The Killing Joke is one of the most disturbing, groundbreaking, and essential pieces of graphic literature in all of comics history. The Alan Moore story about the origin of The Joker and his final showdown with Batman (that’s right, this story is intended to be an Elseworlds type tale of finality like The Dark Knight Returns) has been something fans have been dying to see translated to the screen. This summer, that request is finally coming to fruition in the form of a direct-to-video animated feature. Warner Bros. has released an in-depth look at the film which you can watch below, but be warned: you’re going to see a lot of the flick in this promo piece. If you’d rather keep your anticipation in check, maybe skip the video. For the rest of you, enjoy.
The Killing Joke is a story that was infamous for the violence it brought down upon Barbara Gordon, and considering how our modern sensibilities are, there’s a lot of trepidation in adapting this story. Even director Sam Liu himself says that they’ve worried whether or not it’s a story that should be done. The material is some of the darkest and most brutal featured in any Batman story, and it’s no surprise that certain people just aren’t going to want this kind of a project to be made.
Regardless of the moral issues the book brings up, it’s hard to deny the excitement of Mark Hamill getting to put his definitive stamp on what’s possibly the most popular Joker story ever written. Hamill’s performance (like Bruce Timm says in the video) is the Joker for a certain generation of fans, and I count myself among their numbers. Seeing as how Hamill is a fan of the comic, it’s doubly satisfying to know that a fan will be the one to help bring this story to life.
There will probably be some point of contention for some viewers when it comes to what’s been added and changed for the adaptation, but that’s the nature of adaptations. Giving us a prologue that prominently features Barbara as Batgirl makes sense for those viewers who won’t be as familiar with the comic. In The Killing Joke, Barbara is never seen as Batgirl but that’s okay because the comic assumes that readers have plenty of knowledge when it comes to who Barbara is. It’s best not to assume anything about your audience when making an adaptation like this. Give them all the information and setup that they need to get invested in this as its own endeavor.
Personally, I’m a little disappointed that the animators decided to go with artist Brian Bolland’s redesigned color palette for the movie. The original version of The Killing Joke was not inked by Bolland (it was done by John Higgins), and it had a much more psychedelic and circus-y feel to it. Bolland was given the opportunity to ink a reissued version of the book a few years ago, and while that version is well worth picking up, I just prefer Higgins’s kaleidoscopic nightmare colors. To each their own.
The Killing Joke will screen at this year’s Comic-Con and will be released to home video shortly after that. For fans of Batman, this will be one we can’t miss.