Batman: The Killing Joke

killing joke

I have surprised myself by getting to day 30 of this little adventure of reviewing a comic a day. As a writer I’ve let writer’s block stop me from writing on any sort of a regular basis. While I would love to say that it was due to some grand artistic gesture on my part, I have to be honest and say it wasn’t. I, like so many others before me, felt that I needed inspiration or a muse to get me to write when in the end, practice, practice, practice is the only thing that will make me a better writer.

Admittedly this site is not my main focus as a writer. What I like to think of this site for me is what playing scales is for a musician. It focuses my brain on the task of writing and just getting words on the page. Too often in the past I found that I would get to a certain point in something I was writing and then decide that I must make the words I’ve already written be as could as they could be before I took the time to actually finish the damn story. In fact, the sequel to my first novel is around the halfway mark but I’ve found myself stuck. Words just wouldn’t come out. So I stopped writing. A damn foolish thing to do.

So I challenged myself to write reviews of comic books. I felt that doing so would help me in a couple of ways. As writers, the first rule that is given to any writer is to read. You’re only going to know what works and what doesn’t by reading other work. I mean, would a musician know if they were any good on the guitar for example if they never heard anyone else play the instrument? While it’s certainly possible someone could theoretically teach themselves how to play without having ever heard anyone else playing the guitar the fact is that most guitar players of note had an influence or two, artists who they emulated and were able to actually add to in order to make themselves better musicians. By reading daily I would see what worked for other writers and frankly what doesn’t work. I can then use that knowledge and apply it to my fiction when I write.

Secondly I would find myself writing every day. I’ll be the first to admit that the reviews on my site are all first draft, stream of conscious reviews. While I could certainly take the time to tighten up the reviews that’s not really why I do what I am doing. The point is simply…write. The more I write, even something as straight forward as a review of something I read, I will be writing. And when I get back to my fiction work, the fact that writing is now a habit for me, something I have to do every day, I will find myself getting what I need to out on paper.

Writing can be the most fulfilling and the most challenging work anyone can do. When you’re in the zone, words can’t get on the page fast enough. When you’re not in the zone, the empty space on the page will taunt you like a grade school bully. This site is dedicated to writing. It’s not pretty but to me, it’s work like this that writers have to go through on a daily basis that will get them to do their greatest work.

Now on to our show…

For day 30, I thought I would tackle another graphic novel. It’s a short one this time but quite monumental in how it not only affected the comic industry but movies we see today as well. It’s The Killing Joke from Alan Moore.

I have a love/hate relationship with Alan Moore. Some of his work I can’t stand. I HATE Watchmen. Now don’t get me wrong. I understand Watchmen’s place in comic history and respect the fact that Watchmen brought a new respect for comics. It deserves the respect people have for it. As a story though it just didn’t do it for me. I hated it and was glad when it was over. On the flip side I really enjoyed The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He did an amazing job in taking already established characters and through sheer ingenuity, bring a group of people together who have no reason to be together and make them a coherent team. For as much as I don’t like his work, for me to deny Mr. Moore’s writing skills would be foolish.

The Killing Joke I have to say is not really a story in the traditional sense. It’s more of an exploration piece about madness and how life can really just fuck with you at times. The biggest event in this comic is the shooting of Barbara Gordon. It came out of nowhere and just makes no sense. Yet The Joker is a character who does things for shits and giggles at times. It seems that he wanted to see if he could break Commissioner Gordon’s mind and he thought that by shooting and raping his daughter he could do that. The story also intersperses an origin story for The Joker, exploring how he became The Red Hood. (Or one way he imagines he became The Red Hood.)

Without the struggle of good verses evil, why have comics? But that basic premise alone can get tired if you don’t take the time to think about what can make a person evil. About what makes a person be good. To The Joker, life itself is what is crazy. The freedom he has being insane is the true happiness in life. It takes more effort to stay sane so fuck it, why go through all that work when you can be cuckoo bananas and have the time of your life?

Batman and Commissioner Gordon are there to show him that his way of thought is ultimately destructive. These two ways of thought on how to live life are not compatible. While life will kick you in the teeth at times, you grow more as a human if you’re able to dust yourself off and move on. In a lot of ways the comic does a great job of showing that apart from a choice or two, Batman and The Joker could have easily reversed their roles. Anyone could be The Joker if you just kick them down one too many times. But what makes a person who has life kick them in the face stand up and keep moving forward? What makes them any different than the person who says enough is enough and decides that life can just go suck a big one?

This is a must read comic. This is a book you show someone who has never read a comic before and is quick to dismiss it as juvenile nonsense. From what I have read this comic was not necessarily an act of love by Mr. Moore. If that is the case, the fact that a classic of comic books came from someone that was there essentially earning a paycheck and nothing else is amazing in and of itself. Do yourself a favor and get this book. The artwork alone is worth the price. Hell, if a movie coming out next year is cribbing from this comic that came out close to thirty years ago they must be doing something right.

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