The Killing Joke is considered by many to be the definitive Joker story and is almost universally acclaimed by DC comic fans, but its creator Alan Moore feels very differently about the 1988 cult classic.
Despite its huge influence on DC canon (most notably the paralysis of Barbara Gordon — Batgirl — fueling Batman's personal vendetta against the Joker) and stuffed trophy cabinet, Moore considers the work to be one of the worst things he's ever penned, and in a 2006 interview with Stewart Lee on BBC Radio 4, he revealed the insightful reasons why.
Although fans adore the dark tone of the story, it is precisely this aspect that Moore has huge personal problems with. When asked by Stewart Lee about his so-called masterwork he replied:
"That's probably the work of mine that I'm least fond of because there's a lot of nasty things that happen in that. I mean, the profundity in 'The Killing Joke' is that actually Batman and the Joker are pretty similar, but like, they're not real. It does us, an audience, no good to have it pointed out that Batman and the Joker are a bit similar because they're both preposterous characters, so yeah...Brian Bolland did a fantastic job of the artwork, but as for my writing, no, that's not one of my finest hours."
Stewart Lee also had an additional critique, observing that 10 years after The Killing Joke, almost every comic seemed hell bent on trying:
"to impose these psychological motivations and extreme violence on characters that were basically invented in the '30s to entertain children."
When Lee asked Moore if he felt partly responsible for this plummet into absolute darkness in the comic industry, Moore joked that it was all his fault, before conceding that:
"They [comic book characters] were never meant to carry that weight."
Moore went on to imply that he thought he had totally missed the point of the superhero genre by treating the characters as unhinged lunatics instead of lighthearted figures of fun, he explained:
"To be fair to 'The Killing Joke,' I thought it was one of the worst things I've ever written, but I'm looking at some of the Batman graphic novels that came after it and realized that it is in fact a masterpiece. You know, because all of a sudden you get all these innocent characters that were created in the '30s, '40s, '50s, and '60s who were meant to entertain children and all of a sudden, every character is turning out to be a sort of psychopath or a brutal callous side is, I mean, when you've got, I don't know, 'Casper the Friendly Ghost' with a chainsaw and a collection of human fingers, the point is being missed somewhere."
And this isn't the only time that Moore has thrown a slightly bitchy side-eye at his own work and the wider DC universe. In 2006, Moore told Wire magazine that he regretted crippling Barbara Gordon and feels like other writers should have held him back. He also revealed a misogynistic exchange he had when deciding if he should cripple Barbara:
"I asked DC if they had any problem with me crippling Barbara Gordon — who was Batgirl at the time — and if I remember, I spoke to Len Wein, who was our editor on the project ... [He] said, 'Yeah, okay, cripple the bitch.' It was probably one of the areas where they should've reined me in, but they didn't."
You can listen to the Chain Reaction outtakes where Moore talks about The Killing Joke in the video below:
Do you think superheroes are getting too sinister?
(Source: BBC Radio 4 and Wikipedia)