The Joker Tattoos
It feels like superheroes are embedded into the very fabric of our lives.
Refer to one, and even someone who’s never seen a single Marvel or DC movie or read one page of a comic book will probably know who you’re talking about.
Superheroes are everywhere, from commercial packaging, to pop art, to tattoos.
Go to any tattoo convention, and it won’t be long before you see something from the Marvel or DC universe.
The only thing from the “nerd world” that’s more ubiquitous than our favorite heroes are their villain counterparts.
Villains make for popular tattoos because, in some social arenas, tattoos are still considered taboo.
Having a tattoo of a character who’s a little chaotic and against the grain feels right.
In superhero narratives, the villains work as “foils” to our hero.
That is, they reflect our heroes good traits by being so negative.
While we root for the hero, we often get more entertainment value out of the villain.
Villains represent the dark sides of ourselves we’re not always willing to admit to.
They wear their shadow selves on their sleeve, which can feel both liberating and frightening to watch.
In the earliest incarnation of these comic books, villains were there only to make our hero look strong and superhuman.
The villains were menacing and cruel, and the heroes were gallant and chivalrous.
No matter how scary the villains were in early comic books, they were never any match for our hero.
That all started to change when The Joker came on the scene.
DC Comics released the first-ever Batman comic book on April 25th, 1940.
From the beginning, The Joker was there.
Initially a small character, he has now become a pop culture phenomenon portrayed by some of Hollywood’s most exciting lead men.
So who is this face who launched 1000 Joker tattoos?
Let’s explore The Joker and what a tattoo of him may symbolize.
The Joker Origin (Comic Book Version)
In the comics, The Joker’s origin is rather mysterious.
We don’t know how he came to be the way that he is, or what lead him to a life of crime.
Comic book lovers rejoiced when The Joker revealed his backstory in 1988’s comic The Killing Joke written by Alan Moore.
Any satisfaction about this backstory, however, was short-lived.
No sooner does the joker tell us about his past than he reveals it may all be an illusion.
He hints that he remembers his backstory differently every time, and says if he’s going to have a backstory, he’d prefer it to be multiple choice.
This is indicative of The Joker’s overall MO.
He is a trickster, never letting us in 100%.
He is here to remind us that in life there are no certain answers, and sometimes we have to sit in the uncertainty of it all.
How Did The Joker Get Started?
Maybe you’re a hardcore Batman fan through and through, in which case you probably already know this backstory.
But maybe you’re a modern Batman fan.
Maybe you just saw Joker with Joaquin Phoenix and felt some resonance with the character.
This may have lead you here, wondering if you should get a The Joker tattoo.
You may be interested to know then, as a new Joker fan, that The Joker has origins that stretch way back to the silent film era.
Bill Finger and Bob Kane worked on Batman, Bill Finger being responsible for writing the main parts of the Batman narrative that are still included in the franchise today.
Batman needed Villains, and there are a few different stories about how The Joker came to be, but the main one is this:
Bill Finger was presented with a Joker playing card by Bob Kane.
The Joker playing card is often a “wild card” in a deck of cards, and can wear many faces.
This was a fun inspiration for a villain: A clown-ish trickster with nefarious intent.
It was an interesting juxtapose.
Though there is some debate about this, the story seems to go that Bob Kane actually got the playing card from Jerry Robinson, a young upstart who was working as a colorist and ghostwriter on the comics.
He wanted to create a great villain for Batman and, in turn, get a bigger role in the production of the comic.
He wanted to create a truly challenging villain for Batman, a pretty new idea for the superhero franchise.
When Bob Kane first drew The Joker based on Robinson’s playing card, it was a bit too clown-ish for Bill Finger’s tastes.
Bill Finger then brought Bob Kane a photo from the 1928 silent film The Man Who Laughs.
In this cinematic offering, our protagonist travels with a freak show after being maimed by an evil doctor who carved his mouth into a permanent smile.
After Bob drew The Joker more like The Man Who Laughs, they had a really good character on their hands.
So good, in fact, the editor at DC forced Bill Finger to write a cliffhanger for The Joker after he dies, hinting at his return.
The Joker was eventually promoted from one-off villain to full-time arch-nemesis.
Joker Tattoo Meanings
You may be asking yourself “what does a Joker tattoo symbolize?” It’s too simple to say he represents the villainous intentions inside all of us.
He does represent the darker side of life, but he also represents perseverance.
The Joker continues to come back as a favorite throughout the years.
He has been portrayed by at least 23 actors since the Batman TV show debuted in 1966. It’s hard to believe we’ve seen our last Joker.
Joker can represent living with the darkness that’s always there, and acknowledging that as absurdly evil and chaotic a character he may be- it is equally absurd to have a moral code as strong as Batman’s, who demands perfection of himself.
They are two ends of the spectrum with Batman being chaotic good, and The Joker as his chaotic evil.
Is either side sustainable? Perhaps not.
And that’s why we’re so compelled by these two characters, struggling with the same extreme emotions and convulsions on opposite ends of the spectrum.
If you struggle with the more extreme aspects of your personality, a Joker tattoo may be the choice for you.
Main Themes in Joker Tattoos
Batman & Joker Tattoos
Batman and the Joker are two sides of the same coin.
Many people get Batman and Joker tattoos as a kind of “Jekyll and Hyde” type homage to these characters.
They are so similar yet so diametrically opposed.
Both Batman and the Joker have struggled with feelings of loneliness.
They’ve both had their lives altered by circumstances beyond their control.
The two together illustrate a kind of forked path through suffering.
Do you choose to be righteous, to be better than the people who hurt you?
Or do you set the world on fire, adopting an “if you can’t beat em, join em” kind of philosophy?
The meaning of a Batman and Joker tattoo may be a refusal to choose between two pendulous extremes.
You may prefer to live a life of balance.
Balance between your baser urges and the greater good.
Maybe you find yourself swinging from one extreme to the other.
Are you someone who wants to be honorable, but can’t deny your chaotic streak?
A Batman & Joker tattoo may be a good reminder to keep things in check.
Stay balanced, and don’t allow yourself to be consumed by your darkest memories.
Heath Ledger Joker Tattoos
Here’s an idea for a Joker tattoo that has a multi-layered meaning.
An homage to a leading man’s last role before meeting a tragic end.
Heath Ledger was a rising star, poised to make the permanent transition from pretty boy teen movie lead to distinguished leading man.
His death was a shock to everyone and still haunts Hollywood to this day.
After his success in Brokeback Mountain, Ledger was cast in the now critically acclaimed Dark Knight Batman movie.
Though people were skeptical at first, now there are many people with Heath Ledger Joker tattoos.
He brought something new to the character while paying homage to those who have portrayed him before.
Though some may get a tattoo of Heath Ledger’s Joker just for aesthetic reasons or because they like the movie, others may get it as a reminder to take care of their mental health.
The symbolism of a Heath Ledger Joker tattoo is as nuanced as the character himself.
Ledger allowed himself to be consumed by his study of the Joker character.
He isolated himself in a hotel room before shooting, using this time to experiment with voices, read comic books, and write in a notebook as the mad clown.
His family has said that this was not responsible for his death, that he loved diving into a character in that way.
The resulting performance has been widely regarded as masterful, though Ledger was never able to see the film.
The actor died of an overdose while the movie was still editing.
Some speculate that he may have gone too far with his character study, something he once described as “exhausting” in a press interview.
Whether the Joker had anything to do with it or not, the gifted performer had existing mental health issues.
Because of this, he would abuse prescription drugs, which is ultimately what killed him at 28 years old.
Your Heath Ledger Joker tattoo may represent a hidden struggle with addiction or mental health.
It may also just be a tribute to a talent gone too soon.
It may also represent the danger of giving yourself over to chaos, as both the actor and the character did.
Jared Leto Joker Tattoos
Speaking of two sides of the coin, Jared Leto put just as much work into his Joker portrayal, only to have Suicide Squad panned by critics.
To be fair, this was not Leto’s fault at all.
Director David Ayer had a different vision than the production team, and the result is something of a failed compromise.
Though the film was not popular, the actors brought a lot of gusto to their work, inspiring spin-offs and sequels.
Leto took a similar method acting approach to Ledger for the role, pulling on-set pranks and sending his cast mates macabre gifts.
Many fans were able to look past the imperfections of the film, and have grown to love the characters, especially Leto’s Joker and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.
Many have even immortalized the cast as tattoos.
Some may wonder what the meaning behind a Jared Leto Joker tattoo may be.
Though the film itself had its flaws, the tattoo may be an homage to great character design, but it may also stand for something deeper.
Are you someone who likes to root for the underdog?
Do you think people were too hard on Suicide Squad?
Are you someone who always prefers something with a cult following to a mainstream success story?
Immortalize your allegiance with a little ink.
A Jared Leto Joker tattoo is a great homage to a dark horse.
If you still aren’t sure if you want a tattoo of Leto’s Joker, you may change your mind in the future.
Leto will be able to reprise the role in 2021 in Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Here’s hoping he’s able to get the critical acclaim he worked so hard for with Suicide Squad.
Joaquin Phoenix Joker Tattoos
Looking for a contemporary Joker tattoo idea?
Consider yet another leading man’s portrayal of the twisted clown.
2019’s Joker starred Joaquin Phoenix, who won an Academy Award for his work.
The movie was polarizing, beloved by some critics and dismissed by others.
What better fate than a Joker movie?
The Joker thrives by getting big reactions and creating a stir.
To see that no one could agree on the film pleases the trickster spirit of the character.
The film accomplished something no other Joker portrayal has, which is possibly why it has become such a popular idea for tattoo designs: Joker bridged the gap between comic book movie fans and film buffs.
The film is not a comic book movie, it is a proper drama in the style of Scorsese’s work in the 70’s.
It drew new people to the mad clown.
The meaning behind a Joaquin Phoenix Joker tattoo is as simple as looking at the source material: In this film, the man behind the face paint is lonely.
He’s a misunderstood, down on his luck clown by day and open mic comedian by night.
When his life begins to spiral out of control, he finds comfort in a chaotic character.
He sees that he can get the acceptance he loves not by fitting in, but by standing out.
By aging against the machine.
Hopefully, if you draw inspiration from Todd Phillips’s Joker, you are attracted to the lead’s attitude rather than his actions.
There is a way to play a trickster without hurting people, it’s just about making sure everyone stays on their toes.
This Joker tattoo design may be an homage to great film-making, but it may also be a reminder to keep everyone on their toes.
Or, similar to other designs, to try and resist becoming cynical to a destructive point.
Harley & Joker Tattoos
For all the romantics out there, or those who just can’t resist a pretty face, a Harley & Joker tattoo design is a fun idea.
If you’ve ever been in the throws of a toxic relationship you just can’t let go of- you understand Harley Quinn and the Joker at their core.
The two are bad for each other, and Joker pushes Harley away at every opportunity.
But they are drawn together like magnets.
Harley Quinn’s character has a similar story to the Joker.
She was meant to be a one-off character in Batman: The Animated Series.
The show is a favorite in the fandom, wise beyond its Saturday morning cartoon façade.
People couldn’t resist this quirky vixen, and creators answered the call for more Harley.
The Joker’s paramour has become just as famous as the original Batman clown himself, with many of her own spin-off projects and character redesigns.
Harley Quinn tributes in tattoo form abound.
Margot Robbie introduced the world to Harley all over again, and people fell just as hard as they did in the beginning.
The character redesign focuses on hot and cold colors, representing the nature of this roller-coaster relationship.
It also makes for a striking tattoo design, especially in portrait or new school tattoo styles.
Many people see themselves in Harley’s devotion to the joker, and have trouble resisting someone even if they treat them badly.
Wearing the tattoo may help them feel understood, even when they’re making unhealthy decisions.
A Harley & Joker tattoo may represent the joy of a tumultuous relationship between two trouble makers, the joy of getting out of such a pairing, or both.
The possibilities are endless.
HAHAHA Joker Tattoos
What is the Joker without a maniacal laugh?
Every Joker has one.
For most inceptions of the character, the laughter is a way of mocking people.
If you were to boil the Joker down to one personality trait, it would be that he laughs at things most people find horrifying.
This is his way of claiming ownership over a world that, to him, feels unfair.
He turns on a dime, he becomes the danger, and he laughs at anyone who tries to hurt him or stand in his way.
It’s his way of making himself invincible. Bulletproof.
It’s hard to get under someone’s skin when they laugh off everything you say and do.
The HAHAHA Joker tattoo design represents a kind of interruption of social norms.
The urge to break convention and stir things up.
In this way, the Joker symbolizes the archetypal trickster, a concept present in many spiritual belief systems.
The trickster forces you to re-examine reality, to turn things on their head, and to stop acting out of habit.
Are you really saddened or horrified by something, or do you just feel you should be?
The trickster is someone who flips the script.
Acting inappropriately can be a psychological trick that disarms people.
It’s a manipulative way of throwing people off, confusing them.
This weakens their resolve and gives you the upper hand.
Of course, if you’re looking for Joaquin Phoenix Joker tattoo ideas, the laugh takes on an entirely new meaning.
In Joker, Arthur Fleck has a medical condition that causes him to laugh when he’s upset or nervous.
This is something that often angers people, distancing Fleck from the rest of the world.
In this context, the meaning of a HAHAHA Joker design would be that you feel misunderstood.
‘Why So Serious’ Joker Tattoos
“Why So Serious?” has become the battle cry for Joker fans, and a popular tattoo design.
Immortalized by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, the meaning of a “Why So Serious” tattoo is similar to the HAHAHA design.
In The Dark Knight, the Joker explains that his father was abusive to him and his mother growing up.
In a scene where he describes the abuse, he speaks of a time when his father carved a permanent smile on his face with a kitchen knife.
It’s a gruesome concept, and one that has obviously stayed with the Joker his whole life.
Why So Serious? Is a mocking way of looking at very serious situations.
It symbolizes a nihilist approach to life: Why take it seriously? Life is cruel.
May as well laugh to keep from crying.
The Why So Serious quotation is often incorporated into a larger Joker tattoo.
This can be a portrait or something more pop art inspired and cartoonish.
The meaning behind it, while macabre, may be to try not to take yourself seriously, even when things are grim.
The Killing Joke Tattoos
The Killing Joke is the 1988 comic that brought the Joker to life and gave him a backstory.
There is also the 2016 animated feature of the same name, with the same cover art.
One dynamic Joker tattoo idea is to have that cover’s design as a tattoo.
On the cover of The Killing Joke, half of the Joker’s face is obscured by a camera.
This is symbolic because you can never really “see” the Joker.
The Killing Joke tattoo design says that the Joker is observing you, not the other way around.
The meaning behind this design may be the secretive nature of the Joker character, but it is also a popular design for big fans of the 1988 comic which, for many of today’s working artists, was a moment of inspiration.
Joker Tattoo Card
The Joker in a standard issue playing card deck is an image we’re all familiar with.
It was the first inspiration for the now infamous Joker character- the clown that launched 1000 tattoo designs.
The meaning of a Joker card changes depending on the game.
For some card games, Jokers are auspicious. For others, they’re wild.
Still in other games (like old maid,) they’re something to be avoided entirely.
The shape-shifting nature of the Joker card gives us a little clue about the Joker himself.
He is chaotic and unpredictable, a literal “wildcard.”
A Joker card tattoo is both a throwback to the original meaning of the Joker, and a tribute to his ever-changing personality.
Are you an unpredictable sort of person?
Do you have a multi-faceted personality?
This tattoo idea may be perfect for you.
Skull Joker Tattoos
Skull tattoos often represent a “laughing in the face of death and danger” attitude.
This pairs perfectly with our friend the Joker, who takes a mocking attitude to all things macabre.
The meaning of this design is that you’re someone who likes to subvert and question norms.
If you’re looking for an original take on the Joker tattoo idea, this is the design for you.
Joker Tattoo Hand Smile
Interactive tattoo designs are a really cool idea when you want something that stands on its own, but is also a fun trick at parties.
With a strategically placed mouth tattoo on your hand, you can create a really cool mask illusion (see pictures.)
We love this Joker hand smile tattoo design because it’s both playful and unsettling, which perfectly sums up the character’s MO.
This tattoo was part of Jared Leto’s character design for Suicide Squad, and has a lot of symbolic meaning for the Joker.
Like the camera in The Killing Joke cover art, the smile obscures your real expression.
Most people who have a fear of clowns say it’s because of their painted smiles.
There’s something in the not-knowing that can make a person feel on edge.
The Joker never wants anyone to get too close or too comfortable.
He’s an enigma.
The meaning of the Joker hand tattoo is that no one can ever know the “real” you.
That you may be smiling, but there’s pain underneath it.
This could be a powerful tattoo for someone who suffers from mental illness, or puts on a persona for their public life.
It’s also just a fun tattoo for someone with playful sensibilities, or a big fan of Jared Leto’s Joker.
Joker Tattoo Designs
The Joker has lasted this long after his first appearance in 1940.
Why not become part of that history with a The Joker tattoo?
Still not sure? Check out our gallery of Joker tattoos for some twisted inspiration!
Black and Grey Joker Tattoos
Though the Joker is a colorful character by definition, a black and grey Joker tattoo highlights his moody side.
If you want your tattoo to be an artistic homage, this is the perfect medium.
Many people choose black and grey for Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker because of the classic, dramatic tone of the film.
Illustrative Joker Tattoos
“Illustrative” may refer to a lot of techniques in the tattoo world.
It’s something of a catch-all term for ink that has a “drawn” effect, but doesn’t fit into more cartoony categories.
These illustrative Joker tattoos are done in a portrait style without being photo-realistic.
The final result is like something out of a graphic novel.
Woodcut Joker Tattoos
In a woodcut tattoo, lines and shading are utilized to give the illusion that a tattoo is cut from wood.
Getting a Woodcut Joker tattoo is an interesting idea.
Because this character is all about illusion, imagining him as a kind of macabre marionette is a cool concept.
Neo-traditional Joker Tattoos
Like illustrative tattoos, Neo-traditional Joker tattoos have a stylized portrait effect.
In a Neo-traditional tattoo, you get the saturated wall to wall coloring of an American traditional tattoo with the curving lines of a softer piece.
Black ink is utilized in Neo-traditional tattoos to make bold colors pop for a dazzling final effect.
Black-work Joker Tattoos
Black-work tattoo designs are different from black and grey.
Rather than using washes of diluted black ink, a black-work piece is high contrast.
Hyper saturated sections of deep black contrast with “skin-breaks” for a creative use of negative space.
Watercolor Joker Tattoos
The techniques used in a watercolor tattoo are so versatile.
For a watercolor Joker tattoo, the splatters and runny paint effects that are signature to the style take on a new meaning.
They almost look bloody or violent.
Watercolor Joker tattoos are a unique, expressive way to pay homage to everyone’s favorite brooding artist.
Dot-work Joker Tattoos
Another style inspired by the world of classic art, dot-work or “pointillism” tattoos are made up of thousands of tiny dots.
Depth and dimension are created by using smaller and larger dots, denser and farther apart.
It is a painstaking style with a gorgeous, almost ethereal final result.
We love a dot-work Joker tattoo for its dream-like qualities.
Or is it a nightmare?
Graphic Joker Tattoos
“Graphic” is another umbrella term within the tattoo world.
It refers to styles that have a high visual impact and utilize contemporary art techniques to create highly original images.
A graphic Joker tattoo will have a kind of street art look to it.
This daring style is perfect for a cavalier character like the Joker, someone who gives no regard to convention in any area of his life.
Realistic Joker Tattoos
If you’re stuck on ideas for your Joker tattoo, this one is simple.
Just find someone talented enough to do the real thing right.
If you have a Joker image that resonates with you, why not get it as a realistic Joker tattoo?
Single Needle Joker Tattoos
A single needle Joker tattoo can have an interesting effect.
Rather than using multiple needles, in a single needle tattoo design, your tattoo artist will use one thin needle.
These pieces can vary.
Sometimes they are very bare bones, but an experienced artist in the medium can create portrait style pieces with a pencil-drawn effect.
Trash Polka Joker Tattoos
Trash polka Joker tattoos are perfection.
The style has a chaotic feeling to it by nature, something perfectly suited to the Joker.
Trash polka tattoos are characterized by a “collage” effect, with different styles coming together to create one image.
Sketchy Joker Tattoos
A sketchy style for a sketchy character.
Sketch tattoos are exactly what they sound like: They’re a tattoo made to look like a sketch from a sketchbook.
A sketchy Joker tattoo will speak to his chaotic and artistic characteristics.
New School Joker Tattoos
New School tattoos are characterized by their exaggerated features and pops of color.
This style is perfect for the Joker because of the clownish color palette and cartoony feel.
Emphasize the playful aspects of this character with a New School Joker tattoo.
Contemporary Joker Tattoos
Tattoo artists are playing with new techniques all the time.
Contemporary is another umbrella term, often including pieces that are a mash up of different classic techniques.
A contemporary Joker tattoo is an excellent idea if you want your piece to stand out from the pack.
Joker Tattoo Ideas
For most comic book enthusiasts, having a tattoo of their favorite character is as much of an invitation as it is an extension of their personality.
The meaning of a Joker tattoo can vary depending on the design, but it’s always a chance to bond with a fellow comic book nerd.
People who love these characters and the worlds they inhabit, they love to meet other people who are enthusiastic about the stories they love.
If you’re thinking of getting a Joker tattoo, it should be recognizable.
Something another fan will be excited to see.
Looking for a Joker tattoo design to show off at your next Comic Con?
We’ve compiled a few ideas for Joker tattoos.
Check out our Joker tattoo gallery for a little inspiration.
Small Joker Tattoos
A piece doesn’t have to be large to make an impact, small Joker tattoos can be just as detailed as larger works.
Just be sure to see an artist who’s familiar with the micro medium.
Purple Joker Tattoos
Purple and green have often been popular colors for the Joker because of how they play off of each other.
A purple Joker tattoo is sure to turn heads. Purple tattoo designs are an unconventional choice that’s a perfect idea for a Joker piece.
Large Joker Tattoos
The larger the tattoo, the more you can pack in.
If you want to pay homage to several aspects of the Joker, and maybe combine a few of the above ideas, a large Joker piece is the way to go.
Horror Inspired Tattoos
As the retelling and redesigns of the Joker go along, each one becomes darker and more horrific than the last.
A horror inspired Joker tattoo is a great design idea for someone who relishes the shadowy side of the Batman villain.
Jester Joker Tattoos
Let’s not forget- the Joker was originally designed from a playing card, which features a court jester.
Jesters were often the only ones in a royal community who were allowed to make dark jokes or mock the king, which informs the Joker’s psyche.
A jester Joker tattoo is a fun homage to this character’s origins.
Lego Joker Tattoos
If you like the Joker’s playful side more than the blood and guts, consider a Lego Joker tattoo.
It’s a fun way to immortalize the character without scaring anyone.
Joker Tattoo Sleeve
A sleeve is a cool concept for a Joker tattoo, or any comic book tattoo, because comic books feature several images in panels.
Similar to that medium, you can tell a story with a Joker tattoo sleeve.
Evil Joker Tattoos
If you like your tattoos to draw certain people in while pushing others farther away, an evil Joker tattoo may do just that.
These tattoos feature the Joker at his most twisted.
Simple Joker Tattoos
Sometimes the most effective choice is the simplest.
Choosing one aspect of this character for a simple Joker tattoo says everything you want to say without being too busy.
Cartoon Joker Tattoos
Though the Batman story has become darker over the years, let’s not forget that comic books are fun.
They’re modern fairy tales about exaggerated characters.
Lighten up a little with a cartoon Joker tattoo.
Joker Tattoo Placement
Almost as important to tattoo design is tattoo placement.
Maybe you know exactly what you want for your Joker piece, but are wondering where the best place for it is.
If you’ve got the skin real estate, you can choose a Joker tattoo placement that feels right to you.
Things to consider:
Do I have enough room for the design I want with this placement?
Do I want my tattoo to be visible all the time, or do I want to be able to cover it up?
Does this tattoo placement suit the image?
Here are a few placement ideas for your Joker tattoo design:
Joker Tattoos on Forearm
Joker Tattoos on Calf
Joker Tattoos on Hand
Joker Tattoo Artists