A Joker revealed! The Chicago college student behind the Obama image

Aug. 18, 2009 | 3:35 p.m.

Mark Milian, a good friend to the mighty Hero Complex, has an eye-catching post at our political sister blog Top of the Ticket. In a mash-up of fan-boy, Midway and the Beltway storylines, it seems Mark got a bead on who created the Barack Obama/Joker image that has become a sidewalk-culture sensation. Here’s an excerpt…

Obama as the Joker

Bored during his winter school break, Firas Alkhateeb, a senior history major at the University of Illinois, crafted the picture of Obama with the recognizable clown makeup using Adobe’s Photoshop software.

Firas Alkhateeb

Alkhateeb had been tinkering with the program to improve the looks of photos he had taken on his clunky Kodak camera. The Joker project was his grandest undertaking yet. Using a tutorial he’d found online about how to “Jokerize” portraits, he downloaded the October 23 Time Magazine cover of Obama and began digitally painting over it.

Four or five hours later, he happily had his product. On Jan. 18, Alkhateeb uploaded the image to photo-sharing site Flickr (shown at right). Over the next two months, he amassed just a couple thousand hits, he said.

Then the counter exploded after a still-anonymous rogue famously found his image, digitally removed the references to Time Magazine, captioned the picture with the word “socialism” and hung printed copies around L.A., making headlines…


— Mark Milian


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19 Responses to A Joker revealed! The Chicago college student behind the Obama image

  1. Bob Folkestad says:

    This guy deserves a medal of honor. It is too bad we are in the middle of a four year moratorium on giving the award to non-socialists.

  2. dgriffith says:

    Low class.

  3. Harold says:


  4. GOP08_DOA says:

    The new hero of the uninformed, zealous, loud, obnoxious, always wrong, McCain/Palin/Bush/Cheney voting "conservative" mob. Sarah apparently needs to start tweeting again to keep this moronic crowd fully distracted.

  5. federico valdivieso says:

    Who cares when this stuff below is going on… and our soldiers & Marines are dying everyday over there…
    Have the Times reported this… ?

  6. ezra says:

    I commend this artist's creative implementation of free speech. I am also an Obama supporter.

  7. John Collins says:

    If this guy made the image just to practice his photoshop skills, then the person who really deserves the credit is the one who co-opted it, added the caption, and plastered it all over Los Angeles. This is a brilliant use of "guerilla art" to challenge the view that the left has of its iconic leader.

  8. ATS says:

    Firas Alkhateeb, you are very lucky. If you live in Middle East. I would say your head would be gone less that 1 second. How do you feel if I uploaded you photo and digitally painting as a Devil or Pig and called out that what you dad or granddad look like? Obama have two little girls. Give them respected.
    To my fellow American. This guy have no IQ. DO NOT and think his is your hero. Middle Eastern people laughing at you!

  9. Truth says:

    here's hoping Warner Bros and D.C. Comics sue him.
    crappy picture taken from an even crappier movie.

  10. DJ SanDiego says:

    Karnak, predicts; men with short haircuts driving late model sedans, wearing serious expressions; in your future……

  11. Pearl says:


  12. Gabriell says:

    The photo is offensive. These Obama critics use dishonest, ugly smear tactics rather than honest, intelligent debate to make their point. If you have any real arguments or thoughts let's hear them please.

  13. eltoro says:

    A quote from the artist regarding the person that put the word socialist under the picture:
    "It really doesn't make any sense to me at all," he said. "To accuse him of being a socialist is really … immature. First of all, who said being a socialist is evil?"
    One of the Lib's very own is the creator of this masterpiece! This image is iconic…
    BTW, why so stimulus?

  14. Brad says:

    "The photo is offensive. These Obama critics use dishonest, ugly smear tactics rather than honest, intelligent debate to make their point. If you have any real arguments or thoughts let's hear them please. "
    "Cause you know, nobody ever did that to Bush…..how about the fact that Obama has doubled our national debt in just 6 months. It took Bush 8 years to achieve that level of spending. Or how about the fact that Obama, while campaigning, declared that he would take the troops out of Iraq quicker than Bush, but has now set the same timetable as Bush? How is that for honest, intelligent debate? Honestly, I don't see what the big deal is. It is simply someone exercising their First Amendment right….you know, the right given to citizens of the USA by The Constitution. Remember? The Constitution? Of course you don't.

  15. Billium1953 says:

    I'm not sure it really says anything in itself but thank God we at least temporarily still live in a country where we can make fun of our idiot leaders.

  16. Tom Mariner says:

    I am not a fan of every action our President has taken, but I do wince at blatant mockery. That goes for past Presidents as well.
    Sorry for being such a conservative jerk, but the guy is My President and I have a problem with anyone demeaning him.

  17. Gina says:

    Well his he didn't intend on depicting the president as a bad guy out to mess up america but he did. These kids need to realize the consequence of their actions. Now the image had become more then he wanted it to be. Next time you're bored kid, try reading a book.

  18. billy boy says:


  19. socalcomment says:

    Who'd a thunk it? The hero of the teabaggers movement would be an arab? Go figure.

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