Did Batman Kill The Joker at the End of ‘The Killing Joke’?

Published 2 years ago by , Updated February 16th, 2014 at 9:24 am,

The Killing Joke Did Batman Kill The Joker at the End of The Killing Joke?

For Batman fans, The Killing Joke needs no introduction; more than twenty years after being published, Alan Moore’s graphic novel remains one of the all-time iconic clashes between The Joker and the Dark Knight, and perhaps the definitive tale of the Clown Prince of Crime’s tragic origin. With the oft-mimicked but unmatched style found in Moore’s intricate dialogue and Brian Bolland’s vibrant artwork, as well as the story’s in-depth exploration of the divisions that separate the arch-nemeses from one another, it’s easy to see why The Killing Joke maintains a high level esteem even today. In fact, the story has influenced the Batman vs. Joker stories in both Tim Burton’s Batman and Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

But what if readers have been misinterpreting its conclusion since 1988? What if The Killing Joke‘s climactic panels depict Bruce Wayne reaching out and taking the life of his oldest foe, rather than a shared moment of madness between both men? Could Moore’s one-shot comic really be the final Joker yarn, the one where he succeeds in breaking Batman and pushes the world’s greatest detective so far over the edge that he breaks his most sacred rule?

According to comic book writer and author of numerous Batman titles, Grant Morrison, that’s exactly what happens at the end of The Killing Joke. In a recent interview with Kevin Smith about his new Wonder Woman project, Morrison spoke about Moore’s work and offered his own take on what happens as Batman and The Joker laugh maniacally together in the rain, suggesting that the former actually murders the latter. Here are Morrison’s words from the ‘Fatman on Batman’ podcast:

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, ’cause that was the last chance at crossing that bridge. And Alan Moore wrote the ultimate Batman/Joker story — he finished it.

An interesting theory, though hardly new: as noted by Bleeding Cool, Bolland himself referenced the idea of Batman killing The Joker – which has been discussed among fans since its release – in his afterword for the recolored edition of The Killing Joke in 2008. Five years hence, Morrison reintroducing this particular analysis hardly feels unique, but following the discussion with Smith, his words have sparked debate about those nine closing frames across the Internet that Bolland’s simply did not. So that leads to the big question: Is Morrison right?

Take a look at The Killing Joke‘s final page below:

killing joke ending 570x891 Did Batman Kill The Joker at the End of The Killing Joke?

It’s difficult to look at that polyptych keeping Morrison’s words in mind without seeing exactly what he’s talking about. In panel five, Batman reaches his arm out toward The Joker before the laughter cuts two panels later and the headlights shut off; the pictures almost speak for themselves. In the aftermath of what The Joker has put Batman – not to mention Jim and Barbara Gordon – through over the course of the narrative, one may wonder how The Killing Joke could end any other way. How can Batman possibly justify doing things “by the book,” as Gordon implores him to, this time? 

On the other hand, the art alone appears to debunk that reading just based on where Batman places his hand, which comes to rest on The Joker’s shoulder rather than wrap around his throat as Morrison states. Moreover, the script doesn’t indicate anything as far as Batman strangling The Joker goes. (Though in fairness, there’s a lot that can happen off the page between writer and artist.)

Check out the script page below (courtesy of The Adventures of Mr. Phil):


The Killing Joke Script Page 280x170 Did Batman Kill The Joker at the End of The Killing Joke?

And perhaps the light going out in the final panel really symbolizes how the boundaries that distinguish Batman from The Joker have disappeared, providing further illustration to The Joker’s belief that they’re two sides of the same coin.

Some have pointed out that the best evidence against Morrison’s point is Barbara Gordon. During The Killing Joke‘s events, The Joker shoots her through the spine, paralyzing her below the waist – and setting the foundation for her transformation into the Oracle. The fact that the Oracle repeatedly shows up in subsequent Batman features and that The Joker continues to be a thorn in Batman’s side solidifies The Killing Joke‘s events as canon. Then again, Alan Moore himself has indicated that he never intended for the book to be in continuity – that was DC’s idea.

It’s worth noting that Morrison fully acknowledges the ambiguous nature of The Killing Joke‘s outcome, which he believes to be part of the book’s brilliance. On this, he’s 100% correct, and now we put it to you, Screen Ranters: what do you think happens at the end of The Killing Joke? Does Batman stick to his code? Or does he finally snap and end The Joker’s madness once and for all? Share your thoughts in the comments section!


Source: SModcast, Bleeding Cool & Comic Book Resources

Follow Andy Crump on Twitter @agracru
TAGS: Batman
Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. Joker was stabbed by his own joy buzzer and died from it…batman also got prick because he laughs…batman does not laugh

  2. Batman didn’t kill the joker. He took him away to the cop car that approached both of them. Thats why the car lights went out it basically just drove away after he took him in the cop car.

  3. Batman is reaching out to take the Joker’s shoulder as they laugh, as one might do to a friend or acquaintance when you share a joke that has a strong effect. It was a motion of support, a moment where they were not, perhaps, enemies in their own shared madness… and the yellow line is the coin, of which they are the two sides.

    Naturally, it would only be a moment, and then that moment would pass and the touch of support in their laughter would tighten as Batman secured the Joker for the police.

    That’s my take.

  4. The Joker tells the joke after Batman offered him help
    Basically, they’re the two insane people. One is just more insane than the other (typical punchline in that kind of joke btw). Batman offers help, but as the joker says, it’s already too late. Both lived bad times but Batman has a stronger soul and the joker is left behind, he can’t make that jump back to reality.
    But it’s just that, they’re sharing a good laugh at how accurately the joke describe their relationship.
    It doesn’t make much sense to me that batman kills the joker there.
    To me, the police car lights disappearing would suggest they got so close that the ray of light can’t pass between them. A hug? Not so unlikely since it’s the first time the joker actually showed some sort of remorse.

  5. Oh and I’m actually believing the theory of the hug even more now that I look carefully at the art. The joker hands on the sixth panel look like they’re opened toward Batman, like you’d do to ask for a hug. Then the laughing stops,you can imagine Batman looking at him and then giving him the hug on the last panel.
    The point of this story being to show the humanity of the joker,that ending wouldn’t surprise me that much.

  6. Batman gives the Joker fellatio at the end.

  7. I believe Batman really kills the joker because of the reasons i’ll list here :

    – Batman tells the joker that if they continue on this path, they will end up killing each other. The fact that Batman is taking into consideration killing the joker, something extremely out of character for him, gives us a clue of what is about to happen.
    – Just because batman’s arms looks like they are on the joker’s shouders it doesn’t mean he coudn’t go for his neck in an unseen panel. Lets remenber that Alan Moore himself admitted that the HQ was ambiguous.
    – Batman laughs of the joke the joker tells. Another thing extremely out of character for him to do.
    – Batman tells the joker that maybe this is their last chance to sort everything out before they continue on this suicide course
    – The Joker’s laughs simply disappear from one panel to the next. Pretty strange, taking into consideration his repuation of laughing non-stop.
    – The last two panels of the HQ. If you don’t remember the joke of the joker here it is:

    two lunatics wanted to escape an asylum, so they go to the asylum’s roof. But there’s a gap to escape the asylum. One of them jumps across but the other doesn’t because he’s afraid of falling. The one who jumped has an idea and tells the other man that he has a flashlight and he will create a beam of light so the other man can cross it. The other man says ” Do you think i’m crazy ? You’d turn it off when i was half way across”.

    Now, look closely to the last two panels of the last page of the HQ. You can see a beam of light in one, and it disappears in the next one. It’s a reference to the joke. Batman “creates” the beam of light by offering the joker a chance for redemption, a chance to end this suicide course, and Joker really takes into consideration his offer, meaning he was half way across the beam. But Joker refuses the offer, and Batman, realizing that Joker will never change, ends up killing the joker, “turning off” the beam.
    – Last and foremost, the title itself. Don

    • Sorry had a little error in my pc. Continuing…

      - Last and foremost, the title itself. Don’t you think it’s strange the HQ is called ” The Killing Joke”, but no major character gets killed besides a minor character ?

  8. Since all I’ve really seen on the internet is ‘black or white’ answers, I’ll add my version here.

    Batman likely kills The Joker, but not out of anger, hate, revenge, or spite. The final confrontation, and Batman’s intention throughout the comic, is to HELP The Joker and ends things -peacefully-. The Joker flat-out says that he’s beyond any sort of help, so what else can Batman do other than talk out their differences, embrace their similarities, and determine that there’s no other option but to end The Joker’s suffering by ending his life?

    At the same time, killing The Joker effectively ‘kills’ who Batman is, meaning it still ends with both of them being dead in either a literal or figurative sense. Maybe Batman hangs up the cape, maybe he continues trying to right the world so that no one else has to suffer like him and The Joker.

    I’m also quite surprised that most people immediately assume Batman either chokes The Joker to death or breaks his neck. He’s Batman, he’s got all kinds of gadgets and, like I said earlier, seemed intent on resolving thing one way or another (peacefully, if possible), so it’s easy to assume that he had a form of poison and injected into The Joker in their embrace. This both mirrors the joke that The Joker was telling and would also explain why the laughter slowly fades off as the panels continue, anything violent or abrupt SHOULD have resulted in-

  9. Batman did not kill the Joker. Can’t the Joker kill Batman instead? Lol
    I think what happened was that Batman and the Joker came to an understanding that they have to be who they are. The circumstances that led them to become what they are are irreversible and are etched onto their souls. They laughed, stared at each other for a couple of seconds and then the Joker was escorted to the police car by Batman, knowing full well that he will escape again in the future. I also think that the patrol car’s light disappearing from the last panel symbolizes the flashlight’s beam from the “killing joke”. The lunatic guy won’t cross the gap because he was scared the other lunatic guy would turn it off and he would just fall (I have to admit that was funny lol). The guy was stuck and didn’t get to leave the asylum and the other one roamed free. The Joker didn’t want to be rehabilitated because he is just too far gone. That’s something Batman understands. By the way, the last time I went checking forums on what really happened at the end of a comicbook was after reading Naoki Urasawa’s Monster. Cliffhanger endings give readers something to discuss about and that’s both the cruelest and the most brilliant thing a writer could do.