Is the makeover a joke?

Speculations about Leto’s new portrayal arise regarding plot consistency


Art by David Calhoun

The Joker’s look might be just as ubiquitous as his name. Green hair, red lips, paper white skin and an eerie smile come to mind when viewers picture the Joker in their head. However, the exact appearance has shifted over the years. From the “Batman #1” comic book to Todd Phillips’ 2019 “Joker,” none of the depictions look the same. The newest version of the Joker appears in Zack Snyder’s “Justice League.” The movie features Jared Leto, who played the Joker in the 2016 film “Suicide Squad.” However, Leto’s appearance in the new film has a much different take on it than “Suicide Squad.” “Suicide Squad’s” Joker famously portrays the character as gangster-like. Sporting face tattoos, silver teeth and jewelry, Leto dresses more like a crime lord than the looney clown viewers have become familiar with. Recently, photos of Snyder’s Joker were released. The Joker gives off the same aesthetic as a horror movie, with Leto wearing a stained gown in the image. The danger one can sense from the character is almost palpable. To add to the disheveled look, Leto wears his hair long and greasy, unlike his former slicked back lime green hair from “Suicide Squad.” 

According to Anthony Breznican of Vanity Fair, the Joker will wear police uniforms and badges as “trophies” adding another eerie element. (Spoiler alert) The purpose for his nightmarish appearance may be because he appears in Batman’s dreams during the film. Perhaps a nightmare is exactly what the Joker is. However, the new look has fans concerned about plot consistency. “How did the Joker lose the tattoos?” they wonder. Zack Snyder, the film’s director, does not quite know how to explain it. “I don’t know if he’s wearing makeup. I don’t know what’s happening. It’s hard to say exactly,” Snyder said. Anthony Breznican of Vanity Fair responded that it does not have to make sense: Snyder just believes that this appearance of the Joker will be the best for his film. 

Michael Kennedy of, an entertainment news site, has made some guesses of his own regarding the changes of the Joker character based on the new appearance. One prediction is that the Joker has been locked up in some kind of prison. This explains the grown out hair and the worn down clothing the clown wears. Perhaps that also explains the character’s minimalist look. Leto’s old fancy suits and flashy jewelry seem to have gone completely out of the picture in the new film. This could also explain the reason why the released images show Joker’s smock appearing disgusting and dirty. The trailer of the movie shows the Joker speaking in a much different voice than in “Suicide Squad” as well. The loud boisterous voice Leto used in his first Joker film has transformed into a reserved and quiet one. It could be that the Joker endured not only a physical change but an emotional or mental one too. This could be interesting as Leto is known for passionate acting and fully immersing himself into the character.

The Joker has gone through many changes, but rarely has the character been so drastically changed while being played by the same actor. Fans on social media seem intrigued as they await the Mar. 18 release date. For those that expect Leto to maintain the same character, the joke is on them.