Claiming that the late Heath Ledger’s spotlight-stealing version of the Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight is an unmatchable performance, a group of his fans have launched a petition calling for movie studios to permanently retire the character from any and all future Batman films.

In an e-mail interview with Wired, Fer Barbella – the leader of the team at The Ultimate Joker – said that he “truly believe[s] Ledger’s performance as Joker is the best an actor could ever do.” Since anyone trying to follow in Ledger’s footsteps would unquestionably “be below expectations for sure,” argues Barbella, the logical choice would be to permanently retire Batman’s iconic nemesis from the silver screen.

These are some pretty lofty words, considering that Ledger was merely the latest in a long line of notable Jokers; my personal favorite being Mark Hamill’s cackling interpretation of the role in Batman: The Animated Series. Ledger’s anarchic, nihilistic portrayal is certainly a hard act to follow – and he’s currently the running favorite to take home a posthumous Oscar at the Academy Awards – but permanently retiring the character seems to be going a bit too far.

If people had said the same thing after Jack Nicholson’s performance in 1989’s Batman, we wouldn’t have ever gotten Heath Ledger in the first place. So the whole idea of it seems a bit ridiculous to me. Still, for the time being, the crew at The Ultimate Joker is standing by their argument – what do you all think? Is Ledger’s performance unbeatable? Should the Joker be retired? Sound off in our forums.

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