K is for The Killing Joke

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it is literally going to take me until the end of time to make it through the alphabet on this blog XD I wish I could tell you life has gotten so head-explodingly exciting that it’s near impossible for me to find even a single, spare moment to blog. I wish I could tell you that.

But something exciting IS happening this summer. Well, something that cartoon & comics-obsessed nerds like me find exciting. What is this thing I probably won’t care about, you ask?! The seminal 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke is being adapted and released as an animated feature. AND the original cast of voice actors from Batman: The Animated Series (AKA one of the best cartoons EVER MADE) are climbing back into their old roles. This means my favorite Joker of all time, Mark Hamill, will be (figuratively) donning his purple suit again, and I couldn’t be happier.

The Killing Joke is the product of a collaboration between two comic book giants and members of the “British Invasion” into American comics in the 80s, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. Moore’s name is likely familiar to you; he’s the writer behind Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman — all of which were adapted to the big screen — not to mention a gang of other comic classics. He also created John Constantine…

…another comic book character I bet you’ve heard of thanks to good ole Keanu.

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Brian Bolland is an illustrator who specializes in awesome AF cover art, mostly for DC Comics.

Bolland did both the cover and interior art for The Killing Joke. According to Bolland’s afterword in the deluxe edition of The Killing Joke, he asked Alan Moore to collaborate with him on the project after having “known each other for quite a while and [having] narrowly missed working together a couple of times.” He also says that despite the project “not [being] a labor of love” for Moore, he is glad Moore agreed to write the story. I think a lot of people, myself included, are glad this collab happened. I mean, look at this:

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If you’re thinking, “that looks pretty f*cking intense,” you’re right.

The Killing Joke centers on the day that changed the Joker forever from average Joe to psychopath, and his philosophy that it only takes “one bad day” to take a person from normal to off their rocker. The story takes place in present-day Gotham, and begins with Batman seeking the Joker out at Arkham Asylum for a chat. He believes they’re doomed to kill each other in the end unless they sit down and talk things over once and for all. But the Joker has, once again, escaped. The Joker is on a mission to prove that even the sanest man on Earth will go crazy if he has an adequately horrific experience. As he’s putting his plan into action, Joker flashes back to the day his life went irrevocably off course.

Jack, an amateur comedian with a wife and a baby on the way, needs money badly. He agrees to help some crooks navigate through a chemical plant he used to work in so they can break into the playing card factory next door. The day he’s meant to go through with it, he learns that his wife died in a freak accident at home. Even though he no longer has a reason to be involved in the heist, the crooks won’t let him off the hook. He attempts to do the deed, but gets caught in the process. The crooks are killed in a gunfight with plant security, but then Batman arrives intending to take Jack in. Jack jumps into the water surrounding the plant and escapes, but when he removes the helmet he’s been wearing to resemble the leader of the crook’s gang, The Red Hood, he finds that the water, tainted by acid, has changed him.

The flashback isn’t fed to you in one go; you get bits and pieces of it as the story progresses. One of my favorite things about this graphic novel is the way the transitions are done. When we leave one character to follow another, or when we jump between the past and the present, the actions in the last panel of one section are mirrored in the next.

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While this book presents only one of many origin stories attributed to the Joker over the years, the events of TKJ have since become canon — primarily, the shooting of Barbara Gordon (the Commissioner’s daughter) aka Batgirl. In later comics, she is reintroduced as Oracle, a paraplegic computer genius who gets information for the cops and crime-fighters of Gotham City in order to help them catch criminals.

The same team behind Batman: The Animated Series is handling the adaptation of The Killing Joke, which means this thing is gonna be good. It has to be. ::knocksonwood::

If you’re interested, here’s a behind-the-scenes video on the making of the animated adaptation of The Killing Joke.

Happy Wednesday, y’all!

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5 thoughts on “K is for The Killing Joke

  1. Pingback: L is for Life Diary | acrossthehogsback

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