For a story that mostly amounts to a “What If…?” scenario, Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke has become one of the most seminal events in the history of the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince of Crime. So much so that it got wrapped into the actual canon of the Batman comics for years. Coming from Moore, it’s naturally a dense exploration about the relationship between two of the greatest foes in modern fiction.
But that’s not usually what people remember about The Killing Joke. In the story, The Joker shoots Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, Barbara, which leaves her permanently paralyzed. There’s also a very strong suggestion that The Joker rapes her. It’s dark, dark material that has only become more controversial as time has gone on. Not to mention that the book’s ambiguous ending leaves room for an interpretation where Batman kills The Joker (I buy into this version, as it makes The Killing Joke into the last Batman story, and a disturbingly dour one where The Joker wins by breaking Batman).
So of course DC wants to turn it into an animated movie! Their success with that other 80s Batman landmark, The Dark Knight Returns, has obviously empowered them to take a swing at an even grimmer tale. While I had some minor issues with that project, it was overall a faithful and well-executed adaptation (best part: Michael Emerson as The Joker. He’s perfect). Bruce Timm will be executive producing this endeavor, so the smart money is on Mark Hamill returning to voice the Harlequin of Hate as his swan song to the character. Hamill has said numerous times before that he would only return to the animated Joker if it was for this story.
I’m nervous about this. Not only is the subject material going to be even more scrutinized than ever, but Moore’s work is something that usually doesn’t lend itself to the motion of… well, motion pictures. Though I do think appreciation for Zack Snyder’s Watchman adaptation will grow as we get further and further into superhero saturation, that movie still can’t capture the comic book language that Moore is a master of utilizing. I’m also wondering how much they’ll have to sanitize of The Killing Joke in order to secure their desired PG-13 rating. The Dark Knight Returns was something I could see as a PG-13, but The Killing Joke is going to have to trim some serious insanity to get there.
As someone who is a die-hard Batman fan (and these days, I feel ashamed to admit that), I’ll need to see this. What about you, Chewers?
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