Laughter in the Dark

March 16, 2009

BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE is yet another example of Alan Moore’s genius. Along with artist Brian Bolland, Moore cleverly utilizes both visual match cuts (such as the reflected handshakes in the bottom panels of page 8 ) and wordplay-oriented match cuts (such as the Joker’s “Yes, I get the picture.” on the bottom of page 23) in its many transitions to seamlessly jump backwards and forwards in time.

But what I think makes the KILLING JOKE exceptional and allows it to stand out amongst stereotypical Batman stories (as well as distinguishes it as another member of Moore’s masterful canon) is its refusal to except the Joker as simply a “bad guy.” In fact at its core, the KILLING JOKE is the Joker’s origin story, and reveals much more about him than Batman himself. While detailing the Joker’s most sickening and devious crimes (certainly regarding the fate of Barbara Gordon), the KILLING JOKE also effectively humanizes him, tracing his insanity to “one bad day” in the life of a relatively innocent guy and effectively giving rhyme to his reason. I could imagine many diehard Batman fans being upset or perplexed by Moore’s rationalizing of a villain characterized by his lack of rationality, but if anything, this choice stands as further testament to Moore’s prowess.

Interestingly enough, I feel that there are similarities to be drawn between the Joker of the KILLING JOKE and the Comedian of WATCHMEN. Both appear to reflect a dark and sinister sense of humor along with a nihilistic view of the world around them. But interestingly enough, the Joker is largely considered a villain while the Comedian is grouped with the “heroes” of WATCHMEN. WATCHMEN was completed around the same time the KILLING JOKE was released (1987 and 1988 respectively), and I suppose this nihilistic temperament was on Moore’s mind at the time.

Batman gets "grabby."

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