Review: ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ Deluxe Edition

Van Jensen

Van Jensen is a former crime reporter turned comic book writer. In addition to ComicMix, he contributes to Publishers Weekly and Comic Book Resources. He lives in Atlanta, and his blog can be found at

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15 Responses

  1. John Ostrander says:

    To be honest, I've always had problems with THE KILLING JOKE. The treatment of Barbara Gordon is perhaps the biggest one. The Joker shows up at the door of the apartment she shares with her Dad, Commissioner Gordon, and shoots her. He's the Police Commissioner of Gotham City, arguably one of the more dangerous cities in America, but there's no cops pulling guard duty, there's no peephole in the door, no safety chains and Babs, who has been Batgirl, just opens it to whoever if there without a second thought. She's then shot at close range with a large caliber handgun at an angle that clealry suggets her spine was hit. She should have been dead before she hit the floor. Later, in the hospital, she has massive bruises on her face, suggesting she has been — at least — beaten. Let's pile it on, why don't we? BTW, the only time the Joker is using a camera is when he shot her. He leaves the pictures for Batman. Given all that, it means that, on the cover, the reader is Babs.My late wife, Kim Yale, and I had enough distaste for TKJ and it's treatment of Barbara Gordon that we later made her into Oracle in the pages of Suicide Squad. We were insistent on the idea that she remain in a wheelchair as a result of her injuries. We felt there should be repercussions from what happened AND that it is possible for those who are wheelchair bound to still be heroes.I admire the artistry and skill that both Alan Moore and Brian Bolland brought to TKJ, even if its not my favorite piece of work from either gentleman.

    • Van Jensen says:

      John – I think one of the reasons I'm able to enjoy TKJ so much is that I'm a youngster, and I only went back to TKJ after I'd read (and really enjoyed) your Oracle stories. Essentially, I knew things would turn out all right for Barbara, which took some of the pain out of the shooting.

    • Russ Rogers says:

      I made the same complaint about THE KILLING JOKE in a recent comment on ComicMix:…Here's an interesting review of THE KILLING JOKE:The Killing Joke is, "clumsy, misjudged and [devoid of] real human importance." Those aren't my words, those are Alan Moore's! I was surprised to find that quote from the book, "The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore," on Wikipedia. is no question that Barbara Gordon/Oracle is a better character than Barbara Gordon/Batgirl ever was. She is more complex and more fully developed. She's also more central to the DC Universe. She plays an important role, not just in her own book, "Birds of Prey," but as an information broker, she's a GREAT plot device for the whole DC community of stories. I think the creation of Oracle as a character may outshine and outlast many of your other achievements in comics, Mr. Ostrander! And that is saying quite a lot.Still the crippling of Barbara Gordon remains out of character. It was a shoddy, stupid, sexist plot device used to try to generate interest in an otherwise uninteresting story. I'm surprised DC didn't have a telephone poll: "Call this 900 number to vote for Batgirl to stay crippled; call this other number to have her healed!"In my mind, THE KILLING JOKE and A DEATH IN THE FAMILY remain low points for DC and the Batman Myths, clumsy, misjudged and devoid of real human importance.

    • Rick Taylor says:

      I'm with you on this one, John.Babs dererved better.

    • Vinnie Bartilucci says:

      I think Oracle is the single best rebuilding of a character in the modern age of comics. As often as people put on new costumes, change hero names and generally get revamped left and right, you and Kim took lemons and made lemon-flavored champagne. As good as Oracle is a character, your choice to base such a major (eventually) character of the DCU on TKJ is ironic in that it LOCKED the story INTO continuity. If left alone, it could have been mentally written off as an out of continuity one-shot, like the new Joker origin in Batman Confidential.I thought TKJ was a spectacular piece of work when I first read it, and I still do. It did several things:-it firmly and irrevovcably established Joker as a violent psychopath. No longer could he be considered a comical character – he was back to his role of blatant killer from the first appearance.-While still clearly a psychopath, the story prortrays the Joker in a sympathetic light. Even if the origin portrayed is a lie (later interpretations, and Bolland's as well suggest that to be true), the message the Joker was trying to get across was that if enough bad things happen to a person, the only rational thing to do is to give up and go mad. By trying to drive Gordon crazy, he was trying to justify his own life. "You had a bad day and everything changed!" – he nailed Batman to the wall with that statement, and he never knew it. For something that Moore brushes off as a trifle, it's a spectacular psychlogical picture. I wish the best of my writing was as good as the worst of Moore's.-It showed the relationship between Batman and Joker in a new way. Like many pairings in fiction, they were fated to fight forever until one was dea, and maybe even after that. It changed the vibe between them.That laugh at the end worked for me. They were both at that moment fully aware of their position: dancing around the edge of the same chasm, and both unable to trust the other long enough to help each other step back to safety.

    • Anonymous says:

      john – those are great comment to hear, and you echo the review that I just put up at my blog regarding my feelings on the original killing joke release. I did not know your hand in building up oracle as a character, which is quite a bit more menaingful to me to read.…Also, while we've never met at any of the cons, I enjoyed one of your scripts that I inked over, eternal warrior #36 with Paul Gulacy. A very good stand alone issue of the character that no one seemed to know how to write consistantly.charles yoakum

  2. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

    One of the reasons I enjoyed the TKJ is that it was the defining moment that explains the twisted relationship between the Dark Knight and the Joker and their inevitable (if not tragic) conclusion (as indicated in The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller).

  3. Jason Michelitch says:

    The "new story" in the back of the book isn't actually new. I believe it was from the four issue Batman Black and White miniseries, which presented short Batman stories in black and white. It could have been one of the black-and-white backups from the (I dunno, first fifty or so?) issues of Gotham Knights. There are a couple of Batman Black and White collections out, and there's really great stuff in them. I'm sure the Bolland one was reprinted in the back of the new Killing Joke because it is the only other Batman piece Bolland worked on. Makes sense to have them both in one place.

    • Robin Riggs says:

      The back up was from the Batman Black and White series. Bolland wrote that piece too. I'd have liked them to include his segments from Batman #400 and JLA #200 as well to have all his Batman stuff together but as they were only chapters of larger stories I can understand why they didn't.However dodgy the events contained in the Killing Joke are I have to say that it's really nice to have it look the way it was supposed to after 20 years of waiting.

  4. Eric says:

    TKJ worked for me, the "one bad day" theme is relevant in real life as any of the socio-political themes in WATCHMEN, V for Vendetta, or Real War Stories vol. 1, I also think that the negative remarks of Mr. Moore with regard to TKJ must be taken in the context that the idea to maim Barbara Gordon came from him. Alan Moore is the best but it must be accepted that he is the cause for Barbara's injury.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Following on Ostrander's comments, TKJ read to me as if they had started out drawing the Joker killing Barbara, then had to put her back in later in the script. I would think editorial was skittish after killing off Supergirl & Aquagirl. But the use of the camera motif on the cover, & the "fetish photo shoot" scene, imply that they meant her to be crippled all along. I suppose as Brits, they don't have any understand of guns, or what a gutshot does.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Or, you know, dot.

  7. Oz says:

    I've been trying to google up who the mysterious figure that got coloured out in the 2008 version that Bolland mysteriously mentions is, but have been unable to find any hints. Anybody? Thanks!

  8. Stu Doc says:

    Just got the deluxe edition. Defo get it. It is a great book, not as great as ' the man who laughs' though!!!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous phillipos42 . . . Care to elaborate on this gut-shooting business? What did they get wrong? (Since this thread is half-a-year old, and you were so kind to leave an e-mail address, I've dropped you a line asking this, as well.)JDtherealjdc [ A T ] hotmeal [ D O T ] cum — some of the vowels are wrong!