Over on the Back Issue Facebook group, there is some contention that Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's groundbreaking and influential Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) was originally intended to be an early Elseworlds story with no consequences in the regular DC continuity.

Despite DC putting out Batgirl Special #1 (Jl'88), actually titled "The Last Batgirl Story" and a crippled Barbara Gordon first appearing as Oracle in Suicide Squad #23 (Ja'89), some have stated that it was the book's popularity that somehow forced DC to consider it canon. 

Had the book been crafted as an Elseworlds, i.e. an Imaginary Story, why would Moore and editor Len Wein need permission from DC's higher ups to cripple Barbara Gordon, given the multitude of deaths seen in later Elseworlds titles?

Also, the removal of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl made room for the new Huntress book which started with its #1 in April 1989.

Have any of you heard that BTKJ was initially a Elseworlds?

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When the story first came out, my understanding was that it was non-canonical. I did get that information second hand, but it was definitely my understanding that it wasn't intended to stick. 

Used to be, DC felt free (or more free) to publish stories that were non-canon, whether or not they bore the "Elseworlds" label. Like many of the stories Bob Haney wrote for The Brave and the Bold. Haney placed being entertaining first; it was up to the reader to figure of if they fit or not.

The entire premise of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight when it was launched in 1989 was that these were stories for you to enjoy from top creative teams, and maybe they are in continuity and maybe they aren't, but continuity isn't the most important thing about them.

There was also the Batman: Son of the Demon graphic novel from 1987, that had Batman fathering a son with Talia. When published, that story was most definitely not canon. (Thank God, because it's full of holes.)

Which bring us to Batman: The Killing Joke. No, when it was published, it wasn't canon. Some believe it was The Last Joker Story, with the Clown Prince of Crime going way too far, and Batman putting an end to his depredations once and for all. In that light, permission was necessary to write what happened to Batgirl for THIS story because if is far more sordid,  fare than your average comic, with the heroine getting shot and stripped naked and, it is implied, raped as well after being shot and stripped naked. Things like that weren't done to heroes back then in comics from mainstream publishers, and that ain't the same as the average story in which heroes die, Elseworlds or no.

Unfortunately, the Continuity Police can't abide any stories that don't fit within an impossible-to-adhere-to timeline, and the simple thought that one could just read and enjoy a story in and of itself is too much. So, for good or for ill, Batman: Son of the Demon and Batman: The Killing Joke (and for that matter, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) are dragged into continuity although they weren't meant to be (and, I would argue, shouldn't have been).

Was the issue the attack on Barbara or leaving her paralyzed? Because the simplest way to show BTKJ was NOT canon was to have Babs walking around but they didn't. They kept her paralyzed in Suicide Squad very quickly (in publishing time) and refer to BTKJ having taken place. Of course, it took years to reflect that in the Bat-titles. It may have been NO MAN'S LAND, I think.

It seems to me I have heard that The Killing Joke was intended to be an out-of-continuity "ElseWorlds" but I'm blanking on where I read that... not for anything having to do with Barbara per se, but because Batman kills the Joker at the end. It doesn't hold up as a story if he doesn't kill him. 

Which is even stranger because I never felt that Batman kills the Joker at the end. Then again, I never liked the ending anyway. To me, it's another example of Moore losing steam as he doesn't have a strong finish to match his gripping opening chapters. And if it was out of continuity, why not show Batman finally dealing with Joker instead of laughing at one of his jokes which wasn't funny in the first place.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

It seems to me I have heard that The Killing Joke was intended to be an out-of-continuity "ElseWorlds" but I'm blanking on where I read that... not for anything having to do with Barbara per se, but because Batman kills the Joker at the end. It doesn't hold up as a story if he doesn't kill him. 

Whether the book is quality is a matter of horse races I guess. Personally I've always thought that it was one of Moore's weakest.

Goi g back to whether it was meant to be in continuity or not, I got that information from my comics source at the time, who was the dorm resident when I was in college. He was a huge comics geek and turned me on to a lot of great comics. He was the one who visited a comics shop on a weekly basis and that's likely where he heard that if was supposed to be non-canonical. 

Philip Portelli said:

Which is even stranger because I never felt that Batman kills the Joker at the end. Then again, I never liked the ending anyway. To me, it's another example of Moore losing steam as he doesn't have a strong finish to match his gripping opening chapters. And if it was out of continuity, why not show Batman finally dealing with Joker instead of laughing at one of his jokes which wasn't funny in the first place.

I never really liked the ending either, or felt that Batman killed him, and thought the ending was weak, until I read about Alan Moore's original intention. Then it all fell into place and made sense. That lame joke plays out in parallel to the final, wordless page, in which Batman breaks the Joker's neck off panel. The whole theme of the issue is "one bad day." It was one bad day which turned the unnamed stand-up comedian into the Joker in the first place, and it is similarly one bad day  the Joker creates for Commissioner Gordan in an attempt to send him over the edge. Ironically, it is this one bad day he himself created which causes Batman to cross the line. Again, compare the Joker's final joke with Batman's final action. Moore is saying that the Joker is insane, and killing him is the only sane response. If Batman doesn't kill the Joker at the end, the whole story collapses like a house of cards (all Jokers). Granted, it is a very subtle ending, and not entirely successful. I didn't get it until it was pointed out to me, when suddenly it all made sense. It's brilliant, but only as "the last Batman/Joker story." 

The killing at the end could only work if, as well as being the Last Joker Story, it was the Last Batman Story because he definitely looked unhinged! And if that's the "true" ending then the Joker wins!

That was never Moore's intention. The whole point of the story is the opposite: The Joker's convinced, so to speak that he's not at fault—anyone would do what he did if they were pushed. And the story shows he's wrong.

One of my fellow bloggers at Atomic Junkshop goes into detail on why "Joker dies off-panel" doesn't make sense: https://atomicjunkshop.com/dumb-fan-theories-part-i-the-killing-joke/

As for continuity, Barbara Kesel has said she wrote Batgirl retiring to set up the story (as Brian Cronin notes here: https://www.cbr.com/comic-book-legends-revealed-585/) So if it was initially conceived as out-of-continuity, that idea died fairly soon.


Jeff of Earth-J said:

Philip Portelli said:

Which is even stranger because I never felt that Batman kills the Joker at the end. Then again, I never liked the ending anyway. To me, it's another example of Moore losing steam as he doesn't have a strong finish to match his gripping opening chapters. And if it was out of continuity, why not show Batman finally dealing with Joker instead of laughing at one of his jokes which wasn't funny in the first place.

I never really liked the ending either, or felt that Batman killed him, and thought the ending was weak, until I read about Alan Moore's original intention. Then it all fell into place and made sense. That lame joke plays out in parallel to the final, wordless page, in which Batman breaks the Joker's neck off panel. The whole theme of the issue is "one bad day." It was one bad day which turned the unnamed stand-up comedian into the Joker in the first place, and it is similarly one bad day  the Joker creates for Commissioner Gordan in an attempt to send him over the edge. Ironically, it is this one bad day he himself created which causes Batman to cross the line. Again, compare the Joker's final joke with Batman's final action. Moore is saying that the Joker is insane, and killing him is the only sane response. If Batman doesn't kill the Joker at the end, the whole story collapses like a house of cards (all Jokers). Granted, it is a very subtle ending, and not entirely successful. I didn't get it until it was pointed out to me, when suddenly it all made sense. It's brilliant, but only as "the last Batman/Joker story." 

As it stands, the Joker raped and crippled Barbara Gordon and got off pretty much scot free. 

"And if that's the 'true' ending then the Joker wins!"

Nonsense. Justice wins.

The Joker basically always gets off scot-free, doesn't he?  I think I'd more comfortable with the character of he was something like Redjac in that one Star Trek episopde.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

As it stands, the Joker raped and crippled Barbara Gordon and got off pretty much scot free. 

"The Joker basically always gets off scot-free, doesn't he?"

Too true.

"And the story shows he's wrong."

No, he's right (he just didn't think it through). 

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