Batman: The Killing Joke: The NEVER ENDING battle of the Bat and the Clown

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The Killing Joke was a revolutionary turning point of attention to comic media. People back in the ’80s mostly knew Batman from the show Batman 1966, A goofy and campy show showing Batman in a bright blue and gray costume with absurd gadgets and tools to help him, like the shark repellent, to stop his most nefarious enemies. For something as goofy as that show, people never really took Batman seriously as the Caped Crusader of a dark Gotham. This was until Batman: The Killing Joke, a gruesome psychological horror spinning the ideas of the characters of Batman and Joker on their heads to where they are today. The Killing Joke is more of a Joker story then it is a Batman story as it explores the deep psychosis of the Joker and his origin. Tim Burton took inspiration from this book for his Superhero classic, Batman (1989) an incredibly unique movie showing mainstream media the true nature of Batman. It turns out a “spiritual sequel” is on the way with Three Jokers made by Geoff Johns set after most events such as this book and Death In The Family. The authors’ Alan Moore and Brian Bolland did a splendid job on making Batman and his rogue gallery who they are today. 


Alan Moore, a British writer most known for his work on V for Vendetta and Watchmen, both now feature films, has done plenty of great works in the comic industry. His first published work was an article on The Shadow in Seminar #2 (1970). He then did Miracleman (1982), V for Vendetta (1982-1986), Swamp Thing (1983), Supreme (1986), Watchmen (1986-1987), and Batman: The Killing Joke (1988). Post Killing Joke he did From Hell (1991-1996), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999-Present), and Promethia (2000). Alan Moore is known as one of the most inspirational writers in the industry for not only his work but his morality. In the feature film Watchmen (2009) Alan Moore was not credited as he did not believe in taking credit for something he did not participate in. Alan Moore’s net worth is only ten million dollars as he usually only takes money from his own work and not others even if it is his property such as V for Vendetta and the Watchmen film. Alan Moore is an incredible author for his splendid works and his immense impact on comic media.

Brian Bolland was the artist for Batman: The Killing Joke. The U.K. artist is most known for his work on Judge Dredd and Camelot 3000. His first works were Power Man, The Drifters, Green Lantern (1980), Justice League of America (1981), Camelot 3000 (1982), Wild Cards (1987), and Batman The Killing Joke (1988). Post The Killing Joke he did Bolland Strips (1988-1989), Judge Dredd (2001), and Jack of Fables (2006-2011). He later did a documentary on his impact on the Judge Dredd series with Future Shock! The Story of 2000 AD (2014). Brian Bolland’s art is very simplistic while giving a very distinctive bold look. Brian Bolland is most known for his work on Judge Dredd in the graphic novel Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death (2003). Brian Bolland and Alan Moore are both splendid creators and they both joined forces to work on one of the first mainstream batman comic, Batman: The Killing Joke.


If you want the full experience of this book I suggest you buy the graphic novel and read it, If however, you don’t have the time for that this is an alternate option.

The Batmobile goes through a raining and gruesome night to go interrogate the Joker at Arkham.  Jim Gordon follows him into the building as he traverses towards the cell passing Two-Face then entering Joker’s cell.  Joker is playing solitaire with a glimpse of light surrounding the table.  Batman with his threatening aura sits down on the chair parallel to the clown prince of Gotham showing the parallels between the characters.  Batman starts the conversation telling him how the never-ending battle between them can only end one way, with either of them dead.  He asks the Joker that he can still be cured and that it’s not too late to get him the treatment he needs.  The Joker, suspiciously quiet continues playing his game of solitaire.  Batman reaches for his hand to try to get his attention but the Joker suddenly pulls it away.  The Caped Crusader examines his hand where he sees something off, there is white paint on his glove.  Enraged, He grabs Joker by his jacket and yells at him “Where is he!” wiping the paint off of the imposer’s face knowing that he has been tricked.

Joker, during this, goes to an amusement park on sale from an old man.  The park is utterly disgusting, has many rides that could be lethal due to their unsafe condition, and plenty of homeless people use it as a toilet.  The Joker almost ecstatic at his incredible fine tells the man he absolutely loves the park and will buy it.  While he is examining the park he suddenly has a flashback to his sane life where he is a failed comedian trying to do his best for his wife and their unborn child.  He proclaims to his wife that he is a horrible husband and needs to find a way for them to get out of this forsaken city, she however consoles him that he is trying his best and that’s just enough.  The flashback ends and he buys the park. With a very lethal handshake, he makes the deal with the owner and leaves him with a grim smile on a rocking horse. 

The panel transitions to Barbara and Jim Gordon recollect Batman’s sightings in Jim’s scrapbook.  Barbara, Jim’s daughter, exclaims to Jim that she has yoga class that night with Coleen.  She opens the door and see’s something horrific.  The Joker in a sun hat with a beach shirt and a revolver at his side, this became one of the most popular events in comic history, the day Barbara Gordon was paralyzed from the waist down.  The Joker shoots his revolver and with a loud bang, Barbara fell to the floor.  Jim was sooner taken down by a couple of jokers thugs as Joker goes close to Barbara with a camera saying the simple phrase, “Here’s to crime.” 

We get sent on another flashback where the sane Joker is in a restaurant with two thugs eating lobster as their talk about robbing ace chemicals.  Joker reclaims that he’s only doing this for his wife so that way they can live away from Gotham.  He tells the two criminals that he doesn’t want to be seen with them to keep a low profile, so they come up with a solution to give the Red Hood’s helmet, a cylindrical, glossy, and red helmet with special technology to let you see through it.  Joker finally agrees to the heist and they set up an agreement knowing that nothing is gonna be the same again.  We get pulled back into the main plotline with Barbara in the hospital.  Batman is there overseeing the examination of what happened to her.  Bullock explains to the Bat that the Joker supposedly due to the evidence they found at the crime scene, undressed Barbara, and took pictures after she was shot, probably one of the Joker’s most heinous ideas.  After the crew left Barbara and Batman, Batman tries to wake up Barbara where she suddenly and frightened hops up with tears running down her cheeks. She sobs at batman telling him that he took her dad and how much of a monster the Joker is.  Batman knew what was going to happen, One of them was going down that night, The Clown Prince of Crime, or Gotham’s Dark Knight. 

We transition to Jim Gordon, alone and scared of where he is.  Two ”babies” pick him up and undress so now he’s “naked and afraid”.  They take him to their leader Joker as he has a threatening monologue about going insane as the circus freaks take Jim Gordon on a ride to lose his sanity.  We then get sent on another flashback where a group of detectives encounters Sane Joker as they tell him that his pregnant wife died to an electric shock that was a one in a million chance of actually happening.  Joker, in shock, decides that he doesn’t want to do the job because now there was no reason to, but he couldn’t back out now the thugs stated to him in a threatening manner.  Joker was now in complete utter shock at what just unfold.

It then resumes to Jim on the ride as Joker assembles a musical number on why Jim should go “loony”.  He then, with all the screens used for the rides, shows Jim what happened to Barbara.  Suddenly Jim is at the edge of breaking.  Batman investigates as he asks many people questions from thugs to the Penguin.  He then sees the bat signal lit up and proceeds to converse with Bullock who has gained a letter from the Joker on Jim’s location, Batman pursuits towards the address.  Jim exits the ride speechless at the terror that he experienced.  Joker tries to interact with him but all there is is a soulless body, emotionless.  Joker then reflects on his last flashback, The day of the heist.  Sane Joker puts on the red hood helmet at the gateway to Ace Chemicals as they prepare for the heist.  Joker was their info on all the security to get out of there without alerting anyone, sadly the security was changed the last time he worked there and they get put headfirst into a massacre.  Both of the thugs die as Joker tries to run, then the Bat approaches.

The Joker terrified at the abomination that unfolds unto his eyes trips into a vat of chemicals deemed dead.  He wakes up on the other side of the factory and starts to giggle.  The giggle turns into a chuckle, then a laugh, and then a cry for help from an insane man.  The Joker uses this origin to explain to Jim that all it takes is one bad day to lose your marbles, all it takes is a little push over the edge, to go insane.  The Batmobile shows up in honorable glory as the Circus freaks run out of the way. Batman appears to then have a climactic battle with Joker.  The Joker escapes into the park when Batman helps Jim up.  Jim proceeds to tell Batman to bring him by the book to show the Clown that their way works.  Batman and Joker have a final climactic battle where Joker suddenly pulls a gun at Batman which turns out to be a dud. Batman then proceeds to tell Joker what he told to the imposter at the Asylum, but Joker this time answers differently.   Telling him that its too late for them to stop now as he recites a joke about two guys in an insane asylum where, at the punchline, Joker and Batman engulf in a spree of laughter as the story pans into the rain hitting the floor, ending the book.

MY THOUGHTS AND CONCLUSION Batman: The Killing Joke is a short 46-page book on the true nature of Batman his most nefarious arch-nemesis, The Joker.  For such a short book, it keeps your attention by throwing you from one plot line to the next.  If the Killing Joke gave us much more detail behind this story it could’ve been truly one to remember but it was a bit too short to really deliver the kind of impact it could’ve unleashed on the reader.  The book was also very violent for its time in the ’80s for plenty of young readers.  This however isn’t a complaint but you can’t help but wonder how many young readers reacted to this book.  However, The flashbacks the Joker goes through show how he could’ve turned into the Joker but it is never emphasized that this is his true origin.  What makes this novel so special is that it keeps the Joker a mysterious character while also explaining how his mind works, we will probably never know what his origin is and that’s what makes this character terrifying, whatever you don’t understand can be one of your greatest fears.  

The book wile being very short is still one of the greatest novels of our time and really deserves the praise it has got from time to time.  The movie is probably hailed as one of the greatest disasters in comic book adapted movies.  The feature film tried to span out the story which I applaud them for but oh boy did they do it the wrong way.  They gave Batgirl and Batman a sexual relationship which is very weird in many different ways.  We then got a completely separate plotline of Batgirl which has almost no relation to what actually happens in the graphic novel and each panel from the actual comic gets spanned into 10 minutes each. While the movie was a disaster the book is incredibly worthwhile for a read for its timeless setting and the complex story behind the unstoppable fight of Batman and the Clown Prince of Crime.  Batman: The Killing Joke, I believe, deserves a 9/10.


“Alan Moore | Biography, Comics, Books, & Facts | Britannica.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2020, Accessed 13 Sept. 2020.

“The Shadow by Alan Moore – Seminar #2, 1970.” @livejournal, 2017, Accessed 13 Sept. 2020.

Lamont, Tom. “Alan Moore: Why I Turned My Back on Hollywood.” The Guardian, The Guardian, 15 Dec. 2012, Accessed 13 Sept. 2020.

‌“Lambiek.Net.” Lambiek.Net, 1970, Accessed 14 Sept. 2020.

‌“Brian Bolland | Bookreporter.Com.” Bookreporter.Com, 2020, Accessed 14 Sept. 2020.

kieranshiach. “Celebrating The Iconic Covers And Career Of Brian Bolland.” ComicsAlliance, 25 Mar. 2016, Accessed 14 Sept. 2020.

These images were used from Batman: The Killing Joker graphic novel from 1988 by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland at DC Comics

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