Here’s what we know: Joaquin Phoenix is officially the next Joker, to be directed by Todd Phillips with a script by Scott Silver. The movie is set outside of the current DCU and stands alone without being part of any known continuity. We even broke some of the character (link) break-downs. But what we don’t know is what the movie is about.
The film has been described as “an exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.”, which doesn’t exactly mean it has to be an origin story. The Joker has gone “sane” on more than a few occasions and a story like that could fit the description pretty well.
Now yes, the odds are this is a completely new story, but what’s the fun in speculating on that!? So, with that in mind, I’d like to look at what stories have the best odds at being the plot of the film.
5) The Early Daze – These are stories that would either be flashbacks or an early scene in which the man-who-would-be-Joker is a kid.
5A) The Aunt Eunice Origin Story
*From Batman #23.1 “Time to Monkey Shine” 2013. Written by Andy Kubert, Not only is this comic an origin tale about the joker, but Batman only appears on the cover of the comic and not anywhere within the story itself. Possibly like this film? This is a story of the Joker as child living with his horrible Aunt Eunice in a tenement slum. His only friend is a stuffed animal that, of course, Aunt Eunice takes away from him. She beats him, starves him, and eventfully, after scolding him fro never washing his face, scrubs the boy’s head with bleach, turning his skin that terrifying white. There is in implication that she killed her husband. As this story takes place when the Joker is very young, it doesn’t have the be the focus of the movie- but could still easily be included, but from the current character descriptions, nothing like Aunt Eunice seems to be in the movie, but would be a great surprise!
5B) The Abused Child/Torturing Animals Origin Stories
*From The Further Adventures of The Joker, Novel, 1990 By Martin H. Greenberg
Another story about the Joker as a young kid, this time his father is the abusive influence that turns him to crime and insanity. In this iteration, Joker’s father is a clean-freak, constantly yelling at his family to clean up as well as smile and laugh more- especially at his jokes, meanwhile kid-Joker is killing small animals and collecting their bones. This could easily be folded into the movie with little issue.
The abused child origin has come up a few times, The Animated Series had a comic where Joker tells Harley the story of how his father used to beat him, than take him to the circus and laugh at the clowns when they dropped their pants. Later his father would accidently drop his pants and young Joker would laugh in response his father broke his nose.
*From The Brave and The Bold #31, 2010 By J. Michael Straczynski
Similar, although his parents aren’t abusive in this, the The Atom shrinks down into the Joker’s head and watches memories (huh?!) of him burning his parents alive after they catch him killing small animals.
All of these ideas could fit together, a bonanza of Easter Eggs for a youthful boy Joker, but none would be the Joaquin Phoenix man that would take the bulk of the film. Let’s look at some stories for the Her actor to sink his teeth into (so many teeth).
Let’s look at more, shall we?