Thinking too much about The Killing Joke

§ March 5th, 2004 § Filed under batman Comments Off on Thinking too much about The Killing Joke

Am I the only person who reads the end of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke as the death of the Joker?

Why do I think this?

1. The constant assertions by Batman during the story that either he and the Joker will most likely die by the other’s hands.

2. The focus of the story is the Joker believing “all it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy,” and his unsuccessful attempts to prove this with Commissioner Gordon. “Maybe ordinary people don’t always crack” asserts Batman to the Joker – “maybe it was just you all this time.” Despite Batman’s attempt to differentiate himself from the Joker, constantly stating that he wants to do things the right way, he very obviously did crack…otherwise he wouldn’t be, as the Joker says, “dress[ing] up like a flying rat.”

3. When Batman releases Gordon prior to going after the Joker, Gordon insists to Batman that Joker be “brought in by the book” – showing that Gordon has not cracked under the pressure applied to him. Batman’s response? A mostly noncommittal “I’ll do my best” – not exactly an ironclad promise.

4. Batman tells the Joker at the end of the story that “maybe this is our last chance to sort this bloody mess out…if you don’t take it, then we’re locked onto a suicide course.” The Joker doesn’t take the chance…he resigns himself to the fact he can’t escape the “suicide course” the two men find themselves on, that “it’s far too late for that.”

5. The last page of actual story, where the two characters are sharing their laugh over Joker’s “two lunatics in an asylum” joke (the joke obviously referring to Batman and the Joker themselves, thus reinforcing their similarities)…between panels six and seven, the loud laughter that had been present in the previous panels suddenly stops, though we can still hear the siren from the approaching police car (which doesn’t appear to be any louder, or enough to drown out the laughter, given this page’s sound effects convention that “bigger = louder”).

It’s at that point, between panels 6 and 7, that I believe Batman kills the Joker. It’s even possible, given the “suicide course” talk, that they kill each other. We don’t see them in the final panels, leaving their fates vague.

Or I could just be reading too much into the story. Besides, the point is completely moot since we’ve obviously had more Batman and Joker stories than we can stand since this was published…Good Lord, 16 years ago? Oy. Also, given events in the most recent issue of Batman: Gotham Knights, the Joker’s family backstory from The Killing Joke (heavily implied to be the actual “origin” though Moore gives the possible out of the Joker remembering multiple pasts) is now officially part of DC Universe continuity. So there you go.

Another observation made by pal Dorian, flipping through The Killing Joke…”how many of these Joker panels have since been…’borrowed’ by other artists?”
(post updated 8/2016)

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