Sunday, July 17, 2016

Batman: The Killing Joke - Comics From The Basement



Hello Dwellers and Welcome to COMICS FROM THE BASEMENT!



This Friday at San Diego Comic-Con, there will be the world premier of the ‘The Killing Joke’ film, and boy has the hype around it gone through the freaking roof… because it has an ‘R-Rating’ and they are going to remain ‘faithful’ to the original story…



And it just so happens that I have a copy of ‘The Killing Joke’… okay, granted it’s the Deluxe Edition, because I wasn’t going to spent $225 on a first print edition… and I figure why not review it this week.



Now for those of you who may not know, this tells a dual story, and I’ll go over them separately.

 

 The first and biggest draw of it is that it tells the ‘origin’ of The Joker, a failing stand up comedian who is desperate to support his pregnant wife and who gets roped into taking part of a robbery of where he use to work… his wife dies in an accident, the goons who talk him into the robbery make him wear the mask of the ‘Red Hood’ and he ends up taking a bath, diving into chemical waste to avoid the Batman, which transformed his body into how we’ve come to see the Joker today: Chalk white skin, ruby red lips and green hair… which combined with everything else… drives him totally insane.



This basically became the ‘accepted’ origin of the Clown Prince of Crime, in fact it ended up being worked into Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie… and establishes the parallel of The Joker and Batman being two sides of the same coin, both having been ‘created’ thanks to a unique series of tragic circumstances. However, considering the end game was to drive this nameless guy to be the Joker, there isn’t any sense of ‘what if’ beyond that of ‘what if’ his comedy career was a success… because even if his wife didn’t die, he still would’ve gone through with the robbery, and more than likely became The Joker anyway.


Now let’s get to the other plot… in present day (well 1988 Gotham)… The Joker has escaped from Arkham, and has reached his apparent breaking point. He goes to the home of Commissioner Gordan, shoots and paralyzes Barbara aka Batgirl… and sets about trying to make the Commissioner’s mind snap, by giving him one hell of bad day, stripping him naked, making him view pictures of his wounded daughter… Batman eventually arrives, rescues Gordan who managed to mentally survive the Joker’s plans to make him insane.



The story concludes with a confrontation between Batman and The Joker, Batman being afraid that they are going to keep going around in circles until one day they kill each other… The Joker being philosophical about the world not being worth fighting for and correctly guessing it was a ‘bad day’ that lead Batman to be what he is, just like a ‘bad day’ led him to become who he is… which leads to The Joker telling Batman a joke, which makes him laugh… and apparently Bats kills The Joker…


I say apparently because it’s left really ambiguous… we see them sharing a laugh in the shadows, Batman hands placed on The Joker’s shoulders and then… nothing...and since the events of this story are considered canon obviously, Batman didn’t kill him. This side of the story is decent and puts forward the fact that the Batman-(Insert Random Name from his Rouge Gallery here) dynamic is forever stuck in the same cycle, doomed to repeat itself until something happens to end it, namely with Batman or the villain, being killed.

 

Now of course, I have to talk about the one big thing from this story that has caught people’s attention thanks to the movie coming out. And that Barbara Gordan, whose days as Batgirl were done, being paralyzed and would remain that way until 2011 with the New 52 Reboot (where it’s stated she recovered)… and of everything in this story, this would be the most controversial, as writer Alan Moore called it ‘shallow and ill-conceived’, and that when he asked editor Len Wein of if it would be a problem, the word he got (from Executive Editorial Director Dick Giordano) was to ‘Cripple the bitch’. Moore obviously regrets this decision, and hasn’t had anything positive to say about it in recent years. It hasn’t helped matters that this is one of more infamous ‘Women in Refrigerators’ moments in comic book history… which is to de-power, weaken, kill off and or devalue a female character with no chance of them being restored to what they once were.



Anyway, the Artwork is decent, but since this version of the story was recolored for its re-release by Brian Bolland. Which leads me to believe the reason why another story he did, ‘An Innocent Man’ from Batman Black and White , is included for no apparent reason. It doesn’t connect to the main story at all, and could just as easily be about anyone wanting to get ‘famous’ by being ‘Mark David Chapman’ with Batman being ‘John Lennon’. It probably was part of Bolland’s price to be work on the Deluxe Edition, since Alan Moore hasn’t been too keen on it as I mentioned earlier.



So let’s wrap this up, the verdict here is simple, due to its historical significance to The Batman franchise… yeah you have to check the story out at some point, and because of its popularity, it’s easy to get physical copies at mycomicshop.com, Amazon and eBay, plus of course digitally via comixology.com.



Next week…. guess we’ll just go to hell… boy…


See ya then!





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