Batman: The Killing Joke
By Brendan Wand
Batman: The Killing Joke is one of the most famous Batman graphic novels there is. It shaped and defined generations of comics to come. You can easily see its influence throughout the generations since its debut in 1988.
I remember after I first read it I just sat there in awe and confusion. The story itself is just so raw and grounded and it really sticks with you. I remember thinking about it for days and pondering that ending. The message that one bad day can turn anyone into a psychopath is a little haunting. With such a strong popularity until this day, it’s no wonder that DC finally decided to adapt it into an animated film.
If you’re unfamiliar with The Killing Joke novel, stop reading this and go read that instead. If you decide to keep reading this, though, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the story before I get into talking about the animated film.
It opens up with Batman explaining to the Joker that if they continue their rivalry one of them is going to kill the other. This really is a big motif in the story which is why I bring it up. Moving forward, throughout the novel the Joker’s origin story is described, or the story he tells anyway. It tells the story of a comedian who is just trying to support his wife and their soon to be baby. He ends up taking a job with some mobsters. But, after learning his wife has died he is forced to follow through with the job. In the end, Batman stops the crime but the comedian falls into a pit of acid and, as a result, his skin turns white. This one bad day drove the Joker into madness. Back in the present, the Joker shoots and cripples Barbara Gordon and kidnaps Commissioner Gordon in an attempt to drive him into the same state of madness that he is in. Batman must save the Commissioner and stop the Joker’s dastardly plans.
Now, on to the animated film. The film opens up with a twenty minute story about Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl, helping Batman stop a mobster who is infatuated with Batgirl. In the end, we learn that Bruce cares for her too much to allow her to keep being Batgirl. Now, to be honest, I thought this whole part was unnecessary as it had no tie to the main story. It was purely there to introduce Barbara Gordon and show that Bruce and her had a thing once. While it was cool, it was not needed and felt completely out of place. Given the stories short nature, though, I understand why they felt they needed to add to it.
As for the actual story, I felt that it was done well. Bringing back the legendary voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill made the film. They are Batman and The Joker to me so it was awesome to hear them again. Some brief action and Batman investigation scenes were added in the movie which, in my opinion, helped make it more of a movie production. All in all, it’s still the same story as the graphic novel. The animation for the film felt a little lackluster but was still decent and didn’t detract from the overall experience. There was an added scene at the end that showed Barbara Gordon become Oracle, Batman’s tech assistant/ally, that I felt took away from the ending of the story itself. I wanted to be left with that scene of the Joker and Batman standing there not knowing exactly what was to come after that.
In the end, I felt it was another solid DC animated film. It was one that brought to life a haunting and shocking tale that has captivated readers for many years. If you can find it in you to look past the opening scene, or enjoy it, then it is quite an amazing film.
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Together Richard and Shawn formed the podcast The Language of Bromance and from there it has been nothing but fun. The duo laugh about things they go through, stories in the news and even getting serious discussing net neutrality along with other issues. Every so often their friendship turns to a bitter rivalry with their nerdiest creation the draft episodes. An original take on a best of or a top 10 list. The draft episodes are done like an NFL Draft 7 rounds where Richard and Shawn flip-flop picks on various topics.
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