The Joker - The Killing Joke
The Killing Joke is a graphic novel from the Batman universe that was written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Brian Bolland, and first published by DC comics in 1988. The book itself is an origin story for The Joker. The story goes that The Joker is trying his hand at becoming a stand up comedian- and failing miserably. He agrees to join a local band of criminals for a few jobs and their plans are thwarted by Batman. The Joker is left disfigured from the run in, descends into madness, and adopts his identity as a super-villain. The book revolves around the Joker's attempts to drive Commissioner Gordon as insane as he is- a sentiment captured in The Joker's claim that "All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day."
One of my favorite aspects of The Killing Joke is The Joker's presence as an unreliable narrator. The fact that you don't really know if his memories are real or imagined adds a level of depth to the character. The Joker's descent into madness, and his unreliability, extend from this work into more modern Batman offerings- like Heath Ledger's Joker from The Dark Knight.
According to popular analysis of the book, The Killing Joke is meant to illustrate Batman and The Joker as mirror images of one another- each dealing with their "one bad day" in different ways. The Joker begins to see life as a tragic joke and laughs maniacally at the futility of it all. Batman, on the other hands, attempt to find meaning in every day struggles and tries to find light in his own darkness. It's interesting to see these two as opposite ends of the same "bad day" spectrum.
Spoiler: This book is full of memorable moments and quotes but, in my opinion, The Joker's best moment in the book is when he shoots Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) and paralyzes her.
There has been speculation that The Killing Joke is actually the last book about The Joker. In the last few panels of the book The Joker stops laughing. There are those who believe that his laughing stops because Batman snaps his neck- killing him. This would make sense with the title "The Killing Joke" but I don't believe it is true. The entire book is centered on the idea that a small push is all it takes for a sane man to become insane. I think that Batman would take Gordon's advice from the beginning of the story and bring The Joker in "by the book" to underline how wrong The Joker is supposed to be. Who knows?
The biggest villain surrounding this book is (illustrator) Brian Bolland himself. In the 2008 edition of the book, Bolland made things interesting by releasing this statement about the last panels:
"Speaking of which, it's time I revealed what really happened at the end of The Killing Joke: as our protagonists stood there in the rain laughing at the final joke, the police lights reflecting in the pools of filthy water underfoot, Batman's hand reached out and..."
THE KILLING JOKE QUOTES
"MEMORY'S SO TREACHEROUS. ONE MOMENT YOU'RE LOST IN A CARNIVAL OF DELIGHTS, WITH POIGNANT CHILDHOOD AROMAS , THE FLASHING NEON OF PUBERTY, ALL THAT SENTIMENTAL CANDY-FLOSS...
THE NEXT , IT LEADS YOU SOMEWHERE YOU DON'T WANT TO GO... ...SOMEWHERE DARK AND COLD, FILLED WITH THE DAMP, AMBIGUOUS SHAPES OF THINKS YOU'D HOPED WERE FORGOTTEN. MEMORIES CAN BE VILE, REPULSIVE LITTLE BRUTES. LIKE CHILDREN, I SUPPOSE. HAHA. BUT CAN WE LIVE WITHOUT THEM? MEMORIES ARE WHAT OUR REASON IS BASED UPON. IF WE CAN'T FACE THEM, WE DENY REASON ITSELF! ALTHOUGH, WHY NOT? WE AREN'T CONTRACTUALLY TIED DOWN TO RATIONALITY! THERE IS NO SANITY CLAUSE! SO WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF LOCKED ONTO AN UNPLEASANT TRAIN OF THOUGHT, HEADING FOR THE PLACES IN YOUR PAST WHERE THE SCREAMING IS UNBEARABLE, REMEMBER THERE'S ALWAYS MADNESS. MADNESS IS THE EMERGENCY EXIT... YOU CAN JUST STEP OUTSIDE, AND CLOSE THE DOOR ON ALL THOSE DREADFUL THINGS THAT HAPPENED. YOU CAN LOCK THEM AWAY...
"All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day."
“If I have to have a past, then I prefer it to be multiple choice.”
“See, there were these two guys in a lunatic asylum... and one night, one night they decide they don't like living in an asylum any more. They decide they're going to escape! So, like, they get up onto the roof, and there, just across this narrow gap, they see the rooftops of the town, stretching away in the moon light... stretching away to freedom. Now, the first guy, he jumps right across with no problem. But his friend, his friend didn't dare make the leap. Y'see... Y'see, he's afraid of falling. So then, the first guy has an idea... He says 'Hey! I have my flashlight with me! I'll shine it across the gap between the buildings. You can walk along the beam and join me!' B-but the second guy just shakes his head. He suh-says... He says 'Wh-what do you think I am? Crazy? You'd turn it off when I was half way across!”
"You had a bad day once, am I right? I know I am. I can tell. You had a bad day and everything changed. Why else would you dress up as a flying rat? You had a bad day, and it drove you as crazy as everybody else... Only you won't admit it! You have to keep pretending that life makes sense, that there's some point to all this struggling! God you make me want to puke. I mean, what is it with you? What made you what you are? Girlfriend killed by the mob, maybe? Brother carved up by some mugger? Something like that, I bet. Something like that... Something like that happened to me, you know. I... I'm not exactly sure what it was. Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another... If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha ha ha! But my point is... My point is, I went crazy. When I saw what a black, awful joke the world was, I went crazy as a coot! I admit it! Why can't you? I mean, you're not unintelligent! You must see the reality of the situation. Do you know how many times we've come close to world war three over a flock of geese on a computer screen? Do you know what triggered the last world war? An argument over how many telegraph poles Germany owed its war debt creditors! Telegraph poles! Ha ha ha ha HA! It's all a joke! Everything anybody ever valued or struggled for... it's all a monstrous, demented gag! So why can't you see the funny side? Why aren't you laughing?”
“IF YOU HURT INSIDE, GET CERTIFIED, AND IF LIFE SHOULD TREAT YOU BAD... DON'T GET EE-EE-EVEN, GET MAD!”
“How can two people hate so much without knowing each other?”
“Remember? Ohh, I wouldn't do that! Remembering's dangerous. I find the past such a worrying, anxious place. 'The past tense' I supposed you'd call it. Ha ha ha.”