I’ve Never Read…….The Killing Joke

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Posted September 3, 2013 by Oscar Russell in Comic Books

May contain spoilers, for those like me that have never read this before.

I have a confession to make. I had never read The Killing Joke until today. This is not something that I am particularly proud to admit, what with calling myself a comic fan and all, I think that I definitely lose some geek brownie points on that admission. If I am going to be honest while I am in confession, there are lots of comic “classics” that I have never read before, again something I am not proud to admit for the same reasons as above.

Anyway, now that the confession is out the way, what prompted me to read this piece of work? Well a podcast…..it’s been doing the rounds recently due to an apparent revelation, which at the time of listening meant nothing to me. In a recent episode of Fatman on Batman, the great Kevin Smith interviewed the even greater Grant Morrison.  On the show they discussed the ending of The Killing Joke, they didn’t give a disclaimer before that there may be spoilers, and to be honest they shouldn’t have to, this book is 20 years old and everyone who calls themselves a fan should have read it by now, myself included. Anyway Grant Morrison blew Kevin Smiths mind all over the wall. He said that Batman killed the Joker at the very end. This got the whole internet comic community in a frenzy, and I was still none the wiser as to what was going on. The only thing I knew now was that apparently the Joker is dead.

Let me back track a bit. I got into comics late, I have no story about my dad buying me a comic and bonding, I had to track these things down myself and none of my friends read comics bar one, so discussing things to read other than what was on the shelf took some real research in those days, which was something I was not going to do.

Anyway this podcast made me want to get my hands on it, and read it as quick as I could.

The book is marvelous, really an outstanding piece of work by Alan Moore. The writing is quick and snappy and flows very neatly, Moore really gets Batman and the psychotic Joker. The art is great, albeit I was reading the re-coloured version and that looked splendid on the page.

In all honesty, I don’t get what the fuss about what Morrison said was about. How is it not obvious that Batman killed the Joker?  OK I had this knowledge in my head before reading…..but still, come on, the whole book discusses them wanting to kill each other. Its even on the first page of dialogue in the book, when Batman tries to confront the Joker in the asylum:

“I’ve been thinking lately…..about what’s going to happen to us in the end. We’re going to kill each other aren’t we?”

According to Morrison that’s exactly what happens at the end, the laughter stops and the Joker is no more. Moore even uses that dialogue again at the encounter with Batman and Joker in the carnival, the whole thing links in a beautiful circle.

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But that final pages is spectacular, Moore nails it with the joke. He goes on to tell a joke about crossing a gap by walking on the beams of a torch, and one of the guys in the joke breaks the beam and the “bridge” gets destroyed. This bit of the comic is the clincher for me, and proved Morrison’s interpretation.

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My only major concern is that I knew the ending. I was looking for things throughout the book that would link to what I had already been told…and I kind of liked that. If I had gone into the book not knowing anything I think I would have got to the end seen the last few panels and thought, oh onto my next book then. Instead I have been reeling in this. Even I was blown away by the ending, and I knew what was coming, the book has shot straight to my top 10 stories, and I am glad that I knew what was going to happen. I really wouldn’t have got to that conclusion on my own, however obvious it is in hindsight.

 

 


About the Author

Oscar Russell

Comics Editor for WTN, and co-host of the All New Comics Dash Podcast. I like comics and tabletop gaming!