Friday, March 28, 2008

The Killing Joke

Last week saw the release of a hardcover, slightly oversized version of the classic Alan Moore / Brian Bolland 1988 definitive Joker story, Batman The Killing Joke. This edition is newly colored by artist Brian Bolland (see example below with the original page on the left and the newly colored page on the right) and has an added Batman short story that Bolland wrote and drew for Batman Black and White, called An Innocent Guy, that Bolland colored here for the first time. So even if Batman The Killing Joke was poop on a story level (which it isn't), you'd have some of the most amazing art that Bolland's ever done to google over (and the new coloring is the most dramatic improvement I've seen to date with newly colored comics from yesteryear).

Batman The Killing Joke was written by Alan Moore because Brian Bolland wanted to work with him and it's interesting to read in Bolland's closing liner notes to the hardcover that he hasn't since worked with another writer (also in the liner notes Bolland says that he's re-touched almost every page of the art in this new edition). Actually Brian Bolland rarely does any interior comic work so fans of his artwork have to be content with his marvelous covers he does for various DC titles. Another sidenote for those of you who haven't read Alan Moore's comments upon finishing The Killing Joke, is that he thought it amounted to nothing more than a really good Batman Annual - this of course didn't make Brian Bolland too happy because he worked on the art for a very long time. Moore has since said that he didn't mean his comment as a slight to the excellent art of Brian Bolland and I'm guessing that he said that because he was at that time getting a little wary of just writing superhero stories.

I consider Batman The Killing Joke, not just the best Joker story ever, but one of the best Batman stories ever (and in a "mere" 46 pages to boot). Many also consider this the definitive origin of the Joker (I certainly do), but for some people their enjoyment of The Killing Joke rests upon how they feel about the last two pages in which (no spoilers) Batman does something that some consider out of character. I, for one, love those last two pages and definitely think they are important to the book as a whole and to the title itself.

Moore has also stated that the story was too harsh (and this book, if it had a rating, would get a hard R) in what ultimately happens to one of it's characters, but I'm in the camp that the way the story was written and drawn perfectly culminated into the ultimate confrontation between Batman and the Joker and what later writers did with said character is a great progression for that character. I would say that with The Killing Joke in mind, that it would be very hard to do another Joker story that wouldn't just seem silly and for the most part that's been true with one big, great exception being Grant Morrison and Dave McKean's Arkham Asylum graphic novel from 1989.

At the heart of Batman the Killing Joke is the question: What happens to a person who has a REALLY BAD day (meaning not just bad in the sense that you had a flat tire or couldn't take a lunch break that day), what do they do afterwards? The Killing Joke also contains great musings on the nature of sanity / insanity and memories - consider the following dialogue by the Joker: "Remember? Ohh, I wouldn't do that! Remembering's dangerous. I find the past such a worrying, anxious place. 'The past tense,' I suppose you'd call it. Ha Ha Ha." Batman The Killing Joke, originally from 1988 is, yes, another of Alan Moore's (and Brian Bolland's) timeless, multi-layered creations that just about everyone who's read it will pay a return visit to.

3 comments:

Cialis said...

I love this comic!

lee woo said...

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Happy New Comics Wednesday 12/13/17 - Mister Miracle, Wonder Woman, Coyotes, Port of Earth, Star Wars, Fighting American, Daredevil edition!

 Mister Miracle & Wonder Woman are especially good this week!! Looking forward to reading the second issues of Coyotes and Port of ear...