THE KILLING JOKE has become a comic classic for a variety of reasons. The book's illustrations have influenced a generation of Batman artists. The book offered insight into the Joker's personality. It changed the Batman universe (by what the Joker does to Barbara Gordon). It illustrated the strong bond between Batman and Joker and displayed the differences in world view that make the men who they are. It helped inspire a major motion picture.
However, the comic is much more than a story about the possible origins of the Joker and how he and Batman are so strongly bonded together. The story is a reflection of two very distinct views of life: the tragic and the comic. The Joker, ironically, views life tragically believing that all it takes is "one bad day" to transform the most normal person in the world into a psychotic maniac. His is the world of chaos and injustice. He holds onto this belief even though he knows (as the last pages of the comic show) it is false. On the other hand, there is the world view of Batman. Batman's life was changed too, by "one bad day". However, Batman's view is comic. He had one bad day, too, but it turned him into a hero. His is the world of order and justice. In the end, good triumphs over evil and the tragedians are forced to laugh at all the comedy. Life truly is beautiful. I bet you believed a comic could never be so thought-provoking.
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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 ...