The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland is one of the most infamous graphic novels ever produced. It's both unrelenting in its brutality, yet morbidly compelling, and has become the source of much debate since its release in 1988.
This summer will finally see the release of an animated adaptation, with Bruce Timm taking the reigns for the highly anticipated R-rated DCAU movie. But why has it taken almost 30 years for the story to reach the screen?
Right Place, Wrong Time?
In an interview with Empire Online, Timm was joined by the voices of Batman and The Joker, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, and discussed why the controversial storyline took so long to come into fruition.
Timm revealed Zack Snyder's 2009 R-rated movie adaptation of Watchmen actually caused a ripple effect amongst movie executives, who were put off by the prospect of another R-rated product.
Initially, the plan was to produce a shortened film, thus reducing the cost and in turn reducing the risk. The 55-year-old animator Timm revealed:
"Right around the time we were ramping up, the Watchmen movie was released and underperformed. Everybody kind of took a step back and said, 'Well, maybe the time’s not right for an R-rated superhero movie, so put it on the shelf'.”
Returned Back To The Shelf
Although the performance of Watchmen wasn't awful — it received mixed reviews and made $185.3 million at the box office, against a $130 million budget — it was enough to suckerpunch the planned project.
But that wasn't the only setback. The project was regaining momentum, when James Holmes committed the horrendous mass shooting at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado, killing 12 people. Understandably, the attack became a media sensation, increasing security around subsequent viewings of the movie.
The event caused the project to be placed "back on the shelf" until a final attempt got the traction it needed. But even still, Timm wasn't fully comfortable copying the source material verbatim. He added:
"The idea of adapting this story always kind of terrified me, because of how relentlessly grim and bleak it is. And what happens to Barbara Gordon in the story is very controversial to this day."
A More Complete Barbara Gordon
The controversy surrounding the Joker's depraved attack on Gordon, which resulted in her becoming paralyzed, a storyline that has been deemed highly controversial, and raised issues about the way the DC Comics treated female characters.
Even creator Alan Moore even distanced himself from the comic, something which hasn't been overlooked by Timm, who has made adjustments, providing a richer context for Gordon.
The Killing Joke is released digitally on July 26, and on DVD/Blu-Ray on August 2.
Are you excited for the animated version of The Killing Joke?