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?

Views: 529

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Was it ever officially stated that the Joker raped Barbara? Physically, emotionally and sexually traumatized, guilty as hell but the Joker being a sexual predator came from Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns.

And if he's able to get the Batman to kill him then, in his mind, he has won.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

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.

"Was it ever officially stated that the Joker raped Barbara?"

It was pretty strongly suggested. If you're not going to look at the pictures as well as read the words, why read comics at all?

"And if he's able to get the Batman to kill him then, in his mind, he has won."

Fine, then "in his mind" he has won. The way I see it, every day the Joker draws breath he has won. 

I'm inclined to say no, but the images can go either way.

Philip Portelli said:

Was it ever officially stated that the Joker raped Barbara? Physically, emotionally and sexually traumatized, guilty as hell but the Joker being a sexual predator came from Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns.

And if he's able to get the Batman to kill him then, in his mind, he has won.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

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.

Crippled her, then. (That's not bad enough?)

That's plenty bad, and quite obviously correct.

I will pause here and say that the Three Jokers making the Killing Joke Joker the real, true, definitive Joker does not sit well with me at all (as I vent about elsewhere).

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Crippled her, then. (That's not bad enough?)

Of course it is.

But remember Identity Crisis? After that, all Doctor Light could ever be was the rapist of Sue Dibney. In every subsequent appearance, it was brought up. It couldn't be ignored.

That never happened with the Joker. If he did, surely he would have tormented Comm. Gordon with pictures of him doing that but all the pictures were of Barbara alone. As horrible as his actions were, as unforgiveable and irredeemable, that was one line Moore, Bolland and Wein were not going to cross. 

To me anyways!



Jeff of Earth-J said:

Crippled her, then. (That's not bad enough?)

You have made me remember Identity Crisis. That was wicked of you.

But you're right. Even in something as dark (and bad) as Three Jokers, the Killing Joke is about He Crippled Her, not He Raped Her. Ditto when Babs encountered the Hoodlum Harlequin in Birds of Prey.

Philip Portelli said:

Of course it is.

But remember Identity Crisis? After that, all Doctor Light could ever be was the rapist of Sue Dibney. In every subsequent appearance, it was brought up. It couldn't be ignored.

That never happened with the Joker. If he did, surely he would have tormented Comm. Gordon with pictures of him doing that but all the pictures were of Barbara alone. As horrible as his actions were, as unforgiveable and irredeemable, that was one line Moore, Bolland and Wein were not going to cross. 

To me anyways!



Jeff of Earth-J said:

Crippled her, then. (That's not bad enough?)

I'm looking for my copy so I can comment on the panels. So far, haven't found it. 

(Yes, Jeff, I do have it even if I can't find it right now.) 

I started looking for my copy of The Killing Joke last night but couldn't find it; found it today. (I remember now: I had it filed with Batgirl, not Batman or Joker.) That "silent page" I referred to was actually the last three panels on the last page. In the previous panel, the sound effects are the police car and the Joker's laughter; then the Joker's laughter abruptly stops. I plan to read the whole thing tonight for context; it's been a while since I read it. I also found my copies of The Three Jokers which I haven't read since it came out. I'll try to re-read those, too. 

I'm not a fan of situations where DC chooses to purposefully keep their continuity on what are expected to be consequential events ambiguous.  That "Three Jokers" series published in 2020 is a good example.  Apparently it was designed to be considered canon if you want to, and alternate continuity if you prefer to.


That IMO amounts to DC deliberately harming its readers' emotional investment in their tales.  It is asking readers to be somewhat hopeful for the story to "matter", to be acknowledged going forward, while also refusing to take any responsibility for the eventual release of the payoff.  If the publisher does not want to care about the story, why should readers?

"The Killing Joke", purposefully or otherwise, seems to be in a similar situation now - regardless of what may have been meant at the time.  There are also additional ambiguities, such as what kind of harm exactly Joker inflicted on Barbara and what, if anything, we are expected to make of the last page.

A very "continuity-fluid" story, apparently.  Then again, that seems to be par of course for DC for a good while now.  But TKJ preceded this status quo by decades.

Far as the continuity of the time goes, some variant of the overall story seems to have happened.  We see Batman talk about how disgusted with Joker the Gotham police is after what he did to Barbara in early panels of "A Death In the Family", and we see that Barbara has been crippled and has developed some form of trauma related to the Joker in later issues of Suicide Squad.

But I don't think that DC wanted to take a clear stance on the canonicity one way or the other, presumably because it could be difficult to refer to the strongest scenes in an unambiguous way without restricting readership.  For that matter, I don't think that the current and past status of Barbara regarding Suicide Squad is clear at the moment either.

I sometimes wonder whether DC itself was all that clear on whether this story was intended to be canon or not, and that the story just sort of "fell" into "canonocity" without  any clear planning on their part.

Okay I'm back, having read The Killing Joke for the first time in several years... possibly for the first time in a couple of decades. I know I reread the last several pages when the alleged "secret ending" was revealed to me, but I may not have reread the entire thing at that time. I had been hoping I had filed a hardcopy of the article I had read along with the comic book (as I often do), but that was not the case. I also read (and listened to) the article Fraser linked on the previous page, which is going to save me a lot of time. First, I'm willing to drop the "rape charge" for one reason and one reason only: it's not necessary to the story. I find the argument that rape forever after tainted Dr. Light's character to be specious because it compares Dr. Light to the Joker. Dr. Light is a cypher in comparison. Dr. Light is virtually unknown outside (or even within, really) fandom, a tabula rasa. Regarding the Joker, fans are more likely to identify him with the laughing fish or Caesar Romero or any number of other stories. 

Second, man that ending is ambiguous... perhaps purposefully so. I read John Trumbull's blog piece and I listened to the Kevin Smith/Grant Morrison podcast excerpt. If that's where the "rumor" originated and if that was 2013, that sounds about right to me. I was Kevin Smith at the time but I have since become Grant Morrison. Morrison makes the case about as well as anyone else would, so if you follow the link to read the article, be sure to listen to the posdcast as well (it's anout three minutes long). Let's look at Trumbell's argument point-by-point.

1) Grant Morrison had absolutely nothing to do with The Killing Joke.

Nothing Trumble says in this section is in any way relevant, so I'm going to ignore it. (It's ironic in the sense that nothing he says about Morrison doesn't apply to himself as well.)

2) It Makes No Sense Literally.

Because Trumbell classifies Moore, the writer of Watchmen, as "a Silver Age baby" who has written about "the heroic, compassionate Batman" elsewhere that seems to disqualify him from writing  a darker take on the character. Actually, the ending of The Killing Joke bears a striking similarity to the climax of Moore's Miracleman, which is at once more explicit and more graphic (using the dictionary definitions of the terms).

3) It Makes No Sense Thematically. 

Actually, it makes perfect sense thematically. With the story still fresh in my mind, the ending was foreshadowed no fewer than three times in the story itself, not to mention the title: The Killing Joke. Trumbell (who apparently hasn't read any Batman stories since 1989?) ascertains that "superhero stories typically contain the villain pulling off one or two big crimes before the hero stops him once and for all. That’s what happens here." Really? "Once and for all"? 

"If Batman snaps and kills the Joker, even on impulse, that means that Batman broke under pressure." No. No, it doesn't. It means that Batman reasoned out that there was only one way to stop the Joker "once and for all." 

"Why would you ever assume the Joker’s P.O.V. is the one we’re supposed to find correct? Can you honestly imagine DC ever publishing a story where the Joker is right and Batman is wrong?" That is an example of the popularly-misused phrase "begging the question."

4) There is Absolutely Nothing In Alan Moore’s Script About It.

Trumbell understands that Brian Bolland was joking in his introduction the the 2008 Deluxe Edition of The Killing Joke, but he doesn't get the joke. His "proof" is that Moore's script, would have had to pass through the hands of a DC editor, didn't explicitly state that Batman kills the Joker. If I may rephrase on of Trumbell's own questions: "Can you honestly imagine DC ever publishing a story in which Batman kills the Joker?" One thing I've learned from reading Stephen Bissette's essays in DC's Absolute Swamp Thing is that Moore communicated with his artists via telephone and letters, nit just scripts. Not to put too fine a point on it but, in his introduction, Brian Bolland was admitting the point of the story without coming right out and saying it.

I admit that the ending of The Killing Joke was ambiguous, but purposefully so, I believe. If Trumbel is right, if Batman didn't kill Joker, then the story has no point and Barbara Gordon was crippled for no reason. I am now more convinced than ever (by Grant Morrison and Brian Bolland) that Batman did kill the Joker. Gordon didn't crack and the Joker was still proven wrong, but Batman neutralized the threat "once and for all." Obviously, in continuity that is not true, but the scene is presented so ambiguously as to be interpreted either way but, for my own part, once it has been pointed out I cannot "unsee" it. 

[Fraser, I'll get to your thoughts about The Three Jokers as soon as I've reread it for myself.]

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Groups

Latest Activity

Eric L. Sofer replied to Jeff of Earth-J's discussion Post-Crisis Superman
"I don't see a reasonable alternative to Mr. Byrne's setup of killing the Phantom Zone…"
1 hour ago
Luis Olavo de Moura Dantas replied to Jeff of Earth-J's discussion Post-Crisis Superman
"I stand reminded of a certain point of discussion of Spider-Man's clone saga of the…"
2 hours ago
The Baron replied to Jeff of Earth-J's discussion Post-Crisis Superman
"I'm not sure whether you missed my sarcasm or not., as I believe that  punishments…"
2 hours ago
Jeff of Earth-J replied to Jeff of Earth-J's discussion Post-Crisis Superman
"My point exactly."
2 hours ago
The Baron replied to Jeff of Earth-J's discussion Post-Crisis Superman
"It's tpugh, because there are apparently no punishments possible besides death."
2 hours ago
Jeff of Earth-J replied to Jeff of Earth-J's discussion Post-Crisis Superman
""I'm not sure how someone violating their own moral code makes them more of a…"
2 hours ago
Dave Palmer replied to Steve W's discussion A Cover a Day
"Another series featuring a horse"
2 hours ago
Jeff of Earth-J replied to Steve W's discussion A Cover a Day
3 hours ago
JD DeLuzio replied to Steve W's discussion A Cover a Day
"A couple of literary adaptations:"
4 hours ago
Richard Willis replied to Steve W's discussion A Cover a Day
7 hours ago
Philip Portelli replied to Steve W's discussion A Cover a Day
"Never had this book but saw ads for it. This was all the proof I needed to know how scary Jonah Hex…"
10 hours ago
ClarkKent_DC replied to Steve W's discussion A Cover a Day
"Can't believe I let this many days pass without posting an image of Jonah Hex:"
11 hours ago

© 2023   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service