The Killing Joke- DC Comics

While I love superheroes, I never collected any comic books until after high school. Most of what I know about the legends of Batman and the Joker is from Wikipedia or my friends growing up. Approaching this comic in the mindset of this Readings in the Genre course I was intrigued not only in Joker’s backstory but also in what he was trying to do. He’s trying to corrupt Gordon. It’s just like the move the Dark Knight. All he wants to do is corrupt the Batman by any means possible. He’ll do whatever he can to break someone down. In the movie, all he corrupts is Harvey Dent. Batman gets close when he uses the cell phone technology to find the Joker. But in the end he leaves the power with Fox because he knows that the power is too powerful.

So in The Killing Joke we see the question I’ve wondered for years. How will it end? Will they kill each other? This graphic novel isn’t just about trying to break down Gordon. It’s proving the point that “everyone is just one bad day away from crazy.” Both the Joker and Batman have horrible back stories. But we see the differences in their paths. But here’s the really interesting point. The Joker was already planning on crime even before the tipping point. So it’s not necessarily just about the bad day to turn someone. That’s why Gordon doesn’t crack. That’s why he’s determined to bring the Joker in “by the book.” Because his mind was set before he’s tortured. And it’s the same with the Batman. Bruce, the man, stands back at the beginning of the novel and asks how two people who don’t really know each other can the each other so much. And I think we hear regret in his voice. All the origin stories for Bruce Wayne involve a desire for vengeance. But not death. It sounds like Bruce is getting tired of the fight as Batman in this novel. But even in desperation Bruce overrides the vigilante Batman for reason. It is more important to bring the Joker in the right way.

And therein is the failing in the Joker’s plan.  He doesn’t understand that it’s more than just the “bad day.”  It’s the strength of character within the person and the decisions they’ve made before that “bad day” arrives.  That is why the Batman cannot be corrupted.  Because as dark as his life may be, Bruce still holds out on hope.  Why else would he approach the Joker at the end of the novel and offer the hand of friendship and love to help the Joker change?

Ultimately, I loved this.  It wasn’t what I was expecting.  But I’m not that experienced with DC comics as I am with Marvel.  But I thought this was a great insight into their characters and motivations.  Definitely dark in places but a fun end for the assigned readings.

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4 thoughts on “The Killing Joke- DC Comics”

  1. I thought the ending was pretty clear. The Batman and the Joker are destined to battle forever. They are order and chaos, Yin and Yang circling the cosmic egg. I think it’s not that Batman can’t be corrupted, but he’s constantly battling not to be corrupted, which gives him a very interesting and complex character. I wonder if the Joker is just as internally conflicted, being pulled toward order just as much as Batman is pulled to chaos.

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