YMMV: The Killing Joke

  • Broken Base: Arguably one of the most contested Batman stories ever written. There's many a debate over the merits of Barbara Gordon getting fridged and whether or not it actually lives up to the hype. For good or bad, it's become of the most iconic and influential stories on the Batman Mythos, something that Alan Moore has actually come to regret.
  • Epileptic Trees: During a 2013 podcast with Kevin Smith, Grant Morrison argued that the end of The Killing Joke in fact has Batman killing Joker, carefully interpreting the panels as evidence. He admitted that it was done in a way that was left to viewers. A very dark interpretation of the story but not unexpected from Moore. Artist Brian Bolland disagrees though, the comic's inclusion in the mainline DC canon clearly indicates it didn't happen, and the script for the comic says Batman and Joker just collapse helplessly in laughter. Though considering Moore's own ideas expressed in Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow?, the fact that it's canon or not would have little impact on his own vision for the story, which as of now is not known.
    ...my intention at the end of that book was to have the two characters simply experiencing a brief moment of lucidity in their ongoing very weird and probably fatal relationship with each other, reaching a moment where they both perceive the hell that they are in, and can only laugh at their preposterous situation.
  • Hype Aversion: As it usually ranks highly on 'Best Batman Story' lists, this is bound to happen with some. Though interestingly it seems even Alan Moore himself has a touch of this too.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Believe it or not, the Joker in the final scene. Physically and psychologically defeated, he kneels on the ground, listening to Batman's offer of rehabilitation and, in one Beat panel, appearing to seriously consider it, before saying sadly that it's "too late for that. Far too late," suggesting that there's a grain of sanity and humanity in there somewhere, albeit not enough to make a difference. Thus, the work shows the Joker at his single most sympathetic and humane moment.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: See Hype Aversion above; Moore is reputed to consider this the weakest of his DC works, as he believes that the aesthetics of Watchmen were a poor fit for a "mere" Batman story. He later explained that ultimately Joker and Batman were intended to function as comic-book larger-than-life figures and are entertaining as such, but attempts to introduce realism would end up making the story nasty but without being as fun as a superhero comic. This later informed his attempts at Reconstruction of superhero comics in Supreme and America's Best Comics label.
  • Misaimed Fandom: There are those fans who, even if they think he is still a sociopath, believe the Joker when he says that one bad day is all it took to drive him over the edge (and by extension, that one bad day could drive ''anybody'' over the edge). Not only is this arguably disproved by the end of the story, since he fails to break Gordon, note  it's suggested by Batman that his failure and behaviour mean that the Joker was not even right about himself, and by extension needed help long before his Trauma Conga Line. That's not even getting into his Multiple-Choice Past claims.
    Batman: So maybe ordinary people don't always crack. Maybe there isn't any need to crawl under a rock with all the other slimey things when trouble hits. Maybe it was just you, all the time!
  • Moral Event Horizon: What the Joker does to Barbara. Of all the crimes the Joker has committed - even the murder of Jason Todd - this is the one that haunts the whole DC Universe.
  • Never Live It Down: Poor Barbara. Most writers who use her just can't seem to look past that one hellish moment of her life. This image proved to be the last straw for many fans.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Yes.
  • Tear Jerker: This is one of the very few Batman stories that can make one feel sorry for The Joker, even after the horrible and nightmarishly evil things he's done this time.
    • Especially the scene towards the end, when Batman chases him. The Joker's face as he asks "Why aren't you laughing?" just breaks one's heart.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Line Art: Brian Bolland's opinion on the original version. He subdued the color palette considerably and added a few extra color details for the 20th-anniversary edition. Which in itself divided the fandom, with some arguing that the garish, acid-trip colours of the 80's original contributed to the nightmarish feel of the book. Tellingly, DC continues to publish reprints of the book with its original colouring.
  • Unfortunate Implications: The Agony Booth was very critical of its Stuffed into the Fridge treatment of Batgirl, who serves only as a helpless victim to the story.