Batman: The Killing Joke

The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland has to be on of these most messed up graphic novels I have read. The whole premise of the story made me feel like I had drunk some chemical concoction and fallen down a twisted rabbit hole. With that being said it was a good read, and it brought up a lot of interesting questions.

I have always wondered what The Joker’s backstory was. So, I asked my husband, who loves comics, and he told me that there was no real backstory to Joker. That made me curious about the sheer fact that Joker seems like he is intelligent even though he is seriously unhinged. As I am reading the book, we are introduced to a man who supposedly is Joker before the change. He wants to be a comedian, and yet he fails which is ironic because after his transformation he is twistedly sick and funny at times. For someone who was so smart that he worked as a lab technician it made me wonder why he would fall into the hands of criminals. I know people do crazy and stupid things when they are desperate, but I am sure he could have found a better job instead of taking these criminals through his former place of work.

After doing some digging, I found out that Joker does not have a real backstory. The only thing I could find about him was that the creators modeled him off of Conrad Veidt’s character Gwynplaine from the 1928 film The Man Who Laughs but beyond that, there is nothing else to go on. It is as though the creators wanted a maniac without a background. There was a lot of fan speculation. My favorite one is that Joker knows he’s in a comic and that’s why he breaks the fourth wall sometimes. I think that is just the writers having fun with the fans.

Visually this graphic novel is well done. The colors are sharp and eye-catching which is a significant contrast to 30 Days of Night. The colors grab your attention, and they force you to focus on the gruesome yet beautifully drawn images. This book pushes things to the edge. From Joker shooting Police Chief Gordon’s daughter and then taking pictures of her to Joker and his minions stripping Gordon naked.

Now, let’s look at that section for a bit. I think it was the most messed up part of the story. Barbara and Gordon are having a typical father-daughter conversation. I was waiting for Batman to appear and some discussion takes place. Instead, we have Joker arrive, and he shoots Barbara, and his goons beat up Gordon and take him away. But before Joker leaves Barbara to die, he decides to undress her and take photographs of her. That part made my skin crawl, but the worse was yet to come. We find Gordon being stripped naked and Joker tries to make him go mad by sending him through an old carnival ride with pictures of his daughter plastered everywhere on the screens. The storyline seemed like something Joker could and would do. Visually the artist made it so you could not turn away though the colors used and the use of light and dark throughout the scenes. Honestly, I could have done without that part but, for the shock, they were going for in the story they nailed it.

The Killing Joke was an interesting take on Joker. I didn’t find this idea of his backstory very believable considering how intelligent he is. It was an intriguing story and the use of color, and sometimes lack of color pulled you in or directed your attention to a specific area first. It may be something I look into later on down the road.

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