The Joker has continually been voted one of the best, if not the best comic book villains of all time. He is probably the purest example of chaotic evil in pop culture. As a villain he doesn’t murder, main and steal for power or money. He does it for the simple humor of chaos. His appearance is that of something which should be innocent, a clown, but twisted into horrific extremes. He is the original creepy clown and doesn’t much more in the way of mojo to make him more terrifying. Yet DC comics has recently changed him. The Joker has had his face amputated. He now wears it as a leather mask belted to his head.
The drastic change in appearance is meant to signify that the Joker has taken a new approach to villainy. I think the new version looks painful and horrifying. It makes me cringe. It’s scary but in the way a blood and guts slasher flick is horrifying. The Joker has done things that make the killers in slasher flicks look like Saturday morning cartoon characters, but often they’re censored or alluded to. When he kills Jason Todd we don’t see the crowbar smashing Robin, we only see the Joker’s face as he swings it. The blood and guts are unnecessary. He doesn’t need to look like Leatherface or Michael Myers. The readers imaginations fill in the blank details and make the character’s evil much worse. He’s more intimidating and disturbing looking simple. Alfred Hitchock said once “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” Seeing a gruesome human skin mask bolted to the face of the clown prince of crime shows us the ‘bang.’ Whenever the Joker shows up from now on there will be no lead up or ‘anticipation’ to whatever awful plan he has next. We already see him as a total monster instead of a twisted clown. Arguably Heath Ledger’s Joker was the least grotesque version of the character and look how great of a villain he made.
The Joker as a character is elemental, much like Batman himself. I doubt the leatherfaced Joker will last. Its only a matter of time before we see a reboot, or retcon. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next set of writers for a Joker story decide to throw him in a Lazarus Pit and heal his face.