joker's henchmen

Joker’s Henchmen MOST FAMOUS


Being a henchman or villainous sidekick in Gotham City is no easy thing. If you’re lucky, you wind up working for the Penguin and wearing a nice suit and standing around looking menacing. If you’re less lucky, you have to wear some crazy “Alice in Wonderland”-themed outfit and hang out with Mad Hatter, and hope he’s in one of the phases where he’s obsessed with hats and not one of the ones where he’s obsessed with finding a teen or tween to be his Alice. And if you’re really unlucky? You wind up working for the Joker.

The Joker is Gotham’s biggest rogue, the boogeyman who scares boogeymen. Working for him, a hood can get a steady paycheck … or wind up dead at the whim of a madman at any moment. And while the Joker has had many nameless goons, he has had a handful of more memorable accomplices. The new hotness at the moment is Punchline, whose first full appearance was released on the day I put the finishing touches on this article and is already going for about $50 on eBay. So I figured This Month in Gotham, we’d look at the history of the fortunate and unfortunate members of the Joker’s crew.

While the Joker worked with many unnamed goons from his introduction, the first named and themed one was Gaggy, a little person who served as Joker’s sidekick in “Batman” #186 from November 1966. Gaggy was brought in during Joker’s “original” heists, where he stole various originals of paintings, inventions, etc. It’s not a terribly memorable story, aside from the cover, which is often featured in great Batman cover galleries and spotlights Gaggy. The character might have been completely forgotten except for a couple cameos in Grant Morrison’s run if not for Paul Dini. 

Dini brought Gaggy back for a three-issue arc in “Gotham City Sirens” in which Gaggy initially appears disguised as the Joker to attack the Sirens, most notably Harley Quinn. When Gaggy’s disguise is peeled away, he reveals that he wants to kill Harley to help the Joker. He believes Joker has lost his way from his madcap caper days, and he wants to get Joker back on course. This goes about as well as expected. Gaggy winds up crashing into Gotham Bay, swearing further revenge, but Dini didn’t get back to him before he left the title.



The story that defines exactly how bad it can be to work for the Joker is one of the greatest Joker stories of all time, “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge,” from “Batman” #251. This story, one of the legendary tales by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, returned the Joker to his terrifying persona of the Golden Age from the more fun-loving Silver Age Joker.

After freeing himself from the mental hospital (this was before Arkham Asylum had its name but is the first mention of such a place in Gotham), Joker goes on the hunt for the five members of his gang from before his most recent incarceration. One of them gave him up to the cops, so Joker decides he might as well kill all of them. The issue is a game of cat and mouse, as the Joker kills the gang members one after the other, right in front of Batman. The deaths include poisoned water, an exploding cigar, and finally a shark tank, where Batman saves the final member of the gang. This story not only establishes the Joker as a madman and a murderer again, but points out how dangerous it is to work for him.

At least in “Five-Way Revenge,” the Joker has a particular reason for killing his former gang members. As time goes on, it becomes a regular pattern for the Joker to kill his goons on a wim. The earliest reference to this I can find is from another classic Joker story, “Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker!” from “Batman” #321. In this story, a goon named Sidney doesn’t laugh at one of Joker’s jokes. Joker notices and initially seems to pull a gun that releases a “BANG” flag and Sidney relaxes, only for Joker to tell him it’s a spear gun and fire the spear, flag attached, into Sidney’s head. Comedy is hard, but around the Joker, dying is definitely easy.


When the Joker returned to the silver screen in Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” film, he came with a style all his own and a group of leather-jacket clad thugs. There were big guys, ninja guys and armed guys. Most notable was Bob. Bob was Jack Napier’s right-hand man before he was transformed into the Joker and remained by his side, loyally following orders. That is until Batman saves Gotham from Joker’s poison balloons. Joker asks Bob for a gun, and when handed it, shoots him. Bob did get an action figure, though, which is more than characters with larger parts in the film can say, so good for him.

This is probably the most minor of these henchpeople, but I had to toss it in here for sentimental reasons. Accepting that Chuck Dixon has grown to be a controversial figure in modern comics, his runs of the Bat-titles in the ’90s are some very solid comics, really steady and enjoyable books that featured some great Joker stories. Dixon’s Joker tread the line between violent madman and whimsical clown, still pulling heists and crimes while being unpredictable and homicidal. In Dixon’s stories, there was one recurring goon, a bearded, vest-wearing guy called Bones. He appeared in numerous stories, and as far as I can tell made it out alive. He’s the lucky one.

1992 saw the debut of “Batman: The Animated Series,” where the Joker appeared more than any other villain. Throughout his appearances, he had a few different goons he worked with. There were two large thugs, Rocco and Henshaw. There were three mimes, Knuckles, Vinnie and Kowalski. There was the spindly Ernie. And, of course, the hyenas, Bud and Lou. Am I forgetting anyone? Oh, right! There was this little known character who never went anywhere at all named Harley Quinn.

Harley Quinn

Hmm … not ringing any bells.

Harley would, of course, come over to the comics, where her profile would only increase. She would eventually get her own series. Well, a few of them, but we’re talking about Harley Vol. 1 here, written by Karl Kesel, with art by Terry and Rachel Dodson. In the first issue of the series, Harley breaks the Joker out of Arkham, and on his first caper out of jail, we see the Joker mercilessly kill numerous members of their gang. The one the audience gets to know, though, survives. His name is Lewis Lebeau.

Lewis winds up partnered with Harley in the leadup to the caper, and we get to hear his story. Lewis made mistakes as a young man, and now can’t catch a break. He knows you don’t get rich working for Joker, but he has a woman he loves and a kid, and so he keeps a journal as he works for the Joker. When he dies, whether it’s at the hands of the cops, the competition or most likely Joker himself, Lewis says his girl will get the journal published, and he figures the diary of a Joker henchman will earn her enough money to settle down and raise their kid.

Lewis is a decent guy, for someone who works for Joker, and after Harley splits from Joker at the end of the first issue, Lewis follows her, joining her gang in issue #5. Sadly, Lewis screws up one of Harley’s schemes, and we see that this early Harley isn’t as far from Joker as she will become, as she kills him. What became of his journal is never said. 


Grant Morrison’s run on Batman is one of longest and most acclaimed of the modern era, and his take on the Joker is equally unique. The first full-length tale of the Joker in Morrison’s run was “The Clown at Midnight” in “Batman” #663. A text with accompanying illustration issue, with spot illustration by JohnVan Fleet, this is another story of Joker deciding to wipe out the henchpeople of his past. Red and black roses are being handed to Joker’s former associates, including clowns and the little people from “The Killing Joke.”

Harley had carried out these killings at Joker’s behest, but in the end, unsurprisingly, Joker decided to kill Harley as well, to cut off the last connection to his past. Escaping from Arkham, Joker is stopped by Batman, and Harley aids Batman by shooting Joker. This is the last story in the pre-New 52 era where Harley is Joker’s sidekick, stepping away from his violence and madness.

I could continue giving long, detailed descriptions of one story after another of Joker killing his henchpeople, but the pattern remains the same. Still, there are a few more one-off henchpeople who bear mentioning. During the “Joker: Last Laugh” event, Joker found a disciple in Rancor, a Neo-Nazi with the ability to bring out the worst emotions in others. During DC’s Villain Month, “Batman” #23.1 focused on Joker and Jackanapes, a gorilla Joker had trained to serve him; Jackanapes apparently died, but an appearance in a possible future story in “Batman” #666 indicates the gorilla is still out there. The recent “Joker: Year of the Villain” one-shot features Jeremy, a disturbed young man who becomes Robin to Joker’s Batman during a rampage through the streets of Gotham where Joker is “helping” people as the Caped Crusader. Finally, Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s “Joker” OGN, released to coincide with the release of “The Dark Knight,” was an out-of-continuity tale narrated by a one-off thug, Jonny Frost.

The Jokerz in Batman Beyond

While not directly Joker henchpeople, no discussion of the influence of the Joker would be complete without a mention of the Jokerz. Created for “Batman Beyond,” the Jokerz were a street gang made up of disaffected youth who dressed in clown-related garb and caused trouble around Neo-Gotham. They ranged from nuisances to genuine threats, often just vandalizing property and mugging people, but sometimes their antics would cause real threats, as when they stole a tank with an experimental power source that nearly exploded and destroyed the city. In the animated film “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker,” the resurrected Joker took a small group of Jokerz as his sidekicks, one of whom he killed for mouthing off to him, while in the current comic book incarnation of the series, Joker killed the gang members more or less for diluting his brand.

So the question now is: Will Punchline be the next Harley Quinn, or the next Gaggy? Will she suffer the fate of Jackanapes, left to drown in Gotham Bay, or ride off into the sunset safe like Bones? Who knows?! The Joker remains unpredictable. The only thing I can say for sure is that working for the Joker is a terrible idea, and if you’re a Gotham criminal, you might want to look into working for Kite-Man.

With original information from:

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