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

http://www.alanmoorefansite.com/

https://slovobooks.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/last-alan-moore-interview/

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/21/superheroes-cultural-catastrophe-alan-moore-comics-watchmen

Links to Reviews

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/batman-alan-moore/1000193854?ean=9781401216672

http://www.ign.com/articles/2005/05/25/batman-the-killing-joke-review

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

Read-alikes

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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Fables, Legends In Exile (Volume 1)

Author: Bill Willinghamfables
Illustrator: Lan Medina
Publisher: DC Comics
Date: 2003
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Mystery
ISBN: 9781401237554
Price: 12.99
Number of Pages: 125
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback

Rating Scale: 5Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.billwillingham.com/

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=53547

Links to Reviews

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=53547

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-56389-942-3

Reader’s Annotation

A room is covered in blood, a woman is missing and the big, bad wolf is on the case.

Summary

Fables is a series of graphic novels that is set around Fabletown, a town in New York which fairytale characters have made their home after getting kicked out of their own world. It is a mixture of both fantasy and mystery genres. The story begins with a man named Jack, who goes to Sheriff Bigby, who happens to be the big, bad wolf from fairytales. Jack informs Bigby that something has happened to his girlfriend, Rose, who happens to be the sister of Snow White. He finds Rose’s apartment covered in blood, with a message on the wall saying “No more happily ever after.” There is no body, but the sheer amount of blood suggests that Rose has been murdered. Bigby accepts the case and, with the help of Snow White, tries to uncover the truth of what happened.

Critical Evaluation

I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel. I liked the art, the characters and the story. The mix between fairytales and noir storytelling Bigby makes for a fascinating protagonist. It’s interesting to see him deal with being the sheriff but also having a dark past that people like to throw in his face all of the time. Snow White is also an interesting character, and the two have good chemistry together as friends that could possibly become something more. There’s also a whole host of interesting side characters that come up. If you know fairy tales, getting to see these characters adds humor and provides more context for the the world. I also thought the class struggle that was presented in the book was really interesting. You can see that some of the lesser fairytale creatures resent the more wealthy characters. Overall, I was really surprised at how good this was. It’s definitely made me interested in reading the rest of the series.

Significance of Book

This is a graphic novel series that has earned a lot of rave reviews and awards. It’s take on fairy tale character is fascinating and the characters are richly drawn and fascinating. The hardboiled mystery aspect meshes perfectly with the fantasy genre.

Read-alikes

Beautiful Darkness by Fabian Vehlmann

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Awards and Lists

As of 2012, Fables has won fourteen Eisner Awards.

Best New Series in 2003

Best Serialized Story in 2003, 2005 and 2006 (“Legends In Exile”, “March of the Wooden Soldiers” and “Homelands”)

Best Anthology in 2007 (Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall)

Best Short Story in 2007 (“A Frog’s Eye View,” by Bill Willingham and James Jean, in Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team in 2007 (Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (Interior) in 2007 (Jill Thompson)

Best Cover Artist in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 (James Jean)

While Fables only advertises winning fourteen Eisner Awards on their covers, the following Eisner awards have also been won by members of their staff for their work on Fables:

Best Writer in 2009 (Bill Willingham)

Best Lettering in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2011 (Todd Klein)

Fables: War and Pieces was nominated for the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story.[24]Fables: The Dark Ages, Fables: Witches and Fables: Rose Red were also nominated.

Prominent review site IGN has called it “the best comic book currently being produced”[25]

Taken From Wikipedia

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss the characters’ connection to the fairy tales. How are they similar? Different?
  • Discuss the graphic novel in terms of a classic hard boiled mystery.
  • Discuss the Wolf’s relationship with Snow White.

Justification of Selection

I was on the lookout for a graphic novel and this series immediately caught my eye. I like the idea of a modern twist on the classic fairytale stories mixed in with the mystery genre. There have been a lot of fairytale twists but I’ve never seen anything quite like this before.

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama

Author: Alison Bechdelareyou
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date: 2012
Genre: Graphic Memoir
ISBN: 9780618982509
Price: 22.00
Number of Pages: 289
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback

Rating Scale: 4Q, 2P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/#

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/09/17/349209211/book-news-a-q-a-with-alison-bechdel-cartoonist-and-macarthur-winner

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/alison-bechdel/are-you-my-mother/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/9780618982509

Reader’s Annotation

Do daughters ever really understand their mothers?

Summary

Are You My Mother? is a comic drama that serves as a sequel of sorts of Bechdel’s Fun Home. While Fun Home focused on her relationship with her father, this one focuses on her mother. It’s a very non-linear story that goes back and forth between her childhood and early adult memories. It’s meta in that it talks about her mother’s negative reaction to Bechdel writing Fun Home and the difficulties she had with the relationship. Not only this, she also talks about her struggles in writing this particular book and her mother’s reaction to it. She also draws very heavily from the works of a psychoanalyst named Donald Winnicott and his work with children. Winnicott’s history and works are interspersed with her own memories and observations. A lot of the book is about Bechdel psychoanalyzing herself in therapy sessions.

Critical Evaluation

Like Bechdel’s Fun Home, there are moments in this comic drama that are pure brilliance. She excels in scenes about her childhood and growing up with her mom. Their relationship is absolutely fascinating. It is interesting to see her mother’s reaction to Fun Home. Not only does it show that, it shows her talking with her mom about writing a memoir about her. Bechdel does an excellent job in describing how conflicted she felt about writing Are You My Mother? and Fun Home, and how they have affected Bechdel’s relationship with her mom. It’s very meta as it is essentially about the making of both books. There were some aspects, however, that I wasn;t crazy about. I thought she overdid it with the psychoanalyst plotline, especially the scenes with her therapists. It felt a little self-indulgent in that she was focusing so much on analyzing the tiniest things in her life. The connection to Winnicott was interesting but also felt a little overdone. Too much time was devoted to this aspect of the story. I would have preferred her to delve more into her literary allusions to Virginia Woolf and Adrienne Rich.

Significance of Book

Bechdel is an awarding-winning writer. This book features some of her best writing and drawing as she delves into the past to better understand her mother.

Read-alikes

Make Me a Woman by Vanessa Davis

Wishing For Snow by Minrose Gwin

Awards and Lists

Library Journal Best Graphic Novels

New York Times Notable Books – Nonfiction: 2012

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss Bechdel’s inclusion of Virginia Woolf and Adrianne Rich.
  • Discuss the use of the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott

Justification of Selection

I’ve been interested in reading this book ever since I read Bechdel’s first graphic memoir, Fun Home, in college years ago. What really hooked me into reading this was the examination of the mother-daughter relationship.

Watchmen

Author: Alan Moorewatch
Illustrator: Dave Gibbons
Publisher: DC Comics
Date: 1987
Genre: Graphic Novel, Superhero comics
ISBN: 9780613919647
Price: $33.05
Number of Pages: 334
Available Formats: Hardback, Paperback, School & Library Binding E-Book, Audio

Rating Scale: 5Q, 5P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.alanmoorefansite.com/

https://slovobooks.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/last-alan-moore-interview/

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/21/superheroes-cultural-catastrophe-alan-moore-comics-watchmen

Links to Reviews

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/watchmen-alan-moore/1100992589?ean=9781401245252

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/20/books/review/20itzkoff.html?_r=0

Reader’s Annotation

The Comedian has died, and nothing for a group of vigilantes known as the Watchmen will ever be the same.

Summary

This is a dark and gritty take on the superhero genre, taking place in an alternate reality where America has won the Vietnam War, due to a being with godlike powers named Doctor Manhattan, but is under the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. It chronicles the story of two generations of vigilantes and tells the story of the two in a non-linear fashion. The story begins with the death of a man named Eddie Blake, who was once a vigilante. A fellow vigilante that we worked with years before, named Rorschach, begins investigating Blake’s death and enlists the help of other vigilantes that the man worked with, called the Watchmen. As Rorschach uncovers the truth about Blake’s death, the other Watchmen begin to realize that something sinister is going on that could put the group in jeopardy.

Critical Evaluation

There’s a reason why Watchmen was one of Time Magazine’s All Time 100 Greatest Novels. It is a dark and dense graphic novel full of metaphor, symbolism and social commentary. Moore meticulously deconstructs the archetypes of the superhero genre, delving into the psychology of these individuals and providing a more realistic take on how superheroes would truly act in reality. The novel shows that putting on a costume doesn’t necessarily make you a good person. The novel is filled with interesting, morally grey characters that are forced to make tough decisions that they will have to live with. There’s a strong sense of consequence that traditional superhero stories sometimes overlook. Watchmen is one of the best superhero stories ever told because it wasn’t afraid to take heroes seriously.

Significance of Book

This is considered one of the greatest graphic novels of all time. It has won numerous awards, including the Hugo Award, and was the only graphic novel to appear on Time ’s 2005 “All-Time 100 Greatest Novels” list. It has legitimized graphics as a serious literary medium.

Read-alikes

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller

Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer

Kick-Ass by Mark Millar

Awards and Lists

Eisner Awards: Best Graphic Album – New

Harvey Awards: Best Graphic Album – Original

Hugo Award

Locus Awards: Best Nonfiction/Related/Reference Book

YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults: Book to Movie: Ripped From the Pages (2015)

Time ’​s 2005 “All-Time 100 Greatest Novels” list

Time ’​s 2009 “Top 10 Graphic Novels” list

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss the women characters in the book. Are they objectified?
  • Discuss the two different generations of Watchmen.
  • Discuss the anti-hero theme
  • Discuss Dr. Manhattan and his decreasing lack of humanity

Justification of Selection

This award-winning graphic novel has been on my radar for a long time. I decided to read it because I wanted to see a take on superheroes that was dark and gritty.