Batman: The Killing Joke is a superhero comic book written by Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland, published in 1988. It is considered one of the best Batman stories as well as one of the most controversial, precisely because of (as you might have guessed) the implied rape, although this is not the only matter within the comic book that makes it controversial. Wether rape did take place or not is still debated to this day. Some people believe the Joker raped Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) and snapped photos of the event to mentally break down Commissioner James Gordon, Barbara’s father. Others believe Joker implied the rape had happened but didn’t actually rape her. Others affirm that Alan Moore himself stated the rape did not happen, but frankly I have not yet come across said affirmation from Moore himself.
So sadly, I do not bring you news as to wether the rape happened or not, officially. Instead I intend to give my point of view and let you take out your own conclusions. I do not mean to sound a “know-it-all”, I’m sure there will be comments filled with information that I don’t yet know. So let’s start, shall we?
First, we should probably question if Joker is truly capable of rape. Sure, he’s clearly a mad murderer, but a rapist? Wouldn’t that be a little too extreme? What’s Joker capable of? Well, let’s examine a few fragments of him. The “love” relationship between Joker and Harley Quinn is unreal. Harley Quinn does love Joker, but Joker never loved her back, he simply knew how to manipulate her into thinking he cared for her but truly doesn’t and would kill her with little remorse if he had to. (Feel free to check out the Suicide Squad comics) I would also dare to add that Joker has more care for Batman than Harley Quinn. Some people out there seem to ignore this however, and think Joker and Harley Quinn are a formidable item. Psychopaths, unlike sociopaths, are characterized for planning meticulously and being capable of faking feelings in order to lure people, or manipulate them. It’s fair to say then that being a psychopath, Joker although perhaps not a rapist, wouldn’t really mind rape.
Not to mention that Joker did rape someone before. That’s right, surprise! Although most of you probably already knew, in the comic book called Joker, the Joker finds himself a new partner called Jonny Frost, a thug. To keep matters short, throughout the comic book Joker has a war against Harvey Dent, also known as Two Face. Harvey Dent tells Frost that Joker will kill him. Having such contact with Dent was enough for the Joker to consider it as cheating, and he proceeds to rape Frost’s wife as a way of being even. As you can see in the image below, the rape is not simply implied. Yes, it may not be the most graphic or brutal depiction of rape, but it’s not just implying rape it truly is evidencing it in little details.
That’s a different story with The Killing Joke comic book, where Joker’s purpose is not precisely to get even. Instead, his purpose seems to be that of mentally breaking James Gordon. What I find so cool about the comic is that they also taunt us as readers. Y’see, y’see, by implying that rape happened but leaving no evidence nor anything that makes it official, it messes with us a little and leaves us wondering, did it happen or did it not? Perhaps that is precisely what Joker intended. It’s best and more agonizing for a person to mentally break down, wondering what happened, how and if it did even happen other than shoving it right onto their faces. And as we know how of a psychopath Joker is, he knew rape wasn’t necessary for this to happen, he only needed to leave it as a possibility to drive Gordon insane.
I’ve come across some people saying the original artwork for the Killing Joke did in fact depict rape. However I don’t consider this to be all that true. Below you can see the image of the original artwork to the left, compared to the image finally printed out on the comic book to the right. The difference is minimal, in the original artwork Barbara’s breasts are exposed while on the printed version, Barbara’s bare breasts are only slightly suggested. See how the censorship, ironically, makes it look even worse and more disturbing? Brian explained that he only drew what the script said but that he was asked to “tone it down a bit”. And here’s a curious fact, some people have claimed that their comic books have the original artwork printed? Don’t know what’s up with that, but anyway, moving back to the topic.
Personally I don’t feel as if Barbara’s exposed breasts depict rape any more than the printed version. Also, the way rape was evidently depicted in the Joker comic book with Frost’s wife makes me wonder why they’d hide it with Barbara, while exposing it so freely with Frost’s wife. Although the dates are something to consider, hence one was published by far before the other. I’m not stating that Barbara was raped or not, because I simple don’t know for sure. But to me, it doesn’t seem like Joker raped her. Joker knew he didn’t need to do that to mess with Gordon, just like he’ s messing with us to this day still.
It’s fair to add that we will interpret things based on our own experiences. It’s easy for a person to view the artwork and call out rape, while others rule it out easily. What are your thoughts on the subject, however? Let me know in the comments below. Hater comments allowed.