Apologies to all for axing my previously planned post concerning Shade, The Changing Man, Vol 2. The single issues of Shade are too hard to read….psychologically. They are almost one & done stories, but take too much effort, I’m halfway through the trade, and hopefully you will see a review next week. In the interim, I read through one of my recent buys this week, and it was a doozy!
Alan Moore made his DC debut long before this story, scripting the adventures of Swamp Thing. He did do fill in stuff from time to time, also doing pivotal stories like a Clayface story from Batman Annual 11 (1987) , and also scripted the last story of the Golden Age Superman in “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”. However, it was not until Watchmen that he earned the reputation of the thinking man’s writer. Soon after, he blew all socks on a prestige format book titled Batman: The Killing Joke, which shook up status quo a lot. In a recent interview, editor Dennis O’Neil, erstwhile writer on Batman, and responsible for the 70s version of the character, having created Ra’s Al Ghul, said after reading the script, to his editor, “Either we run it as it is, or we give him a kill fee.” In other words, we won’t edit the content; it either goes to print, or we pay the writer for his time. Dennis says that he thought the high price point would keep it out of the hands of children, but admittedly, he was wrong.
The Killing Joke begins with the Batman trying to work out his relation with the Joker, in a cell in Arkham; when he discovers that the clown has made his escape. Meanwhile, the Joker makes an exciting purchase – a carnival fairground. Soon, the Joker makes his way to Commissioner Gordon’s house, shoots his daughter Barbara Gordon (Batgirl), rapes her, and makes her father watch.
In the final confrontation, Batman stops himself from killing the Joker, and still proposes a truce, to which the Joker, of all things tells him a joke at the end, and it all begins to make sense. Between panels, we see what appears to be the origin of the Joker.
Whew! That was an exhausting read, but worthwhile. It’s not the story per se, but the implications therein, which make it the definitive Joker story (open to debate). Consider this: Batman is making the Joker an offer in the beginning, of a truce, and even after all the events of the story, he still makes the offer. after raping his daughter, Commissioner Gordon still shouts to Batman, “We have to do this by the book. We have to show him that our way works.” Joker maintains that it took one bad day to make him what he is today, and tries to drive Batman, Commissioner Gordon and Barbara to the edge, subjecting them to events unimaginable. But he loses. Gordon & Batman decide to bring in the Joker, and Barbara metamorphoses into something the Joker could never have imagined. The Joke in the end is the kicker. And I’m not spoiling that….I would like to share one of the last images of the book though, the green one with the Batman, and Joker, that is embossed on the cover.
The Joker’s origin is a bit stereotyped, but works well – an ordinary guy needs money, enters a gang, is shattered by a family tragedy, still goes along with the plans, and turns into a freak. The second story, included only for Bolland’s art is standard. It features a guy who is otherwise simple, but just wants to kill the Batman. Meant more to showcase Bolland’s art than anything else.
Alan Moore’s writing is layered, and works here, while Bolland’s art is , as his covers are, spectacular. One thing to note though – this edition features a recolouring of the original work by Brian Bolland. The original colouring by Tom Higgins can be found in a version of this story included in DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore. As good as the classic version is, I prefer this edition which features muted tones, rather than the garish colouring of the 80s.
This story was subject to angry fans when it released. then, Ostrander wrote Barbara Gordon as Oracle, and people are cool with that, to that extent that they hate the DCnU reboot purporting to bring back Barbara as Batgirl. Shows two things: 1- People hate change (also proven by the cancellation of the 25 paise coin in India) and 2 – You can’t win ’em all!
My rating: 9 on 10