Cbr14bingo Scandal/bingo Published in 1988 generated controversy for its violence, treatment of Barbara Gordon, Moore’s later criticism of his own. See this story in the Guardian.
Batman: The Killing Joke, published in 1988, has had enormous influence on Batman movies and seems to be the generally accepted version of the Joker’s origin story. While I haven’t seen all of the Batman movies, as I read this graphic novel, I recognized that Hollywood has largely adopted Alan Moore’s story as canon. Moore himself in subsequent years regretted the story for its violence, and the treatment of Barbara Gordon contributed to a backlash against the use of female heroes as victims and excuses for violence against bad guys. This Batman story is decidedly mature, an adult rather than a kiddie comic, which is not surprising given that Alan Moore (The Watchmen, V for Vendetta) wrote it. This is a very dark and violent story but the bad guy Joker is given some nuance, and Batman’s final interactions with Joker in this story indicate a mature approach to crime, criminals and punishment. Most likely this is why some Batman fans disliked this particular comic.
The Killing Joke tells two stories: one contemporary about the Joker breaking out of Arkham Asylum to commit his greatest crime, and the other a flashback showing how the Joker became the Joker. The original title of this graphic novel was meant to be “One Bad Day,” as in all it takes is one bad day to push a person over the edge, to ruin their lives, to spark their insanity. That is the idea that links the two stories. The young man who would become the Joker had a very pregnant wife and a secure job that he quit in order to become a comic. As he struggles and fails in this endeavor, he makes a life changing choice to assist in just one crime for the sake of his wife and unborn child. Tragedy strikes, the best laid plans fall apart and the Joker is born. Parallel to this story, the contemporary Joker, freshly escaped from Arkham, aims to show that one bad day is all that separates the good from the bad; anyone can become a Joker if they have a bad day. To prove this, Joker aims to give commissioner Gordon the worst day of his life and then watch as the man descends into madness.
The end of this story is the most interesting part of it. While certain details from this novel have appeared in the various Batman/Joker films, to my knowledge, the final scene between Batman and Joker has not. I think that is a shame as this involves Batman trying to reach the Joker on a personal level. It involves a recognition that certain terrible things have made them who they are but that it is also possible to transcend one’s past and poor choices. The final scenes in the graphic novel are ambiguous and have sparked interesting debate about Joker’s fate.
Moore’s story is gritty and gripping, and Brian Bolland’s artwork contains vivid detail, bold lines and, in this latest version, color panels. The original was a black and white story. The Killing Joke is a must read for Batman fans, a truly provocative addition to Batman and Joker’s joint stories.