Batman: The Killing Joke
Dir: Sam Liu
Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's 1988 one-shot classic The Killing Joke is a huge deal in the comic world. Both authors have since declared the comic as unsatisfactory but to hard-core fans it is one of the great classics and both Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan have cited it as being the influence on both of their versions of the Caped Crusader. It's pretty dark and highly controversial, splitting opinion among comic/Batman fans right down the middle. So far all of DC animations have been somewhat watered down versions of the original comics, so I wasn't' expecting a 100% pure adaptation but I also didn't expect an almost re-written version either. Mark Hamill, the many time voice of The Joker had quit the role and said years ago that the only way he would be tempted back is if DC made The Killing Joke. He stuck to his word and fan favourite Kevin Conroy also returned to voice Batman. A dream come true for fans. DC announced that this would be the first DC animation to be rated R-rated, fuelling the belief that this would be an authentic adaptation. There are key elements that made the original comic so controversial and so memorable. Batgirl is raped and shot by the Joker, Commissioner Gordon is fed LSD, Batman pleads with the Joker to end their feud and Batman kills the Joker in the end. Of these things only the shooting of Batgirl happens in the animation but this is unsurprising, given she has been Oracle ever since in the comic world. Now the original story was harsh and a little too much. You could argue the violence had a purpose but both Moore and Bolland regret it, particularly Barbara Gordon's treatment. How women are portrayed in the comic world is still a hot subject and The Killing Joke is largely where the debate started. Boundaries should always be crossed and I would argue that comics is the best medium to do this. The original idea was to bring mythology to life, to make the characters more real and the Joker more evil. I think they certainly achieved this. The fact that now everyone involved with the project are saying they didn't think there was a suggestion Batgirl was raped is pretty ridiculous and I find it all a bit of a whitewash. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing properly and The Killing Joke just doesn't do this. DC have said the book was too short to cover a 75 minute run time, so they had to add to the story. This comes with a confusing and utterly pointless inclusion of a new villain and a horrible sexual encounter between Batman and Batwoman. I can sort of understand why they would leave the rape scene out but this combined with her being paralyzed real gave Batgirl a unique edge, a huge fight of overcoming adversity. A harsh treatment of a character that didn't deserve it but it gave far more of a complex persona to a rather two-dimensional superhero that really didn't have much of an origin story. It was a way of empowering one of the original female superheroes, the only way Alan Moore could. Like I say, controversial, but by replacing that with simply making her into one of Batman's conquests it didn't humanize her character at all, it made her character even more of this cliché that females superheroes are seen as, totally sexualised and even more two-dimensional as before. The scene where Batman begs the Joker to stop their on-going battle before one of them is killed is an amazing piece of comic literature. It was one of the first times we realize that without the Joker Batman couldn't exist and vice-versa. None of that came through in the animation. Worst of all, the epic suggestion that Batman kills the Joker at the end was gone. One of the biggest, most controversial talking points of Batman legend and they completely ignored it. Why? What a waste of time. Read the original instead, even if it is for the hundredth time. Conroy and Hamill reunited was nice but other than that this was just another exercise in diluting great art for profit, missing the point of the original in the process.