Authors: Alan Moore
Illustrators: Brian BollandPublisher: DC
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Madness Is The Emergency Exit
In 1988 Alan Moore had just finished writing arguably the greatest graphic novel ever, Watchmen. His next project saw him jump into a world inhabited by a mainstream superhero, the world of Gotham City, the world of Batman. While Batman plays an important role in Moore’s story, he instead focuses on the psychology behind his arch-nemesis, the Joker. In what is easily one of the best Batman stories ever told, The Killing Joke introduced major new plots for future Batman writers, especially concerning Batgirl, and it defined the Joker’s backstory.
Batman heads to Arkham Asylum to confront the Joker about a dream he has with him and their mutually entwined fates. Unfortunately the man whom Batman believes to be the Joker, isn’t. Realizing his greatest adversary is once again free, Batman prepares for the worst.
And the worst happens indeed, as Alan Moore takes the Batman canon into a world of darkness it had never seen before. A lot of people might be disturbed by the events that take place, and even Alan Moore regrets the most notorious act of violence that occurs in the comic. Without going into too many details, a couple of characters in Batman’s world suffer in ways they never had before. If anything it certainly goes to show that the Joker is the craziest mainstream villain in comics. The greatest strengths belong to the Joker’s backstory, which reveals his tragic fall into crime, and the artwork which is masterfully done by Brian Bolland.
This comic has been very influential since its release, but no direct adaptation of it has ever been made. Certain events from this comic take place in Batman: The Animated Series, but they’re toned down, and the results aren’t as drastic. The idea of the Joker having a tragic back story is an idea that makes its way into Tim Burton’s Batman film, but the two stories are still very different. Heath Ledger’s Joker in the Dark Knight is notorious for constantly changing his story when asked about his past; that’s an idea that’s taken directly from Moore’s story. Ledger was even given a copy of The Killing Joke as inspiration.
The Joker is one of my all-time favorite villains. His desire to see the “world burn,” as Michael Caine so elegantly puts it in the Dark Knight has always made him a personality that’s addicting to follow. If you can handle the violence, and you’re really fascinated by the Joker, than this graphic novel is a must.