Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke remains one of the high water marks of graphic literature. The work is responsible in part for changing the face of comic books and comic book heroes. The re-imagining of Batman in this tale paved the way for works like Frank Miller’s Dark Knight series, and inspired other comic book writers to explore their characters in greater depth.
The comic book is also significant because it features new paneling techniques such as parallel paneling as a method of transition (to be discussed in class) and the panel takes on new roles as a device of storytelling.
The Killing Joke also features one of Batman’s primary characters being critically wounded, which is one of the few significant injuries which has managed to remain a part of the Batman continuity for many years. Most of the time characters miraculously recover or it is as if the event never occurred.
While Moore claims this is his worst work, it is likely his aversion to all things DC that inspires him to say such things.
Questions for consideration:
- Note how the comic begins and ends with the bands of light spread across murky darkness. How does this image take on symbolic significance at the end of the tale? Whose dialogue keys us in on the metaphorical significance of the light?
- What kinds of techniques are used to illustrate the transition from events in the past to present events?
- How does this comic challenge the conventional notion of the superhero as being virtually flawless, impenetrable and a pioneer of good and upright society?
- Can you think of any other ways that Moore’s The Killing Joke may have changed comic books, or the comic book industry? (If not, that’s fine. We’re just becoming familiar with comics, so we may not be able to pick up on subtle distinctions between this work and previous works).