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7/21 – Curious Cat Asks…

Is The Killing Joke the best Joker comic book story of all-time?

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90 Comments

It depends on your preference. My favorite Joker story is the “Soft Targets” arc from Gotham Central.

i prefer images from legends of the dark knight 50, but the killing joke is quite good, though the new version was a bit of a let down. so glad i did not shell out the 20 bucks they wanted for that.

I wouldn’t say so. It’s so depressing.

jay the one letter wonder

July 21, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Nah, at most on of the top five. It’s an alright story but not the best ever. Personally, I’d go with Death in the Family or the Joker story in Knightfall or Knightsend,. Where the scarecrow sprays him with fear gas and it does nothing. Of course, death in the Family gets bonus points for him killing off Jason Todd (now if only he’d stay dead,lol) :)

I read it for the first time in the new hardcover DC put out. I quite liked it but I can see where others wouldn’t. I guess it’s a bit of an acquired taste, so to speak.

It’s got a lot of problems, most notably the Babs Gordon issues people get into so much, but it’s definitely the best version of the Joker’s origin. If people want to attack the book’s treatment of women, fair enough, but that doesn’t need that they need to replace that origin (like that crappy one they tried to give him in Confidential not too long ago).

“Mean that they need” not “need that they need”! Arrrrgh!

I’m sorry but “The Laughing Fish” by Englehart and Rogers is the greatest Joker story of all time. This is not even subject to debate. The Killing Joke is, at best, number 2.

Matt Lazorwitz

July 21, 2008 at 4:46 pm

I don’t think so. It’s very high up there, but there are a couple, more obscure ones I’ve enjoyed more. “Joker: Devil’s Advocate” an OGN by Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan does some really interesting things with Joker and Batman’s relationship, as well as being honestly funny in places, and J.M. DeMatteis’s “Going Sane” is an excellent story. But if you’re going for truly seminal Joker, you really have to choose “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge.” Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams craft the story that returned the Joker to form after his goofy stage, and without which I don’t know if we would have gotten “KIlling Joke” or “Laughing Fish”

I’ve always preferred the very first Joker story.

For my money, Detective Comics #726 features the best Joker story, even though he spends the entire issue already locked up.

He basically tells Batman: “I can do anything I want, and you can’t stop me. You know it and I know it. But I’m gonna throw you a bone. One little victory, just so you can’t quite lose all hope. Because you’re more fun that way.”

In other words, I think Dark Knight owes a lot to it.

nadir: new version?

The Laughing Fish is the only other one I’d consider. Lots of Joker stories over the years I’ve really enjoyed, but those two are the best.

“Laughing Fish” for me. I’m not too fond of “Killing Joke”, to tell the truth. Probably my least favorite Moore story.

@scavenger: the new hard back version of killing joke with the new coloring and no more yellow oval bat on the costume. though that bit was quite welcome. stupid yellow oval…..

They got rid of the yellow oval? How stupid.

I’m glad to see that no one seems to be backing this assertion up. I’m a huuuuuge Moore fan, but I’ve never liked TKJ and I’ve always suspected that its supposed popularity is overstated. Didn’t Moore himself admit that it wasn’t very good? Even if I didn’t have a fundamental disagreement with the violence and the rape, I would still feel that the story simply lacks focus. If you really want to rape and cripple batgirl, shouldn’t you do so in, I dunno, a batgirl story? For that matter, the whole “worst day of commissioner Gordon’s life” aspect just lays there. It’s not really his story either, so the whole thing shouldn’t build up to his decision, even if it’s just supposed to contrast with the Joker’s decision in the same circumstance.

TKJ is not my idea of a good comic.

I would assume that “The Laughing Fish” would win any vote on this topic. It’s certainly my pick.

I’m glad to see that no one seems to be backing this assertion up.

It’d be extremely hard to do, as there was no assertion.

Gotta love the JLA/JSA team-up in JLA 136 that pairs the Earth-2 Joker with the Weeper form Earth-S! Oh, E. Nelson Bridwell, where’s your inspired mind when we need it most?

True, true! I’ll say, “glad that there were no enthusiastic answers in the affirmative” then.

I probably haven’t read enough Joker stories to say which is the greatest, but I just read the recent “The Joker: Greatest Stories Ever Told” hardback, and nothing in there impressed me as much as The Killing Joke.

So, while I agree that TKJ is nowhere near Moore’s best work, and that it’s badly flawed, it still is the best Joker story I’ve read.

Killing Joke is the best.

I’d say no. Moore himself criticized the story, saying something along the lines of it wasn’t about anything– that it was just another story about Batman and the Joker.

But I would say that the story fails _because_ it’s not really a Batman-Joker story. It doesn’t take the characters or their world seriously. It’s not taking the camp approach, but it’s taking a more– shall we say– hifalutin approach, trying to write _above_ the genre.

The thing is, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the genre in the first place. I got a similar sense, strangely enough, that Moore was writing “above” the genre or treating it with some disdain in Watchmen. Not because of the deconstruction– it was fine. There’s some good strong character work and a great set of moral choices. It was and remains a seminal work of superhero comics.

But some of his formal conceits– the supplemental text material, the pirate comics– some of the “layerings” felt like he was trying to gussy it up, to elevate it beyond its origins.

And I still maintain to this day that the story, characters, themes, and the genre itself do not need to be elevated– that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them, and that by treating the genre with such disdain– slapping high-art pretension on top of it because of some percieved lapse or fault– does not make for good superhero stories.

Batman Begins (haven’t seen Dark Knight yet) succeeded so well because it took the character and the genre seriously. The early Batman films, especially the later earlier ones, failed because it took the camp approach; Ang Lee’s Hulk failed because it tried to go the high-art route.

I hope some of this made some semblance of sense.

I’ve never actually read the Killing Joke, so I’ve got no answer here. *gasp* In fact, I don’t know if any Joker story I’ve read is the best Joker story I’ve read, if that makes any sense. I’ve never really liked the Joker much (which was why Dark Knight was so delightful– finally, a truly awesome Joker!).

No, but I still like TKJ. Regardless of it’s subject matter, I actually like what they’ve done with Barbara since then. She is far more interesting as Oracle than she ever was as Batgirl. Thank you, Ostrander and Yale!

My favorite Joker story is “Dying Is Easy, Comedy Is Hard”, a prose story in an anthology that came out after Burton’s first Batman movie, THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF THE JOKER. Joker is killing Gotham’s stand-up comedians using cliches (they’re dying on stage), and Batman has to go undercover as a comedian to catch him.

And Joker knows Batman will go undercover, and he can kill Batman after the big competition, because he knows that Batman can’t possibly be funny.

And I won’t tell you any more, because that would spoil the ending. But if you love Batman, find the book, and it’s companion THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF BATMAN.

Add me to the list of people who didn’t like TKJ so much. It’s a great telling of the origin, but the main plot’s resolution is extremely unsatisfying. Much like most Joker stories are from the mid-eighties on, the “back to Arkham” solution is just essentially letting him get away with worse and worse attrocities. Maybe that’s why the third issue of Dark Knight is my favorite Joker story, ’cause it’s got the only conclusion that makes any real sense at this point: he’s dead.

Without question.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

July 21, 2008 at 7:07 pm

It could well be, but it’s definitely one of the best put together comics of all time.
The art and writing compliment each other perfectly, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a comic so well paced (you know exactly how long to linger on each individual panel) – for me, this is the comic writers and artists who want to make comics ‘cinematic’ should be studying.
I can’t think of any better Joker stories I’ve read, but I haven’t read that many, as i often feel he is poorly written – either way too violent to be kept around, or just expected to be scary because he is the Joker.
That said, I’ve never read Killing Joke and thought ‘this is the best Joker story ever written’.

The Killing Joke is probably fairly far up the list, but I think my favourite comic story is “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge,” an O’Neil/Adams joint. “The Crazy Crime Clown” from Batman #57 is up there as well – the Joker pretends to be crazy by stealing fairly worthless items to get locked up in an asylum with an embezzler, in order to steal his money. Eventually, Batman tricks the Joker into thinking he really IS nuts…

(Over all media, the “Laughing Fish” adaptation from Batman: the Animated Series is probably the best Joker story – the comic version is a great story, but the emotional climax is of the Rupert Thorne/Silver St Cloud arc, and so it is a much better Batman story than it is a Joker story. The adaptation grabs the shark ending from Five-Way Revenge, which really works well given that it’s all about fish.)

I’d probably go with “Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” or “Laughing Fish” though I’ve always been partial to “Luthor – You’re Driving me Sane!” and “The Last Ha Ha” where he kidnaps the Charles Schultz analog.

What about “Mad Love?”

Mad Love is more of a Harley Quinn story, IMO. It is only relevant to the Joker in that it explains why Batman must die a very elaborate death.

This thread is awesome, guys, keep it going. I’m making one hell of a reading list.

I thought it was pretty good. Alan Moore is on record as saying he didn’t think it was a very good piece of work on his part. Of course, the simple fact that we are discussing whether or not somthing he wrote on an off day is the best Joker story of all time tells you a lot about the abilities of Alan Moore.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

July 21, 2008 at 8:12 pm

I thought it was pretty good. Alan Moore is on record as saying he didn’t think it was a very good piece of work on his part. Of course, the simple fact that we are discussing whether or not somthing he wrote on an off day is the best Joker story of all time tells you a lot about the abilities of Alan Moore.

In the interview I heard, on a BBC website, his problem with the story was that all it said was that Batman and Joker were two sides of the same coin, and as both are fictional creations, firstly it’s not that hard to do and secondly it doesn’t really say anything of meaning beyond those characters.
(Not that hard to do, as in, they’re fictional, so it’s not like showing how two real people at odds are two sides of the same coin).

Anyone who votes for A Death in the Family should have their vote disqualified. Actually try and read it…it’s almost impossible to get through before you start thinking “Are they kidding me” The idea of the Joker selling nuclear weapons to Arab terrorist is ridiculous, even for a comic book. Not only that, but then he’s granted diplomatic immunity by being Iran’s representative at the UN??? WTF??

Ya that’s way better than a thought provoking, psychology, character study, thriller like The Killing Joke.

When I saw the question the story that immediately popped into my mind was Batman # 321 by Len Wein and Walter Simonson from 1980 – Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker …!

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/01/Batman321.jpg

I like The Killing Joke, and I don’t know if it’s the best Joker comic book story of all time, but this one, this one is MY favorite.

OK, so now the conversation has swung around to defending TKJ? I’m down with that.

I think TKJ’s primary story is strong and unique in Joker stories. My long-lasting memory of this book is the contrast of the THREE main characters’ reactions to a Bad Day.

Gordon’s reaction is the key to this story. The most important line in the book, to me, is Gordon shouting at Batman, after he’s told him to bring in the Joker “by the book.”

“We have to show him that our way works.”

Oh, and does Alan Moore ever have anything good to say about his work? His dismissal of any of his work isn’t important to me. I assume he’s always going to trash his work. It’s part of what makes him Alan Moore…

Killing Joke sucks because it just took it too far. It was too serious and psychological for a Batman story, even Alan Moore has said so himself in retrospect. It took something fun and applied way too adult themes to it and it made the battle too personal between Gordon and Batman and Joker. The molestation implications also left a bad taste in my mouth. Just overkill, too heavy and dark to use with a character intended for kids and teens, especially given it was in-continuity. Death in the Family was the same, it ruined the Batman?Joker dynamic by making it too personal, plus it was just a horrible story logicwise. It made Jeph Loeb’s plots look airtight even.

Best Joker story to me is his very first appearance. He’s rarely been that menacing and creepy since. I think it’s the most similar to Heath Ledger’s in creepy demeanor, even if the appearance is very different.

Tom Fitzpatrick

July 21, 2008 at 8:40 pm

Killing Joke’s the best.

Arkham Asylum’s the second best. (Even tho’ it was more of a rogue gallery story)

"O" the Humanatee!

July 21, 2008 at 8:56 pm

T. –

I’m not at all sure TKJ was originally intended to be in-continuity. My recollection is that it was promoted at the time as out of continuity, and was only brought into continuity retroactively (a mistake in my opinion, though I do think Oracle is a better character than Barbara Gordon ever was as Batgirl). It’s hard to find evidence for (or against) this on-line, but, as one example, Denny O’Neil, the book’s editor, is quoted at http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=15758 as saying, “Remember, we were not as concerned with canon back then, or with continuity. I thought of ‘The Killing Joke’ as a stand-alone story, not necessarily as part of the ongoing month-to-month stuff.” He does go on to say, “The way it has worked out, it has become a very strong and valid part of the continuity, and Barbara Gordon has been transformed from a kind of third-string costumed character to a really interesting first-string whatever it is she is, and that’s thanks to John Ostrander, who had the idea of Oracle.” (See some other discussions on the topic at http://blog.newsarama.com/2007/08/18/variations-on-a-theme-2/.)

As for those who claim TKJ (or for that matter, any other story) as the best Joker origin, I’m one of those who thinks it’s best that the Joker not have a definitive origin. An origin rationalizes a character who should never be rationalized.

I’d probably go with The Laughing Fish as my favorite Joker story, or maybe The Dark Knight Returns.

I liked TKJ a lot, and would put it in the number 1 or 2 slot. Along with the Joker story from Dark Knight Returns #3.

I think your view of TKJ changes depending on whether or not you get the joke at the end and how it frames in the Joker’s mind what the relationship between him and Batman is (and having used it in the classroom, I know that not everyone gets it on a first or second read). That, and it’s the only Joker story I know of that actually makes you feel some sympathy for the Joker, not an easy thing to do given his history.

There’s a lot to pick from and it boils down to taste in some sense (after all, how does one define “best”), but if it is not TKJ, then Laughing Fish or 5 Fingered Revenge (both in the Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told set, I think).

FunkyGreenJerusalem

July 21, 2008 at 9:51 pm

Just overkill, too heavy and dark to use with a character intended for kids and teens, especially given it was in-continuity.

I was a teen when I read it, and I thought it was great.

Laughing Fish, followed by that great single issue with Robin in the car in the recent Dini Detective run.

Laughing Fish.

Although TKJ blew my mind pretty decently when I read it. But: Laughing Fish.

As for Barbara Gordon being more interesting as Oracle than she’s ever been as Batgirl…Batgirl: Year One was better than any Oracle story I’ve read.

I like it a lot , but I liked the silly parts the best.

“If you’re hurt inside, get certified. And if life should treat you bad… Don’t get EE-eee-ven! Get mad!”

Although my absolute FAVORITE Joker story is Brave and the Bold 118, which is essentially the Joker vs. a puppy, with Wildcat and Batman boxing with metal gloves.

Jay the 1 letter wonder

July 21, 2008 at 10:32 pm

Actually, since the first time I read death in the family.I thought it was pretty funny that the Joker sells nukes to Iran and so they make him a diplomate. In retrospect, Laughing Fish is way better. As to TKJ I thought was alright, but not really all that deep. Then again, I’ve never been a fan of the one day chnges your life trope in fiction (even if it is true).

Best one I’ve read.

I’d go with “Laughing Fish” and “Joker’s Five-way Revenge”.

Two Joker stories that haven’t been mentioned that I’d put on a Joker’s Top Ten are:

“Devil’s Advocate”, graphic novel by Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan. When people start dying from licking poisoned postage stamps, the Joker is suspect #1, and a tough new DA finally gets the court to find Joker competent to stand trial. But for once, the Joker may be innocent. And Batman has to decide whether justice will be served by letting Joker be executed for a crime he may not have committed.

Detective Comics #833-834, “Trust”. Paul Dini and Don Kramer. Batman and Zatanna confront a murderous stage magician who turns out to be the Joker. Not only a cool storyline, but some nice backstory for Zatanna(turns out she and Bruce met when they were kids) and an intelligent means of post-Identity Crisis damage control.

My favorite is the “Laughing Fish”, which is a wonderful homage to the first Joker story. I have to say that I like it best because in it, there is no method to the Joker’s madness. The same goes for the Gotham Central story “Soft Targets”.

I love “the Killing Joke” and “Hunt the Dark Knight” (from DKR book 3) because in a way, one ends what the other one begins. But ultimately they both establish Batman as being the focus of the Joker’s madness. In TKJ, the story is more subtle and textured; but I think people misunderstood it because all of the sudden it was okay to portray Batman as crazy (and the only way to justify it is because the Joker said so) when in my opinion, both the Batman & Commissioner Gordon were able to overcome “their one bad day” (meaning that they didn’t go insane).

“Hunt the Dark Knight” I like because it’s all about pushing Batman’s buttons and raising “the body count”; but in the end, the Joker’s existence was dictated by Batman. While Batman was gone, the Joker remained catatonic; once he came back, he snapped back into life. That’s okay, but I like it better when the Joker’s reason for being is to terrorize all of Gotham City and not just Batman. If the Joker is truly crazy (and he should be), then there’s only so much favoratism that can be justified.

By the way, I know people laugh when I suggest the Batman Adventures as a source of good stories, but they are. And issue #16 by Kelley Puckett and Mike Parobeck not only featured the Joker, but it was so good that it got a second printing. Just saying.

Detective Comics #833-834, “Trust”. Paul Dini and Don Kramer. Batman and Zatanna confront a murderous stage magician who turns out to be the Joker. Not only a cool storyline, but some nice backstory for Zatanna(turns out she and Bruce met when they were kids).

If Dini is going by what he wrote in the flashbacks of Episode #50 of Batman the Animated series, then they were very close. They might’ve been boyfriend & girlfriend if Batman hadn’t had to leave for Japan in order to get his martial arts training.

Isn’t Dini’s wife his model for Zatanna? I know Alex Ross did a painting of Zatanna based on Mrs. Dini.

That’s a good idea for a future bit, Kirayoshi, thanks!

Rohan Williams

July 22, 2008 at 2:56 am

I’d say yes, but it’s not like it’s a one-horse race or anything. ‘The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge’ is obviously right up there, and his first two appearances (both in Batman #1) were pretty amazing.

For me, TKJ loses points for fleshing out Joker’s origin story, but gains them right back for acknowledging that said origin may be completely false. It takes out the win because of “we have to show him our way works” and “I’ve heard that joke before, and it wasn’t funny the first time”.

Bernard the Poet

July 22, 2008 at 4:32 am

I can understand people’s reservations about The Killing Joke. That Batgirl is cavalierly dispensed with merely to motivate the men is a disappointing plot contrivance. I expect more from an author as sophisticated as Moore than a woman in a refrigerator.

Also I can’t divorce my enjoyment for TKJ from the suspicion that its visual style and timeless quality influenced Tim Burton’s Batman. Obviously, that’s not Moore’s or Bolland’s fault, but the mind works in mysterious ways and I really hated that film.

It is still probably the best Joker story I’ve read though. The artwork is superlative, the opening and final scenes are very well written and the whole story conveys an autumnal mood, which has never been equalled.

The first Joker story is a close second in my book. When he smiles through his policeman disguise before murdering the judge. One of the best single panels in comic history.

Nothing beats “Joker’s Boner”. :-D

Nothing beats “Joker’s Boner”.

I’m pretty sure Joker humself has beat his own boners a few times. At least during his lonelier nights.

I actually think its one of the worst. The ending is stupid, too – it just reminds me of those 80s cartoons where someone cracks a gag and they stand around laughing, even though here Joker crippled Batgirl and had Gordon naked and chained up to a post or whatever it was.

I wasn’t particularly grabbed by The Laughing Fish, so personally I’d go to The Joker’s Five Way Revenge and Going Sane as the best Joker stories

No one’s mentioned Emperor Joker? Maybe because it wasn’t even in a Batman book. It was a Superman book.

Mr. Mzypytklyz (or however it’s spelled) decides to give Joker his powers, for one day. Joker quickly removes Mr. Mxy from existence, and becomes an insane God. Batman gets tortured to death, then raised fromt he dead so he can be tortured to death all over gaian. The three Robins are stuck playing cards, Bizarro is the new Superman, the world is a cube, etc etc etc.

It goes much farther than anyone thinks it will — the elder gods of the DCU meet to realize even they are pwoerless to defeat him. Joker plans on making the entire universe die, the world’s biggest joke. Harley Quinn asks to be a star in the sky, and the Joker rather touchingly lets her. To show Superman how invincible he’s become, he destroys the color white.

But there’s one thing he can’t destroy: Batman. Batman comes back from the dead no matter how much Joker kills him. Batman is Joker’s god, and Joker’s entire life is merely sinning out of a prodigal disrespect of the god of order.

Told me something I hadn’t known about the Joker. Lots of fun visuals, too.

No one’s mentioned Emperor Joker? Maybe because it wasn’t even in a Batman book. It was a Superman book.

For me the reason the book is not even a possibility to contend for best Joker stories are because there are Jeph Loeb-written chapters in it. I find them almost impossible to get through and they lower the overall quality.

“No one’s mentioned Emperor Joker? ”

I didn’t mention it because it was rubbish

To answer the thread question: No, the Killing Joke is at best my fifth favorite Joker story. Alan Moore himself pointed out that it’s little more than a common Batman annual, despite its world-class writer and artist.

My all-time favorite Joke story is “The Laughing Fish” – a true classic.

Coming in second, Gotham Central‘s “Soft Targets” arc – a suitably creepy and clever Mr. J.

Then comes Dark Knight book 3, with that awesome final battle between lifelong foes.

My fourth favorite Joker story would be “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge”.

There’s probably something I loved from Batman/Batman&Robin/Gotham Adventures but I can’t remember off the top of my head.

TKJ is my favorite Joker comic that I’ve read, though I’ll admit I’m not all that well-versed.

One other Joker story that I really enjoyed was the Animated Series episode where an ordinary family man cuts him off in traffic, and the Joker spares his life to involve him in a crime later.

Maybe not the best, but arguably the most defining for the character. Even if you don’t like the story it’s hard not to see it’s effect on just about every version of the character to follow.

I always preferred the Mark Hamill Joker where he was funny and you knew he was crazy but they didn’t have to show him killing people to show how vicious he was (not that they could if they wanted to, I suppose).

Have a good day.
John Cage

I remember Emperor Joker, but it was done much much better, much much earlier, in the Batman/Hulk crossover.

I would put “The Laughing Fish” 2-parter as the best ever. The Joker’s scheme in there is the funniest, most original & insane one he’s ever had, and he’s all the scarier for it. The B:TAS adaptation is great, too.

The original Joker story from Batman #1 is still one of my absolute favorites. Every story since then has been trying to recreate the air of menace in that story.

“Mad Love” is more about Harley Quinn, but it’s got some great Joker moments, like his manipulation of Harley and, “If you have to explain it, there IS no joke!”

“The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” is a solid story, that’s only handicapped by Batman falling for the toothbrush gag.

The Batman: Black & White story that Paul Dini & Alex Ross did is great, and offers yet another cool origin for the Joker.

But I’d be good with putting The Killing Joke into the Top 5. The origin story alone earns it a place there.

Speaking of the Mark Hamill Version, we shouldn’t leave out the Batman Beyond movie, Return of the Joker. That was a bad-ass Joker who killed a lot of people and destroyed a lot of property. And a sick mo-fo who tried to twist people to fit into his world.

What he did to Tim Drake was worse than what he did to Barbara. That may be the closest any of the animated series came to Miller’s Joker.

I’ll second the love for the Gotham Central story “Soft Targets.” I think it’s Mr. J’s strongest story, backed by great dialogue, fine art, & a one-of-a-kind perspective into how Gotham City (and the GCPD) views the Clown Prince.

“Laughing Fish” has such a colorful hook (not to mention a great fight scene), even though it cribs much of Joker’s MO from his original appearance. Which is itself a stupendous story — so dark, shadowy, & unsettling!

How about Joker tricking Snapper Carr into revealing the location of the JLA’s secret cave? No? Okay, then O’Neil gets in with “The Five-Way Revenge” instead.

Maybe “Killing Joke” is number five, with a fantastic ending that subverts the conventional fisticuffs with actual human connection. Yeah, it’s got exploitative violence too, & drains Joker’s origin of some mystery (tho’ the original Red Hood story back in the ’50s did it first, & nearly as artfully for the era). But it’s great art & so well-paced.

As a Joker story, THE KILLING JOKE is rather tame, regardless of its literary or narrative merits. First, the shooting of Barbara Gordon is fairly generic — it doesn’t scream “only the Joker would do that!” and actually seems more like something Two-Face or a vengeful thug (ala “Officer Down”) would have done. Second, while the multiple-choice origin is brilliant (the Red Hood tale specifically is almost a lost WATCHMEN gem), it in and of itself is simply a great Joker concept, not a story. Third, while the Batman/Joker yin-yang theme is monumental to the Bat-mythos, it doesn’t actually apply to Moore’s particular story as anything more than a rumination on Batman himself. Finally, for all of Moore’s brilliance, his great weakness (well, it’s a weakness in this instance) is his precise, every-word-has-meaning and every-action-has-purpose storytelling, a rationalist style that suits the insanity of Joker not at all (even his more successful attempts at chaotic insanity, such as SWAMP THING’s Arcane or CAPTAIN BRITAIN’s Jaspers, ultimately come across as hyper-askew rationalists); Joker is less Moorian than Morrisonian, more impulsively creative than cerebrally deconstructive (though it must be said that Morrison hasn’t done a great Joker either, and tends toward the trite Millerian sexual-deviant Joker).

My dark horse pick for best Joker story is “Endgame,” the finale of “No Man’s Land.” Rucka (and/or Devin Grayson, who co-wrote the arc, and the whole NML braintrust for that matter) succeeded in presenting a Joker who is at once a down-to-earth menace and an unlimited psychopath, a Joker who could assume the role of climactic villain of Batman’s biggest event based upon little more than the feared extent of his insanity rather than any specific plot (the stuff with the babies wasn’t particularly inspired, I must admit). And though it was more a Huntress moment than anything else, Joker’s assault on the shelter and the threat he posed toward Huntress was truly one of those “only Joker could work here” roles. The finale at GCPD HQ does fizzle out, but as Joker-shoots-a-Gordon moments go, it carries more narrative weight than TKJ’s.

“Soft Targets” in GOTHAM CENTRAL was in many ways “Endgame” 2.0. Only Joker could have inspired the sheer panic that brought Gotham to its knees, and Rucka (or was it Bru? I can’t remember now) really got across the sense that despite the horrific bloodshed, it was just another day to the Joker. For all that LONG HALLOWEEN and TKJ get credit for “The Dark Knight,” the actual plot is pure “Soft Targets.”

DETECTIVE #826, Dini’s Robin/Joker carpool, is probably the most distilled Joker story. No operatic drama, no thematic deconstruction, no mythic meditations, just the Joker doing what the Joker does, laughing all the way.

Just read it recently. I liked the one bad day origin and duality aspect a lot, and the art is, you know, Bolland. I think Funky got it right about the pacing too. So, first time for everything.

I kid! He’s got a better strike rate than that. Blind squirrels can find multiple nuts.

Joking! He’s a good dude. Despite being Australian.

What? I don’t care for Australia.

Also, I remember like the Laughing Fish, like apparently everyone else ever, but I remember the bits with Silver St. Cloud more than the Joker. The fact that they adapted it in the cartoon doesn’t help. May need to fish that Strange Apparitions trade out again.

Finally, for all of Moore’s brilliance, his great weakness (well, it’s a weakness in this instance) is his precise, every-word-has-meaning and every-action-has-purpose storytelling, a rationalist style that suits the insanity of Joker not at all…

But isn’t that the Joker Heath Ledger presented, way moreso than Moore?

99.5% of the Joker’s behavior in the new movie is rationally-rooted, making him what may appropriately be described as hyper-rational. The 0.5% of wrongness he nurtures is actually a common wrongness: he equates discretionary authority with freedom.

Then Batman turns around and sacrifices his own social standing to halt the influence of the Joker’s reign of terror — demonstrating freedom isn’t about discretionary authority, but about what we are capable of, including the preservation of our highest ideals.

I like Killing Joke, but more for Bolland than Moore. I’m not sure I like the idea of giving the Joker an “origin”; I liked that Ledger’s Joker had almost no background at all.

I think my favourite Joker story is probably in Dark Knight Returns, though perhaps more for the “epic final confrontation” quality of it.

I can’t actually rank them but the Fish, Five-Way, Arkham, Joke and DKR all leaped to the front of my mind…
The two single images in my head though are DKR – Joker riding the doll out of the TV theatre and Batman getting the “Killing Joke”…

(BTW – Please note – I’m “Blackjak” without the second “c”, in case some of you think I/we am/are schizophrenic)

yes.

Off the top of my head, I’d say that TKJ is one of the top five Joker stories, IMHO. But, I couldn’t name them all, I just know that as great as it was there are others that I think are better and just as good.

I think that TKJ is where Joker made the jump from evil super villian to Evil super villian. He didn’t shoot and rape Barbara to put an end to one of his enemies (as in, attacked Batgirl to get to Batman). He didn’t even do it because she was in his way. He didn’t do it to establish dominance over her or over Gordon. He did it because she was there. He did it because at the time, he thought it was funny.

And, that, to me, is the definition of the Joker. He does what he likes because at the time he finds it funny. I can almost see him standing in the hallway thinking, “Wouldn’t it be funny to answer the door and get shot? Shock value humor, but humor nonetheless. I’ll try it.”

Theno

He didn’t shoot and rape Barbara to put an end to one of his enemies[…] He did it because at the time, he thought it was funny.

Mmm… I always thought he was trying to prove a point. I mean, I could be wrong; but it seemed like he thought that all you needed was a bad day to turn a sane person insane (hence the Dark Knight Movie connection), and he was trying to give Gordon the wrost possible day imaginable. That’s why he is dressed as a tourist, that’s why he takes pictures and shows them to Gordon, that’s why the story flashes back to his “origin”, and that’s why, towards the end, he turns to Batman and says… “I bet you had a bad day once.”

But like I said, it’s all subject to interpretation, and that’s probably why Moore’s stories are regarded so highly.

This 1-star review from Amazon.com perfectly captures why I hate Killing Joke:

Yesterday I gave this trade paperback a second read, and I can’t say it changed my first impressions. As a Bat-fan, I picked up the book because it contains an important moment in Bat history, central to the story of a character I care about. /Batman: The Killing Joke/ is the storyline in which the Joker paralyzed Barbara Gordon, former Batgirl — a constraint that eventually led to her becoming überdecker to the hero world, Oracle.

I’ve bought some fairly cheesy trade paperbacks in the name of Bat history lessons — /Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying/, for example, is the story of how Tim Drake becomes Robin, and it’s dripping with cheese and earnestness. I can cope with cheese (see my enjoyment of 70’s X-Men) but there’s something about /The Killing Joke/ that really rubs me the wrong way. It was written by Alan Moore, one of the two “dark” writers of the 80’s, who shocked the comics world out of its idyllic 70’s fluff and into grittiness. The other was Frank Miller. And while it’s obvious that Frank Miller has dark thoughts and muses far too much on sex with Wonder Woman, it’s equally obvious that Frank Miller loves superhero comics. Alan Moore, I have read and I now believe, hates superhero comics.

I omit my summary of the plot of the book, out of respect for Amazon’s no-spoiler guidlines, but you aren’t missing much; a linear plot with no real twists or surprises, or acts of astounding intelligence or fortitude by our hero. The only thing that enlivens the very twistless story is the counterpoint of a possible creation story for the Joker, where he’s a loser stand-up artist who can’t get a gig, tries one night of crime to support his pregnant wife, etc. The creation story is a little more interesting than the rest of it, but it’s a little more set in stone, a little more definitive, then I’ve ever seen DC let anyone do for a Joker story. He’s SUPPOSED to be mysterious — an image of the madness that can be birthed without reason from man. Except for “he fell in a chemical vat”, there is no bottom line on this man, and this weak explanatory backstory detracts from the Joker mythos, it doesn’t add to it.

The story lacks emotional punch where it needs it — the crippling of a major ongoing character, for heaven’s sake, and Gordon finding the resolve not to snap in the face of this ‘sophisticated’ psychological torture — and, in fact, seems emotionally illogical. Gordon doesn’t ask Batman whether Babs is ALIVE when he’s rescued. The fiercely protective Batman, after never laughing at a single thing the Joker has ever said (I mean, that’s part of why Mr. J hates him!), laughs at a mediocre joke he tells after nearly killing Batgirl. Are these human beings? Flatly, no they aren’t. They’re mouthpieces for Moore’s shallow conceits — “one bad day makes people insane, in different ways,” and “the world is so awful you just have to laugh” — and the only thing they show any commitment to is disputing those overblown theories.

On top of that, the story makes no LOGICAL sense, something I am more than happy to overlook in a comic book, provided something else — emotional punch or comedic value — fills the void. Who was the guy in the Joker suit in Arkham? Where did the Joker get the money to buy the amusement park, or, for that matter, to outfit it with vast flat-screen displays and deadly traps within a few days? Where did the Joker find so many sideshow freaks who like to hurt people? And finally, when did bondage dwarf minions become part of Joker’s schtick? Joker is, Jack Nicholson aside, an asexual villain (please see Harley Quinn’s sexual frustration for details.) Stripping Babs for the pictures, naked Gordon leashed by bondage minions, et cetera, are Alan Moore saying, “Ooh, I’m so BAD!” NOT anything the Joker would do.

In short, I do believe Alan Moore hates superhero comics. And as Lana said on Smallville once, “If you hate your job so much, why don’t you just quit?”

Bottom line:
Pretentiously “meaningful” and pretentiously dark, not to mention painfully 80’s. Characterization shallow and perfunctory, story trite and unexciting. Pictures okay — a few very good Joker portraits.

T – it’s one thing to say “I don’t like The Killing Joke, and here’s why”, and another, indefensible, thing to say “Alan Moore doesn’t write the way I like, so he must hate superhero comics”. That’s just weak, and adds nothing positive to the discussion.

I am really tired of the personal attacks that “fans” on the Internet level at comics professionals when they aren’t happy with them.

T – it’s one thing to say “I don’t like The Killing Joke, and here’s why”, and another, indefensible, thing to say “Alan Moore doesn’t write the way I like, so he must hate superhero comics”. That’s just weak, and adds nothing positive to the discussion.

I am really tired of the personal attacks that “fans” on the Internet level at comics professionals when they aren’t happy with them.

You reduced the guy’s whole argument to just that? When did we become such PC prigs obsessed with being so damn NICE all the time? if you don’t agree with the whole “Moore hates superhero comics” part of the guy’s opinion, just ignore it or refute it. But the whole thing is not just some angry personal attack without merit. To ignore some of the better points and just call the whole argument weak and meritless just because part of it is not “nice” enough for your taste is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. And THAT really adds nothing positive to a discussion. The guy is entitled to his opinions, even if it leads to the idea that Moore doesn’t like superheroes (an idea I’m not convinced of either by the way, but I can at least understand why the guy would feel that way).

Why not just say “I disagree with the idea that Moore doesn’t like superhero comics.” And then address the guy’s other points too? I just can’t take the whole “holier than thou” kum-ba-ya vibe that comes over this site sometimes, like some of the recent responses to Pol Rua’s spirited bashing of Green Lantern Rebirth.

T. –

Sorry, but your whole last post was a straw man – I didn’t reduce his argument, I addressed his own summation of his argument – he does begin that comment with “In short…”.

I don’t agree with most of the rest of his post, but I have no problem with it. But his own summary is just a personal attack, and that weakens his critique.

Well, it wasn’t that much of a stretch to think your comment was reducing the critique to just a personal attack when that’s all you address, then call it indefensible and claim as a result the review adds nothing of merit. Maybe that’s sincerely not what you meant to do, but it wasn’t a far-fetched straw-man argument on my part to come away with that.

Second, I don’t consider what the guy says about Alan Moore personal attack, any more than I think reading an Alan Moore comic and coming away with the conclusion “Alan Moore LOVES superhero comics” is personal praise. He is using the author’s work and coming away with an opinion on Moore’s attitude about the genre. If i read a Steve Ditko book and come away with the idea, rightly or wrongly, that Ditko hates liberals, am I making a personal attack or an educated guess? If I read Denny O’Neil’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow or Question and say “Denny O’Neil hates conservatism” is that a personal attack or an educated guess? People read Alan Moore’s works and come away with the idea that “Alan Moore loves superheroes and writes love letters to them all the time” and mention it in their reviews. So why can’t this guy read Alan Moore’s works and refute that claim by expressing the opposite idea in HIS review? If it’s acceptable for reviewerss to conclude Alan Moore loves superhero comics and say so, why is it unacceptable for someone to conclude the opposite in a review?

A personal attack would be a statement having nothing to do with the work and not stemming from any analysis of it. “Alan Moore is ugly” “Alan Moore is a pretentious twit with a stupid beard.” “Alan Moore has an ugly wife” etc, etc. What you mention is not a personal attack.

Tyson,

I think you’re very much mistaken on what a “personal attack” is. A personal attack and an opinion are two different things.

The reviewer that T. quotes saying that “Alan Moore hates superhero comics” after citing a few reasons why is not a personal attack. It’s an opinion. And while I don’t agree 100% with that opinion– I get the feeling that Moore has some disdain for the genre, as I hinted in my own earlier post in these parts– I can see where he’s coming from and that does not constitute a personal attack anymore than T.’s response constitutes a straw man argument.

Let me give you a few examples.

1. Alan Moore hates superhero comics. OPINION.
2. Alan Moore has a huge scary beard. OPINION.
3. Alan Moore worships a snake. FACT.
4. Alan Moore is a jerk. PERSONAL ATTACK.
5. Alan Moore writes child pornography. FACT.
6. Alan Moore is a child molester. PERSONAL ATTACK.

It’s true that personal attacks make no contribution to a conversation. They have no place in intelligent discourse. But opinions and facts– even opinions and facts that you don’t necessarily agree with– are part-and-parcel of any discussion.

And I think the reviewer summed it up pretty well at the end: pretentious. The characters don’t act like people, let alone themselves, the structure is sloppy, the dialogue hackneyed. To my mind, that makes it bad comics, period– regardless of genre. I feel it shows a distinct lack of respect towards the characters and genre– a distinct lack of respect that might lead some to say that Alan Moore hates superheroes.

Even when some love of the genre does come out– 1964, for example– there’s a fair amount of camp. That being said, Watchmen is still a masterpiece and I’ve yet to meet anyone who hates Tom Strong. Moore’s usually not a bad writer– but to regard him as some untouchable genius of comics, like many do, is a little disheartening.

And I see T pretty much said what I was saying, though more concisely, while I was composing my message. Sorry about any redundancy on my part.

The problem with the reviewer’s assertion that Moore just hates superhero comics is that it’s a classic example of the ad hominem fallacy. What Alan Moore does or doesn’t believe about any particular topic shouldn’t be relevant to a discussion of strengths and weaknesses in his works of fiction. There’s no reason to make such a statement, unless you’re trying to appeal to the emotions of loyal superhero-lovers, who surely wouldn’t want to support the work of a nasty superhero-hater, would they? And, well, fallacies are inherently irrefutable, because they’re appeals to emotion or sloppy thinking that don’t necessarily make any sense.

What baffles me is that the reviewer does go through a fairly coherent laundry list of actual technical weaknesses in the work, weaknesses Moore himself has pointed out, before he takes an abrupt left turn into arguing that these weaknesses are somehow the result of Alan Moore not loving superheroes enough. If his conclusion had been, effectively, “No work with this many problems should be considered a classic, regardless of influence or authorship,” and dropped all of the speculation about Moore as a person, it would’ve indeed been a fine negative review.

Unfortunately, even an argument in which individual statements have truth value is still fallacious when the argument’s conclusion is fallacious. All this review ends up trying to prove is that Alan Moore is somehow incapable of writing superheroes because he doesn’t like them enough, with TKJ’s technical flaws merely presented as “proof”. That makes it fail both as a persuasive essay and as review of TKJ in particular.

Lynxara,

I don’t think his assertion that Alan Moore hates superheroes was a left turn but a logical progression from his laundry list. You don’t agree with it, which is fine, but I don’t see a left turn at all. Any more than concluding Busiek loves old school superhero comics after making a bunch of observations of his Avengers run constitutes a “left turn.”

Also, I never really enjoy the intellectual habit of getting caught up in competing to come up with latin fallacy terms, as that always steers the argument into a battle of who knows more latin logic terms and it all ends up becoming a spiral into competing pedantry. i don’t really care about parsing it to find out what type of latin logic fallacy it possibly falls under, I’ll admit up front I know little about the official latin names of logical fallacies, I just care whether it brings up a lot of valid points that make sense and are worth discussing. In my opinion, that review does. That’s all I need.

T, it is never a logical progression for a critique of a single work to become a critique of the author. No reader has any way of knowing, without outside information, what a particular author’s opinions on a given subject may be. In some cases you may not know the author’s actual gender, age or nationality, especially if they write under a pseudonym. Any basic study of criticism usually begins by pointing out how attempts to criticize individual creators, through even large samples of work, can often end up coming to completely off-base conclusions.

Here’s a basic example: you inferred from my writing that I disagreed with the review, and that is not true. I agree with most of its points and criticisms of TKJ, even though they’re presented as part of a fallacious argument in that particular piece. I would actually even agree that Alan Moore wrote TKJ while going through a period of disenchantment with the superhero genre as it existed at the time. I just think it’s crazy to try and prove this based on TKJ alone, and an inappropriate thing to bring up in a review of a single work.

The only reason why I use the Latin terms for logical fallacies is that their English equivalents are extremely terrible and not as widely known, so my apologies if I appear pedantic. I am certainly not using them to try and make myself look smart. (Hey, I’m arguing about comic books on the internet, that battle is long since lost.) I only use them in the name of precision. They sum up very complex ideas in a succinct fashion. I’ll try again without using them in the name of courtesy.

You mention that the review is worth discussing, but the main reason why logical fallacies are to be avoided in writing is that they make points impossible to discuss without the fallacy obfuscating the rest of the argument’s merit. In this case, since the writer brought up Moore’s character, it means any points it made about TKJ are going to be lost as people’s own personal opinions of Moore interfere with their ability to process his arguments. Look at Tyson interpreting the mentions of Moore as personal attacks, for instance.

If the reviewer had not mentioned Moore and instead let the list of flaws stand on its own, then I think you’d have something fans of TKJ wouldn’t be able to dismiss easily. Instead, I think most off the people you’d most want to think about that review are instead going to write it off as biased or mean-spirited.

Some of this got a bit silly, I see. I used the English phrase “personal attack” and it was completely taken out of context. Lynxara used the technical term ad hominem, and was criticized for being too technical. Is there a way to say “critique the work, not the author” that won’t baffle people?

By the way, if I say that some random person “hates superhero comics”, it’s not necessarily an attack. If I say that someone who has written a number of superhero comics “hates superhero comics”, it is an attack, especially if I follow it with a snide remark suggesting that he should quit that job.

The problem with the review was not that the writer tacked this on at the end, but that the writer offered it as their summation. The writer had some points to make, but couldn’t put them into a coherent argument, so turned it into a personal attack instead.

In complete isolation, I probably would have just ignored this. But personal attacks against comics professionals are becoming the norm (Didio’s an idiot! Joey Q hates the fans!) and it really lowers the discourse. Which is too bad, because comics discussions should be good, too. (I’m no fan of Didio or Quesada, either – I’ve dropped all DC and Marvel from my pull list – but I don’t attack them personally when I don’t like their work.)

By the way, none of this was intended as some passionate defense of TKJ – see my first comment on this thread, where I said that I considered it “badly flawed”.

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