Batman: The Killing Joke

Author: Alan Moorebatman
Illustrator: Brian Bolland
Publisher: DC Comics
Date: 1988
Genre: Graphic Novel, Superhero Comics
ISBN: 9780930289454
Price: $17.99
Number of Pages: 48
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book

Rating: 5Q, 5P

Author’s Website & Interviews

Links to Reviews

Readers Annotation

The Joker has escaped and on the loose. No one in Gotham is safe, including those Batman cares about.

Plot Summary

The graphic novel begins with Batman visiting Joker in Arkham’s Asylum. During their conversation, Batman realizes that he is an imposter and that the real Joker is on the loose. The real Joker buys an old, dilapidated amusement park, where he has plans for his next attack. Interspersed with the Joker’s machinations, we get to see his background and how he became the Joker. While Batman is following his trail, the Joker comes to Commissioner Gordon’s house, shoots his daughter Barbara, and kidnaps Gordon. Gordon is taken to the amusement park, where he is mentally tortured in the hopes that it will push him to insanity and prove Joker’s point that anyone can be driven insane. Batman visits Barbara and discovers that Gordon is missing. Batman attempts to find Gordon and put a stop to the Joker.

Critical Evaluation

The Killing Joke is one of the best graphic novels ever written. Alan Moore has helped to legitimize graphic novels as a literary form. The book isn’t very long, but he manages to pack in a lot of allusion and symbolism. Moore delves into the Joker’s backstory, one of the first and only writers to do so. In these brief scenes, he depicts a desperate man who is trying to provide for himself and his wife as a comedian by hasn’t had any success. The scenes are whitewashed to signal that these are flashbacks and also to show how mundane his life was. The red that is shown in the flashbacks symbolizes the villain that he will later become, as it is the same color of the red hood he wears that eventually leads him to become the Joker. The color in the flashbacks grows progressively more dominant up through the final frames of the flashbacks, which show the newly created Joker in full color. The Joker’s backstory is an attempt to humanize him and create a stronger duality between Batman and him. Moore consistently highlights their similarities throughout the entire graphic novel. The constant focus on people’s hands helps symbolize this. Moore makes it clear with the end of the novel, which finishes on an ambiguous note, that Batman and the Joker are alike in some key ways and that Batman is really only a few steps away from being the Joker.

Appeal Factors

Dark, Bleak, Disturbing, Suspenseful


A Death of the Family by Scott Snyder
Batman: Year One by Frank Miller

Awards & Lists

Eisner Awards: Best Graphic Album – New
Harvey Awards: Best Graphic Album – Original

Discussion Ideas

• Discussion of the various portrayals of the Joker
• Discussion of the duality of Batman and the Joker

Justification of Selection

This is another book that my husband has been trying to get me to read. I enjoyed Moore’s Watchmen and I love Batman, so I decided to give this a shot.


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