If you’re a fan of Batman, there’s no way you haven’t read Alan Moore’s 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke. If you haven’t, drop everything you’re doing, rush to your local comic store (or just head over to Amazon), rush back home, and read it cover to cover. It’s without a doubt one of the finest achievements in the history of Batman comics, with Moore’s story focusing on the clown prince of crime, past and present.
Being one of the primary “grown-up graphic novels,” The Killing Joke is a dark, twisted, and mature tale filled with disturbing content and characters that make maniacal decisions (from the antagonist and maybe even the protagonist). In this story, the Joker breaks into Barbara Gordon’s apartment and paralyzes her, and he also kidnaps Jim and tortures him in an run-down amusement park, where he then makes him a part of the freak show. And it also gives us the definitive origin story for the Joker, presenting him as a struggling comedian who reaches his breaking point because of Batman, thus establishing his natural feud with him.
It’s taken a long while, but after a 2011 tweet from Mark Hamill proposing a petition for the film to be made (and his subsequent return to the role of the villain), The Killing Joke is finally being made into an animated feature. This was announced at Comic-Con this year, you’ll know, but Hamill’s involvement hasn’t been confirmed until today, when Collider reported that Hamill will, in fact, reprise his role as the famous jester.
So why is this big news? Because Hamill is the definitive Joker. Yes, Heath Ledger’s adaptation is just as iconic and great, but the truth is, that was a Joker for different kind of franchise. Ledger was his Joker. Hamill is the Joker. No one has been able to bring the character to the screen in such a way that his version becomes what I hear when I read the comics; no one except Mark Hamill.
I don’t think there’s any question that Batman: The Animated Series is the best Batman adaptation to ever hit television or movies, and one of the reasons for that is without a doubt Mark Hamill, who brought everything and then some to the role of the Joker. He set the standard for voice acting in movies, and it came as a shock to everyone that he could be universally recognized for something other than Star Wars.
Hamill has had a past with deceiving his fans (or himself, maybe) via his Twitter account, where he has, on more than one occasion, announced his retirement from the role. After voicing the character in the hit video games Batman: Arkham Asylum, Hamill announced that he would retire. Then came word of Arkham City, and that changed rather quickly. Even later than that, Hamill said that he would be on board for voicing the Joker in an adaptation of The Killing Joke. And only a few days ago, when someone tweeted him and asked if he was still going to be involved, he tweeted back, “My fingers are still crossed.”
Well, we’re getting it. Hamill is the Joker again for the first time since The Animated Series. I can’t wait to see this thing.
Batman: The Killing Joke will be released in 2016.