Batman: The Killing Joke is an influential one-shot superhero comic book written by Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland, published by DC Comics in 1988.It has in its original form continously been held in print since then.
Batman: The Killing Joke Review
This book is no laughing matter.
by Hilary Goldstein
US, May 24, 2005 - Easily the greatest Joker story ever told, Batman: The Killing Joke is also one of Alan Moore's finest works. Originally released in 1988, The Killing Joke tells the origin of the Joker -- or at least one version of the origin. The Clown Prince of Crime himself admits even he can't be sure which version of his beginnings is true. The origin is the underpinning for the psychological drama, rather than being mere filler. True to his psychosis, the Joker doesn't want to accept responsibility for his actions and goes about attempting to prove that any man put under proper duress would go bonkers.
The Joker's experiment leads to one of the most shocking moment's in DC history, an event that affects Batman continuity for the next 15 years and it's done as casually as a Joker killing spree.
Those who focus on the Joker's origin are missing the point. The Killing Joke isn't about how the Joker came to be, it's an examination of human nature. If Joker can turn his captive, Commissioner James Gordon, into a raving lunatic, then it's proof that any man in Joe Kerr's position would have gone a little nutty. However, should Gordon survive with sanity intact, it serves as proof that there is something buried deep within each lunatic, a nugget of insanity, that is simply waiting for the right moment to spring forth. Is it the horrors of a particular event that make a man insane or is it something deep within the man himself?
Outside of the psychological and sociological undertones, The Killing Joke is a masterfully told story. Each scene features perfect transitions, allowing the story to easily weave between present and past as the Joker attempts to force his insanity on James Gordon. Brian Bolland's art is a rarity for comics. It features no set-ups, no heavily-reused poses. Everyone's face is full of expression, no muscle is left unused throughout the short tale. Together Moore's rhythmic dialogue and Bolland's organic art create a unique story often mimicked but never matched.
What Moore understands that so many writers seem to overlook is that clowns are inevitably pitiable people. Behind every clown's smile is a sad story, they say and the Joker is no different. Though an unforgiving and brutal mass-murderer, the Joker is shown as a vulnerable and pathetic figure, trapped in a cycle of violence just like Batman.
If you haven't read The Killing Joke, you have no right to call yourself a Batman fan. You may not find it to be the greatest Batman story of all time, but you'll be hard-pressed not to laugh at the end. Re-printed more times than almost any other comic in history, The Killing Joke is still readily available, meaning you have no excuse. If you've read it before, go back and read it again. You owe it to yourself.