The Killing Joke is a groundbreaking, game-changing one shot thrill ride written by the illustrious Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland. It was published by DC Comics in 1988, and to this day, is still in original printing. It has also been reprinted in the DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore – trade paperback
In 2008, it was reproduced and sold in a deluxe hardcover edition; featuring new colorings by Brian Bolland, meant to envelope and show his original intentions of the story, with a more sobering, realistic, and indefinite lack of colors, against the original intensity of the original. The reprint also included the story An Innocent Guy, which had previously been in the Batman: Black and White series of comics
Source: Batman: Wikia
The plot centers around the psychological warfare between both Batman, and his longtime nemesis: The Joker, who has recently escaped from Arkham Asylum. Batman went to visit The Joker, and tells his foe that he has thought a lot about their battles, more specifically how they will most likely kill one another, before it is said and done, It may be sooner or later, and ponders if The Joker himself, is aware of such a conclusion. Batman realizes the man in the cell, is indeed not The Joker, and demands to know where he has gone. The Joker has devised a plan to break Gotham City’s Police Commissioner: James Gordon, and prove that one bad day is all it takes to take the most righteous man, and drive him to the realm of insanity. As part of his plan, The Joker lies and scams his way into the ownership of a run-down amusement park, and then poisons him in the process when shaking his hand, to seal the deal, revealing that the park was already owned by him an hour previously, courtesy of his henchmen forcing his business partner to sign all rights over to The Joker. Throughout the entire comic, we see flashes of The Joker’s possible origins
The plot revolves around a largely psychological battle between Batman and his longtime foe the Joker, who has escaped from Arkham Asylum. Batman paid a visit to Arkham Asylum, and specifically to the Joker’s cell. He then tells the Clown Prince of Crime that he’s been thinking of their battles, more specifically how they’re most likely going to end: One of them is most likely going to kill the other, whether it be Joker killing Batman, or Batman killing Joker, that most likely it may happen either sooner or later, and wonders if Joker himself is aware of that. However, he then realizes the man in the cell is not actually the Joker, and demands to know where he is. The Joker intends to drive Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon insane to prove that the most upstanding citizen is capable of going mad after having “one bad day”. As part of his plan, the Joker managed to scam the owner of a run-down amusement park into giving him control, also poisoning him in the process when shaking hands on the deal, revealing that the park was actually Joker’s since an hour beforehand thanks to his minions forcing his business partner to grant Joker ownership. Along the way, the Joker has flashbacks to his early life, gradually explaining his possible origin.
The once sane man who would become The Joker is shown as a struggling comedian, who was an engineer at ACE chemicals, that quit to become a stand up comedian, only to fail insufferably..
Willing to do anything to support his wife, Jeannie, he agrees to be the map to two criminals, planning to rob the plant. While planning, the police inform him that his wife has tragically died in a household accident involving an electric baby bottle heater. Stricken with grief, the once engineer tries to evacuate from his current situation, but the criminals force him to keep his commitment to them.
The following is taken from Batman: Wikia
At the plant, the criminals make him don a special mask to become the infamous Red Hood. Unknown to the engineer, this disguise is simply the criminals’ scheme to implicate any accomplice as the mastermind to divert attention from themselves. Once inside, they almost immediately blunder into security personnel, and a violent shootout and a chase ensues. The criminals are gunned down and the engineer finds himself confronted by Batman, who is investigating the disturbance.
Panicked, the engineer deliberately jumps into the chemical plant’s chemical waste catch-basin vat to escape Batman and is swept through a pipe leading to the outside. Once outside, he discovers, to his horror, that the chemicals have permanently bleached his skin chalk-white, stained his lips ruby-red and dyed his hair bright green. This turn of events, compounding the man’s misfortunes of that one day, drives him completely insane and results in the birth of the Joker.
In the present day, the Joker kidnaps Gordon, shoots and paralyzes his daughter Barbara, and imprisons him in a run-down amusement park. His henchmen then strip Gordon naked and cage him in the park’s freak show. He chains Gordon to one of the park’s rides and cruelly forces him to view giant pictures of his wounded daughter in various states of undress. Once Gordon completes the maddening gauntlet, the Joker ridicules him as an example of “the average man”, a naïve weakling doomed to insanity.
Batman arrives to save Gordon, and the Joker retreats into the funhouse. Gordon’s sanity is intact despite the ordeal and he insists that Batman capture the Joker “by the book” in order to “show him that our way works.”
Batman enters the funhouse and faces the Joker’s traps while the Joker tries to persuade his old foe that the world is inherently insane and thus not worth fighting for, also claiming that Batman must have suffered from a bad day himself and gone insane as well, mostly because of his attire (with Joker being far more correct in his assumption than even he realized). He then commented that, while he doesn’t remember exactly how his bad day went due to his memories changing every time, he knows he went crazy, especially after knowing how the world was a black awful joke. He then ranted as to why Batman won’t acknowledge he’s gone crazy, especially when he’s pretty sure the Caped Crusader was smart enough to see things from his eyes, pointing out how the Cold War frequently came close to escalating to World War III due to a flock of geese appearing on a computer screen, or how the second World War was allegedly caused by Germany entering an argument over the amount of telegraph poles they owed the Allies when undergoing reparations shortly after the first World War, and then denouncing everything everyone has strived to fight for as being a “monstrous, demented gag” before demanding to know why Batman not only doesn’t see the funny side, but why he isn’t even laughing at all.
Eventually, Batman tracks down the Joker and, after explaining that the reason he isn’t laughing at all, nor seeing it as a funny side is because he’s heard the joke before, and it wasn’t funny the first time around, subdues him. Batman then attempts to reach out to him to give up crime and put a stop to their years-long war; otherwise, the two will be eternally locked on a course that will one day result in a fight to the death between them. The Joker declines, however, ruefully saying “It’s too late for that…far too late.” He then tells Batman a joke that was started earlier in the comic:
“See, there were these two guys in a lunatic asylum… And one night, one night they decide they don’t like living in an asylum any more. They decide they’re going to escape! So, like, they get up onto the roof, and there, just across this narrow gap, they see the rooftops of the town, stretching away in the moon light… stretching away to freedom. Now, the first guy, he jumps right across with no problem. But his friend, his friend did not dare make the leap. Y’see… Y’see, he’s afraid of falling. So then, the first guy has an idea… He says ‘Hey! I have my flashlight with me! I’ll shine it across the gap between the buildings. You can walk along the beam and join me!’ B-but the second guy just shakes his head. He suh-says… He says ‘Wh-what do you think I am? Crazy? You’d turn it off when I was half way across!’
The joke is funny enough to make the normally stone-faced Batman laugh. They continue to laugh as the police approach. Batman then grabs the Joker and the story ends, leaving it up to the reader to determine the Joker’s fate.
A major thank you to the people at Batman: Wikia. Phenomenal job, and an even more so, phenomenal page! Coming soon will be my own opinions of Batman’s: The Killing Joke