There were these two guys in a lunatic asylum…
Most fanboys, and nearly every Batman fanboy will recognise this classic quote. I’m getting ahead of myself however. Welcome to another edition of Fanboy Recommended, the editorial that talks about the best media has to offer. Whilst thinking of a subject matter for this edition, I thought what better than the classic tale that is The Killing Joke. Without a shadow of a doubt one of the best comic book stories ever written, The Killing Joke holds a soft spot in many fanboy hearts, with it not just being my personal favourite Bat tale, but my favourite comic story period.
Writing a Classic
No matter what your views are of Alan Moore, one thing that we all can agree on is that he’s created some of the best stories in comic book history, with Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and his Swamp Thing run joining The Killing Joke in this category. Having helped to revolutionise the comic book industry, it’s hard to think of one project that surpasses the rest, but I feel that The Killing Joke does this.
The core story itself isn’t overly impressive, with Batman chasing after the Joker being nothing new (even back then). It is however the depth and suspense of this tale, along with the emotional turmoil throughout that turns this rather generic tale into the classic that it is today. Moore’s no nonsense approach to drastic developments, along with some key side developments (that I’ll touch on a bit later) also have a lot to do with the success of this tale, with the Joker being at his twisted peak throughout.
Art and Remastering
I was fortunate enough to first try this classic in the Deluxe Edition format, having the remastered art and colours of Brian Bolland himself. Having also seen the original since, I can honestly say that there is nothing wrong with that version, with John Higgins bold colours being fabulous considering what techniques were available at the time. Unfortunately however it just doesn’t compare to Bolland’s more refined tone.
Besides the new tools at his disposal, Bolland is also aided by the knowledge of what he originally had in mind for the story, as I’ve always felt all round artists give a better final product. The result is phenomenal, with the softer vibe giving a sombre flow that fits better alongside Moore’s script. I also found the Red Hood sequence to be much more palatable, with it giving a clean look, and obvious visual difference to the main story’s tone.
Birth of the Oracle
Unless you just started reading comics since the start of The New 52 then you’re bound to know of Barbara Gordon’s time as the Oracle, Batman’s trusty assistant. But how did she transition from the original Batgirl into the wheelchair bound tech genius? Most will know the answer to this, but for the rest the answer is the Joker. As with most catastrophic developments in the Batverse it’s the pale faced Clown Prince of Crime who’s responsible for this, with it being a simple well aimed shot that did it this time.
The best part about this drastic development was the nonchalant way in which Moore and Bolland handle this, as one minute she’s spending time with her father, and the next she’s answering the door to a gunshot. Despite all this it’s the ramifications of these actions that have thrilled the most, with Barbara’s role as the man behind the curtain being one of her best era’s yet.
All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy.
Joker’s origin has been somewhat of a mystery throughout the years, as despite there being many takes on his origin there has never been one that has definitely said it is the actual origin. The Killing Joke tells one of these origins, showing the Joker as a failing comedian who’s trying to make a better life for himself, his wife and his unborn child. To secure this he becomes the Red Hood working with criminals in a raid. Things obviously don’t go well for Joker, as once his associates sell him out he falls into a vat of acid turning into the lunatic we all know.
But is this Joker’s actual origin? This is something the story asks itself, showing that Joker is that deluded that he has several different versions in his head. Despite all this it’s the cruel twist of fate of Joker’s wife dying prior to the gig that makes it so captivating, proving that, “all it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy.”
In a Nutshell
So why should you go and spend your hard earned money on this book (if you’ve not done so already)? Well apart from being original, gritty and down right exhilarating, The Killing Joke is the kind of story that has you on the edge of your seat, wanting to read more. It’s character depth, and unflinching resolve to make drastic changes to the status quo makes it a story that’s worth re-reading, and I’m sure it’ll remain a classic in another 100 years time. So go and give this tale a try, and if you’ve already done so take it off your shelf, dust it down and give it another read. As I know it’ll be time well spent.