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Batman: The Killing Joke

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Cover to Batman: The Killing Joke. Art by Brian Bolland.

Batman: The Killing Joke is a one-shot superhero comic book written by Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland, published by DC Comics in 1988.

It concerns a largely psychological battle between Batman and his longtime foe The Joker, who intends to drive James Gordon, the Police Commissioner of Gotham City, insane, in order to prove that the most upstanding citizen is capable of going mad. Along the way, the Joker has flashbacks to his early life, gradually explaining his origin as a failed stand-up comedian who lost his pregnant wife to a household accident and was grotesquely disfigured on the same day, driving him insane. </p>

The Joker kidnaps Gordon, shoots and paralyses his daughter Barbara, and imprisons him in a run-down amusement park, stripping him naked and caging him in the park's freak show. He then chains him to one of the park's rides and cruelly forces him to view giant pictures of his wounded daughter. Batman frees Gordon and tracks down the Joker, attempting to reach out to him to give up crime and put a stop to their decades-long war. The Joker refuses, but shows his appreciation by telling Batman a grotesque, morbid joke, and the two old foes laugh together as the police arrive to take the Joker back into custody.

The Killing Joke could be considered a meditation on the relationship between comedy and madness. Likewise, it could be considered an insight into character, and a person's moral fiber. For example, upon learning that his wife had died and going through a traumatic accident, the Joker went insane. Batman, however, also had what the Joker termed 'a very bad day' when his parents were murdered, but he instead chose to fight for good causes. Jim Gordon went through extreme trauma, but did not lose his sense of self, thus disproving the Joker's theories.

The exploration of the Joker's origin and the grim, hopeless outlook on life that belies his "evil clown" persona ("Madness is the emergency exit—you can just walk out on all the horrible things that happened and lock them away forever") went a long way toward making him a more three-dimensional character.

This comic book, although a one-shot, had an extraordinary impact on the DC universe. Most significant was Barbara Gordon's paralysis, which ended her career as Batgirl, and eventually led to her role as Oracle. <p>Tim Burton claimed The Killing Joke to be the major influence on his film adaptation of Batman. it:The Killing Joke

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