Monday, May 26, 2014

[Classics] The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

Alan Moore’s blissfully insane The Killing Joke was Tim Burton’s inspiration for his Joker in his Batman movies. It was said that he insisted to adapt the Joker’s origin story from this comic book and upon reading TKJ myself, I understood perfectly why. This only has 46 pages but those pages are filled with gore and twisted imagery that will fuel your nightmares.

This was incredibly piercing to digest for me; I'm not one to shy away from whatever depravity is depicted in books but this one was unsettling in certain ways especially since there's an unmistakable melancholic tone in the last few pages which still manages to be flat-out hilarious as well. That general dichotomy in my response has made me very uncomfortable once I finished reading. And that is what made TKJ memorable overall. The most haunting and memorable scene in this comic book were definitely the last pages. Earlier in the panels, the Joker’s goal was to make Batman laugh and so by the last scene he told Batman a joke. The joke was a metaphorical representation of their relationship as hero and villain which can be deconstructed as being each other’s crazy, uncompromising half.

The two crazy guys in the joke attempting to escape was both Batman and the Joker caught up in their dynamic that is in fact an inescapable fate. Batman is the guy in the joke who suggested to light the gap so the other one could walk across. It’s symbolic of Batman’s persistence to help the Joker overcome his insanity even if he doesn’t admit it himself, and the methods he use are not necessarily doing anything to help the Joker at all. Meanwhile, the Joker is the other crazy guy who is afraid of falling over the edge and says the punchline of the joke: “You’d turn it (the light) off when I was half way cross,” and it represents the strained way the Joker relates to Batman where he doesn’t believe Batman can help him and that he is beyond saving. In that awful shared moment, both understood the meaning of the joke to them and so at the very last panels, they share a laugh together while the rain poured over them.

It was as if their laughter could might as well be mistaken for crying because they knew at that moment that one is just as crazy as the other one perceives and while Batman seeks order and the Joker gives in to chaos, they are both equally miserable and can only find solace that their personalities, psychologies and characters are balanced by one another. So it was funny and very sad at the same time. They complete one another but they also tend to cancel each other out. It’s sick and perverse; it’s sublime and poignant. This is the way Batman and the Joker are and possibly forever.


* At your own risk.

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