What Did Happen at the End of the Killing Joke?


This week there’s been an almighty fuss in the world of comics over Grant Morrison’s comments to Kevin Smith about the end of the Killing Joke.

The jist is that Grant tells Smith that the Batman kills the Joker at the end of the book which comes as a huge shock to Smith, and it seems, a huge majority of online fans who are stunned that this shocking new appraisal which has made readers sit up and take notice again after 26 years.

Except the problem is that the whole point of The Killing Joke being called The Killing Joke is that the final joke the Joker tells is what kills him, and possibly the Batman but as Morrison says, it’s left deliberately ambiguous so DC could do what they wanted with it which essentially means keeping it in the continuity of their comics.

The problem isn’t Morrison suggesting that nobody has ever said this before when they have, and in fact it’s something I remember personally being discussed back in the day when the book came out and it’d been ripped from it’s little boxes and people read it for the first time. There was discussion at this at various conventions of the time, including UKCAC, and various signings over the years. I remember the ending being frequently discussed and the ambiguous ending being something for which Moore was praised for.

No, the problem is the incredulous reaction which shows just how literal readers, especially it seem younger readers, are. Not to mention how ignorant many are of the history of comics, even from those earning a living in the industry, so we have a situation where people are digging up the script to show how it does or doesn’t support their point of view and the reaction has become insanely frantic as people all over the net trip over themselves to sound as dim as Kevin Smith does in his interview with Morrison.

The end is open for interpretation which is the point, and the fact people are still talking about an average Alan Moore story shows how much better even a half decent Moore story is than 99% of most superhero comics, but the reaction to this ‘news’ shows just how poor comics criticism has become, and just how literal people want their superhero comics to be. It’s a sad indictment of modern superhero comics that a 26 year old story gets more discussion than most other comics being published today in mainstream superhero comics. Where’s the Killing Joke of 2013?

Truth is there won’t be as nobody seems capable, or indeed, willing to try and that’s the really sad thing about all this fuss.


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