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YMMV / The Killing Joke

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  • 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.
    • There is a long-standing debate over whether the original coloring or the deluxe edition coloring is better. The original coloring is bold and psychedelic, framing the story as a carnivalesque nightmare, while the deluxe edition is very cold, muted, and realistic. Some argue that the original colors were too garish for such a dark story and others argue that the new colors rob the book of its character and atmosphere by making everything so dim and washed-out. Other alterations like the removal of the yellow oval behind Batman's chest insignia and the addition of blood leaking out of the Joker's eyes in a certain scene incite even more debate.
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  • "Common Knowledge": Barbara Gordon was forced to retire from being Batgirl after the events of this comic, right? Actually, she'd already hung up her cowl shortly before this was released.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: The Joker shooting Barbara in the spine is horrifying. The jokes he makes over her body are hysterical.
  • 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.
    • Others have argued that Batman killing Joker goes against the point of the story and Moore's stated regrets about the story. Moore wrote the story hoping to provide a psychologically compelling and grounded perspective on Joker's origins and his conflict with the Batman but realized later that the fact that Batman and Joker are comic-book characters in the sense of being long-running serial characters, there can never really be a resolution to their conflict. The Joker will never be able to be cured because doing so would go against the function of his character and Batman won't kill because he wouldn't be a hero. The story and the title is a meta-commentary on the endless Batman-Joker rivalry and about the fact that there's no end to it, which both Batman and Joker realize at the end and laugh about. Alan Moore confirmed the satirical interpretation himself in an October 2015 online question-and-answer, and states that he didn't intend Batman killing Joker at all: 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.
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  • Hilarious in Hindsight: "WHERRRRRE IS HE?"
  • 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: This is one of the very few things in all Batman media 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.
  • 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!
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    • The larger point that Moore regrets is that his origin was intended to deepen and complicate the rivalry between Batman and the Joker, and humanize the Joker by giving him a sympathetic backstory. Instead all people take from the comic is the Joker can be even more violent and sociopathic while using Multiple-Choice Past as an excuse for readers to accept and tolerate him as an entertaining villain, and this paved the way for later events of Joker committing acts of greater gratuitous violence with the usual Straw Nihilist spiel.
  • Moral Event Horizon: What the Joker does to Barbara. Of all the crimes the Joker has committed - even the murder of Jason Todd - this one 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.
    • There's been talk of retconning the whole story out of existence, which upset even more fans. Some thought it was just pandering to the same people who hated the Batgirl cover, others felt it was one more slap in the face to anyone who liked Barbara as Oracle, while others still just wish the writers would do something original with the character.
  • Recycled Script: There are at least two notable echoes of Moore's earlier (but finished later) V for Vendetta:
    • V performed a very similar "ghost train" torture on Lewis Prothero - and unlike the Joker, his torture succeeded (so it's a good thing Prothero had it coming). Bonus points for V deliberately dressing in a bright carny outfit, complete with cane, as he conducts said torture.
    • The Joker, like Det. Derek Almond, ultimately loses to the hero because he forgot to load his gun.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny:
    • Was pretty extreme when it first came out, even after Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns intensified the comic book medium. Nowadays, the whole attack-a-woman-to-spite-a-man plotline has been done to death, with stories like Identity Crisis and Injustice: Gods Among Us milking it dry.
    • The Killing Joke was the first time Joker attacked someone close to Batman's personal life. Several months after the release of this comic, there was the famous A Death in the Family story that killed Jason Todd, and much later, No Man's Land where Sarah Essen Gordon was killed by the Joker. This trickled into adaptations, where in Tim Burton's Batman (1989) Joker is made into the thug who killed Bruce's parents, and killing Bruce's Love Interest in The Dark Knight and Batman: Arkham City, while his torture of Batman's ally into insanity became an element of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
    • Bruce Timm has even said that despite the book still getting a mature readers tag in reprints and the 20th anniversary special edition, times have changed and the animated adaptation could've possibly gotten a PG-13 rating before it was rated R.
  • Tear Jerker: At the end, Batman sincerely offers Joker a chance at rehabilitation and the chance to heal from his madness. For a second, the Joker appears lucid and seems to consider it, but solemnly declines. "Sorry, but no. It's too late for that. Far too late."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Although The Joker's backstory is rather tragic, a lot of people will still find it impossible to sympathize with him, due to the fact that his backstory is ironically nothing compared to all the suffering he puts other characters through, especially in his other appearances.


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