There’s been a lot of internet hubbub about the ending of Alan Moore & Brian Bolland’s “The Killing Joke.” For a graphic novel that first came out in 1988, that’s a pretty great achievement. Thanks to Grant Morrison, many people are saying that the “real” ending of the story is that Batman kills the Joker; that it’s the last Joker story. (which sort of makes sense… Moore wrote “the last Superman story” in 1986 (in the three part story, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”)
Here’s the problem I have with this interpretation. It requires the reader to believe two things; a) Alan Moore is terrible writer who hides things (instead of using metaphor or allusion) and b) there is no justice or rule of law.
A) One of the things people are using as evidence is a panel where Batman is looking at his hand. Is he secretly holding one of Joker’s poisoned hand buzzers? There is NO collaboration to this idea; no panel of the Joker looking for one, no shot of Joker dropping one, no other evidence besides this one panel. Not enough for a court of law much less for a writer as talented as Alan Moore.
B) and this why I have taken to the ole Macbook. This isn’t just another nerdrant™. To me, the whole point of the book has been this— Joker sets out to prove that anyone can be broken, that anyone, even a solid citizen like Commissioner Gordon can become as twisted as the Joker if they have a “really bad day.” So, he kidnaps the Commissioner, tortures him physical, mentally, emotionally; just to prove his point. Does it work?
No, it doesn’t. The strength of Jim Gordon disproves the Joker’s theory, which destroys the Joker’s flimsy justification for every insane, murderous thing he does. “So, maybe ordinary people don’t always crack…. Maybe it was YOU all the time,” says Batman.
Even more to the point, Gordon says, “We have to show him that our way works.” That the Joker must be shown that logic, the rule of law, that the society that we have created (the one that the Joker rejects) is functional and that it is he, the Joker, that is dysfunctional was and is, the entire point of the book.
To say that Batman, even after the above discussion with Gordon, rejects that and murders the Joker would be the last Batman story. It destroys the character completely. The reason Batman and Commissioner Gordon can co-exist is that ultimately they believe the same thing; there is justice. The system CAN and DOES work. It just needs some help sometimes. I don’t think Alan Moore wrote that ending. Even through out the eighties, when other writers gave up on society (ahem, Mr. Miller), Alan Moore still had high hopes for us… even in Swamp Thing. If people interpret it that way, so be it, but I don’t think it was the writer’s intent.
Fictional heroes, especially superheroes, are people we look up to and aspire to be. Perhaps not all the time, but perhaps certain qualities or characteristics are worth emulating. But not now a days… in the movies heroes quit, heroes kill. In the comics, they are beset and obsessed with their own little worlds and villains that they rarely have time to protect or serve. It’s sad. The publishers/studios, by catering to what they think are our wants have destroyed the very things we cherished for years; heroes.
Also, this is why I won’t watch “Man of Steel.”