* I know I am being incredibly dense right now, but the joke that the joker tells at the end, who is supposed to represent batman and who is supposed to represent the joker?
** Consider what just happened up to the joke: Batman has cornered the Joker, but rather than beat him up again, he makes a very earnest plea for the Joker to let Batman rehabilitate him. The Joker turns it down, because like the 2nd insane man escaping the asylum, he thinks Batman is going to trick him. Joker's 'bad day' (insanity) has been so bad that he no longer believes anything 'good' can happen to him anymore. Why does Batman start laughing? Because he sees the deeper meaning behind the joke. The two of them are insane, their whole relationship is insanity, and it's inevitable that the end result is Joker physically dying and Batman metaphorically dying by breaking his one rule (hence the joke that killed them both).
** I'm pretty sure it's not that representative; it's just intended to be a stupid joke, and both Batman and Joker lose it, laughing uproariously, showing that both are fairly deranged.
*** It's an Alan Moore story: there's far more likely to be a symbolic meaning than not.
** If I had to pick I'd say the man with the flashlight is Batman and the one who won't go across is Joker. Just because the one man won't accept the other's help
*** Or, Joker is the man with the flashlight and Batman is the man who won't go across- because Batman won't accept the Joker's help, for all the wrong reasons. He's just as crazy as the other guy, but he refuses to take the plunge for insanely warped reasons (thinking that there is some sense to it all).
** It works either way around. Each of them is trying to help the other in their own way, but the problem is that they're offering the wrong kind of help, and that they don't trust each other anyway.
* So, why didn't Batman just beat the absolute hell out of the Joker? I mean I'm sorry, but the lunatic just shot and crippled a friend and sidekick and then tortured another for the sake of sick laughs....and you have a LAUGH with him? I fail to see the humor here. And no, four light little punches from Batman is not even close to what Joker deserved.
** Gordon had just finished telling Batman that this had to be by the book. So no unnecessary roughness no matter how good it might have felt at the time. We don't really know what Barbara would have wanted but we can presume she agrees with her father. As for the joke and the laugh I always thought Batman had just snapped from the pressure. I know I'd be damn close to the breaking point after all the things that had just happened and my friend/father figure/boss has just finished telling me that I can't beat him to death because it would make him right.
** And there goes any respect I had for James Gordon. Don't beat him to death? Fine. But any real man worth their salt would have been yelling at Batman to beat the clown bloody if he did that to their daughter.
*** And that accomplishes what? It just proves Joker's point, that one bad day can push anyone over the edge, and that deep down inside, everyone else is as messed up as he is.
*** Yes and having a laugh with him and letting him slide is so much better?
*** I guess Batman just has better self discipline then you. Go figure.
*** By not crossing that line, by not descending to that level, Gordon denied Joker the satisfaction of knowing he got to him. Joker humiliated the man, tortured his daughter, and STILL LOST because Gordon didn't do what Joker wanted him to do. Everything Joker did? It was for nothing, because it DIDN'T WORK. Joker was trying to justify his mania, and it failed. Like Batman said, it wasn't a bad day, it was all on the Joker. Had Gordon abandoned his stance and had Joker beaten, it would have been TotallyWorthIt for Joker because the maniac would have the satisfaction of winning, of getting what he wanted. That did for more damage than any physical beating could have done.
*** In another issue Gordon does shoot Joker in the leg, causing the Clown Prince of Crime to gasp about how he might become crippled. He proceeded to laugh hysterically when he "got" the joke.
*** Bats doesn't let him slide. Look at the last page again - you can see the lights of an approaching cop car. The Joker is going back to Arkham, "by the book". As for failing to 'beat the clown bloody': maybe Bats would have done that in the heat of combat, but the Joker has pretty clearly surrendered at this point, and Batman won't cross that line.
** It's because Batman pities the Joker and thinks he genuinely needs help. That's all. He doesn't (completely) blame the Joker for what he has done here, because he doesn't believe that the Joker is in complete control of his actions, or at least not of the mania that leads him to such actions. He rejects the idea that it all it took was "One Bad Day" to make the Joker like this, but that only means even the Joker failed to realize just how ill he was all this time. That's ''this'' version of the Joker mind- other ones (eg. the MarkHamill Joker), as well as the original Golden Age Joker, are just evil sadists who kill for their own amusement and commit violent crimes for attention and their own ego.
*** It's important to note that Gordon isn't just any man, he's a police commissioner and one of the few members of Gotham PD who has always kept their integrity and upheld the law. Throwing away all of his principles for something as petty as revenge doesn't make him a "real man," if him sticking to the principles that both him and his daughter dedicated their lives to makes you lose respect for him then I question your priorities.
** It's because Batman recognizes the sad truth in the joke. It's frequently pointed out in all sorts of media that Batman and the Joker are really just mirrors of each other. Both are a little nuts thanks to one bad day in their pasts. They just took opposite approaches to deal with their respective tragedies. For all his righteousness, when it comes down to it, Batman is just as crazy as anyone else in Arkham. More so than a few, even.
** And what the hell would that accomplish? The Joker is a cruel, sadistic bastard, but he is ''insane''. Maybe the best thing for everyone is if The Joker was put down, but that is up to the system to decide, and abusing a prisoner who's already defeated is not doing things "by the book".
*** Going further with this: it is implied in the final panels that Batman joins in on the laughter at first, only to grab The Joker and break his neck (off-screen). This is why the laughter ends abruptly. It is arguable that Batman is also insane as The Joker has already suggested, but just in a different way: Bruce Wayne's "one bad day" was the day he was orphaned, which shaped his personality forever more. So, The Joker's final joke, added to the fact that during his spree he has crippled Barbara and violated Gordon (it could be interpreted that Gordon met with some sexual violence at the hands of Joker's crones), and his own deep-seated emotional problems, was enough to finally tip Batman over the edge and kill him once and for all. That the story was originally intended to be non-canon this is a fairly plausible ending.
*** No, it isn't. The script for the scene says nothing about him breaking his neck, and there's no indication this happens. [[http://www.unleashthefanboy.com/comics/batman-doesnt-kill-joker-in-the-killing-jok/68199 Seriously]]. [[http://comicbook.com/blog/2013/08/17/the-killing-joke-script-proves-batman-didnt-kill-the-joker/ It just plain is not true]]. So please stop using it as an answer, because it's missing the point of the whole story.