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"Batman: The Killing Joke" Talkback (Spoilers)

Discussion in 'DC Comics and Collectibles' started by James Harvey, Oct 13, 2002.

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  1. RAINMAN

    RAINMAN Kikoutei Densetsu

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    This storie is one of the reason why all viallin should not be giving drama queen orgines. Don`t get me its a good origine but it does not fit the joker. I`m supposed to fell sorry for a guy that has made people life a living hell fro the past 50 years? I don`t think so. Althougth I will say this story has change joker comic book career around from being a lame viallin whit clawn make up into the creepy monster he is today. I look at it that way its not a really bad story. Althougth alien did go to far whit certain things even for a comic book.:eek:
     
  2. Dark Night

    Dark Night Member

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    I loved a line i heard in a recent issue of Wizard that went something like : "comics finally hit puberty with this story"--I entirely agree...
     
  3. Silly McGooses

    Silly McGooses Active Member

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    I tend to agree also. This is one of my very favorites.
     
  4. James Harvey

    James Harvey The World's Finest
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    DC Comics re-releases this classic Batman story!

    BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE


    [​IMG]

    Written by: Alan Moore & Brian Bolland
    Art and cover by: Brian Bolland

    The classic Batman tale by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland returns in an all-new special edition! The Joker's origin is revealed for the first time in this tale of insanity and human perseverance. Looking to prove that any man can be pushed past his breaking point, the Joker attempts to drive Commissioner Gordon insane. After shooting and permanently paralyzing his daughter Barbara (a.k.a. Batgirl), the Joker kidnaps Gordon and attacks his mind in hopes of breaking him. This edition - celebrating the 20th anniversary of the landmark work - features all-new coloring by Bolland, and includes the story "An Innocent Guy," previously featured in Batman: Black & White!

    Comments?
     
  5. Silly McGooses

    Silly McGooses Active Member

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    I bought the "Deluxe Version" on impulse--it was wrapped in plastic, so it was sort of a blind buy. I love the story and thought it was worth owning in a nice, oversized hard-cover.

    I am pretty dissapointed. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I am very displeased with this. The re-coloring sounded like a good idea, but, to me, basically destroys the book. I had no idea how radical it was going to be.

    Yes, I know, it's supposed to reflect the original intention of the artwork. And the original coloring was a bit...er...Schumacher-ish. But basically what we have here is The Killing Joke, usually considered to be one of the great Batman stories of all time, totally washed out, partially redrawn, with all sorts of unnecessary shading all over it on glossy, bright paper. It's sort of like Lucas' Star Wars re-edits, only more extreme. The best analogy I can think of is watching Tim Burton's Batman with the color turned off and the brightness on your TV turned up all the way.

    Some of the changes are sort of cool. All of the Joker's flashbacks, for example, are in black and white, except for some selected red objects including, of course, the Hood. However, like all the colors in this edition, it's not really red, but a washed-out, greyish pink. Some might prefer the new, more realistic, drab colors in the opening Arkham scene. But in the end, I think the re-coloring was an enormous mistake, existing only to serve the ego of artist Brian Bolland.

    John Higgins' original coloring was maybe a bit too psychadellic, but Bolland seems trying to be just as drab as possible to compensate. There is also a lot of digital airbrushing on the colors, which I think is distracting and, like usual with that sort of thing, looks like it's done just for the heck of it.

    For me, the book had a sort of strange, nightmarish quality largely due to those vivid, dark colors. There is, by the way, a LOT less black here, too.
    To my mind there are several scenes that are basically destroyed by the new coloring, including every part that takes place at the carnival. Jim Gordon's ride through the funhouse just looks like every other part of the book--it's no longer a hellish LSD trip. The insanity and horror of the scene is really subdued. I don't like the final scene, where Batman and Joker share a laugh, nearly as much in this new rendition, either.

    I could nitpick for hours, but you get the idea.

    I think some people might like it a lot, if only because Bolland says it is the definitive version of his work. Now, I think Bolland is a great artist. His work on penciling The Killing Joke really is fantastic--nobody draws the joker like him. But he did a really lousy job here, in my opinion. Ditto for his "Batman: Black and White" story also featured here, newly colored (totally unnecessary).

    Hopefully someday there will be a new, really nice hardcover edition of the original version, or a version that includes both the original, the revised version, and maybe even a penciled version. As is, this book is not the Killing Joke I know and love.
     
  6. dtemplar

    dtemplar Old School Professor
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    This should be the next DC Universe DVD.

    Just get Paul Dini to write the script, and have Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their Batman: The Animated Series roles and it'll make a fortune.

    *****
     
  7. Wonder Woman

    Wonder Woman Well-Known Member

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    It seems that the recoloring of the book is catching some attention:

    http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/03/25/remastering-old-work-kosher-or-not/

    http://www.popcultureshock.com/index.php?p=43466

    My current copy of The Killing Joke is in rough shape and I have been eying this but I'm still not sure. And I have to wonder why DC thought to just erase the yellow oval all together. Why do that? It's like they're trying to wipe it from existence. I have no problem with the yellow oval and I have to admit that it looks a bit odd without it on those recolored pages. The story is great and if I can get the hardcover for a good price I'll likely pay for it and try and keep my current copy just for the sake of keeping the original colored version of it. The recoloring seems to be getting mixed reviews.
     
  8. James Harvey

    James Harvey The World's Finest
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    Just in time for The Dark Knight and cited as partial inspiration for the late Heath Ledger's performance in the movie, discuss this classic Batman story!

    BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE

    [​IMG]

    Written by: Alan Moore
    Art by: Brian Bolland

    For the first time the Joker's origin is revealed in this tale of insanity and human perseverance. Looking to prove that any man can be pushed past his breaking point and go mad, the Joker attempts to drive Commissioner Gordon insane. After shooting and permanently paralyzing his daughter Barbara (a.k.a. Batgirl), the Joker kidnaps the commissioner and attacks his mind in hopes of breaking the man. But refusing to give up, Gordon maintains his sanity with the help of Batman in an effort to best the madman.

    Comments? What are your thoughts?
     
  9. Tobias

    Tobias Who you gonna call?

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    All my experiences with the Joker have been through the t.v. shows and movies, and I thought Jack Nicholson's version was evil and psychotic.

    Then one day I picked up this book, and 'Death in the Family', out of curiosity when I heard a Robin had been killed off.

    ... Wow. Gave me a whole new perspective on the Joker. Paralyzing Barbara and bashing Robin's head in with a crowbar are the two most defining Joker moments for me.
     
  10. klammed

    klammed the fool.

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    Okay I so need to get my edition of this book back from my friend, the original softback edition. I just saw the picture comparisons on one of the links.. and is it just me, or was the original more striking? As in... he looks more nuts in the last panel there than in the more monochromatic rendering.. and more stark.

    Anyway, the story itself is hell awesome. Visually poetic too (the raindrops, batmobile's headlights in the beginning, police car headlights and raindrops again at the end).. things go in a cycle, things stay the same despite everything? Take your pick. And the absurdity of life in a way, "one bad day" is all it takes. Both Bats and Joker had a bad day once, and it changed them. Gordon's had a bad day, but he's the ever shining cop of justice, and at the end of it, proves Joker's theory wrong.

    So where does that leave the Joker?

    There are so many questions asked about the characters in this short (relatively) piece it's amazing.
     
  11. defunctzombie

    defunctzombie 1992 not 2002
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    I'm sort of mixed in my feelings for the recolor. In some spots it's really nice, like in the Batcave where you see the Bat Family picture and everyone's colored in. But in others it isn't as nice, like when Gordon is going through the tunnels. The LSD trip coloring in the original makes things seem more intense. The recolored Joker also looks a little funny with the new shadows, but the flashbacks are very nice. Looks like I'm keeping both.:anime:
     
  12. defunctzombie

    defunctzombie 1992 not 2002
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    Hey sorry about the double post, but I have to ask this question: is there any (significant) difference between the printings of the original prestige format? All I know is that mine is yellow. :sweat:
     
  13. The New Titans

    The New Titans Man of Marvel Marching Society

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    Alan Moore and Batman. Perfect combination, and one that gave us the definitive potrait of the Joker in comics.
     
  14. Shawn Hopkins

    Shawn Hopkins TZ Member of the Year 2013

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    This is only a five year bump, right?

    Anyway, Grant Morrison is on Kevin Smith's latest Fatman on Batman podcast, and he shares his theory about what he thinks happens at the end of The Killing Joke.

    SModcast | More with Morrison

    The Killing Joke ending revealed?

    It's something I've always darkly suspected, but did some mental gymnastics to come up with an alternate solution because it's so dark and nihilistic. But the clarity with which Morrison lays it out and the symbolism involved, it becomes obvious that this was the intended ending. Remember, The Killing Joke was never intended, at first, to be an in continuity story. There's an image of Batwoman in it, for example.

    Morrison's theory is simple. Batman kills the Joker off panel. That's why he's reaching for him, to break his neck before the approaching police arrive and start the cycle of arrest, escape, atrocity over. That's why the laughter abruptly stops. And that's why the symbolic image of the light beam on the ground produced by the police car goes out. It shows the point where it's shut off, just like in the Joker's joke, with no hope of rescue for the Joker. This isn't even hidden in subtext, Batman says at one point in the book that if he can't save the Joker then one of them will kill the other. After making one last, hugely ethical effort to save the Joker despite his monstrous evil, the Joker finally convinces Batman that it's hilariously hopeless. So Batman does the only thing left.

    So for all the unease everyone felt about the ending and the joke and it not exactly fitting, you were right. It didn't fit with D.C.'s attempt to shoehorn this into an in-continuity story that the Joker survives. But it fits perfectly with Morrison's interpretation and it even explains the title.

    This is done in a way to make it ambiguous enough to get through DC, of course. There's no neck cracking sound effect. It isn't shown directly. And even Batman's hands aren't exactly in the position to kill the Joker, although it's easy to see he could be sliding them that way.
     
  15. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    I've seen Morrison's argument cropping up lately and I think it's a valid interpretation of what happens on panel, but I don't find it as convincing. I find myself agreeing more than not with Joseph Hughes in his opinion piece about it on Comics Alliance, where he points out that the "Batman kills the Joker" alternative is horribly out of tune with Gordon's take on things. Lifting his paragraph because it sums things up:

    Digging into that angle a bit deeper, The Killing Joke presents three ways to deal with shocking, senseless, and life-changing tragedy:

    1. Break under the strain counter-productively (the Joker)
    2. Break under the strain productively (Batman)
    3. Don't break under the strain (Gordon)

    If you view Batman's response to his personal tragedy as straddling the response of the Joker and Gordon (Batman has broken under the strain, but clearly still wants to operate within SOME societal norms and on the side of the law), killing the Joker at the end of the book pushes him pretty firmly to the side of the Joker rather than Gordon. I think that's a terrible message to be sending and, in the end, would actually validate nearly everything the Joker says in the book. I certainly don't think that this is what Alan Moore had in mind from the start when he wrote it.

    I don't think the "Batman doesn't kill so therefore this argument makes no sense" is simplistic because I think that angle is core to Batman's character. Take that away and, to my mind, you don't really have Batman any more. Sometimes breaking the rules is a way to be shocking and surprising and release a tremendous rush of energy into a story or a character, but sometimes that just breaks the character. I think having Batman kill the Joker would be a case of the latter, while Morrison and those arguing for the ending think it's the former. Again, I can see that side of the argument, but I still don't agree with it.
     
  16. Shawn Hopkins

    Shawn Hopkins TZ Member of the Year 2013

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    That's the rationalization I fed myself for years to avoid seeing what's there. I read it, saw what seemed to be intended, and said, "Nah, that's too dark. That can't be right," and then made up a happy ending in my head where the Joker goes to jail like every other comic. Hughes is definitely doing that, he essentially uses "good story" as a synonym for "story that makes me feel good." His argument that Batman killing the Joker would be a worse story doesn't hinge on how the pieces fit together in terms of storytelling, just on the fact it would send too grim a message for him to be comfortable.

    I wanted it to have a less nihilistic ending where the good guy holds on, too. But that's the story we'd like to see, if you look at it without that preconception the story Moore is actually telling becomes crystal clear, everything is foreshadowed and symbolic.

    Batman won't necessarily do what Gordon wants because he isn't as good or sane a man as Gordon. That's why he laughs, because there's some truth to what the Joker is saying. And note that when Gordon says he wants him brought in by the book, Batman doesn't say "Yes." He says, "I'll do my best," reinforcing the fatalistic "him or me" line that runs through the book.

    He's going to try, he does try by making the offer, but he's not guaranteeing he'll succeed. And when the Joker rejects the offer, there's no other choice. Even if didn't happen here, they'd just be delaying the inevitable. But since this has the feeling of a "final" Batman story, it happened here. And since it's the final story, it doesn't matter if he breaks the character. He broke Superman in "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" too.

    In other words, Alan Moore wrote a comic book story so dark and shocking that most of us have been in denial about it for 20 years. And if you told him that ending was too dark, considering how little regard he holds for the work, he might even agree with you. But it seems to be the one he intended at the time.

    Oh yeah, another reason why he breaks his neck. It's an echo of Dark Knight Returns. In Dark Knight Returns Batman lets the Joker go so long that in the end he has to break his own neck. I think this is Moore's reaction to that.
     
    #76 Shawn Hopkins, Aug 23, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2013
  17. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    As I said, I've seen the arguments and I still don't find them convincing enough. It's not because I want a story that has a happy ending or one that makes me feel good, especially because I don't think it's possible or appropriate to use those words for a comic book where a major character is crippled for life (or editorial mandate, whichever comes first). I think if you're doing a Batman story, one of the ground rules is "Batman doesn't kill people." Moore understands perfectly that there are rules you have to follow for certain characters to work, some of which are mechanical and some of which are character driven. Tarzan as the lead in a Jane Austen drama of manners is, effectively, not Tarzan any more (though that might be pretty funny). Any story where Batman opts to kill someone is, to my mind, fundamentally no longer a Batman story (and yes, this disqualifies a lot of the original Bob Kane-era comics). "I'm sorry...but that's not my Batman."

    One other reason why I don't find this argument so compelling is that the ambiguous ending has always been there in plain sight all along, and Alan Moore is a thorough enough writer that if he's leaving an ending to be ambiguous, it's because he explicitly wants it to be ambiguous. There are strong hints in Watchmen that the Comedian was responsible for the murder of Hooded Justice, but even then, there was ambiguity on whether the dead man WAS Hooded Justice AND there was ambiguity on whether it was the Comedian who killed him. There's enough of a trail of breadcrumbs for you to connect those dots and decide "Yeah, the Comedian did it," and that would be in character. But there's also enough deliberate doubt placed there that you can't be sure.

    Moore has famously said that this story isn't "about" anything other than Batman and the Joker and isn't terribly interesting, and he's also a self-aggrandizing enough writer that if he had intended there to be hidden meaning, he'd have said so or at least dropped hints about it. If Alan Moore wanted Batman to kill the Joker, he'd have had Batman kill the Joker, and the counter-argument that "he changed it because DC wouldn't have let him do that" falls down when you consider that Moore left DC Comics in 1987 (a year before Killing Joke was published) at least partially because he disagreed with DC applying a ratings system to his comics (lots of talk about this in his interview with TCJ). If DC said, "No you can't do that," at that point in his career, Moore would have said, "then go find someone else to write this story," not go through the trouble to hide it in plain sight.

    I think it's breathtakingly audacious if Morrison is actually claiming that this is what Moore intended, but all the text I've seen about it is just Morrison saying this is what he's seeing in it now. And sure, that's one way to look at it, but I don't think it's the right way or the only way, and I don't think I'm in denial about anything just because I don't agree with him. I think the interpretation that "Batman kills the Joker at the end" is a perfectly valid way to read that ending, but the absence of hard evidence means that "Batman and the Joker share a brief laugh, Joker gets in a cop car in handcuffs, everybody leaves and the carnival is quiet again" is also a perfectly valid way to read that ending. I actually think the ambiguity of the ending is part of the point of the exercise, and that you're looking at a Schrodinger's cat ending where the Joker can be dead and alive at the same time.
     
  18. Shawn Hopkins

    Shawn Hopkins TZ Member of the Year 2013

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    Hey, two hard and fast Superman rules are that Superman never kills and he always saves his friends. Moore broke those and a bunch of others in Man of Tomorrow, a similar "last" story. Would you say that isn't a Superman story because it broke the rules? I think the point of being able to tell a "final" story, where real change is allowed after 50 years of stagnation, is that the rules are off the table.

    And yeah, Morrison is saying this is the correct interpretation, his words were something along the lines that everyone misunderstands it. I think that might be a little too far, I respect that you have a different opinion on it and like that there's discussion and debate about it because that's a lot of what makes comics fun. But for me, well, he's right.

    To ignore that theory you have to intentionally ignore the foreshadowing, direct textual acknowledgment that Batman will one day have to kill the Joker if he isn't willing to stop, and visual metaphor that builds to it. The light goes out, man. In the Joker's joke it was Batman who he feared would turn the light out. Also, if Batman didn't see that it all was horribly true, he wouldn't have laughed.

    Or create a much less satisfying, anticlimactic explanation for them. I saw someone on another board try to ignore the light and focus on a bit of dirt being washed away as it were evidence of renewal. Um, no, we were just told a joke about the light beam and there it is. There's too much finality in the way the comic is structured and in the revelations Batman and the Joker have about each other to have it end with the same old cycle repeating itself.

    Another thing is, Batman handcuffing the Joker and putting him in a police car is so significant that it had to be obscured and represented by a visual metaphor? A light going off is a visual metaphor for a pointless cycle repeating itself? Just doesn't add up.

    For me it's kind of like the final scene in Sopranos. It's ambiguous enough that if people really want to think Tony lived, they can, but everything about the work points to his death. And his death is a lot more interesting an outcome than all the foreshadowing being ignored and the same old stuff happening. What creator David Chase has said about the Sopranos ending was that there was "a clean trend on view" for what would eventually, if not that night then some other night, happen to Tony. I think there's obviously a clean trend in The Killing Joke, too, and more interesting if Batman kills the Joker right there than waits and does it later.

    Finally, I don't think Moore would have quit the job just because D.C. wouldn't let the ending be more direct. Because Brian Bolland was depending on that job, too. The book was Bolland's idea, when D.C. told him he could do any book he wanted he asked to do a Batman/Joker story with Moore. I don't think that at that point in his career Moore would have screwed Bolland over on a dream project. Also, he mainly left D.C. over money, not creative issues. He felt he had been "swindled" on reprint rights.
     
    #78 Shawn Hopkins, Aug 23, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2013
  19. Shawn Hopkins

    Shawn Hopkins TZ Member of the Year 2013

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    Okay, this is also interesting. Here is a purported script page from Moore. His directions to Bolland specifically say Batman laughs because has realized the absurdity of the situation and that he and the Joker are going to kill each other one day, so they might as well enjoy one moment of contact while they can. And since he no longer has a reason not to kill him, it just might have been that day.

    So How Did The Joker Die In The Killing Joke? And The Script Of The Final Page - Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movies and TV News and Rumors

    There's also an interesting theory about Batman killing the Joker with his own poisoned needle that works just as well.
     
  20. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    As usual, this is going to take a while and a wall of text ;).

    I mentioned earlier that "Sometimes breaking the rules is a way to be shocking and surprising and release a tremendous rush of energy into a story or a character, but sometimes that just breaks the character." To me, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" isn't so much about taking the rules off the table as much as it's about breaking rules selectively (and not even as many as you'd think) and using the energy that breaking the rule yields. Trying to avoid spoilers, the prime mover revealed at the end of that story is really the only person who consciously breaks the rules he's lived by for decades; everyone else is just a puppet playing to his new tune. The climax of that story is Superman taking someone's life, breaking his rules, BUT his first and only act afterwards is to ensure that Superman as we know him ceases to exist. "I am Superman. I don't kill people. I just killed someone. Therefore, I cannot be Superman any more."

    End of story. Literally.

    To a far lesser extent, I would say John Byrne played by that same game when he got Superman to kill Kryptonians in his run. There were immediate consequences to that act that led to lots of grist for his storytelling mill. But for that reason, I'd say that not only is "WHttMoT?" is not only a Superman story, it's a quintessential Superman story because it fully articulates one of the rules that you need for a Superman story, specifically by showing what happens when you break it.

    Expanding on that point, I would argue that Alan Moore understands the power that comes from breaking the rules and how to use the energy that results. In a sense, the entire theme of V for Vendetta is about how breaking the rules gives you power; everyone in that story who manages to seize control of their destiny does so by breaking the rules that everyone else is expecting them to live by (which is also why, in the end, the image of hundreds of "V"s gathered together in the movie is a powerful image, but also one that misses the point). Almost all of Moore's entire run on Swamp Thing is powered by breaking the one rule that existed for that character: it's really Alec Holland under all the swamp muck. Watchmen is about selectively breaking the rules of pulp fiction and then playing out the results. "I did it 20 minutes ago" gets its power because it's such a flagrant breaking of the rules. Lost Girls gets a good amount of its power (I might even argue all of it) by casting childrens' book heroines in an explicitly pornographic story.

    Given the above, you're going to tell me that Alan Moore is going to break the biggest rule of Batman at the end of The Killing Joke, but not use that energy for anything?

    So this is another reason why I can find Morrison's theory interesting, but not for a second can I believe that it's what Moore intended, or that it is the only correct interpretation of the book. I can't accept that Moore would waste an opportunity like that. The fact that he dismisses the story as "just a story about Batman and the Joker" is also telling to me, because one where Batman ultimately decides to kill the Joker is NOT "just" a story about Batman and the Joker. It immediately becomes THE story about Batman and the Joker.

    (Exercises for the reader: Alan Moore's ABC comics are fun because they mash two or more sets of rulebooks together and then play strictly by the new rules that result, and much of the worst grim-and-gritty comics fail because they think the game is just about breaking the rules, squandering the energy that results from being transgressive.)

    How's this? First page of the book and last page of the book:

    KillingJokePage01.jpg KillingJokePageZZ.jpg

    The first three panels of the book happen to mirror the last 3 panels of the book. They're both 9-panel grids centering on Batman and another character, but it's Gordon in the start and the Joker at the end: another mirror. Moore is a guy who literally wrote a mirror-image comic book to tell the origin of Rorschach in Watchmen, and is also a guy who really gets the power of comic book structure. Can't that explain the "light going out" too?

    Batman's words can easily be interpreted as foreshadowing, but they also just work as text without subtext: this is an uncomfortable truth that Batman has come to realize and he's hoping that saying it out loud can make it something that can be avoided. It would be a spectacular failure on his part if he did the deed himself in the end, and again, to what end? It's just a waste of the energy that results from the transgression.

    That's true, but he did leave Swamp Thing because of those creative/censorship issues and was very vocal about that even at the time. He's also made enough decisions, then and more recently, that had major negative financial impact to him, so I'm also willing to think that the swindling on reprints was less about the money and more about the creative rights at stake and the principle of the thing.

    The poison needle theory went from "interesting textual analysis" straight to "conspiracy theory" for me. Batman's fixing his mask. A few panels before, the Joker pulled his mask out of alignment. No poison needle. No mysterious looking at something hidden in Batman's palm. The "did he even leave Bolland in the dark?" comment in the article is the topper of it all -- you have to resort to a "how deep does the conspiracy go?" explanation to justify the conspiracy when there's plain, barefaced evidence staring you right in the face directly undermining it. This is why I hate conspiracy theories, but I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that's coming from Bleeding Cool.
     

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