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What do Joker’s tattoos mean in Suicide Squad? And will we see the character’s origins? Jared Leto speaks

April 23rd, 2016 by Marc Comments

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When Jared Leto released a first-look image at his Joker on social media over a year ago, there was a bit of a stir. Obviously, there was a consensual feeling of discombobulation – partly because Leto’s look was a striking departure from Heath Ledger’s anarchic psychopath in The Dark Knight.

Some comic book fans hailed it, some hated on it. The reaction was always going to be strong, but never unanimous (it never is with comic book fans).

Perhaps Leto being plastered with tattoos was the aspect most people we’re unsure about. It made him look like a punk, an unhinged gangster and a distinctly un-Jokerish Joker.

They were divisive. There was the ‘J’ just under his left eye, while half of his chest was made up with ‘HA HA HA’ designs. Another unmistakable print was the rather deranged, teeth-filled smile running up his right forearm. Rather provocatively, too, there was a noticeable robin on Leto’s right bicep, prompting the theory that his Joker was, in fact, Jason Todd.

Recently, Leto said he felt a pressure to break new ground with his version of the famous Batman villain and, stemming from that, the Joker’s new design was born.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly (via Squareeyed), director David Ayer and Leto himself provided some insight into how they went about creating the look of the character for Suicide Squad.

“The Joker has a lot of different looks, sort of built from the looks throughout the history of DC Comics but with a new sort of flair and flavour on him so he does feel like a modern-day gangster, because…he’s always been a gangster,” said Ayer.

Leto added that how the Joker looks is a combination of his and Ayer’s ‘sick and twisted minds.’

“David had some very specific ideas. As far as the look of the Joker, it was a collaborative process. There were things I brought to the table and things David brought to the table and it was a mashup of both of our sick and twisted minds. There were specific things that he liked and wanted and I was there to help bring them to life in the best way I could.”

“I think the most important thing I brought was probably not to do with the outside but with the internal. But you know David was specific with tattoos. They were his idea but there was a lot to play with. Who knows what will end up in the final film?”

Personally, I remain unenthused by the tattoos (as I do with the teeth). My biggest ink-gripe is the ‘Damaged’ label across the forehead. Why is that necessary? We all know the Joker is a seriously messed-up individual – there’s no need to bombard us with it every time we look at his face. There must be another story behind the tattoos but we’ll have to wait until August 5 to find out…

In related news, we have been wondering if we’ll see the origins of the Joker in Suicide Squad. After all, Burton gave us the character’s origin in Batman in 1989 and Nolan wisely avoided any such thing, sticking with The Killing Joke’s idea of “If I’m going to have a past,I prefer it to be multiple choice!”

So this version of the Clown Prince of Crime could really go either way. Speaking to Comingsoon about this very thing, Jared Leto was a little cagey: “I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about that so much.

“But we walked in a completely new direction. I think we knew that we had to do that. It was important to do that. When the Joker has been done and done so well, it gives you a bit of an indication of where you shouldn’t go. There’s a bit of a map there. That’s the good part about it.”

The actor does seem very grateful for the opportunity to play what is arguably the greatest bad guy in history: “It’s quite an honour. Joker has been written about in pop culture for 75 years. I’m just the latest in the long list of people who have redefined and reinvented this character. The actors, the voice actors, the television series, the writers, the artists and the fans. People have taken the Joker and reinvented and redefined for 75 years. It is really special to be asked to do that.”

We reported a while ago that Leto went above the call of duty for the role (here) and Margot Robbie did something very similar for the role of Harley Quinn: “I did a lot of research on mental illness and codependency,” she says.

“I was trying to access a way in to understanding why she’s so in love with the Joker. I kind of decided that she’s codependent on him. Now that I’ve done the research, I realize that that’s more of an addiction than an illness… You see many sides of her. Sometimes she’s really funny. Sometimes she’s really mean. She just enjoys everything she does. Whether she’s doing something good or bad, she’ll have an equal amount of enjoyment out of it. She’s not always the most likable character.”

After the sour taste that Batman V Superman left for a lot of fans, is Suicide Squad the movie DC fans are waiting for? Well,  we love what we’re seeing so far…

Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….