|"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"Edit
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"Edit
- 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 mediaEdit
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
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.
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
- Mark Hamill has stated that he would voice the Joker again if this story was ever made into an animated movie.
- Neither Batman nor Joker are ever referred to by name in the comic.
- 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.