If there’s a DC Comics character who’s even more of a box office guarantee than Batman, it’s the Joker. The caped crusader has had his ups and downs on the big screen, but ever since the first live-action Batman film in 1966, which made $300,000 profit at the time and mostly served to promote the TV series, the Joker hasn’t lost money in live action. (Even in animation, his only dud was 1994’s Mask of the Phantasm, at a $5.6 million gross, and he was basically a small cameo in it). 1989 saw him played by Jack Nicholson and billed above Batman actor Michael Keaton to the tune of $251 million on a $35 million budget, 2008’s The Dark Knight became everyone’s favorite live-action Batman movie and made $535 million along with a posthumous Oscar win for Heath Ledger’s Joker, and even the much-derided Suicide Squad made $325 million on a $175 million reported budget, buoyed in part by curiosity over Jared Leto’s new and bizarre take on the Clown Prince of Crime. Up next, Joaquin Phoenix will play the character in his very own solo movie, while Leto is potentially still on deck for both a James Gunn-penned Suicide Squad sequel and a Joker and Harley Quinn movie.
In the meantime, DC Collectibles has brought together the worlds of Hollywood and Batman arch-foes in an entirely different way, by getting renowned makeup and effects artist Rick Baker – best known for his lycanthropic talents in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and An American Werewolf in London, though he also worked on Star Wars and actually donned the ape suit for 1976’s King Kong – to create a life-sized Joker bust. Not based on any particular pre-existing comics iteration of the grinning, green-haired gangster, this is the Joker as he would appear if Rick Baker had free reign to redesign him. Within reason, of course; he is still recognizably the Joker.
Initial photos of the bust suggested this Joker might have a rounder face than the character commonly has, more in tune with the Nicholson incarnation, but that’s not really the case; it’s more a trick of perspective when you shoot him from an overhead angle. Seen in profile, he’s clearly the long-chinned clown you’ve become familiar with.
While Ledger’s popular interpretation and, by the looks of it so far, Phoenix’s version of the Joker is of a crazy man wearing face paint into battle, Baker has gone with the classic/Nicholson/Leto take of a man transformed by toxic chemicals. His eyes flat-out look infected, while green veins pulse along in his temples (okay, they don’t literally pulse – this is a bust and not and action toy).
The hair feels a little inspired by Count Olaf from the Lemony Snicket books, but it’s also more consistent with what you know when viewed from the side.
The smile could be by choice, and it could be spasmed muscles, but whatever the case, it’s clearly stretching his facial skin in a scary way. No detail has been spared, as Baker even found the time to place a mole or two on Mr. J’s leathery skin.
This is not a mixed-media Sideshow product – it’s all resin, and it is heavy. Verging on top-heavy, in fact, so maybe don’t put it on a top shelf. I have little choice in the matter; the moment I unboxed it, the wife declared “Get that thing out of my living room! It’s too scary!” (There’s an appeal afoot to allow it back in for Halloween. We’ll see how that goes.)
My version (provided by DC for the purposes of review) is the “ultimate edition” in Rick Baker’s original color scheme that gives him a black shirt. The less-limited edition is more classic comic scheme, and gives him an orange shirt. In either case, if the first thing anyone notices is the shirt, something’s wrong with them.
The ultimate is limited to 50 copies, produced from Baker’s original molds, and coming with certificates of authenticity signed by Mr. Baker, who has also inscribed his name in the back of the sculpt. The regular edition is limited to 150.
You can expect to pay around $1000 for this bad boy (or $1500 for the ultimate), but the specialness of its creator design makes it arguably more worthy of that price tag than a more generic take. If your guests ever stop screaming, it could be quite the conversation piece.