Warner Bros. has released the first poster for Joker and there’s something delightfully haunting about it — which is more than appropriate for the Batman villain. This is merely a taste of the teaser trailer which will be released tomorrow.
The standalone film directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix is set to open Oct. 4. The poster (as seen below) features Phoenix in the title role leaning back and looking to the heavens in full, smeared Joker makeup and what seems to be blood with the tagline “Put on a happy face.” (Just yesterday, Fox’s Gotham released their own Joker poster for the upcoming two-part series finale of the prequel story about Bruce Wayne’s hometown. )
This isn’t the first time we have seen Phoenix in Joker mode. Phillips shared a screen test of a made up Phoenix last September. Phoenix will be joined by Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz and Marc Maron.
The film is said to be a departure from the traditional mythology of the character. Even that traditional mythology in the pages of DC Comics has been revised many times, which befits a character who looks like a wild card — and was partially based on one, too.
The Joker was created in 1940 by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson. The visual genesis of the character traces back to a 1940 drawing Robinson made of a leering jester in the style of a joker playing card. Finger would also recount that The Man Who Laughs, a 1928 melodrama starring Conrad Veidt adapting the Victor Hugo novel, was also an inspiration with its tale of a disfigured man with a frozen maniacal-looking grin.
Phoenix joins a strong list of actors who have played the most famous comic book villain. Jack Nicholson had a historic payday when he agreed to play the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman, which was released 30 years ago this summer. Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his performance in the role in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008). The most recent version in a live-action feature came in 2016 with Suicide Squad‘s Jared Leto, who like Nicholson was already an Oscar winner when he took on the role. In animation, the cackling character is a unique challenge to voice actors. Among the notable names who have taken on that challenge in DC Comics-based animated projects: Mark Hamill (Star Wars), Zack Galifianakis (The Hangover), Larry Storch (F-Troop), and Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation). And, of course, TV’s classic ’60s Batman featured Cesar Romero as the green-haired, purple-suited fiend.