Murderous villains Hisoka, from the anime series Hunter x Hunter, and Pennywise, from the film series IT, make the most of the terrifying clown trope. Much like the Joker, these clowns uncannily subvert the traditional role of a comical entertainer into something unnerving. Hisoka is a charming, bloodthirsty sadomasochist, always on the hunt for his next thrill. He does as he pleases and exudes a flamboyant personality. Pennywise, also known as IT, is introduced as a dancing clown that lives in the sewers. Outwardly he is friendly, but he only uses this trait to lure in victims.
With their make-up, red hair and decorative outfits, Hisoka and Pennywise fit the Auguste clown character design. This type of entertainer, also know as a slapstick clown, is most often associated with coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, which stems from not knowing what lies behind the mask. Hisoka means "secret" in Japanese, and is known to be a whimsical liar. Additionally, his impulsive nature makes him hard to understand or escape. Pennywise's true form is not even a clown, but an evil void. He is a somewhat baffling, multilayered character that is less of a person and more of a force. Both characters capitalize on deception and weaponize fear to achieve their means.
They are both chaotic in nature. Hisoka is a transmuter, which allows him to change the properties of his aura at will. His technique, called Bungee Gum, transforms his aura into a sticky, rubbery substance that he can attach to and detach from his opponents at will. Bungee Gum's literal translation is "elastic love," and is thought to represent Hisoka's fickle nature, considering he once said, "It takes a mere second for treasure to turn to trash."
Another trick up his sleeve is Texture Surprise, which translates to "flimsy lies." Similarly, Pennywise is an elusive shape-shifting force of evil. He assumes whatever form will terrorize his victims the most, but defaults to a clown or giant spider because they are common phobias. A popular analysis of Pennywise is that he represents the unknown, all-consuming evil in the world. Both characters have an insatiable appetite for destruction.
At his core, Hisoka is a hedonist: a person who believes that the pursuit of pleasure is the most important thing in life. He finds the most enjoyment in fighting strong opponents, so much that he savors the pain. Ever the playful villain, Hisoka loves to toy with his prey, and watch them squirm. Pennywise also relishes in scaring his prey. He does so to "salt their meat," which makes them taste better. He is a vessel that needs to be filled with the despair of others. He feeds approximately every three decades and then hibernates, much like the cycle of war and peace.
Generally, Hisoka and Pennywise share physical similarities, but their individual styles are very different. Pennywise sports a more traditional clown design. This is especially true of the 90s miniseries with Tim Curry sporting bright red hair, a big round nose and a frilly outfit. Hisoka, on the other hand, is more fashionable, wearing a crop top and high heels. He plays up the clown aspects in his personality and love of entertainment, but discards the kitschy stuff. His make-up is another interpretive twist as he draws a star and teardrop under his eyes instead of full face paint.
The villains also differ in the prey they seek. Hisoka hunts his peers. He goes so far as to spare people he could easily kill, saying, "It suits me to let you live until you become a worthy opponent." This is why Hisoka does not seriously injure Hunter x Hunter's main character, Gon, and at times even becomes an ally -- though his actions remain self-serving as he salivates over Gon's potential, patiently waiting for "the fruit to ripen."
Pennywise, on the other hand, seeks victims rather than a good fight. He prefers children because they are easy targets. With their immaturity, children respond more strongly to fear than adults, making them even more delicious to devour. This alien entity also feeds off evil in the world and manipulates it to do his bidding through murder and natural disasters.
Clowns possess the uncanny valley: a near-identical resemblance to a human being that arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it. This is why the killer clown trope is so effective; people naturally feel uneasy looking at their painted faces. Both Hisoka and Pennywise revel in making their victims feel uncomfortable and use this fear to deceive them. They share many qualities and differ in other facets, making them well-written and fascinating examples of a classic villain archetype.