Classic Comic Books - BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE

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Tim Jousma remembers a joke.

I have a love/hate relationship with Alan Moore. Some of his work I can’t stand. I HATE Watchmen. Now don’t get me wrong. I understand Watchmen’s place in comic history and the fact that Watchmen brought a new respect for comics. It deserves the respect people have for it. As a story though it just didn’t do it for me. I hated it and was glad when it was over. On the flip side I really enjoyed The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Moore did an amazing job in taking already established characters and, through sheer ingenuity, bring a group of people together who have no reason to be together and make them a coherent team. For as much as I don’t like his work, for me to deny Mr. Moore’s writing skills would be foolish.

The Killing Joke, I have to say, is not really a story in the traditional sense. It’s more of an exploration piece about madness and how life can really just fuck with you at times. The biggest event in this comic is the shooting of Barbara Gordon. It came out of nowhere and just makes no sense. Yet The Joker is a character who does things for shits and giggles at times. It seems that he wanted to see if he could break Commissioner Gordon’s mind and he thought that by shooting and raping his daughter he could do that. The story also intersperses an origin story for The Joker, exploring how he became The Red Hood. (Or one way he imagines he became The Red Hood.)

Without the struggle of good verses evil, why have comics? But that basic premise alone can get tired if you don’t take the time to think about what can make a person evil. About what makes a person be good. To The Joker, life itself is what is crazy. The freedom he has being insane is the true happiness in life. It takes more effort to stay sane, so fuck it, why go through all that work when you can be cuckoo bananas and have the time of your life?

Batman and Commissioner Gordon are there to show him that his way of thought is ultimately destructive. While life will kick you in the teeth at times, you grow more as a human if you’re able to dust yourself off and move on. In a lot of ways the comic does a great job of showing that apart from a choice or two, Batman and The Joker could have easily reversed their roles. Anyone could be The Joker if you just kick them down one too many times. But what makes a person who has life kick them in the face stand up and keep moving forward? What makes them any different than the person who says enough is enough and decides that life can just go suck a big one?

The Killing Joke is a must read comic. It's a book you show someone who has never read a comic before and is quick to dismiss it as juvenile nonsense. From what I have read this comic was not necessarily an act of love by Mr. Moore. If that is the case, the fact that a classic of comic books came from someone that was there essentially earning a paycheck and nothing else is amazing in and of itself. Do yourself a favor and get this book. The artwork alone is worth the price. Hell, if a movie coming out this year is cribbing from this comic that was released close to thirty years ago they must be doing something right.

Tim is a kid in a grown ups body. He enjoys pro wrestling, reading comic books, lots of them, as well as writing. When he's not giving his opinions of his latest reads on his website The Jousma Files he's doing his best to act like an adult around his wife. You can find him on Twitter at @timjousma

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