Now is perhaps the most exciting time in history to be a comic book fan, and perhaps even more so to be a DC Comics fan. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe approaches the decade mark, the DC Extended Universe is only just getting off the ground, and next month's [Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice](tag:711870) will be the make or break for the franchise (a make, we hope).
But it's not just the live-action side of the DC Universe which is heating up, as the long-awaited Batman: The Killing Joke comic book is finally getting the attention it deserves by way of an animated movie adaptation .
A reworking of this novel was first in the works back in 2009, but the project was canceled two weeks in due to the underperformance at the box office of Zack Synder's Watchmen. According to animator Phillip Bourassa (who was working on the project alongside Bruce Timm at the time) Warner Bros "had lost faith in R-rated superhero movies," and so the project was canned.
But now The Killing Joke is back in the works, it looks as if Marvel/Fox's smash hit Deadpool and the massive hype generated by the marketing months before release had more than a little to do with that.
Batman: The Killing Joke
Even if you aren't that much of a comic book fan, odds are you'll have heard about Batman: The Killing Joke. Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's 1988 graphic novel is widely considered to be not just one of the greatest iterations of The Joker and his origins, but also one of the finest Batman novels ever penned, and has achieved cult status over the past three decades since its release.
Arguably one of the darkest tales in the Batman universe, The Killing Joke charts the attempts of The Joker to drive Commissioner Gordon insane, so proving that the two of them aren't that different after all.
It also provides the most likely of The Joker's origin stories as a normal man pushed over the edge by "one bad day" — the same thesis he tests out by traumatizing Gordon with his worst day imaginable.
This bad day involves the shooting and paralysis of his daughter Barbara Gordon, a.k.a Batgirl, the traumatic event which led to her becoming the wheelchair-bound Oracle in the greater continuity. Joker takes pictures of her naked, bleeding body and forces a bound Gordon to view them as part of his campaign of terror (above), so it's far from a lighthearted tale, even by The Joker's standards.
As you may have guessed, The Killing Joke is heavily based in psychoanalysis, and the ending, which draws a parallel between Batman and The Joker, is still heavily debated as either exposing the titular hero's own descent into madness or Batman finally snapping and killing The Joker.
The Fabled R Rating?
To adapt something like this, you'd be forgiven for stating that it would be necessary to operate under an R rating, and at last year's New York Comic-Con, Warner Bros. animator James Tucker revealed that a possible R-rated The Killing Joke adaptation was once again in development, set for release July 21, 2016. The Killing Joke movie is directed by Sam Liu and features the legendary voices of Batman and Joker, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill.
In the climate of major superhero blockbusters and the massive fan excitement in the run-up to the release of Deadpool — which has gone on to become the highest grossing R-rated comic book movie of all time — it seems that Warner Bros' reluctance to create a Killing Joke adaptation that stays true to the dark themes and events of the original has lifted.
Although Tucker confirmed that they had been given the go-ahead for an R-rated The Killing Joke, it doesn't necessarily mean that the upcoming film will definitely be R rated; likely, we won't find out until closer to the time of release:
"You know, they said we could make ['The Killing Joke'] an R. Not saying that’s what it will be, but we’ll see."
First Look At The Joker!
And finally, we've just gotten a sneak peek at the Big Bad himself, thanks to aforementioned animator Bourassa's Instagram. Check it out, and what Bourassa had to say about it, below!
"In 2009 I started working on an animated adaptation of The Killing Joke under the supervision of legendary Animation artist Bruce Timm. Two weeks into the project we were told to stop development because The Watchmen had underperformed at the box office and WB had lost faith in R rated superhero movies. Happy to say that you guys are gonna finally get your animated Killing Joke adaptation in 2016. Apparently enough money has been made from superhero movies and adaptations of comics of every stripe that it now transcends the previously assumed limitations of the genre. It's a good time to be a comic geek!"
Now this is the original Joker design from back in 2009 when The Killing Joke was first under production, but it seems unlikely that it would've changed massively since then.
It looks imposing for sure, capturing elements from the original comic and iterations of Hamill's Joker from Batman: The Animated Series to be both recognizable and terrifying looking.
But R rated or not, it looks like The Killing Joke is finally getting the adaptation it deserves and that's something to be very excited about indeed. As Bourassa says, "It's a good time to be a comic geek!"