This may be strange coming from someone who loves the Joker (and the Batman franchise as a whole) so much. It would only make sense that I love a Joker story as much as everybody else loves it…
I enjoy The Killing Joke, but I certainly don’t think it’s great. Even it’s own creator, Alan Moore, doesn’t understand why people love it so much.
The story centers around Joker’s attempts to drive Commissioner Gordon insane. Joker shoots his daughter Barbara (Batgirl) in the belly, permanently paralyzing her. He then takes pictures of Barbara stripped naked and injured, and shows Gordon these pictures while taking Gordon on a carnival ride from hell.
There is also a backstory about Joker’s very origin. Apparently, Joker, before he was Joker, was a struggling comedian with a pregnant wife at home. One night, just as the man who became Joker was about to do a job for the mob for some money, he learns that his pregnant wife died in a freak accident. The guy is forced to continue with the job anyway, and stumbles into a vat of chemicals which gives him the permanent appearance he has as the Joker.
Okay… So many things wrong with this story.
First, the A and B stories have nothing to do with each other. Sure, at some point in the A story, Joker asks Batman what turned him into Batman. Sure, Batman tells Joker he doesn’t know what changed Joker into the man he became, but offers him rehabilitation. But that isn’t enough to connect 2 completely different storylines. Brief mentions of whatever are not solid connections.
Second problem: If the man who became Joker was driven insane by the loss of his pregnant wife, then why the hell did Joker keep Barbara alive to turn Commissioner Gordon insane? If it’s all for the sake of giving Gordon ‘a bad day’ like Joker had years previous, then why hold back from killing Barbara? Seriously. It’s the Joker. He has no reason to keep Barbara alive, especially when it’s all to prove a point.
Third problem: I’ve made mention of this before in one of my Joker articles before, but I’ve always hated the idea that he got his appearance from falling into a vat of chemicals. I always found that utterly stupid. Not to mention, in this story, a failing comedian just happened to get disfigured to have the appearance of a clown? Really? I like parallels in stories, but that’s just ridiculous. Not to mention it’s a HELL of a coincidence.
Fourth problem: Not only is Barbara kept alive by Joker for no reason, but Gordon doesn’t suffer anything at all during the story. He’s just abducted, shown some pictures, and then put in a cage. What the fuck? Did Gordon get permanently disfigured? Nope. Did Barbara die? Nope. So why would Joker assume that this would do anything at all to the Commissioner? No wonder it didn’t drive him insane. It wasn’t even the same experience. Gordon lost nothing, except time. Sure his daughter got paralyzed, but that would just make him angry; it wouldn’t come close to breaking his sanity.
Fifth problem: Was that joke at the end really funny enough to make Batman of all people laugh? Let alone laugh that hard? I really don’t get why Batman laughed at that joke. That part was just … weird.
Like I said at the beginning, though, I enjoy The Killing Joke, I just don’t think it’s amazing. It’s decent at best. I certainly don’t get why it has the popularity it has. Not terrible, but also not great.
(And don’t even get me started on the movie)