Joanna Dark

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Joanna Dark
Perfect Dark character
Joanna dark N64 render.png
Promotional artwork of Joanna Dark for the first game
First gamePerfect Dark (2000)
Voiced byEveline Fischer (Perfect Dark)
Laurence Bouvard (Perfect Dark Zero)
Portrayed byMichele Merkin (Commercials and in-store promotions)

Joanna Dark is a fictional character and the main protagonist of the Perfect Dark video game series. She debuted in the Nintendo 64 first-person shooter Perfect Dark and is a player character in all the games of the series. Outside of video games, Joanna appears as the lead character in all the Perfect Dark novels and comic books. Joanna is an operative for the fictional Carrington Institute, where she was given the code name "Perfect Dark" in honor of her flawless performance in training tests.

Joanna Dark was originally devised by video game designer Martin Hollis, who found inspiration in a number of fictional heroines such as FBI agent Dana Scully from television series The X-Files, and the eponymous femme fatale of the film Nikita, among others. Her Perfect Dark Zero model was redesigned by manga artist Wil Overton. Joanna Dark is among Rare's most well known characters and has been featured in several "top lists" by the gaming media.

Character design[edit]

Joanna Dark was originally devised by Martin Hollis, the director and producer of GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, before he left Rare in 1998.[1] Hollis explained that the suggestion of having a female lead in a first-person shooter was inspired by Kim Kimberly, the protagonist of the first two games in the Silicon Dreams trilogy by Level 9 Computing, where the player experiences the shock of discovering that they are a woman fairly late in the first game.[1] He also felt that there should be more games with female leads. According to him, "Having just made a game starring a man it seemed logical to create one around a woman."[1]

Joanna's design was influenced by a number of fictional heroines, including the seductive spy Agent X-27 in the 1930s film Dishonored, FBI agent Dana Scully from The X-Files television series, and the eponymous femme fatale of the film Nikita, whom Hollis describes as "iconic, heroic, independent, vulnerable and very damaged."[1] The name "Joanna Dark" was taken from the French pronunciation of Joan of Arc as "Jeanne d'Arc".[1] Hollis revealed that they "wanted her to be quite normal, not with supermodel looks, perhaps a little androgynous."[1] In Perfect Dark, she was voiced by Eveline Fischer, a video game music composer who worked at Rare.[2]

During the development of Perfect Dark Zero, Joanna was redesigned by manga artist Wil Overton.[3] Overton added more distinctive elements, including a star tattoo on the left side of her neck, a blonde streak in her hair, and a choppy outline to her hairstyle.[3] Her hair was also changed from short and red to shoulder-length and orange. Hollis stated that while he liked the new concept work, he could not imagine why she would wear the orange. According to him, "It is uncharacteristic. Quite apart from the practical problem of being a beacon for bullets—Secret Agents don’t wear orange for good reason."[1] Process for her character design went through several alterations. Images of the initial concept were met with much derision among the fans who criticized Joanna's new manga-like appearance. In response, the developers chose to tone down some of the more stylized aspects of the design, eventually arriving at a more realistic appearance.[4] In Perfect Dark Zero, she was voiced by Laurence Bouvard.[5] For the cancelled sequel Perfect Dark Core, Dark was altered to fit the game's realistic atmosphere, being described as a "smoking, flirting" version.[6]


Joanna is described as a highly skilled marksman, a lethal hand-to-hand combat fighter, and an expert pilot and driver.[7] She has incredible reflexes and an ability to sniff out trouble. Her technical skills includes wiring up a charge, picking a lock or hacking a basic system. She also has an innate ability at keeping a false identity, suiting her for undercover operations.[7] In the Perfect Dark novels, it is revealed that she is incredibly enduring; in one case, after being shot, she continued doing her mission even though the wound worsened, having been torn open several times and developing an infection. She is capable of deep, destructive anger, and often lacks the discipline to keep her temper in check. This sometimes leads her to undertake reckless, ill-advised actions.[7]

Joanna is described as being naturally curious. She does not trust people easily, especially those who are associated with the corporations.[7] She is remarkably well adjusted and content to live each day as it comes. She is an avid supporter and non-professional player of DeathMatch VR, a combat simulator program that allows people to face off against each other in virtual arenas. She also enjoys a variety of adventure activities, including rock climbing, parkour, and dirt biking.[7] Joanna is depicted as having red shoulder-length hair, with a distinctive blonde streak that was the result of a genetic quirk. She has bright, deep blue eyes. She has a pale complexion and a slender, athletic build.[7] Her Perfect Dark Zero model reveals the presence of a star tattoo on the left side of her neck, which she got while she was in Hong Kong when she turned sixteen.


In video games[edit]

Joanna's first appearance is in the Nintendo 64 title Perfect Dark, released in 2000. In the game, Joanna is an operative for the fictional Carrington Institute, where she was given the code name "Perfect Dark" in honor of her flawless performance in training tests. On her first mission, she is sent to extract a dataDyne defector. In the process, she uncovers a conspiracy between world's biggest corporation dataDyne and a group of Skedars, extraterrestrials who have established an interstellar war against another alien race known as the Maians. The conspirators plan to steal a megaweapon from a crashed spacecraft on the Earth's ocean floor and use it against the Maian homeworld. However, unbeknownst to dataDyne, the Skedar also intend to test fire the weapon on Earth, destroying it in the process. With the help of a Maian bodyguard, Joanna manages to locate the megaweapon and destroy it. Afterward, she helps the Maians launch a counterattack against the Skedar homeworld, eliminating their High Priest, thereby issuing a devastating blow to morale.[8]

Joanna returns in a Game Boy Color game, which is set one year prior to the Nintendo 64 title. Having completed her training successfully and earned the trust of Institute's leader Daniel Carrington, Joanna is sent to the South American jungle, where she must destroy an illegal cyborg manufacturing facility. In the process, she witnessed an aircraft being shot down and made a note of the co-ordinates. As a result, she is ordered to investigate the crash site, where she eventually discovers that the wreckage belonged to the Skedar. In retaliation, the Institute is stormed by a dataDyne strike team to destroy any clues of the conspiracy, but Joanna ultimately stops it.

The 2005 prequel Perfect Dark Zero takes place three years before the events of the Nintendo 64 game, where Joanna is a bounty hunter working with her father Jack. On their first mission, they rescue a scientist named Zeigler from the hands a Triad crime lord based out of Hong Kong. Zeigler discovered an ancient artifact in Africa which endows individuals with superhuman powers, hinted to have been built by the Maians. However, Zeigler is killed shortly after and Jack is captured by dataDyne, who too are interested in the artifact. Joanna later manages to rescue him from the palace of Zhang Li, the secretive founder of dataDyne, but Jack is eventually killed by Zhang Li's daughter, Mai Hem. Joanna then finds her goals coinciding with those of the Carrington Institute. Taking advantage of their resources, Joanna avenges her father's death by killing Mai Hem and later Zhang Li, who used the artifact on himself.

In other media[edit]

Joanna Dark is the primary protagonist in the Perfect Dark novels and comic books. In the first novel, Initial Vector, which is set six months after Perfect Dark Zero, Joanna finds herself living in the Carrington Institute grounds and must learn to trust Daniel Carrington, as well as uncovering a conspiracy that may influence on dataDyne's new CEO election. The second novel, Second Front, follows Joanna as she attempts to stop a clandestine group of hackers responsible for some major accidents that allowed dataDyne to take over involved corporations. Janus' Tears, a six-issue American comic book which is set between both novels, focuses on Joanna's attempts to unmask a mole in the Carrington Institute's Los Angeles office.

Cultural impact[edit]

Promotion and merchandise[edit]

A promotional model dressed as Joanna Dark at gamescom 2010

In 2000, American model Michele Merkin portrayed the character in commercials and in-store promotions for the Nintendo 64 game cartridge.[9][10] In 2001, Blue Box Toys produced a 12-inch action figure based on her appearance in the N64 game. The figure came with several in-game weapons and was available in two looks—one dressed in a body armor suit and the other in a black leather jumpsuit.[11]


Joanna Dark is among Rare's most well known characters. In 2007, Tom's Games included her on the list of the 50 greatest female characters in video game history, calling her "all three Charlie's Angels rolled into one" and stating she should be played by Jessica Biel.[12] In 2008, Spike featured Joanna Dark as sixth on their list of "The Top Video Game Vixens",[13] and The Age ranked her as the 20th greatest Xbox character of all time even as her Perfect Dark Zero "may not have been the greatest entry for" her as opposed to the first game for the Nintendo consoles.[14] In 2013, Scott Marley of Daily Record ranked her as the third most attractive female video game character.[15] In 2015, Thanh Niên ranked this "perfect spy" as the fifth most sexy female video game character.[16]

Entertainment Weekly elected Joanna Dark the 14th coolest videogame character, adding "[w]hen James Bond goes to sleep, he dreams of being Joanna Dark."[17] In 2013, Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly listed her as one of "15 Kick-Ass Women in Videogames", asserting that "Joanna was a standout heroine in a genre that trends, even now, toward hyper-masculinity."[18] Despite this, Joanna was also criticized by Trigger Happy author Steven Poole, who described her character design as "a blatant and doomed attempt to steal the thunder of Lara Croft",[19] and argued that she illustrated the challenges of characterising the protagonists of first-person shooters.[20]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Darran Jones (2010-03-29). "Interview: Martin Hollis". NowGamer. Archived from the original on 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
  2. ^ Rare Revealed: The Making of Perfect Dark (Video). Twycross, England: Rare. 24 December 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Interview: Perfect Dark Zero (Page 3)". Computer and Video Games. 2005-11-18. Archived from the original on 2012-11-14. Retrieved 2012-04-12.
  4. ^ David Clayman (2005-05-10). "Ourcolony Update 5.10.05". IGN. Archived from the original on 2012-03-12. Retrieved 2012-04-12.
  5. ^ "Perfect Dark Zero Tech Info". GameSpot. Archived from the original on 2013-05-01. Retrieved 2012-10-12.
  6. ^ Wesley Yin-Poole (2011-03-21). "Cancelled Perfect Dark Core: new details". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on 2011-03-22. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Joanna Dark Character Bio". IGN. 2005-09-28. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  8. ^ Chris Carle. "Perfect Dark Guide/Story". IGN. Archived from the original on 2009-05-22. Retrieved 2011-09-19.
  9. ^ "Perfect Dark Commercial Online". IGN. 2000-04-10. Archived from the original on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2011-02-18.
  10. ^ "Joanna Sees off Perfect Dark". IGN. 2000-05-24. Archived from the original on 2007-10-17. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
  11. ^ "bbi Presents Joanna Dark from 'Perfect Dark'". Archived from the original on 2005-02-04.
  12. ^ Rob Wright (2007-02-20). "The 50 Greatest Female Characters in Video Game History". Tom's Games. Archived from the original on 2008-01-20. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
  13. ^ Reverend Danger (2008-11-10). "The Top 10 Video Game Vixens". Spike. Archived from the original on 2016-01-24. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
  14. ^ "The Top 50 Xbox Characters of All Time". The Age. 2008-09-30. Archived from the original on 2012-03-24. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
  15. ^ Scott Marley (2013-03-28). "Top Ten Most Attractive Female Video Game Characters". Daily Record. Archived from the original on 2016-01-25. Retrieved 2013-07-26.
  16. ^ Chủ nhật (2015-03-08). "25 nhân vật nữ khiến các game thủ nam "mất tập trung" nhất". Thanh Niên. Archived from the original on 2016-07-17. Retrieved 2015-06-29.
  17. ^ "25 Coolest Videogame Characters". Entertainment Weekly. 2011-05-05. Archived from the original on 2012-07-29. Retrieved 2013-04-22.
  18. ^ Darren Franich (2013-03-05). "15 Kick-Ass Women in Videogames". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 2014-04-21. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  19. ^ Steven Poole (March 2001). Trigger Happy: The Inner Life of Videogames. Fourth Estate. p. 254. ISBN 1-84115-121-1.
  20. ^ Steven Poole (September 2000). "Characterisation: Designing a believable virtual skin". Edge. No. 88. Future Publishing. p. 26.