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The plot revolves around a largely psychological battle between Batman and his longtime foe the Joker, who has escaped from Arkham Asylum. The Joker intends to drive Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon insane to prove that the most upstanding citizen is capable of going mad after having "one bad day". Along the way, the Joker has flashbacks to his early life, gradually explaining his possible origin.

 

The man who will become the Joker is an unnamed engineer who quits his job at a chemical company to become a stand-up comedian, only to fail miserably. Desperate to support his pregnant wife, Jeannie, he agrees to guide two criminals into the plant for a robbery. During the planning, the police inform him that his wife has died in a household accident involving an electric baby bottle heater. Grief-stricken, the engineer tries to withdraw from the plan, but the criminals strong-arm him into keeping his commitment to them.

At the plant, the criminals make him don a special mask to become the infamous Red Hood. Unknown to the engineer, this disguise is simply the criminals' scheme to implicate any accomplice as the mastermind to divert attention from themselves. Once inside, they almost immediately blunder into security personnel, and a violent shootout and chase ensues. The criminals are gunned down and the engineer finds himself confronted by Batman, who is investigating the disturbance.

Panicked, the engineer deliberately jumps into the chemical plant's toxic waste catch-basin vat to escape Batman and is swept through a pipe leading to the outside. Once outside, he discovers, to his horror, that the chemicals have permanently bleached his skin chalk white, stained his lips ruby red and dyed his hair bright green. This turn of events, compounding the man's misfortunes of that one day, drives him completely insane and results in the birth of the Joker.

In the present day, the Joker kidnaps Gordon, shoots and paralyzes his daughter Barbara, and imprisons him in a run-down amusement park. His henchmen then strip Gordon naked and cage him in the park's freak show. He chains Gordon to one of the park's rides and cruelly forces him to view giant pictures of his wounded daughter in various states of undress. Once Gordon completes the maddening gauntlet, the Joker ridicules him as an example of "the average man", a naïve weakling doomed to insanity.

Batman arrives to save Gordon, and the Joker retreats into the funhouse. Gordon's sanity is intact despite the ordeal and he insists that Batman capture the Joker "by the book" in order to "show him that our way works." Batman enters the funhouse and faces the Joker's traps while the Joker tries to persuade his old foe that the world is inherently insane and thus not worth fighting for. Eventually, Batman tracks down the Joker and subdues him. Batman then attempts to reach out to him to give up crime and put a stop to their years-long war; otherwise, the two will be eternally locked on a course that will one day result in a fight to the death between them. The Joker declines, however, ruefully saying "It's too late for that...far too late." He then tells Batman a joke that was started earlier in the comic. The joke is funny enough to make the normally stone-faced Batman laugh. They continue to laugh as the police approach. Batman then grabs the Joker and the story ends, leaving it up to the reader to determine the Joker's fate.

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Details

ISBN-10:  1401216676
ISBN-13:  978-1401216672
Editor:  Karen Berger
Author:  Alan Moore, Brian Bolland
Genre:  Comics & Graphic Novels, Superheroes
Publisher:  DC Comics
Date Published:  1988
Format:  Graphic Novel
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review by . January 30, 2011
    When this book opens, the Joker is in an insane asylum and Batman is visiting him in an attempt to make peace before one of them gets killed. It could be described as “Batman and the Joker sitting in a cell, each of them living in their own private hell.” Of all the super villains that Batman has faced over his career, the Joker is the one most psychologically like the morose and disturbed Bruce Wayne. The Joker is also a character that we can all identify with as …
review by . January 30, 2011
It is no coincidence that the two best Batman movies had the Joker as Batman's main antagonist. There have been many colorful villains on the other side of the bat-punch over the years, but none is more of an alter ego than the green haired one. This fact is used to develop the opening scene in the book.   The Joker is in an insane asylum along with some of Batman's other foes. Batman goes to the Joker's cell and tries to reason with him to call off their "feud" before one of them is killed. …
Quick Tip by . August 30, 2010
Alan Moore's Batman story about The Joker's origin is a bit dated after the 89 Batman movie which more people are familiar with and a little slim. It's a nice easy read nonetheless.
review by . November 19, 2009
The Joker had a pretty bad day, the gamestore being sold out of Wii's not withstanding.
The Killing Joke was my first introduction to the works of Alan Moore, and one of the first major pieces of Batman I read.  To say that I was underwhelmed wouldn't be correct but overrated wouldn't be too far from the truth either.      Batman has paid a visit to The Joker in Arkham Asylum and discusses events with him about how society can change and The Joker can be helped.  The Joker isn't quite so taken with his words and what follows is a vicous attack …
Quick Tip by . November 19, 2009
Batman follows the Joker on a quest to drive Gordan insane. Short, to the point and nice but nothing mindblowing.
review by . November 11, 2008
The Killing Joke was a comic spawned shortly after the work of Frank Miller, and is probably the comic that established The Joker as one of the most important fictional villains of the 20th century. Batman had become a well thought out, complex character in recent years, primarily due to the work of skilled writer Frank Miller. Batman had been brought into a gritty, modern world of comic books, but I always felt that Miller's The Dark Knight Returns failed to bring the antagonistic Joker into a …
review by . July 13, 2008
"Batman: The Killing Joke" is one of the seminal Batman comics as well as one of the finest comics ever published. That's hardly a surprise considering that it was written by Alan Moore, the Shakespeare of comic books, who the year before had written "Watchmen," the greatest comic of all time. For "The Killing Joke," he teamed with artist Brian Bolland to craft a psychological look at what made the Joker, what makes him who he is now, and how the threads of Batman's fate are inextricably woven between …
review by . April 03, 2008
Blurbs on a cover always tell you that whatever book you're holding in your hands is better than the best, that you'd probably die if you'd put it back to where it came from, and more of that kind of nonsense.   In this case (in 1988) they had Tim Burton saying it's his favorite and that it's the first comic he ever loved. The poor fellow. Don't get me wrong: I adore Tim Burton. I love everything he did (after Batman), but there definitely are other great comic books out there.  But …
review by . April 10, 2002
Comic books are often dismissed by many people as having no real value. They are usually looked upon as a hobby for boys and nostalgiac entertainment for men who have never really grown up. However, comic books can be and are often much more. At their best, comics can become a moving work of art and a powerful piece of literature all in one piece. Such is the case with BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE.THE KILLING JOKE has become a comic classic for a variety of reasons. The book's illustrations have influenced …
review by . September 20, 2001
The team of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon, who combined to hit a grand slam with the now seminal graphic novel, Watchman, regrouped shortly after that and produced this examination of Batman. It's shorter, but that's the only real negative here. Moore's take on the Joker emphasizes the cruel nature of the character, and he includes a plot development here, which some of the other reviewers give away but I can't let myself do, that is shocking in how it affects characters.When I glance at a page of …
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Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: The Killing Joke
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