Grant Morrison recently guested on an episode of Kevin Smith’s Fat Man on Batman, where he provided an interpretation of the ending of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. Richard Starkings, letterer of The Killing Joke, disagrees with that interpretation. Click the jump to see more.
Admittedly, if you caught me about four years ago, I would not be able to speak very much on Batman. My admiration for Batman really came very suddenly and very inexplicably. Though some would call me a bandwagon due to the recent success of Nolan’s Dark Knight at the time, I remember that after two viewings of it, I still wasn’t quite as transfixed with the hero yet. You had to give it about a year and half, and that’s when I started devouring anything I could find on the Caped Crusader. I wouldn’t attribute it to him, but I can say that filmmaker/podcaster Kevin Smith’s continuous praise of Batman really encouraged me to really geek out over him. Though not my favorite of the Smodcast Network, Smith’s Batman-centric podcast entitled Fat Man on Batman has remained a staple on my play list ever since it’s inception. Smith won me over permanently when he had a few episode run involving voice actors from Batman: The Animated Series.
One of the more memorable episodes was a two-parter featuring Batman, Inc writer Grant Morrison waxing poetic on Batman, his approach to writing him and why people are drawn to him. Smith was so enamored with Morrison’s mesmerizing and almost transcendental thesis on the Dark Knight that it warranted a return. One of the things Smith loved about Morrison’s appearance was his interesting and insightful interpretation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Intrigued by his analysis, Smith wanted more and Morrison returned on the August 15th edition of Fat Man of Batman, where he dropped a bomb. Morrison provided a mind-blowing interpretation to the ending of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke that lit up the entire Internet.
“Batman kills the Joker. That’s why it’s called The Killing Joke. The Joker tells “the killing joke” at the end, Batman reaches out and breaks his neck and that’s why the laughter stops and the light goes out at the end, is because that was their last chance at crossing that bridge. And Alan wrote the ultimate Batman/Joker story–he finished it.”
Unlike most folks following that revelation, I wasn’t quite so convinced. Although, I didn’t have my own personal interpretation aside from Batman sharing in a strange moment of madness with his archnemesis, I never looked too much into it. It was an unexpected ending to a masterpiece. I loved Morrison’s interpretation of the ending, as it made a lot of sense, but I was unsure as to how valid his interpretation was. As the news spread across the Internet, people were saying that Morrison confirmed it, but I didn’t quite understand how Morrison could confirm it when he didn’t write the darn thing. But people started taking the insightful interpretation as fact. However, someone who was involved in the actual creation of the book decided to speak out.
Richard Starkings, letterer of The Killing Joke, posted on Facebook upon hearing of it:
“This came up as soon as the book came out. Brian [Bolland] said to me, he’s just leaning on the Joker because he’s laughing so hard, what’s the big deal? Oh, wait, no, he said Batman is breaking the Joker’s neck. Yeah, that was it.”
Though Starkings was being sarcastic, people took that as confirmation, so Starkings decided to delete that post and made a more succinct post:
“No. They are laughing. Batman is laughing so hard he leans on the Joker for support. The End. Brian described it to me that way when this craziness first came up. In 1986.”
Unfortunately, I was unable to find any of his posts on Facebook, but I did find a brief conversation on his Twitter in which he corrected a fan who took his original post as confirmation.
— Richard Starkings (@Comicraft) August 17, 2013
At the same time, the last page of The Killing Joke script surfaced online. If you read paragraphs 3-6, it doesn’t confirm that Batman snapped Joker’s neck, but it heavily implies that something may or may not have happened, when Moore writes:
“He and Joker are going to kill each other one day. It’s preordained, they may as well enjoy this rare moment of contact while it lasts.”
If you continue reading, you’ll find that he doesn’t make any mention of the laughter’s abrupt stop either, it just does as he moves on to another panel, describing the visuals.
Given everything that I’ve compiled today, it’s still pretty inconclusive to me. I’m leaning more towards Morrison’s interpretation because of Moore’s ambiguity. It’s clear to me that there was a little more to that ending that may not have been specifically mentioned in the script. Moore seems like the kind of writer that is very thoughtful about what he puts to paper and leaving it open-ended it like that makes me believe that there’s more to it than what’s on the script. Though, it’s hard to argue with someone who actually worked on the book.
What do you think? Do you agree with Morrison’s analysis? Or do you believe Starkings? What’s your interpretation of the ending? Let me know.