Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Killing Joke

I know I’m late, but a good story should stand the test of time, and The Killing Joke should stand the test it this is true. Written by Alan Moore featuring art by Brian Bolland, the Killing Joke tells the origin of the Joker, Batman’s seminal villain. The question is do we need an origin story for Joker? One may ask themselves, “do I really care how Joker was born…I think he fell in some acid, or something. That’s good enough for me!” I had this same thought…until I read the afterthoughts by artist Brian Bolland. Bolland says, “I think of this as just one of a number of possible origin stories manifesting itself in the Joker’s fevered brain.” And you know what? He is right. The Joker is insane, yes? So why wouldn’t he make up a story in his own mind on how he became crazy. Now I’m not insane myself – I think – but it just makes sense that Joker has become so delusional over the years that even he doesn’t know how his crime-villain/ serial killer life came to fruition.

Using the aforementioned thoughts above as a backdrop, I’ve come to appreciate this comic book…or graphic novel, if you want to be prude. And I find that the story (for me at least) is more about the dichotomy between Batman and Joker: what is their relationship, if any?

Batman trying to reason with the Joker -- If such a thing can be done!

Alan Moore gives a new spin on Batman, as more of a confused psychological examiner: he just doesn’t get why the Joker is what he is. Batman even goes as far as to proclaim at the beginning of the comic, “[To Joker] we’re going to kill each other, aren’t we?” The foreshadowing of the end events of a story is something that Alan Moore doesn’t shy away from. And some of the more shocking scenes really land with the weight of a Dinosaur. I won’t spoil anything (mind you this comic is almost as old as I am) but let’s just say you really see the type of conviction, as an officer of the law and human being, that Commissioner Gordon has.

As Joker (having been captured by Batman; subsequently breaking free) is putting his plans in motion, we are shown flash back’s to a supposed earlier time: when Joker, wasn’t the Joker. All the events that precede Joker becoming a psychopath happen in the span of just one day, “just one bad day” the Joker exclaims in some of the later stages of the book. Interjected is even a depiction of Joker donning the “Red Hood” persona that was introduced early in the Batman canon.

One can really see that Chris Nolan drew on inspiration from the Killing Joke in the Dark Knight. As in both film and comic Joker tries to test the limits of human will, and wants to see if all people are capable of snapping. 

Not to be left out is Brian Bolland’s fantastic art style; which I’ll admit at first I wasn’t really vibing on. But it grew on me. People just look real. I know that seems like an odd statement, but Batman looks how he should and Joker intern as he should. It just looks like their classic depictions. Batman’s face is almost always obscured by shadows, and Jokers gaunt and ghostly face, have become the iconic visual styles for each character even to this day. I read the Deluxe re-print that had been colored by Brian Bolland himself (John Higgins did the coloring in the original print) and the overall milieu is at times haunting, as is the case in the Joker’s flash backs. These flashbacks feature minimalistic color, yet still speak volumes and enhance the story.

I will close on these thoughts. That I’m personally a fan of the “ambiguous ending” that is featured in movies, TV, games, etc.  And the Killing Joker is no different. We, as an audience, are left the question, “What did Batman do?” and we have to ask ourselves if we would do the same? Could you hold back?

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