Why I Think This Is The Darkest Batman Comic Ever Made

The 1980s weren’t just an important period for DC Comics, but comic books in general, mostly thanks to Frank Miller’s timeless classic The Dark Knight Returns that came out in 1986 and paved the way for modern American superhero comic books, which became darker, more serious and they became actual works of art and not just pieces of entertainment. One could easily say that it was in 1986 that American superhero comic books became actual literature. DC Comics pioneered this movement and The Dark Knight Rises was just the beginning of a series of brilliant comic books. Among them is Alan Moore’s cult classic title The Killing Joke, which came out in 1988 and is going to be the topic of today’s article.

By most artistic and commercial standards, Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, which came out in 1988, is the darkest Batman comic book ever written both due to its visuals and its themes.

Today’s article is going to give you the answer to the question – what is the darkest Batman comic book of all time. I am going to introduce you The Killing Joke, what it is about, why it is considered such a masterpiece and finally explain why Moore’s timeless classic is truly the darkest Batman story ever written.

What is the darkest Batman comic book ever written?

This is actually the main question of today’s article and although you’ve gotten your answer at the beginning of the article, it is still important to stress out the context in which The Killing Joke is the darkest Batman comic book of all time.

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Batman is known as one of the darker superheroes in the history of American comic books. Even the campy Golden Age version of the character was much “darker” than some other contemporary characters that appeared alongside him. When Frank Miller revolutionized superhero comic books in the 1980s, Batman stories became even darker and throughout the years, we’ve seen some really disturbing stories.

A Death in the Family, albeit published back in 1972, was an early example of the darkness present in Batman stories, but it was easily surpassed from the 80s onwards. The Long Halloween, Death of the Family, and Endgame are just some never examples (from the 90s until recently) that contain very dark, twisted and bizarre stories, but none of them really compare to the masterpiece that Alan Moore created in 1988 and what follows is an explanation why that is so.

Why is The Killing Joke the darkest Batman comic ever written?

The Killing Joke was published as a one-shot comic book in 1988 with the intention of exploring the Joker’s origins and psychology from a darker, more personal point of view. This was a decision by DC’s editors from that time and they asked Alan Moore, a comic book legend known for such dark stories as From Hell, V for Vendetta and “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”, to write a story, which he accepted. And the rest is history.

In short, The Killing Joke starts off with the story of an unnamed stand-up comedian whose career ends before it even started. Without money and a proper job, he also has to take care of a pregnant wife. One night, he is approached by two suspicious guys who offer him some money if he’ll help them break into Ace Chemicals, the chemical factory where he had worked before he decided to pursue a career in comedy.

Credit DC Comics

Reluctantly, the unnamed character accepts, and although he wants to back up later, after his wife is killed in a traffic accident along with their unborn child, he is persuaded into doing it. He is given a red mask and, dressed as the criminal Red Hood, he breaks into the factory, where he encounters Batman. After a freak accident, he falls into a chemical vat and supposedly dies. It is later revealed that he had survived the fall and that the chemicals corroded his already fragile mind and turned him into the Joker.

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Years later, the Joker breaks out of Arkham and begins executing his plan of driving James Gordon and Batman insane, clarifying that anyone could turn into him after just “one bad day”. He shoots Barbara Gordon in the back, leaving her paralyzed (he supposedly even rapes her after the shooting, but that was never explicitly confirmed), and kidnaps her father, whom he subjects to bizarre psychological torture.

Credit DC Comics

Batman finds him and saves Gordon, but the ambiguous ending leaves the story open to interpretations, which range from the theory that nothing happened to the one that Batman went mad and killed his archenemy.

If the story itself wasn’t enough to convince you, here are some details that certainly prove my thesis. The graphic novel is exceptionally graphic (pun intended). The scene of Barbara’s shooting is depicted (the rape scene wasn’t shown, but that was due to the ambiguity of the moment), and Gordon’s torture at the hands of the Joker was, for the standards of the time, exceptionally bizarre and in a way avant-garde, comparable to some David Lynch movies or some later Batman stories involving Professor Pyg.

On top of that, the sheer terror created by the Joker and the psychological study of his twisted mind, the manner in which he actually planned on torturing both Gordon and Batman is something that is unparalleled, even in Batman stories, and these stories contain Professor Pyg’s sadomasochism, Nekron’s resurrections of dead characters, Joker cutting of his face and wearing it as a mask, and other shocking moments.

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Words aren’t really enough to convey the darkness of this comic (which is why you can check out some of the panels here on the site) and there is really no way to completely feel this story without reading it, which is what you should certainly do. The Killing Joke is not only the darkest Batman story, it is also one of the best ever written and it would be a shame if you missed it!