Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Spoiler Free Look at The Killing Joke

I’m still not going to spoil the Killing Joke here, but I do feel the need to address why I love this story in light of the negative press it is once again receiving.    And much of this press is rightly deserved in my not so humble opinion as the writers made choices I personally wish they had not made.   The main writer has also expressed regret over some choices he made while writing it, so I am not alone in my critique, but  I also see how those choices do work  in the narrative of the story and actually makes sense in the demented outlook of the character driving the story.   They are choices I would not have made, but do not distract from the overall story for me.

What makes the Killing Joke unique and special to me is that Alan Moore took a character famous for his lack of motive and gave him a very strict focus; a purpose.   Joker was not out to “watch the world burn” as Nolan’s Joker did.   He is not engaging in some comical criminal plot as a device for a child’s cartoon.   He is not seeking vengeance or any other contrived comic book villain plot in any way, shape, or form this time.    This time he is seeking something everyone can relate too: understanding and vindication of who he became.   He needs to know that what he became is not his fault and that anyone would have followed his path if given his circumstances.   It is the most human motive I have seen for a comic villain outside of Magneto’s desire to prevent another holocaust.    It is a motive even Batman himself could relate to.

Again, without spoilers, Joker believes his life is the end result of “one bad day.”  He then surmises that Batman’s life is also a result of “one bad day.”  If “one bad day” can make Batman into Batman and Joker into Joker, then “one bad day’ should change anyone.   He finds the most honest person he can find, Commissioner Gordon, and subjects him to a truly bad day in the hopes of proving his theory correct, thus vindicating himself and showing that he could have just as easily been Batman and, more importantly, Batman could have just as easily become him.  It is the details of this “bad day” that have caused so much controversy around The Killing Joke, but it does fit within the context of the “bad day’ Joker himself suffered.  And yes, we do get an origin story for the Joker, but even he admits it could be pure fiction.


What makes the Killing Joke such a monumental comic and story is that the writers took two huge figures in American Mythology, a hero and a villain who traditionally are at odds with one another, and showed they were more alike than they were different.   It showed us that anyone could become a hero or a villain based on the circumstances of their lives and makes us wonder, if given the depths of that “one bad day” if we would be Joker, Batman, or Gordon when the day was over.

6 comments:

the.bluesquirrel.man said...

yes. Nietzsche's Abyss; Six Degrees of Seperation . . . .

Brad Schader said...

This is the book that brought that line of thought into comics. It is noteworthy for that reason alone IMHO

joanie78 said...

Thank you for explaining story. Now I see and find it very clever. Just one event or day can change your lif

the.bluesquirrel.man said...

More thoughts . . . The Joker is who we are and who we've become. The Joker is not just some fictional character in a children's comic book, but rather a real life figure in a epic story that reveals the hidden flaws in all of us. A tragic hero in his own mind, just misunderstood.
It's a human thing to want to go back in time and try to figure out how we became who we are. It's also a human thing to make it out that whatever bad became of us, it wasn't our fault. It's a human thing to believe it was circumstances and not the choices we make that determine who we become. And it's a human thing to lie so much that you don't know what's the truth is anymore. It's a human thing to resist the help from those who've been against us in the past . . . To make peace. The Joker is a classic narcissist, sadistic social-path who represents every bad element know to human kind. These same human traits that exist in all of us; even in Batman too; you were right they are very much alike. Batman wants to help The Joker find the way out because he's been there too. The essence of the story is that Batman at some point broke through and transcended his circumstances and The Joker didn't. Now the question is . . . Why?

Brad Schader said...

I think you were close, but not quite there. Batman is a psychopath too. Remember the Jewish expression that there are three sides to every story? That is why Jim Gordon is in the story. He is the one who remained true and good. Batman had a bad day I became a fascist. Joker had a bad day you became an anarchist. Jim Gordon had a bad day and remain true to who he was. Batman and Joker both freaks and masks running around at night doing things against the law because they were hurt. Jim Gordon doesn't put on a mask uses his real name doesn't hide in shadows and follows the law. I think that was jokers main point: he had Batman reacted the same way and both of them are very flawed it follows the law. I think that was jokers main point: he had Batman reacted the same way and both of them are very flawed broken people who don't fit in anywhere

the.bluesquirrel.man said...

Interesting . . . Is it possible that The Joker, in the end, is trying to make a false equivalent comparing himself to Batman; in an effort to marginalized his own complicity. Though Batman exhibits similar tendacies as The Joker there still appears to be substantive differences between them. It a good story and it seems the author has elevated the dialogue despite the criticisms. Peace!