:
Batman and Robin #13 to #14
Suicide Squad #14 to #15
Detective Comics #15
Batgirl #14 to #16
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
Batman and Robin #17
Red Hood and The Outlaws #17
Collects: Batman #35-40
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.
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
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.
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.
The Future of The Joker
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.
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.
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.
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.