|"Batman: The Killing Joke"|
|First Published:||March 1988|
Batman: The Killing Joke is an influential one-shot superhero comic book written by Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland, published by DC Comics in 1988. It has in its original form continuously been held in print since then. It has also been reprinted as part of the DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore-trade paperback.
In 2008 it was reprinted in a deluxe hardcover edition. This Deluxe Edition features new coloring by Brian Bolland, meant to illustrate his original intentions for the book, with more somber, realistic, and subdued colors than the intensely-colored original.
"The Killing Joke"
The plot revolves around a largely psychological battle between Batman and his longtime foe the Joker, who has escaped from Arkham Asylum. The Joker intends to drive Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon insane to prove that the most upstanding citizen is capable of going mad after having "one bad day". As part of his plans, the Joker managed to scam the owner of a run-down amusement park into giving him control, also poisoning him in the process when shaking hands on the deal, revealing that the park was actually Joker's since an hour beforehand thanks to his minions forcing his business partner to grant Joker ownership. Along the way, the Joker has flashbacks to his early life, gradually explaining his possible origin.
The man who will become the Joker is an unnamed engineer who quits his job at a chemical company to become a stand-up comedian, only to fail miserably. Desperate to support his pregnant wife, Jeannie, he agrees to guide two criminals into the plant for a robbery. During the planning, the police inform him that his wife has died in a household accident involving an electric baby bottle heater. Grief-stricken, the engineer tries to withdraw from the plan, but the criminals strong-arm him into keeping his commitment to them.
At the plant, the criminals make him don a special mask to become the infamous Red Hood. Unknown to the engineer, this disguise is simply the criminals' scheme to implicate any accomplice as the mastermind to divert attention from themselves. Once inside, they almost immediately blunder into security personnel, and a violent shootout and chase ensues. The criminals are gunned down and the engineer finds himself confronted by Batman, who is investigating the disturbance.
Panicked, the engineer deliberately jumps into the chemical plant's chemical waste catch-basin vat to escape Batman and is swept through a pipe leading to the outside. Once outside, he discovers, to his horror, that the chemicals have permanently bleached his skin chalk white, stained his lips ruby red and dyed his hair bright green. This turn of events, compounding the man's misfortunes of that one day, drives him completely insane and results in the birth of the Joker.
In the present day, the Joker kidnaps Gordon, shoots and paralyzes his daughter Barbara, and imprisons him in a run-down amusement park. His henchmen then strip Gordon naked and cage him in the park's freak show. He chains Gordon to one of the park's rides and cruelly forces him to view giant pictures of his wounded daughter in various states of undress. Once Gordon completes the maddening gauntlet, the Joker ridicules him as an example of "the average man", a naïve weakling doomed to insanity.
Batman arrives to save Gordon, and the Joker retreats into the funhouse. Gordon's sanity is intact despite the ordeal and he insists that Batman capture the Joker "by the book" in order to "show him that our way works." Batman enters the funhouse and faces the Joker's traps while the Joker tries to persuade his old foe that the world is inherently insane and thus not worth fighting for. Eventually, Batman tracks down the Joker and subdues him. Batman then attempts to reach out to him to give up crime and put a stop to their years-long war; otherwise, the two will be eternally locked on a course that will one day result in a fight to the death between them. The Joker declines, however, ruefully saying "It's too late for that...far too late." He then tells Batman a joke that was started earlier in the comic. The joke is funny enough to make the normally stone-faced Batman laugh. They continue to laugh as the police approach. Batman then grabs the Joker and the story ends, leaving it up to the reader to determine the Joker's fate.
"The Killing Joke"
- Barbara Gordon
- James Gordon
- Alfred Pennyworth
- The Joker
- Danny Weaver
- Two-Face (Cameo)
- The Penguin (Cameo)
- Red Hood (In Flashback Only)
- The Joker's Carnival Freaks
Influence in other media
Tim Burton claimed that The Killing Joke was a major influence on his film adaptation of Batman: "I was never a giant comic book fan, but I've always loved the image of Batman and The Joker. The reason I've never been a comic book fan - and I think it started when I was a child - is because I could never tell which box I was supposed to read. I don't know if it was dyslexia or whatever, but that's why I loved The Killing Joke, because for the first time I could tell which one to read. It's my favorite. It's the first comic I've ever loved. And the success of those graphic novels made our ideas more acceptable."
Director Christopher Nolan has mentioned that The Killing Joke served as an influence for the version of the Joker that appeared in The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger, who played the Joker, stated in an interview that he was given a copy of The Killing Joke as reference for the role. The most apparent influence of the graphic novel on the narrative itself would be the Joker's concept of his past as being "multiple choice" – in the film, he describes two conflicting scenarios to explain the origins of his scars to two different people - as well as his claim that a bad day could drive anyone mad, which he tries to prove through tormenting Gordon in the comic book, and Harvey Dent in the film. Both Jokers also explain their behavior and attitude as seeing what a twisted joke the world is, with the film stating in society "their morals, their code: it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be."
The design of the Joker in the video game Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is based on The Killing Joke. In addition, one of his Fatalities, where he uses a bang flag gun before using a real gun on his opponent (censored in some versions) is named after the comic. The ending also has him sitting on a throne made of mannequins, alluding to a similar instance in the comic.
In the climax for Batman: Arkham Asylum, the Joker is seen sitting on a throne made of dismembered mannequins, alluding to The Killing Joke. In addition, Barbara Gordon's status as Oracle and being crippled by the Joker also references the comic. Joker also is about to recite a joke before interrupting himself and remembering he already told Batman that joke, alluding to the ending of The Killing Joke. His alias of "Jack White" was also referenced in the game.
During the interview tapes in Batman: Arkham City, Joker tells Hugo Strange his "Origin Story", which was based on The Killing Joke. Hugo, however, claims it to be fake, as he read up on 12 other "origin" stories that Joker had told. Joker also directly references Alan Moore's writing by stating that someone once told him to respond to his past with "multiple choices."
In the DC Animated Original film series movie Batman: Under the Red Hood, aside from references to the Joker's status as the original red hood, a flashback to Batman's first encounter with the Joker (or rather, the man who would become the Joker) at the ACE Chemical Plant has the man claiming that he was set up and that he wasn't a crook before tripping and falling into one of the chemical vats, alluding to the backstory given in The Killing Joke where he was strongarmed into participating in the heist. In addition, the second Red Hood, Jason Todd, indirectly alludes to Joker's crippling of Barbara Gordon from the comic nearing the end, with the Joker also briefly asking for a camera, alluding to his photographing Barbara Gordon to break her father.
In Batman: Arkham Origins, during Dr. Harleen Quinzel's patient interview with the Joker midway through the game, the flashbacks accompanying the Joker's story to Quinzel are based on his past from The Killing Joke (specifically, his status as a failed stand-up comedian and his brief heist as the Red Hood that led to his first encounter with Batman and his disfiguration). In addition, his killing an amusement park owner to gain control of it via a handshake in the comic was also referenced in the same game, when he explains how he managed to get the equipment and set it up inside the Gotham Royal Hotel. The poem on the roof of the Gotham Royal Hotel also referenced The Killing Joke. Joker's voice actor for this game, Troy Baker, also recited a monologue made by the Joker, in his Joker voice, from The Killing Joke at Comic-Con when he was announced to be the voice of the Joker for Arkham Origins.
In Batman: Arkham Knight, there was a fear toxin-induced hallucination/flashback referring to the events of Barbara Gordon's paralysis at the hands of The Joker from the comic.
The issue of Darkwing Duck "Toy With Me"'s cover, depicting Quackerjack using a camera with a worried Darkwing Duck on the camera lens, was taken directly from the cover for The Killing Joke.
- In The Killing Joke, the ending was ambiguous, leaving the fates of Batman and Joker to the reader. However, on August 2013, comic book writer Grant Morrison was a guest on Kevin Smith's podcast Fat Man on Batman this week, where he explained how he interpreted the book's ending:
"No one gets the end, because Batman kills The Joker. That’s why it’s called The Killing Joke. The Joker tells the ‘Killing Joke’ at the end, Batman reaches out and breaks his neck, and that’s why the laughter stops and the light goes out, ’cause that was the last chance at crossing that bridge. And Alan Moore wrote the ultimate Batman/Joker story… he finished it."
However, there are contradictions to Morrison's idea, some of which coming from the script.
- Neither Batman nor Joker are ever referred to by name in the comic.
- The ending joke appears to be inspired by an older joke performed by Red Skelton on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 29, 1968.
- In the 2011 Comic-Con, Mark Hamill said that if there would ever be an animated version of The Killing Joke, he would gladly voice the Joker again, encouraging fans to campaign for said adaptation, most notably in a tweet made on October 24, 2011. Since then, a Facebook page titled "Petition to get Mark Hamill to play the Joker in animated Killing Joke" has been set up by his fans. At the premiere of The Dark Knight Returns Part 2, producer Bruce Timm dropped a couple hints about DC animated projects, one of which is the possibly of doing a Killing Joke adaption. At ComicCon 2015, Bruce Timm confirmed that one of the film lineups for 2016 includes an animated adaptation of The Killing Joke, with Mark Hamill crossing his fingers of being allowed to voice Joker when the casting call comes.
- Originally, it was intended that, in addition to Joker shooting Barbara Gordon through the spine and taking nude photos of her to drive her father insane, that Joker was to be explicitly depicted as raping Barbara Gordon. Artwork for the scene was even created, and the scene ended up cut, although rape was still implied in the final version. Gosh! Comics' Billy Hynes eventually tweeted the original page on December 1, 2013.
- It's official Mark Hamill to Voice The Joker for BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE Animated Film
Notes and references
- ↑ Grant Morrison: Batman kills Joker in The Killing Joke - Batman-News
- ↑ Did Batman Kill The Joker at the End of 'The Killing Joke'? - ScreenRant
- ↑ The Killing Joke Script Proves Batman Didn't Kill The Joker | Comicbook.com
- ↑ MTV Geek - Batman Didn't Kill The Joker In 'The Killing Joke,' Pretty Much 100% Confirms Alan Moore's Script
- ↑ "Red Skelton on The Ed Sullivan Show" on YouTube
- ↑ 1:30 mark of Interview with Mark Hamill at Comic-Con 2011
- ↑ SDCC 2011-BAC: Mark Hamill Interview
- ↑ HamillHimself on Twitter
- ↑ Petition to get Mark Hamill to play the Joker in animated Killing Joke
- ↑ Bruce W. Timm On A Possible KILLING JOKE Animated Film - Comic Book Movies
- ↑ https://twitter.com/BillyHynes/statuses/407262919760805889
- ↑ http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Hollywood/2013/12/08/Revealed-DC-Comic-Was-to-Have-Featured-Rape-and-Torture-of-Batgirl (archived version)