This month, due to the release of the latest Batman animated movie, I am looking at the graphic novel that made it all possible: Batman – The Killing Joke. This is often quoted as being one of the seminal Batman stories of its time. Written in 1988 by the British powerhouse Alan Moore (Watchmen, Swamp Thing & V for Vendetta) and illustrated by illustrator Brian Bolland (Judge Dredd vs Judge Death), The Killing Joke provides an origin story for the best loved of the Batman rogues, The Joker.
It’s a rough take on the 1950s story The Man Behind the Red Hood and covers two main stories: Joker trying to drive James Gordon mad, and Batman’s desperate attempt to stop him before one of them ends up dead. This is Alan Moore’s dissection of The Joker’s psychology.
We see Joker’s origins as a sad, tragic story of a family man and failed stand-up comedian who loses it all. It spawned a famous quip: “one bad day”. This one bad day was the thing that finally drove the Joker insane.
This book is, for me, one of the definitive Joker stories ever written, and also one of my favourites. It’s dark, gritty and fascinating. Not surprisingly it has won several awards and accolades, including the Eisner Award 1989 (Best Graphic Novel) and New York Times Best Seller List 2009.