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MOVIE vs. COMIC: "The Killing Joke"

The Killing Joke

I so happen to possess a copy of the deluxe edition of the Killing Joke signed by illustrator Brian Bolland himself! I've read it before, but like it says on the quotes on the back cover, "Do yourself a favor and read it again!" Not only was this a one-off by the legendary Alan Moore, which makes it essential reading, it offers a very poignant origin story for one of Batman's classic villains. In fact, this version of the Joker is definitely not your mama's version of 'The Joker.' Let's just say that things get ugly in this world—to say gritty is an understatement.

My certified copy of The Killing Joke signed by the artist himself!
Show And Tell: My certified copy of The Killing Joke signed by the artist himself!

What you are getting in the deluxe edition is a foreword by Tim Sale, who discusses the powerful influence of the Bolland/Moore team. Ironic, given that he himself is also famous for his great collaboration with Jeph Loeb on the now cult classic Batman: The Long Halloween (the two also collaborated more recently on the hit TV series Heroes). In this deluxe edition of The Killing Joke, you are also getting a revealing afterward by Bolland himself, who created this edition to bring his original vision to life with a subdued and sometimes eery palette of colors.

Just about two years ago, there was an animated film released of The Killing Joke with Mark "The Master" Hamill reprising his role as The Joker (who else can really do him justice?). I had not seen this film, so I was eager to see how it would play out as compared to the relatively quick read of the graphic novel.

Masked girl in The Killing Joke
Who is this masked girl? She wasn't in the novel...

Well, I watched the cartoon movie, and I will keep my comparison to the graphic novel brief. The one striking difference was the introduction of Commissioner Gordon's daughter Barbara as both Batgirl and Oracle. If you're a hardcore fan, this may be required viewing, but I could have lived without her introduction coming off as a filler than anything.

The Batbone: Yeah, they had to go there...

And without risking giving away too many spoilers, I will just say this is the first time I saw a Batman character in any medium stripping down to do the nasty. This "cartoon" is definitely for mature audiences, and I will warn that this also contains quite a bit of foul language which I must stress did not appear in Alan Moore's classic work.

Not Your Mama's Joker: In the graphic novel, The Joker gets very dark indeed.

Alright, so what is The Killing Joke and should I care? Well, I won't give it away, but you'll get the punch line once you reach the end of the journey. It all begins with an escape from Arkham Asylum and ends with the Joker trying to explain his turn to crime and a life of insanity, which he argues is not too dissimilar from Batman's own journey—a duplicity that makes us love these two icons so much. In short, skip the cartoon movie and go for the real meat: This incredible graphic novel.

Duplicity: We can sympathize with The Joker because Alan Moore forces us too with these touching flashback moments.

The cartoon movie also managed to capture the heart of The Joker...

By the way, you aren't going to see any trace of the suicide squad here—no Harley Quinn. Just thought you'd like to know in the event those characters interest you or not! No, instead, for the Joker's minions, this is right up the Alan Moore byway with circus freaks dressed in lingerie—something straight out of American Horror Story no doubt. Again, this graphic novel is not for the squeamish! Ultimately, the focus really is on The Joker here, so if you are a huge fan of the villain, the graphic novel at the very least is a must-have to add to your collection.


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