Bat-Mania!Posted: December 15, 2008
(Note: This short post doesn’t get into The Dark Knight too much, but I’ve got another one in the works that does. I first wanted to share my thoughts on the final scene of The Killing Joke since there was some debate about that before.)
You’ve probably all heard me say this before, but leading up to the release of The Dark Knight, I was somewhat concerned about the portrayal of the Joker. In my mind, the perfect description of the Joker is someone that will make you laugh, but then make you feel horrified about what you’ve just laughed at. Whatever worries I had about Heath Ledger’s portrayal instantly vanished the minute the pencil disappeared.
The main reason, I think, The Killing Joke has endured as the definitive Joker story is for striking that funny/terrifying balance. In spite of myself, especially knowing every terrible thing he has done throughout the story, I actually find the final joke about the escaping criminals kind of funny. It’s not so much the joke itself, which is, all things considered, awfully stupid. It’s more in the delivery. Leading up to the punchline, the Joker is doing all he can to stifle his own laughter, and his face contorts in ways showing him as both a showman and a psychopath. Huge credit to artist Brian Bolland for pulling off the delicate balance. Then when he laughs, it’s not a menacing, vicious, supervillain laugh. It’s genuine. Even if the implications of the joke are horrifically nihilistic, the Joker laughs in a human way, chuckling to himself at first, apologizing softly for the failed joke, then laughing louder and louder as Batman gives in to the joke.
So let’s cut Batman a little slack if he gives into to mania for half a second. Is it out of character? Certainly. But the character of Bruce/Batman is clearly very low on the list of Moore’s priorities. It might be important here to note how much Tim Burton loves The Killing Joke, and how much he generally dislikes comics. Like Moore, Burton was obviously much more interested in the Joker in his film. So Burton’s Batman has no qualms about killing and Moore’s Batman can share a friendly laugh with a mass murderer. Moore deserves more leeway, because his ending is appropriate for his story. It’s flawed in the great scheme of Bat-canon, but for this story, and for Joker’s character, the ending is just what it needs to be.
For that reason, it seems to me sort of inappropriate that this story should be anything other than a one-shot. It really doesn’t seem right that Barbara’s crippling should remain permanent, but I suspect this was done for no other reason than to give a new role to the fairly pointless character of Batgirl.