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Mortal Kombat 11's Joker Just Got Uglier In The Best Way

The Joker is back and creepier than ever, a victory for DC fans everywhere. Mortal Kombat 11's previous incarnation of the Clown Prince of Crime looked like a sixteen year old cosplayer headed to the local comic convention. While we love Comic-Con, this Joker didn't inspire fear or awe, just derisive memes. Unimpressed fans likened the Mortal Kombat Joker to bad fan art and even porn parodies. Heeding the widespread backlash, NetherRealm Studios showed off the Joker's much-needed makeover (makeunder?) at The Game Awards.

The Joker looks far less fresh-faced and naive. You can see wrinkles beneath his signature clown makeup, applied more haphazardly than before. His nose and chin seem more elongated and hooked, hearkening back to Warner Bros.' Arkham Asylum. Overall, this new Joker looks more like the Joker who appeared previously in the Mortal Kombat series. Back in 2008, the Joker fought in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, where he sported a similar outfit and appeared lank and goofy with his comically exaggerated chin. No one had any qualms with his design back then.

This back-to-basics redesign appears to have mollified players. "This is amazing. He looks like a hyrbid between Arkham Joker and Heath Ledger," said one commentor. "THE MODEL UPGRADE THO?????? OK CONSIDER ME HYPED NOW," wrote another. While some continue to plead for alternative skins, such as the frail but furious Joaquin Phoenix Joker, many fans seem over the moon about the transformation. 

How did the redesign happen?

NetherRealm may have learned the value of listening to fan input from Paramount Pictures. The silver screen version of Sonic the Hedgehog debuted to outrage. Even Sega expressed their disappointment with Sonic's uncannily realistic look. A few months, and a couple million dollars later, Paramount unveiled a new look for Sonic that stayed true to the original blue blur fans know and love. The move has restored some faith in the film adaptation, hinting at a possible box office success rather than a phenomenal flop.

Similarly, NetherRealm has taken the time to tweak its Joker design to better fit fan expectations before the character's Jan. 28 release. After watching the trailer reveal, players seem a lot more excited to fight as the Clown Prince of Crime. The reveal also offered the first taste of the Joker's voice acting. He sounds nothing like a gawky teenager and instead emulates Mark Hamill's iconic Joker from the Batman Animated Series.

Don't get too excited, though. The Joker's on-again, off-again girlfriend Harley Quinn won't appear in the game. The trailer features Cassie Cage, a Mortal Kombat mainstay, rather than the true Harley. You see her sporting a Harley Quinn skin, complete with pink and blue hair and smudged lipstick, a look the Joker approved of, commenting: "We'll aren't you just as cute as a button."

Cassie seemed less than impressed. "And aren't you just as creepy as f***," she replied, a welcome observation. It only took a significant redesign to get there. Why was NetherRealm's first take on the Joker so sloppy, even silly? According to the rumor mill, the developer did not originally plan to include the Joker in Mortal Kombat 11, instead favoring another violent pop culture icon.

Why did the original Joker look so bad?

One Redditor posted an alleged screenshot claiming Ash Willaims from The Evil Dead would join the lineup as a DLC fighter. The sound of a chainsaw in the first reveal trailer seemed to support this assertion. Dataminers later confirmed it looked like Ash and his Boomstick were on their way to Mortal Kombat 11, a dream that never fully took form. Somewhere along the line, NetherRealm appears to have scrapped the idea, much to the disappointment of fans. With his sawed-off shotgun and a chainsaw arm, Ash would have made a perfect addition to a game that celebrates bloodshed.

Many fans believe the team added the Joker at the last minute using Ash's character model. This could explain why his original incarnation was strangely beefy, his face oddly youthful. Perhaps Ash Williams lurked under all that makeup? NetherRealm has declined to set the record straight. Whatever the truth may be, this uglier, creepier, version of the Joker marks a huge improvement. Rather than dreading his Jan. 28 release, you can look forward to duking it out with the Clown Prince of Crime.

Beyond the changes to the Joker's appearance, Mortal Kombat 11 recently unveiled some other exciting additions, including a new "Krossplay" feature for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Once Krossplay goes live, it will affect Online Kasual modes and designated Krossplay Online Rooms. There's no word yet on when the feature will come to Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Become your favorite Joker

Since the reveal of the Joker (in all his hideous glory), fans have been begging NetherRealm to add alternative skins. Even with Mortal Kombat 11's newly madeover clown prince of crime, players still want the option to embody their favorite take on this timeless villain. The Joker has many iconic looks, from his old school style of the Batman Animated Series, to the dark and gritty DC films of contemporary times.

Right now, Joaquin Phoenix's Joker from this fall's award-winning origin film is enjoying the limelight. He might be the beefiest Joker out there, but players still want to play as this sadder, shakier criminal extraordinaire. Aaron Gall made his own edit of what Arthur Fleck might look like if he was fighting Cassie Cage rather than NetherRealm's newly madeover Joker. It's a good look with his mustard-colored jacket and blue face paint, but he might not be skinny enough for the part. Joaquin Phoenix lost a lot of weight in order to make Arthur Fleck look downright emaciated. 

We fully anticipate more edits by more talented artists to come. How about a Heath Ledger Joker? A Jared Leto Joker? Were NetherRealm to heed fans and make this official, it could probably make a killing off of Joker skins.