What Was The Need To Redesign The Joker for Batman: The Animated Series?


Fans had been wondering why Joker’s eyeball was back in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker? Was WB aware of the fact that they made a mistake in this new Batman adventure?

This is about the 1997’s revamped Joker from the New Batman Adventures series (also famous as Season 4 of Batman: The Animated Series). All the characters were given a makeover, some of them more prominently than the others. Thus, the Joker who had debuted in 1992 had a very faint resemblance to the 1997 version of the character.

Why They Did This?

What was the need to revamp the series? According to producer Bruce Timm, he continued to redo his style throughout the run, providing a more balanced look to the 1996’s Superman: The Animated Series. When Batman was back on air, along with Superman, it was logical to modify the designs and provide a nicely gelled look for the shared world. (It must be recalled that Glen Murakami was instrumental to the new looks. His style is typically more abstract as well).

Some of these new designs are well done. True that some noisy fans loved the original version and didn’t want the new designs, but, that’s how fans are. No change ever will be acceptable to all.

However, the revamped Joker disappointed even the open-minded fans. And as disclosed in the audio commentary of Superman: The Animated Series Volume 2 DVD, there was at least one leading producer from the series itself who didn’t agree to the Joker’s new look. (go ahead and check out the commentary on “World’s Finest” Part One).

You can check below an image from this three segment Batman crossover depicting Joker and Harley Quinn.

A fan called Kenzo Pang pointed to the beastly eyes of the Joker, although it is the absence of lips in the new Joker designs which bothered those behind the scenes. (It must be noted that all these things were discussed in a humorous spirit during the commentary). Timm’s logic was to try and simplify so as to reduce the number of colors used in the design. Therefore, there was no red. The producers once again redesigned the Joker in the 2000’s Batman Beyond Return of the Joker.

Not For The Kids!

A lengthy flashback scene reveals the final battle between Batman and the Joker, a battle so violent that WB had to rethink about the whole film. (Later an unedited PG-13 version was released). The most important thing here is the arrival of the post-New Adventures Joker design.

This one is truly a PG-13 image. The yellow came back to the Clown Prince of Crime’s art (although not as prominently as it used to be), and more human-like eyes. Not just that, he had lips back too!

A large number of fans consider this to be a better Joker design and seems like the animators thought that way too. This is the design which Timm and team carried on within the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series. We also love this one with eyes and lips! Also, the black boomerang which was pasted to the top of the Joker’s head had been discarded.

Does that mean that Bruce Timm understood having made a mistake? Maybe that’s not how he would describe it,  but, he accepts that he revised the design, and the new look made almost everyone happy.


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