The REAL Ending of The Killing Joke?

[spoilers for Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's The Killing Joke]

Don't know if anyone heard this, but it apparently is causing a big buzz, since Bleeding Cool has posted at least 3 articles on the subject.

Grant Morrison, in an interview with Kevin Smith, said that (while subtle) the ending of The Killing Joke is that Batman kills Joker. He says, "I don't know why people don't get that." But, according to him (and I'm paraphrasing, now) it's right there on the page.

The page in question is shown here on Comics Beat, and,indeed there seems to be something interesting with the light in that puddle, and the sound of the laughter.

While the final page may have shown it all, the script certainly didn't. Others have posited that Moore and Bolland may have intentially left it out with a wink and a nod, since they knew it wouldn't get past DC Editorial. Still others have said that Bolland, acting as artist as writer, added that bit in. Whoever did it, I'd say it was a bit of genius, if it was intentional.

This was something that always bothered me about the story as published. All throughout the story, it seemed to be leading to this place where it could only end with one of them dead. And ending the story with such a fizzle--the two of them yukking it up (even with a joke that was a perfect metaphor for the two of them) just didn't give the payoff the rest of the story built up to.

But here's the thing.

It also doesn't necessarily need to be Batman killing the Joker. It could be the other way around. From this perspective, the story is like The Lady and the Tiger. Remember, Batman says that one of them will die in the end--maybe Joker...maybe Batman. If this is the case, the reader is left to decide which of them lives...or if either of them do. After all, the laughter has stopped.

Anyone else blown away by this news or this reading of the book?

Comments

  • I do no think DC editorial had anything to do with this story. Alan Moore is an intelligent writer that would probably not like having a concrete ending to every story that the created. The ambigous nature of the conclusion is what makes this comic book great. I think that is why Moore is not coming out and giving a solid answer as to whether this happened or not, he wants a discussion.
  • The thing is that, maybe I've always been dim or maybe I read it when I was far too young, but I never got that ambiguity until this whole thing came out.

    Moore said he didn't like the story, because it wasn't about anything, and I kind of agreed with him. But this makes me appreciate it in a way I never did before.
  • greyman24 said:

    The thing is that, maybe I've always been dim or maybe I read it when I was far too young, but I never got that ambiguity until this whole thing came out.

    Moore said he didn't like the story, because it wasn't about anything, and I kind of agreed with him. But this makes me appreciate it in a way I never did before.

    I like that made you that point. If Moore was right about this book meaning nothing it would not receive the crazy critical acclaim that it has. When I read through the book It stirs up some emotion in me, which is what good art is supposed to do. Moore is his own worst critic in this case. What does this book mean to you?
  • greyman24greyman24 Posts: 50
    edited August 2013

    greyman24 said:

    The thing is that, maybe I've always been dim or maybe I read it when I was far too young, but I never got that ambiguity until this whole thing came out.

    Moore said he didn't like the story, because it wasn't about anything, and I kind of agreed with him. But this makes me appreciate it in a way I never did before.

    I like that made you that point. If Moore was right about this book meaning nothing it would not receive the crazy critical acclaim that it has. When I read through the book It stirs up some emotion in me, which is what good art is supposed to do. Moore is his own worst critic in this case. What does this book mean to you?
    When I first read it, it didn't mean much. I mean, I connected with Joker in a way I never had before. That was its genius--to humanize the Joker by giving him a backstory that was as tragic and relatable as Batman's. And neither one of them seemed to have gotten out of it unscathed.

    But don't you feel there should be more to a story (not necessarily art, but story in particular) than to stir emotion? If I had a comic that was 20 pages of a person being beaten, it would stir emotion, but it wouldn't be a particularly good story.
  • CalibanCaliban Posts: 1,345
    edited August 2013
    First thoughts are that if it wasn't in the script then it was not Moore's intention.
    However, let us accept that the creative artist doesn't always really know what their artwork is about. Don Siegal didn't think that Invasion of the Body Snatchers was about McCarthyism (although he conceded the link later on).

    The idea that Batman kills the Joker at the end gives us a neat conclusion but for me it doesn't fit in with the rest of the book. Batman's speech at the start suggests he can foresee a situation where he would be forced to kill the Joker, rather than he would make a deliberate choice to do so. Moore neatly winks at the events of the Dark Knight Returns which was published 2 years before the Killing Joke. Batman is anticipating the kind of situation that Superman finds himself in at the controversial conclusion to the Man of Steel movie, he didn't set out to kill Zod but finds himself in a position where he can do nothing else (possibly Zod is complicit in this if we accept the 'suicide by cop' argument). Moore placed Superman in a similar situation at the end of Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow?.

    However, I don't think Batman is predicting a situation where he has defeated the Joker's goons, overcome all the obstacles that the Clown Prince of Crime placed in his way, captured the white faced psychopath, shared a joke with him, and then as the laughter dies away reaches over and snaps the Joker's neck. In fact the book makes clear that Batman is seeking to avoid this. Gordon tells him "You have to show him our way works". I find nothing in the book that suggests Batman is ready to give up on 'our way' yet. He wants to bring Joker to justice, lock him up before he cripples anyone else, and (hopefully) rehabilitate him.

    Having read Supergods it seems to me that one of Grant Morrison's beliefs is that he has mystical insights into the workings of the universe that are denied to most of the rest of us. He likes to portray himself as the guy who knows what's really going on, who can see what the rest of us miss. He is the guy in the bar who looks at us with amused contempt on his face and says "Of course, Aliens is about the Vietnam war. You didn't think it was just a cool monster movie did you?".

    In my version of Batman's continuity he does eventually find himself in the no win scenario where he has no choice but to snap Joker's neck, and even then he can't bring himself to do it. He's not even Atticus Finch who has to kill a mad dog but hates his own ability to do so. And he certainly doesn't dispatch the Joker at the end of the Killing Joke as the camera pans down to look at the rain hitting the puddles.

    Still I concede it is a neat talking point.
  • CalibanCaliban Posts: 1,345
    Sorry, I should have said:
    Spoilers for
    The Dark Knight Returns
    Whatever happens to the Man of Tomorrow
    Man of Steel
  • greyman24 said:

    When I first read it, it didn't mean much. I mean, I connected with Joker in a way I never had before. That was its genius--to humanize the Joker by giving him a backstory that was as tragic and relatable as Batman's. And neither one of them seemed to have gotten out of it unscathed.

    But don't you feel there should be more to a story (not necessarily art, but story in particular) than to stir emotion? If I had a comic that was 20 pages of a person being beaten, it would stir emotion, but it wouldn't be a particularly good story.

    My best friend and I used to argue about the story. While we both liked the basic story and the art, we had differences over it. He disliked Bolland's handling of the Joker flashback to his days with the Red Hood gang, pointing out that Bolland's choice of period clothing and backgrounds tended to put the account in an earlier era, like the 1940's, rather than just a few years past, and seemed out of place in a literal accounting of the events. I felt then, as I do now, that the flashback wasn't a true memory but was rather the way that the Joker remembered it, and as such was colored by his narcissism. That's why the account was so sympathetic to him, and why it was set in an earlier and (to him) a more innocent time. The biggest clue to this was in his own dialogue: "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes I remember it another." His version of his own origin is as distorted as he is. That's the subtlety that, in my opinion, escapes a lot of readers.
  • nweathingtonnweathington Posts: 5,184
    Caliban said:

    First thoughts are that if it wasn't in the script then it was not Moore's intention.
    However, let us accept that the creative artist doesn't always really know what their artwork is about. Don Siegal didn't think that Invasion of the Body Snatchers was about McCarthyism (although he conceded the link later on).

    The idea that Batman kills the Joker at the end gives us a neat conclusion but for me it doesn't fit in with the rest of the book. Batman's speech at the start suggest he can foresee a situation where he would be forced to kill the Joker, rather than he would make a deliberate choice to do so. Moore neatly winks at the events of the Dark Knight Returns which was published 2 years before the Killing Joke. Batman is anticipating the kind of situation that Superman finds himself in at the controversial conclusion to the Man of Steel movie, he didn't set out to kill Zod but finds himself in a position where he can do nothing else (possibly Zod is complicit in this if we accept the 'suicide by cop' argument). Moore placed Superman in a similar situation at the end of Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow?.

    However, I don't think Batman is predicting a situation where he has defeated the Joker's goons, overcome all the obstacles that the Clown Prince of Crime placed in his way, captured the white faced psychopath, shared a joke with him, and then as the laughter dies away reaches over and snaps the Joker's neck. In fact the book makes clear that Batman is seeking to avoid this. Gordon tells him "You have to show him our way works". I find nothing in the book that suggests Batman is ready to give up on 'our way' yet. He wants to bring Joker to justice, lock him up before he cripples anyone else, and (hopefully) rehabilitate him.

    Having read Supergods it seems to me that one of Grant Morrison's beliefs is that he has mystical insights into the workings of the universe that are denied to most of the rest of us. He likes to portray himself as the guy who knows what's really going on, who can see what the rest of us miss. He is the guy in the bar who looks at us with amused contempt on his face and says "Of course, Aliens is about the Vietnam war. You didn't just think it was a pretty cool monster movie did you?".

    In my version of Batman's continuity he does eventually find himself in the no win scenario where he has no choice but to snap Joker's neck, and even then he can't bring himself to do it. He's not even Atticus Finch who has to kill a mad dog but hates his own ability to do so. And he certainly doesn't dispatch the Joker at the end of the Killing Joke as the camera pans down to look at the rain hitting the puddles.

    Still I concede it is a neat talking point.

    Your Morrison comments aside, this pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter.

    greyman24 said:

    When I first read it, it didn't mean much. I mean, I connected with Joker in a way I never had before. That was its genius--to humanize the Joker by giving him a backstory that was as tragic and relatable as Batman's. And neither one of them seemed to have gotten out of it unscathed.

    But don't you feel there should be more to a story (not necessarily art, but story in particular) than to stir emotion? If I had a comic that was 20 pages of a person being beaten, it would stir emotion, but it wouldn't be a particularly good story.

    My best friend and I used to argue about the story. While we both liked the basic story and the art, we had differences over it. He disliked Bolland's handling of the Joker flashback to his days with the Red Hood gang, pointing out that Bolland's choice of period clothing and backgrounds tended to put the account in an earlier era, like the 1940's, rather than just a few years past, and seemed out of place in a literal accounting of the events. I felt then, as I do now, that the flashback wasn't a true memory but was rather the way that the Joker remembered it, and as such was colored by his narcissism. That's why the account was so sympathetic to him, and why it was set in an earlier and (to him) a more innocent time. The biggest clue to this was in his own dialogue: "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes I remember it another." His version of his own origin is as distorted as he is. That's the subtlety that, in my opinion, escapes a lot of readers.
    I don’t know that this point escapes all that many readers. Maybe it does, but everyone I’ve talked about it with feels that Joker’s flashback depiction is either filled with half-truths or completely fabricated.
  • MattMatt Posts: 3,920
    First, I take anything Morrison says about Batman with a grain of salt. I think he makes comments matter of factly just to get the press. Remember the whole 'Batman is a homosexual' bit?

    If Batman (or Joker) killed the other person, then wouldn't that effect the main continuity? Maybe, Mr. Morrison, people didn't just to the same conclusion because Barbara's paralysis from this story carried over in continuity and neither Batman or Joker's death did.

    M
  • edited September 2013
    I am an English major and one thing you have to understand with those who analyse texts is that the majority of texts can be analysed to give whatever message you want. The question then becomes whether the writer, and in this case artist as well, intentionally put that message in or it is just a coincidence. If it is a coincidence then there will be a lot of people who read the message from the text anyway because there just in that frame of mind.

    However, I will concede the point that it is very impressive when a text takes on a powerful message for which it wasn't specifically direct.

    At the end of the day, we see what messages we want in text and we can justify that message through our knowledge and experiences. If Morrison honestly sees that, then that is what he sees. If Moore/Bolland intended it to be there, then it is there, and if they didn't intend it to be there, then people will find it anyway.


    Now all that being said, I just took it as if they laughed, the joked faded, and then the story artistically faded away as well, but I can see how that could subtly happen. BTW, Batman's arm is more at the Joker's chest than round his neck despite my first glance being that Batman is choking the Joker. But if we are nit-picking, I don't think that Batman would have laughed with the Joker about anything, even if Batman went momentarily insane and killed the Joker.

    Say it with me, AM-BIG-U-IT-Y
  • As an English major, you must also be familiar with the many facets of critical analysis--that the text has a life beyond the writer. An in-depth critical analysis looks at a work of fiction from the perspective of the time and place a story was written, the time and place the story was set, the mind-set of the writer and the perspective of the AUDIENCE. This philosophy states that the author's intentions are but one aspect of scrutiny. Once the story is created, the work belongs to the audience as much as the work's creator...if not more.

    Not saying that Moore's intention was meaningless. Just that it's not the be-all, end-all.

    And the other idea was that Moore may not have written it into the script for the reasons previously stated--he and Bolland wanted to get it past the editors.

    I purposely ignored Morrison's statement with regard to the neck-snapping. That seemed excessive and melodramatic--not to mention repetitious, considering the RDK story. There have been loads of conspiracy theories trying to break down other possible methods for death.

    When this book was written, it was done with the knowledge that it would be out of continuity. After all, it was a "for mature audiences, only" story--still relatively new territory for mainstream comic characters. It was only later that Barbara Gordon's paralysis was considered to be part of mainstream.

    They could have killed off Joker, Batman, Gordon and blown Gotham up if they wanted.
  • MattMatt Posts: 3,920
    You're right, it was written to be out of continuity, but I can recall seeing that anywhere established on the publication. I also don't recall it be said at the time of its release.

    I agree, Barbara's injuries were picked up by the titles afterward and Moore stated it was designed as an out of continuity story, but I'd argue (based on my memory) that it wasn't established that way until much later. I'd say it wouldn't be out of the range of possibility that most people read this as continuity long before it was known to have been created otherwise.

    M
  • Oh, and agreed on Morrison. He seems incredibly sure of himself on just about everything he discusses. That's what happens when everyone treats you like a rock star.

    As far as it fitting with the rest of the book, I would argue that the book fading out on a joke is far more antithetical to the rest of the book than one of them being killed by the other.

    Throughout the whole book, we're seeing moments of tragedy and introspection. Joker and Batman are both considering their place in the world, and what each means to the other. The horror and sadness ramps up throughout the book, both through the Joker's off-kilter view of his own history (one version of it, anyway) and through Batman dealing with the results of the Joker's insanity.

    Then, at the end, the two of them are laughing. Fade out.

    As apropos as the joke may be to their lives (Batman offering a lifeline to Joker that the Joker "daren't" take), the two of them just laughing at the joke and makes all of the horrible things the Joker has done seem meaningless. He has not made Batman see the folly in sanity, and Batman has not made Joker see the value in empathy/sanity/justice.

    If one, or the other, or both die at the end, we see the inevitable end of their war--utter destruction. Batman cannot exist without Joker. Joker cannot exist without Batman. But both are dedicated to the end of the other. And the story is brought to the end that is built throughout.
  • popestupopestu Posts: 782
    edited April 2015

    "Of course, Aliens is about the Vietnam war. You didn't think it was just a cool monster movie did you?"


    LOL
  • CalibanCaliban Posts: 1,345
    The resurrection of this old thread reminds me that I recently read an interesting critique of the Killing Joke by an academic. He has a similar suggestion about the ending which he published a year before Grant Morrison's appearance on the Kevin Smith podcast.

    http://www.amazon.com/Universe-Big-Understanding-Batman-Killing/dp/1481041703/
  • popestupopestu Posts: 782
    @Caliban
    Thanks for the readers' digest version.
    Is the book worth the read?
  • CalibanCaliban Posts: 1,345
    It's an interesting but fairly short read. I enjoyed it
  • popestupopestu Posts: 782
    Caliban said:

    It's an interesting but fairly short read. I enjoyed it

    Cool. I may look into it.
  • CalibanCaliban Posts: 1,345
    Posted by George Khoury on facebook:

    "In 2013, Grant Morrison stated Batman snapped the Joker's neck and kills him in the final off-camera moments of the book. Everyone went nuts with this ludicrous notion despite the fact that no such thing was mentioned in the script. Silly Internet. A few days ago, Moore put a nail in the coffin to the idea in a Q & A for Goodreads. He said, "My intention at the end of that book was to have the two characters simply experiencing a brief moment of lucidity in their ongoing very weird and probably fatal relationship with each other, reaching a moment where they both perceive the hell that they are in, and can only laugh at their preposterous situation. A similar chuckle is shared by the doomed couple at the end of the remarkable Jim Thompson’s original novel, The Getaway." "
  • regardless of how I wish it to end, it did not end in Batman strangling the Joker. The silhouette showed Batman's hands on Joker's shoulders not neck
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