The Talking Comics Books Club: The Killing Joke
Welcome once again to the Talking Comics Book Club! What you’ll find here is a closed panel discussion featuring members of the Talking Comics staff and a few of our close friends, fans, and contributors. This week, Steve Seigh, Mr. Bob Reyer, Ms. Lauren Kolligs, Professor Carolyn Cocca, Kelly Herron, Justin Townson, Ryan Carroll, and site contributor Patrick Brennan dissect and dive into Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s classic: The Killing Joke. We cover everything from our detailed thoughts of the book to a series of in-depth questions about the art, atmosphere, and ambiguous end to one of the greatest Batman stories ever written!
Please be aware that the following webcast contains MAJOR SPOILERS for those that have yet to read the book. Proceed with caution and enjoy the show!
And, because he was unable to attend, here are Huw Parry’s thoughts on The Killing Joke in written form.
I think The Killing Joke is up there with the seminal Batman stories. With parts being absorbed into continuity, it paved the way for how Batman comics and some of their characters were written for just over twenty years. Only one character’s fate in this book is carried over, but obviously the ripple effect of that was pretty large.
We see how highly regarded this book is when elements, from the interrogation scene in the first few pages, are used by Nolan in The Dark Knight.
I always feel, when I read this book, that it was intended to be the told as last Batman story. Joker attacks some of Batman’s closest allies, whilst we see him question how his rivalry with Joker is seemingly destined to end with one of them dead. For me, I see this story as the end game, a revealer of origins and a massive statement of the relationship James Gordon has with Batman and their mutual need for justice to be carried out correctly pushed nearly to a conclusion that Batman would have no way back from.
Joker’s back story:
I’ve always been a little conflicted about Joker’s back story being fleshed out the way it is in this book. I think the character feels much more sinister when very little is known about where he comes from. There’s something extremely unsettling about someone who just wants to cause chaos and misery just for laughs and to push Batman as close to the edge as he possibly can.
That being said, I do the like idea that the last thing he sees before his dive into the water is Batman. Moments later, he removes the helmet and his sanity goes with it and an obsession with Batman begins.
Red Hood Helmet:
I always regarded the sequence with the Red Hood helmet as symbolising the death of a man, then something else entirely being born upon the helmets removal. I think it’s fair to say that seeing double of Batman through the red eyes of the helmet would be enough to push a fragile mind such as his pretty damn close to breaking point!
As I said before, the impression I always get from this book is that it’s told as the final Batman story. So for one major detail to be taken from it and used in such a big way always felt pretty odd. There’s never been any clarity as to where The Killing Joke sits in terms of continuity, so if you’re a stickler for logical, linear storytelling this could well be a sticking point.
However, I think when you see how Barbara’s paralysis was taken forward, what it meant to the disabled community to have a hero they could connect with, Barbara becoming Oracle and the great stories we had as a result, it makes it a lot easier to suspend your disbelief about things.
The final page:
My thoughts on the final page are pretty short and sweet. I can’t believe that Batman would ever kill anyone, even in the face of the events in this book. I think Batman starts laughing purely because he knows that he’ll always beat the Joker. He’s laughing at the Joker, not with him and that’s what I reckon Joker hates most, the joke being on him.
I’m sure one day our friendly, amiable, talkative Alan Moore will divulge what was meant by this.
This book will always be up there with the best Batman stories. It’s a brilliant example of how best to use the Joker, as a force of pure chaos and highlights his obsession with Batman and vice versa incredibly well in such a short space of time. The events of the book do get diluted somewhat by one part of it being taken into continuity whilst the rest is stand-alone. But that’s DC’s prerogative as owners of the characters I suppose!
Taken as a stand-alone story, there’s no denying it’ll always be up there with the finest moments in modern comics and for me, that’s the best way to approach it.
Also, be sure to check out this overwhelming cool photo that fan of the site, Hassan Barrada, sent in to us!
Hassan says, “My favourite GN ever and favourite Batman story. It brings everything about the Batman/Joker relationship together perfectly. Even put the whole thing on my wall!! “
Thanks so much for checking out the Talking Comics Book Club. We’ll be back next month with another webcast, another book, and maybe a few special guests! Cheers!