Aug 20, 2008

[Comics] Batman: The Killing Joke

Batman: The Killing JokeAfter watching that brilliant piece of film-making known as The Dark Knight, I couldn't help but start looking for a copy of Batman: The Killing Joke. Not only is it the creation of the brilliant yet eccentric Alan Moore, in many ways it remains one of the more definitive explorations of the Joker's possible origins and the characterization was used as a basis for Heath Ledger's portrayal to some extent.

Despite being a life-long Spider-Man fan, my mother's collection of Batman comics (yes, she's a major Batman fan herself) helped me see the value in Batman as a character and ultimately a true respect for the Joker as a dark character and a true representative of what madness really means. Most villains have some sort of method or reason for their crimes whereas the Joker just does it because it seems to catch his fancy at the time. Now that's insanity applied in a unique manner.

The Killing Joke starts with the Joker escaping Arkham Asylum once again with Batman quickly trying to find him. In the time that he's out, the Joker comes up with a scheme of his own. His objective is to prove that anyone would go insane if subjected to extremely traumatic circumstances just as he was on the fateful day he essentially became the Joker.

He starts by shooting Barbara Gordon, Commissioner Gordon's daughter and also Batgirl. The bullet goes through her spine and turns her into a paraplegic while her father is kidnapped. He wakes up naked in a depraved amusement park of the Joker's making, all designed to torment the policeman and ultimately hope to drive him mad.

The Joker emerges from chemical-ridden water a...Image via Wikipedia The standalone comic book is perhaps darker and more disturbing that most in the Batman series, the mark of the very intellectual and daring writing of Alan Moore. This is not a fluff piece of sorts with nudity and disturbing images just for the sake of it or for shock value - this book is as accurate a depiction as possible of the madness of the Joker and how he sees the world. Given this kind of a view, it's no wonder he's truly Batman's greatest opponent.

The story is also an exploration of the possible origins of the Joker, a version that many find to be one of the best versions of the tale. In most cases it's essentially accepted as comic book canon by now and with good reason - it certainly helps explain many things about him.

This book is not for the faint of heart but if you truly want to understand and fully appreciate who the Joker is and why he the best character to oppose or challenge Batman until the end of time (in a manner of hyperbolic speaking). Given how The Dark Knight turned out as a film, I can truly see the similarities in Heath Ledger's depiction of the character and the dark character presented at the core of this book.


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