This post is about my absolute love for The Killing Joke graphic novel and my frankly childlike excitement (despite being almost forty) about the upcoming animated cartoon version. I cannot avoid talking about the graphic novel and it would be weird if I did not. As the film looks to be staying pretty faithful to the source text, I am going to do my best to avoid giving anything away that would spoil it. I am going to talk around the subject and mention things that will hopefully excite without giving the game away.
Let’s start with the start.
Ok, this is not the actual start of the graphic novel. There are two pages of Batman driving to Arkham Asylum and one line of text, not clearly defined who it is said by, but perfectly sums up everything I love about the relationship between Batman and The Joker – ‘There were these two guys in an lunatic asylum.’
Excited yet? Even after all the years since I first read this, I am still astonished about how much can be implied about the relationship between Batman and The Joker in three panels. I do not think it goes too far to say that their love/hate/redeem/kill relationship borders on the Shakespearean. The story in my reading of it is about the differences and similarities between the two and how close the line is. Which one is mad? Which one can save the other? Will Batman save The Joker from madness, or, much more intriguingly, will The Joker save Batman from sanity? Where does it go from here? Ah come on now. I am not going to put out on the first date.
What I will say as you have kindly bought me dinner is that The Killing Joke is a very adult story. It is certainly not something you would read to little Timmy before bed. Not unless you wanted Timmy to have a serious phobia of clowns and the need for therapy for the foreseeable future.
How dark is the movie going to be?
Do you ever start writing something and as you are writing it, wonder about yourself as a person? I am doing that right now because what I am thinking is that I want it to be as dark as possible. It is what I love about this story; it is so twisted. I love it. Back to the point. Judging from the trailer it seems that the tone is going to be as dark as the novel. This is where I put on my skates and circle around the thin ice of Spoiler Lake and try not to fall in. Let me put it this way, (with a Bane jacked up on Venom sized understatement) – Jim and Barbara Gordon do not have the best of times in this story. That is as much as I will say.
To me, the animation does not convey the same sense of menace as the graphic novel. Let us be kind here. Director Sam Liu talks in an interview about how hard it is transfer the artistic style of the book to the screen. Take a look at the picture below, which incidentally is my favourite image from the book and if I was ever going to have a tattoo it would be this.
I can see Sam Liu’s point. Imagine the time and work it would take to make this into a faithful representation for the screen? I can just about draw stick figures, so the idea of animating a story as beautifully drawn as the graphic book original would have been too hard to do.
Things to be excited about.
Mark Hamill is the voice of the Joker.
Super yay! He is the voice of the Joker (or my Joker) and encapsulates everything I imagine the Joker to be. Getting to hear Hamill do his thing with a story as dark as The Killing Joke is an absolute boon for me. Mark Hamill says, ‘If people want to see a really nasty, vile Joker, this is the one.’ I do want to see a vile Joker. I really do. Again, I am wondering about myself as a person. What is wrong with me?
Another reason I am happy and excited is that generally speaking, animated versions of graphic novels stick the bloody story line and don’t cut out all the best bits to make a much less good version of the same story. Batman Year One and The Dark Knight Returns were virtually identical to their source texts.
However, with great excitement comes great fear (I am pretty sure Spiderman’s uncle said something similar) about it not being what I expect or want. The boy who read the story is pleading with the makers of the movie to please not screw it up. Please, please, please. I don’t think they will however, so I am going to be hopefully optimistic.
The main reason I am really hyped about this movie is that I get to see an interpretation of The Joker that I most identify with as being accurate to what I consider the character to be. The Joker in The Killing Joke is the one who acted and looked like how I wanted him to be. Mark Hamill’s voice interpretation is how I imagined he sounded. My Joker is the version in The Killing Joke. Utterly insane and cruel to the point of being painful, yet I really felt for the guy. There is, despite everything, something lovable about him. I have sometimes thought that I might actually be more of a Joker fan than a Batman fan, although I love Batman too.
Ultimately, this is why I love The Killing Joke and cannot wait for the movie version to come out – it is not a Batman story, it is a Joker story, and what is more, it is the story of my Joker.
What do you think? What are you excited or worried about with the movie version?