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Reading in The Past – Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke

It’s late Friday evening, and I’m done with work, but I promised myself I’d get in a post tonight.  Feeling lazy I reached out to Batman: The Killing Joke. It looked slim enough that I could get through it within a few minutes of a quick re-read.

I was lucky enough to get this one shot graphic novel when it first came out back in 1988, and I have re-read my personal very-fine copy a number of times. Still, it has been at last ten years or so since I last looked at this prior to today.

Although my hazy recollections were positive, all I could really remember about it was that Barbara Gordon was crippled in it, it had one of the earliest Joker origin stories I was aware of, and there were these demonic midgets in those pages somewhere.

Doing some research (very little I confess) I found out that Alan Moore is very critical of this work, and only did it as a favor to Brian Bolland. Furthermore, there is a 2008 hard covered version, recolored by Bolland, who was not happy with the original (I may have to check that out one day). Nonetheless, many consider it to be the definitive Joker story, and one of the best Batman stories ever to be published.

Me, I enjoyed it then, and still enjoy it today. One thing though, despite it being a Batman story, I’d re-classify it as horror; but this may be colored by the fact that I am reading Moore’s ‘Providence‘ present day. The Joker I remember from my formative years was kind of goofy; but here in this book’s macabre artwork, I’m reintroduced to the crazy rantings of a murderous Joker, driven mad by one bad day, invoking images in my mind of a crazed Jack Nicholson from the Shining.  I can’t recall exactly when the Joker evolved into the murdering psychopath he is today–probably sometime in the seventies or eighties if memory serves me right –but it was Moore who set him off on the homicidal path that continues to date (I’ll have to add ‘Joker History’ to my little black book of future blogs).  

Moore, in one of his interviews, says “it isn’t about anything that you’re ever going to encounter in real life, because Batman and the Joker are not like any human beings that have ever lived.”  True as that may be, with all the hate and mass shootings–the madness in Oregon being the latest–happening in today’s world, I’m inclined to believe that there are too many Jokers in the world, and not enough Batmen.

Here are some quotes:

“How can two people hate so much without knowing each other.”

“Remember? Ohh, I wouldn’t do that! Remembering’s dangerous. I find the past such a worrying anxious place.”

“Memory’s so treacherous. One moment you’re lost in a carnival of delights with poignant childhood aromas, the flashing neon of puberty, all that sentimental candy floss … the next it leads you somewhere you don’t want to go … somewhere dark and cold, filled with the damp, ambiguous shapes of things you’d hoped were forgotten.”

“Memories can be vile, repulsive little brutes, like children I suppose.”

“Don’t get ee-ee-even, get mad!”

“Ladies and Gentlemen! You’ve read about it in the newspapers!  Now shudder as you observe, before your very eyes, that most rare and tragic of nature’s mistakes! I give you … The Average Man!”

“Faced with the inescapable fact that human existence is mad, random and pointless, one in eight of them crack up and go stark slavering buggo!”

“If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!”

Killing Joke

Informative Links:

Batman: The Killing Joke Wikipedia

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