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Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore
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Batman: The Killing Joke

by Alan Moore, Brian Bolland (Illustrator)

Series: Batman

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,241612,862 (4.03)45
  1. 20
    DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore by Alan Moore (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: DC UNIVERSE contains THE KILLING JOKE in its entirety, along with a bunch of other great DC stories by Alan Moore. It's also only about 2 bucks more than the KILLING JOKE hardcover.
  2. 10
    Cover Story: The DC Comics Art of Brian Bolland by Brian Bolland (apokoliptian)
  3. 00
    Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told (DC Comics) by Mike Gold (FFortuna)
  4. 00
    Batman: The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker (FFortuna)
  5. 12
    Batman: Cacophony by Kevin Smith (FFortuna)
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English (60)  French (1)  All languages (61)
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VIDEO VERSION:

The Killing Joke by Alan Mooore


Oh, I'm so tired of Batman. Movies. Comics. Television. Internet parodies. There's just too much of the guy.

I grew up with Adam West playing Batman. Then you had Michael Keaton play Batman which was a cultural phenomenon in 1989. Then you had and Val Kilmer and George Clooney but nobody saw those. I read The Dark Knight by Frank Miller and really, I was done by that point.

That's why I am one of the only people on earth who never saw any of the Christopher Nolan Batman films starring Christian Bale. Plus, the whole Christian Bale voice just made me laugh in all the trailers. What was up with that? I think it was supposed to be sinister and intimidating but instead it was completely hilarious. That goofy voice made Batman no more sinister than the 1960's television show with Adam West. Seriously, I was baffled by how audiences could be saying these movies were so dark and brooding when he was doing that hysterical voice. Christian Bale as Batman talks exactly the same way I did when I was 5 years old making prank phonecalls and trying to sound like a grownup.

Once I found out that Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan were both inspired by The Killing Joke, I knew I had no need to ever see another Batman movie because I had already read The Killing Joke in 1988. Why bother watching multiple movie adaptations 25 years later? I've already seen the movie in my head. Nothing they put on film can top what I've already envisioned.

The Killing Joke, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland, is considered by many to be one of those turning point kind of comics. The kind of story that skewed Batman, and indeed the comic book industry itself, into a whole new way of thinking. As graphic novels go, The Killing Joke isn't very long. As graphic novels go, The Killing Joke is downright paltry. Truthfully, it's a comic book. It's too short to legitimately qualify as a graphic novel. But the story. Wow. When this comic book came out, the story was utterly shocking. This was most definitely not the Batman of Adam West. This was not campy. This was Batman in a very brutal and sadistic world. The Joker was no longer a joke. He was finally portrayed as the terrifying homicidal maniac that any true villain happens to be. And yet, there remains a great beauty and human element to the story. The good guys and bad guys are not clear cut; they are not black and white and one-dimensional representations of good and evil. For all the horrendous violence and psychosis in the story, it also inspires a heartbreaking sympathy for The Joker. His origins, as revealed in The Killing Joke, make you feel genuine pity for this monstrously deranged psychopath. When you find out what awful things the world has done to him, you start to understand why he became The Joker, and although his actions can not be condoned, they become easier to comprehend. The Joker begins the story as a genuinely decent man, but the circumstances by which he descends into his fate of becoming this fiendish criminal are a tragic and cumulative succession of misfortunes which are simply heartwrenching.

Many people often mention the fact that Alan Moore, the author of The Killing Joke, has since derided the book. In a 2000 interview he said, "I don't think it's a very good book. It's not saying anything very interesting." Later, he went on to say, "I know that I've slagged The Killing Joke pretty remorselessly since it first came out. I mean, when I go into a sulk about something, you know, it lasts for decades... The Killing Joke is probably not as bad as I've painted it. There have certainly been worse things done with Batman or with a lot of other superheroes for that matter. So in context, The Killing Joke wasn't as bad a book as I've said it was, probably."

But you have to keep in mind, we're talking about Alan Moore. If you know anything about him, he's a very artsy artist. Eccentric is the word. He looks like the bastard lovechild of Dan Haggerty and Charles Manson. I've never met the man. Never talked to him. But from what I've seen in interviews and whatnot, you can tell, he's the kind of creative individual who is very caught up in his own headspace. And that's okay. That's not an insult to the man. That's the way many of us are. Most writers take a strong dislike to most of their past work. Goodness knows there are aspects of things I've written 20 years ago that makes me cringe. Hell, there are things I've written 20 weeks ago that make me cringe. We are supposed to dislike older works. That proves we are learning and evolving and perfecting the craft of writing. When you're a 97 year old writer, you should look back at the books you wrote when you were 80 years old and be disappointed that you didn't really know what you were doing. You made mistakes. You messed a few things up. The rest of the world may hail you as a genius, and sometimes, you have those golden paragraphs of such divine clarity that even your own massive ego can scarcely believe you wrote them, but no matter how perfect your narcissism tells you that you are, you know you always fall a little short of what you thought it could have been.

That's a long winded way of saying, "The book is pretty awesome, so take Alan Moore's self-doubt with a grain of salt."

If you're the sort of person who never reads comic books, The Killing Joke is a great place to start. The themes are very mature and adult and the story is certainly not intended for young children. The Killing Joke is an R-rated movie that has been drawn in comic book form. Pick it up. Check it out. Read it for yourself. By the standards of today, in 2013, it may not hold the same shock value it once had, but just remember, when this story was published in 1988 it was a groundbreaking creation.

Go read The Killing Joke. This book has certainly earned well-deserved recognition, not only in the world of comic books, but in the world of literary influences as well. ( )
  EricMuss-Barnes | Mar 22, 2015 |
Disappointing.

Hot off the heels of reading The Watchmen, I decided to pick up another Alan Moore book, The Killing Joke. I had read that this book was a big part of the inspiration for Heath Ledger's joker in The Dark Knight, so I was quite excited for it.

Unfortunately, I don't think the book holds up very well to scrutiny. First, the good: the artwork is absolutely fantastic, particularly the re-released, re-colored anniversary edition. Some of the panels are insanely beautiful and memorable, let it not be said that this isn't a beautifully drawn book.

Now, the not so good: very little actually happens. I realize it's only a 60-page book, but a lot more could have happened. Joker buys a carnival, kidnaps Comissioner Gordon, tries to drive him crazy, then Batman shows up and tells him to stop. In the meantime, we are treated to a series of flashbacks into who the Joker was before he became the Joker. This was what I had the most trouble with.

The Joker's appeal is partly his completely mysterious past - it makes him into a force of nature, rather than an actual person. This book tries to humanize him to a degree, arguing that he and Batman are both byproducts of a single bad day, and they simply reflected on this day differently. I think this lessens Joker as a character no matter what, but in particular the backstory given to him is terrible. Joker as a failed standup comedian with a pregnant wife, he sets up a heist to help pay the bills, but she dies randomly the day before the heist, which he then goes through with anyway. It also retcons the Red Hood in an incredibly unbelievable way. The whole thing is tedious and silly, at no point believable. I realize that it may not have been "true", since the Joker explains that he remembers his past different all the time, but that's really no better than telling someone a story and then ending with "it was all a dream - or was it?"

Batman's confrontation with the Joker is anticlimactic and lame. He shows up and tells the Joker, who has just tortured his friend Gordon and paralyzed Gordon's Daughter (which Joker somehow knew he did when he shot her), that he sympathizes with him and wants to help. This is the weakest, softest portrayal of Batman I've ever seen. He pleads with the Joker so they don't kill each other. It's just... weak.

Overall, I think this is an unengaging story with a lot of unfortunate retconning that I'd prefer not exist. I liked the Joker's portrayal, and I'm glad it went to influence Heath Ledger's excellent turn, but beyond that I don't think this book is really worth reading. ( )
  rodhilton | Nov 14, 2014 |
I guess comics had a lot to prove in the 80s, and that hasn't helped them age well. While it's an artful story (especially the artwork, which has been redone), every page is desperately screaming, "I'm not for kids," without enough quality writing to make up for that. It's too dark to be any fun, and there's no excuse for a Joker story to not be fun. ( )
  comfypants | Nov 13, 2014 |
I love Batman. I loved this book. I think the important thing about remaking famous characters is to stay true to their original personalities. Alan Moore did a great job of staying true not only the the personalities of both Batman and the Joker, but to the relationship between the two. The Joker seems to bring out this moral ambiguity that Batman finds uncomfortable. The only thing that I didn't like is they presented an alternative back story to Joker that I don't think fits well with what is already known about him as a character. ( )
  alb2219 | Sep 5, 2014 |
Very well done. Great graphics and coloring. I really liked the spotlight effect used in the flashback scenes. Good story and nice dialogue throughout. I personally could have done with less mistreatment of Barbara as I felt uncomfortable with the sexualized violence, but the rest of the graphic novel was well done. ( )
  CareBear36 | Jun 10, 2014 |
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Bolland, BrianIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0930289455, Paperback)

The Killing Joke, one of my favorite Batman stories ever, stirred a bit of controversy because the story involves the Joker brutally, pointlessly shooting Commissioner Gordon's daughter in the spine. This is a no-holds-barred take on a truly insane criminal mind, masterfully written by British comics writer Alan Moore. The art by Brian Bolland is so appealing that his depiction of the Joker became a standard and was imitated by many artists to follow.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:55 -0400)

"One bad day. According to the grinning engine of madness and mayhem known as The Joker, that's all that separates the sane from the psychotic. Freed once again from the confines of Arkham Asylum, he's out to prove his deranged point. And he's going to use Gotham's top cop, Commissioner Jim Gordon, and his brilliant and beautiful daughter Barbara to do it. Now Batman must race to stop his archnemesis before his reign of terror claims two of the Dark Knight's closest friends. Can he finally put an end to the cycle of bloodlust and lunacy that links thes two iconic foes before it leads to a fatal conclusion? And as the horrifying origin of the Clown Prince of Crime is finally revealed, will the thin line that separates Batman's nobility and The Joker's insanity snap once and for all? '' -- dust jacket.… (more)

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