Batman: The Killing Joke Explained

Batman: The Killing Joke
   Welcome to the explanation of Batman: The Killing Joke. As expected this will contain massive spoilers so watch out! Now lets dig into one of the most popular comic books ever published.
 Here we will explore the psychological reasons for the torture of James Gordon and the paralysis of his daughter, Barbara Gordon ending her Batgirl career and becoming Oracle.

   We start our story with Batman passing by other inmates of Arkham Asylum such as Two-Face and other unknown prisoners. Batman goes to the Joker's cell and which Joker replies the following which is repeated later in the comic which is a reflection of the relationship between Batman and the Joker which will be explained later in this.

       Batman comes to talk about how eventually their relationship with each other and how the relationship will eventually end with one of them killing the other.

 "Hello. I came to talk. I've been thinking lately. About you and me. About what's going to happen to us, in the end. We're going to kill each other, aren't we? Perhaps you'll kill me. Perhaps I'll kill you. Perhaps sooner. Perhaps later. I just wanted to know that I'd made a genuine attempt to talk things over and avert that outcome. Just once. Are you listening to me? It's life and death I'm discussing here. Maybe my death... maybe yours. I don't fully understand why ours should be such a fatal relationship, but I don't want your murder on my... hands..."

   The claim that Joker's murder is on Batman's hands may seem like a unusual quote from Batman. You may know that Batman in almost all comics never takes a life. Ever. Here Batman is saying because he has not killed the Joker, the murders of his are still his fault. If he kills the Joker or does not he will still feel like he is morally responsible for the death of someone. If he kills the Joker he feels like he has committed murder. If he doesn't choose to kill the Joker he still feels wrong because of the lives that might have been saved if he would of killed him. No matter what he chooses he still feels at morally fault for killing someone.

   Joker continues to ignore the pleas from Batman to listen to him. Batman says that he is talking about life and death and how he should listen. Batman in this says to the Joker that he is trying to prevent both of them from killing each other. 

   It continues by Batman asking where is a unknown person that Joker set free. Who it was is never explained. Batman starts to assault Joker when the Joker says he has rights and that he can not touch him. Bringing up to mind a scene from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in which Batman beats up a thug and tells him he has rights. It also just so happens to be that he is bleeding. Which will cause him to die if he doesn't tell him what he wants and he is the only one to get him to a hospital in time. This strongly suggests that Batman considers that people who break the law give up most of the rights if they commit crimes. 

   James Gordon comes in and tells Batman that he knows the laws of treatment of inmates as much as he does and tells him to quit. In which Batman tells one of the most telling quotes of his opinion of the Joker in almost of all the comics ever published. 

Commissioner (Gordon) if you're concerned about it, (the Joker) it's yours. Take care of it. (the Joker) Now, you whimpering little smear of slime, (taking to the Joker) I'm going to ask your politely one more time.

   Although you may not of seen the major implication of this scene and is a shockingly missed one. In it Batman refers to the Joker as "it" and "little smear of slime" both of which seem to indicate that Batman doesn't even see Joker as human any more and has been completely taken over by both evil and insanity. The fragments of Joker's humanity are being washed away, or a even worse idea... His humanity and compassion have been dead for years.

   The scene flashes back to a carnival in which Joker is inspecting a carnival to buy. The joker disturbingly comments that it is ugly and that the RIDES COULD EASILY MAIM OR KILL SMALL CHILDREN. The owner asks if he doesn't like it in to which the Joker replies that he is crazy for it. The owner asks if he really wants to buy the property in which the Joker responses in his opinion HE IS MAKING A KILLING. He asks if the price is too steep and the Joker says that it isn't these days. 

   We flash back to a unnamed person who is a comedian (and whom is strongly implied to be the Joker, which is later confirmed in the story) and his wife who is expecting a child to be born. The comedian says he is upset because he messed up a punchline and will most likely not get a job. He starts to cry and says that the renter hates him. He says that he has to get his wife into a nicer house in a decent neighborhood before the baby happens to be born. It then flashes back to the Joker looking into a mirror. 

   The Joker continues to talk to the owner of the carnival from earlier and says he wants to buy the carnival. He shakes on it and we can all guess what happened. He poisoned him. The Joker also says that he "convinced" his partner to sign the property over to him. (With it strongly implied to be by force.) He shakes his hand. (Although it is never showed) It then poisons him with a Joker-like laugh on his face.

   The scene skips to Batman in the Batcave looking up infoamation about the Joker. The computer tells that it has no infomation about the Joker. Alfred shows up and asks Batman if he wants any drinks and Batman replies no. He comments on how hard it is to predict the Joker's movements and behavior and says how it is funny after many years fighting each other they truly do not know who the other person is.

   The scene then goes to the Gordon residence with both Jim and Barbara Gordon. Jim Gordon responses  how Arkham Asylum is always escaped by the Joker and then kills more people. It also adds the interesting question of whether there is a death penalty in Gotham City. Barbara has made her dad Jim Gordon hot chocolate when someone happens to be at the door and the door knocks. Before this Barbara Gordon says that the Joker scared her as a kid and leaves the question open on whether other people did the same. 

   Barbara Gordon then opens the door to see a beach clothes dressed Joker. The Joker pulls up a gun and then shoots Barbara Gordon. It is important to note that the Joker doesn't know who batgirl is and is simply trying to mess with James Gordon head. This should not be seen as a display of power and "knowing their secret identities". Again, Joker has no clue on whom batgirl is and is simply using Barbara Gordon as a way to drive James Gordon insane.

   This also points out that the Joker doesn't seem to believe in any type of moral system. Except one... none. He is a moral nihilist who has no regrets about killing, maiming, or any other means to reach his ends. 

The Paralysis of Barbara Gordon
   James Gordon rushes over to help his daughter. The Joker then comes over and makes several crude jokes about Barbara getting shot. He and his thugs then attack James Gordon. The Joker (In a very unpopular scene) takes off Barbara Gordon's clothes and takes snapshots of her naked and injured body. This has been suggested by fans as being a possible rape. I think this is very unlikely do to many reasons. The Joker has always been portrayed as asexual in almost all comics. It seems his sexuality disappeared the moment he became the Joker. In my opinion, he takes these photographs just to taunt Gordon. (Which he happens to do latter)
   Joker flashes back to his backstory again in which he is asked by a group of people to rob Ace Chemical plant for money. He says yes because he is poor and agrees to go along with the plan. His wife will not find out and he will have enough money to go legit according to his plan.

   Barbara Gordon is shown in the hospital in which the doctors respond that the bullet went into her spine and she will not be able to walk ever again and will be in a chair for the rest of her life. The doctors tell Batman that a person named Colleen Reece found Barbara Gordon in a state of undress. This obviously angers and bothers Batman deeply. The doctor says that it is pretty sick in which Batman agrees and asks for some time alone with Barbara Gordon. This again raises the question earlier pointed out in the story where Batman feels that it is his fault for everything the Joker does. This now includes his partner against crime and one of his true friends Barbara Gordon.

   Barbara wakes up and cries. Barbara tells Batman that he has gone completely insane and wants to prove a point. She asks what is Joker doing to James Gordon proving that she cares deeply about her dad.

   The scene then flashes to the carnival again which the Joker took over which was shown earlier in the comic. James Gordon wakes up completely naked and being forced to walk around by Joker dolls. They take him to the Joker himself and he says that he is going what any reasonable person would do. He is going mad.....

      The Joker wants to drive Gordon mad like he was driven mad in the accident in Ace Chemicals explained later in this. Joker just wants to prove that one bad day could turn a sane person into a criminal and an insane murderer, just like he was. The Joker puts Gordon on a carnival ride and then it switches to the Joker remembering again.

   The thugs talk about what to do and that he should be dressed up as the pseudo-criminal the Red Hood. It is heavily implied that the reason for this is in the case that a person would be captured, they could always point fingers at the Red Hood. The police show up and tell the Comedian that his wife has died due to an accident. He starts to cry and the criminals say they are sorry about his loss but threaten him to continue going with their plan. 

   It again goes back to the Joker trapping Gordon on a ride. Forcing him to listen to a song about how he should go crazy and try to forget. Just like the Joker did. The Joker then shows pictures of Barbara Gordon shot and nude in front of her father. The Joker says that Barbara in the song would be better off dead. It is unknown if he really means this. I personally unsure on whether he actually means this but it is clear that he wants Gordon to go insane.

   Batman asks people if they know where the Joker is and gets no answer. Eventually he gets a letter from the Joker to meet him at the Bonus Brother's Carnival. He goes there to face the Joker and says that he will bring back "who he can" bringing up the question on whether he will truly kill the Joker this time.

   The Joker continues to talk to James Gordon and claims that his trauma is simply noticing lives random injustices. (Continuing to reference his comedian days.) The Joker seems at this point to have given up on the meaning of life and continues mocking the idea that life punishes evil and rewards good.

   It then flashes back to the comedian, now the Red Hood breaking into the Ace Chemical plant. The "Red Hood" then says that he misses his wife. They go into the factory and a policemen catches them. They ask the comedian on why there is security and he responses that they must of changed things since he left. The guys get shot and eventually betray the comedian. The comedian runs away before getting caught by Batman. He jumps off into the chemical tanks and gets spit out of the factory. His face begins to burn and he removes his hood. Revealing the Joker.....
The Birth of the Joker

   His mind is now completely broken and has now truly become the Joker. The irony of this is that if there was no Batman his greatest enemy would of never been born. As it was him trying to stop the red hood gang that lead to the birth of the Joker, his greatest enemy.

   It flashes back to the Joker torturing James Gordon saying that before him is the average man. He says to notice his bloated sense of humanities importance and the optimism. This is further evidence the Joker has simply no feelings for humanity future and believes that the world is screwed anyway.

   The Batmobile drives to the Joker's Carnival and is furious at the Joker. It flashes back to the quote from the beginning of the comic to how eventually someone will kill the other. Sooner or later it will happen. The Joker and Batman get in combat. The Joker runs away and Batman removes and frees the freaked out Gordon from his cage. Gordon tells Batman how Joker shown pictures of Barbara shot and tried to drive him mad. James Gordon tells Batman to bring him in and to do it by the book, to show Joker that their ways works so that the Joker doesn't truly win.

   Bruce Wayne (Batman) continues to follow the Joker in the house of mirrors. The Joker says that it doesn't matter if they send him to the asylum (Arkham Asylum) as it already doesn't matter. He has won, he has shown to Batman and Gordon that only one bad day can drive anyone mad. The Joker says that Batman had a bad day as well. Remarking that why else would he dress up as a flying rat. (Bat) This strongly suggests that both Batman and the Joker are opposites of the same coin. Batman's life as well as the Joker became totally consumed by trying to reach their goals to the point of insanity. Batman's goal is to produce order and keep peace. The Jokers goal is to spread chaos and evil along with him. They are different sides of the same side but with totally different goals. The Joker is a dark reflection of Batman and how if things turned out differently the Joker might be Batman today and Batman might of been the Joker.

   It continues with Joker stating that Batman's girlfriend might of been carved off by the mob or something like that. He continues by saying that something like that happened to him as well. He continues with him saying that he doesn't remember what happened exactly, and responses with him saying if he has a origin story he wants it to be multiple choice and laughs. This is strong evidence that partly some of the events about Joker's origin story are simply made up.

   The Joker asks Batman why he has admitted he has gone crazy but why can't Batman? Joker mocks the causes of WWII and a possible cause of WWIII being flock of geese on a computer screen. Joker says that life itself is a joke and why can't Batman see the funny side? Batman grabs Joker and says it wasn't funny the first time. He then tells Joker that Gordon was not driven crazy by his torture. He says that regular people don't always cracked. Batman says that maybe it was just Joker all the time.

   Batman then says that he doesn't want to hurt the other, but he is running out of alternates and that they both know it. He says that maybe it all ends on tonight and asks Joker if he wants to be good and asks Joker if he wants to restore his humanity back. Joker responds that it is to late for him.  He then tells Batman a joke about two guys in a lunatic asylum and how it is like their relationship and how they are both crazy and they laugh. The police cars roll up and the Joker gets arrested.

In general, the story is about several major things. The first part is how the Joker sees life as meaningless and a joke and trying to prove it to James Gordon no matter how, even if that involves paralysis of his daughter. Secondly, it shows how the relationship dynamic between Joker and Batman and how they are closer then at first glance. Thirdly, it shows how close and how far different people can be.

   I hope you enjoy this break-down of the themes of Batman: The Killing Joke! Expect more to come soon!
If you have any other comics that you want me to break down feel free to in the comments section below. If I missed anything feel free to add it in the comments below and I will add it!

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