Among the unusual additions to this iteration are his tattoos, but they serve more purpose than just to make him more visually distinctive. While Caesar Romero and Jack Nicholson’s versions of The Joker largely resembled the Batman villain in their respective movies, the last decade has seen more unusual adaptations of the Clown Prince of Crime on the big screen. Heath Ledger’s version in The Dark Knight eschewed the bleached skin and fine suits in favor of face paint and a grungy look, and this summer, Jared Leto’s Joker will be rocking a look just as weird, if not weirder, in Suicide Squad.
It’s no secret that Jared Leto went extremely method when playing Joker (often with disturbing results), and while chatting with Yahoo, director David Ayer revealed that the reason this was possible due to a carefully constructed backstory, and the tattoos, along with help tell that. According to Ayer:
If a guy like him really existed today, where would he come from? How would he do business? Who would he know? What would he look like? In my mind, I took a lot of inspiration from drug lords on Instagram. It’s a great way to understand the lifestyle of a villain.
It’s clear from the Suicide Squad previews that the DC Extended Universe is giving moviegoers and longtime comic book fans a much different Joker than they’re used to seeing. Rather than resemble the classic, purple-suited, cackling gangster frequently depicted on the printed page, this movie’s Joker definitely feels more like a modern crime leader leading his own campaign of chaos across Gotham City. However, he still has his own sense of style and flair, and the tattoos are evidently a way to express himself.
Joker’s tattoos seen in Suicide Squad include “Damaged” on his forehead, a demonic jester on the right side of his chest, several “HAs” on the left side of his chest and many more, but it’s important to note that the criminal didn’t decide to get all these on a whim. Ayer continued:
The tattoos tell a very specific story. And eventually people will decipher them and understand what’s going on, but obviously they’re contentious, any time you do something new it’s contentious. There’s very specific stories and easter eggs in those tattoos. And even his teeth, there’s an entire story behind that which is absolutely canon. It’s putting his history on his body. This Joker is a little more working class, who I believe could live in our world.
We’re still having trouble wrapping our heads around Joker sitting still long enough for someone to tattoo him without killing them in the process. Still, from a storytelling perspective, the ink certainly provides an interesting peek into Joker’s past without direct exposition. With so much happening in Suicide Squad and the rest of the DCEU in the present day, it remains to be seen how much of Joker’s stories will ever be told. Either way, Jared Leto’s iteration has clearly had an eventful life of crime at the expense of others, and he’s made sure to memorialize all the big moments.
Joker’s new reign of terror on the big screen will begin when Suicide Squad hits theaters on August 5.