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

Published 1 year 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):

CLICK FOR FULL SIZE

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!

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Source: SModcast, Bleeding Cool & Comic Book Resources

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  1. I thought that perhaps Batman let Joker go. Kind of like, Batman realizes they’re two sides of the same coin and without a Joker, there’s no need for a Batman. I think that’s actually a more interesting theory rather than Batman killing Joker.

    • Joker or no, there’ll always be crime and always be a need for Batman. Batman: Beyond is a perfect example.

  2. The Batman finally kills the Joker. In the scene the headlight creates the symbolic “line” that Batman never crosses. Murder. Yet, Bats reaches out, stops laughing, and takes hold of the Joker. When it’s over, you see Batman’s cape has crossed the line, and then the light goes out. You add all of that to the fact that Moore intended it to be a stand-alone work… it leaves not questions, at least in my mind, the Joker is dead.

    • It’s fine that you interpret it that way, but it’s not there in the script.

      • That doesn’t make it any less valid. As the article states, Brian Bolland – the artist – specifically hinted at this not five years ago.

        • I’ve just googled that afterword:

          “Speaking of which, it’s time I revealed what really happened at the end of THE KILLING JOKE: as our protagonists stood there in the rain laughing at the final joke, the police lights reflecting in the pools of filthy water underfoot, the Batman’s hand reached out and…”

          Sounds like Bolland being wilfully cryptic and having a joke of his own to me.

          • He could’ve just punched him. Knocked Joker unconscious so they could safely take him back to Arkham.

            • Then whats the point of the story? It would be waste.

              • If the point of a Batman story is to see him finally give in and go against everything he stands for, I don’t see how anyone would praise an ending like that.

                In fact, I would rather Moore not say anything about this ending. Leave it at interpretation

                • Why? Whats so bad about it? The whole comic shows the way HOW and WHY Batman kills Joker.
                  I already pointed it out in my posts earlier that everything inside and outside comic shows that Batman actualy did it. All your and others posts about beliefs while more evidence speak different.
                  And whats so bad about Batman killing him? He lost and killed one murderer who killed thousands of people before and dozens in this comic. All those blood are on Batman hands. You understand that? The comic showed a breakpoint. Batman used more liner words at the begining of the story and Joker gave his answer in the joke. Batman couldn’t save Joker, he understood it but he could save many future lives if goes and becomes Knight rather then a Hero.
                  The whole book was about dilemma that was resolved in the end.

                • I think the death simply solidifies what the batman is. He’s always had to break the law for the greater good, that’s the whole point of being a coweled crime fighter, to do what the police can’t. When he kills the joker he finally excepts that there may always be a choice to kill or not, but the choice not to kill is sometimes worse than the choice to do so.

                  The book was never meant to be a part of continuity, but it exemplifies the nature of the batman joker dynamic, a co dependent relationship that can only be ended when one of them is dead. I definitely prefer it to be Joker even if bats is crazy.

              • @Guiese

                The point of the story is that The Joker tried to turn Jim Gordon insane by affecting his family and showing him the aftermath but after all that, Gordon refused to lose his grip on reality and endured.

                I haven’t read it in a while but I’m sure Jim even warns Batman not to kill Joker. To go through what Jim went through in that story and then STILL retain your sanity and ask for the perpetrator to be brought to justice is the real point of the story.

                It’s to show how unbreakable the human spirit really is. Some lose their minds, others give up but some are able to accept what happened and keep going.

                The Killing Joke is a Jim Gordon story.

                • No its not. Gordon is in the main part of the story. He made his choice Bruce doesn’t have to follow it. If all character would accompany each other then whats so special about their interactions and being different characters?
                  Bruce plays by his own rules all the time in his own stories. But in this non mainstream story he breaks.
                  Such stories doesn’t have to play by mainstream rules and they mostly don’t, that is what make them standout. Because otherwise there would be no point to make those at all.

                • You’re right.

                  Gordon: “I want him brought in…and I want him brought in by the book! By the book, you hear? We have to show him! We have to show him that our way works!”

                  So as far as the point of the story goes, there seems to be little point in Batman simply ignoring Gordon’s express wishes and proving the Joker’s “All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy” hypothesis 100% correct in the process. Barbara is, after all, Jim’s daughter, not Bruce’s.

                  • Why? Because you want characters to be the same? There is no logic in saying one man couldn’t break down simply because he was told many times not to. Batman always walks close-to-insane path. He slipped. What has words of one man who still stand for his beliefs to do with it?

                    • I’m not saying he couldn’t break down simply because he was told not to, I’m saying that for Moore to have written him doing so after everything he, Gordon and the Joker said, there’d be no need for any ambiguity in what we’re then shown.

                  • Here’s the crack in that argument- Batman, on all levels, is the exact opposite of “by the book !”

                    If Gordon really wanted it done “by the book,” to prove that the system works, he would have told Batman to STAY OUT OF IT-Batman operates outside the system, and thus validates the Joker, his crimes, and his methods of operation.

                    I interpret “by the book” as Gordon asking Batman to kill the SOB for what he did to his daughter- think about it. Gordon HAS to say that, or else the Joker wins- if Gordon veers off of that path, he too operates outside the system, and validates the Joker just as much as Batman does. If Gordon INSISTS that Batman go by the book, but Batman takes it upon himself to kill the Joker, he keeps his sanity.

                    Batman knows that if he doesn’t kill the Joker, he’s lost Gordon. If Batman loses Gordon, he’s lost Gotham itself, as corruption would overtake the police once more, and undo the YEARS of forward progress he and Gordon had made.

                    There was no choice; whether or not Batman killed the Joker, the Joker won- either by destroying Gordon, or Batman. By taking it upon himself to end the Joker’s madness, Batman preserves the system, by acknowledging that he exists outside of it, and by acknowledging that THE ONLY WAY HE COULD EXIST outside the system was to be as crazy as the villains he fights.

                    That’s why the two share a laugh- Batman finally takes a step back and realizes he’s nuts, and the Joker is ecstatic to be there to see it. Ultimately, Joker made Batman see that his “symbol of fear” DRIVES the crime and underbelly of Gotham- that is why he is willing to sacrifice himself to restore the rightful system- the one that exists WITHOUT HIM IN IT.

                    • So because Batman is the exact opposite of “by the book”, Gordon saying “I want him brought in by the book” actually means he wants the Joker dead?

                      The only way Batman can exist outside the system is to become the same as his opponents?

                      Killing the Joker is a symbolic and literal self-sacrifice to preserve the system?

                      I’m sorry, I don’t buy any of that at all. When you say “If Gordon INSISTS that Batman go by the book, but Batman takes it upon himself to kill the Joker, he keeps his sanity.” do you mean his sanity or his integrity? Because at that point in the story the Joker has already lost: despite his best efforts, Gordon’s sanity is very much intact.

                    • Yeah, I think Gordon is expressing a wish and acknowledging a truth at the same time. Gordon wishes he COULD process the Joker through the legal system and achieve justice, and the truth he’s acknowledging is that the system never meant to deal with criminals like the Joker.

                      To me, by saying he WANTS the Joker brought in by the book- he is wishing it were possible, while understanding it is not. I’ll still stand by my thought that Batman isn’t written into “the book,” and i still believe that if Gordon was trying to prove a point to the Joker with a completely clear head, he would have had the Gotham SWAT team take him down. For that matter, if a SWAT team ever came across the Joker after a crime like this, and he had so much as a knife in his hands, they would have blown him apart on live television.

                      I don’t think the revelation is that Batman needs to become like his opponents- I think the big reveal is that he always has been as fundamentally unstable as his opponents, and never saw it before this particular night. As others have brought to light, in a variety of media, Batman has killed. He may not always have been convicted of murder, but there are plenty of times he would have been convicted of manslaughter, if that makes sense.

                      I mean, think of the gamut of iterations this character has undergone- are we talking purple gloves with a gun, hanging people to death from the bat-plane? Shark-repellent spray? Blowing up the Penguin’s circus henchman? Dropping the Joker off a building? Walling up that KGB guy, or kicking that other guy onto a sword? Torching a whole warehouse full of convicts with cheap bleach, and then banging Black Canary on the docks as they all burned? (all of these things happened in comics and movies)

                      I would say that in this one-off, stand alone issue, Batman does indeed kill the Joker as a symbolic and literal self-sacrifice to preserve the system, because Gordon IS the system. Batman realizes two major things: with a cop like Gordon leading the system, it will work, and that without Batman to challenge the mentally unstable to new heights of crazy, the only criminals that Gordon will have to work with are the kind that the system was designed to process.

                      The Joker wins either way; if Batman doesn’t kill him, he lives to out-crazy this latest scheme; if Batman does kill him, he’s corrupted the incorruptible. I also say that Gordon’s integrity is not in question, but his ultimate sanity is very much contingent upon the Joker either being processed by the system, or taken out of it entirely.

                      Disagree if you’d like. That’s the fun part, isn’t it?

            • Exactly. Bolland’s simply adding to the intrigue there. I’m not trying to say B kills J is invalid at all (if a reader wants to take that away with them then good luck to ‘em), just that reading Moore’s script on its own patently does not lead you to that conclusion, or even suggest to the artist that there SHOULD be any ambiguity about the ending.

              • But you realize that the artist and the writer have a thousand conversations about a comic book outside of the script, right?

                And like I said, the read is just as valid whether or not the author intended something else.

                • Yes indeed, a thousand conversations… which neither of us are privy to. I’m going by the same evidence (or lack of it) as everyone else, so, again, I don’t dispute that it’s perfectly valid!

                  • So when you have more evidence in the comic suggesting that Batman killed Joker, more evidence outside the comic knowledge that Batman killed the Joker you say its b*******. But when you have only one evidence that says you may right then you’re right, right?
                    As Ben Moore said script isn’t the final workable paper the comic is. Books, movies, songs are all rewritten so many times comparing to the original that you may not even recognize it. Add to that DC that made it canon and you’ll have the word of the whole company that Batman didn’t kill the Joker. Same you can go to McDonalds and ask if they have the real meat in the burgers.

                    • What? I’ve already said quite clearly three times that the Batman kills Joker interpretation of the finished comic is perfectly valid. I don’t know what more you want from me other than to say that the original script supports that. Which I won’t be doing, because it doesn’t.

    • Then how do you explain no mention in future comics of The Joker’s death…or the Joker coming back so often afterward, including in the Killing Joke sequel?

  3. Alan Moore has never really seemed too fond of Grant Morrison. I think Morrison is either trying to troll Alan Moore, or more likely Morrison is desperately hoping to win his approval. With the level of insane b******* and terrible writing Morrison has been responsible for in recent memory I don’t really take him too seriously anymore.

    I can see how it would be argued that Moore wanted to insinuate Joker getting strangled. When you look at the script the last segment of dialogue the “eeeeee”s from the sirens have a portion of the “eeeeee”s underlined. This might have been intended to represent the sirens with an overlay of the sounds Joker is making while getting strangled.

    This isn’t in the final product though. Maybe DC censored it out since they intended to make it canon. But unfortunately for art and George Lucas, the artists intentions don’t matter if they’re left out of the final cut, even if its through censorship. I think its much more likely based on the final panels that Joker and Batman share a moment of absurdity, then Joker blows his mind out laughing and finally we see Batman grabbing Joker to restrain him.

    Everyone should bare in mind the real suffers in this story were James and Barbara Gordon. James specifically told Batman to do this by the book. After suffering a horrific ordeal he proves to Joker that some men just don’t break. Batman killing joker as this point would just be shitting all over James and Barbara.

    Then again, maybe the point was that Bruce isn’t one of those men that just doesn’t break.

    Its not a ridiculous or impossible interpretation, but I find it unlikely.

    • Little boy Morrison has always been craving for grand daddy Alan Moore’s attention and status. He started ripping him
      at every corner (watchmen is nothing special,.), didn’t make much noise, he came up with all these provocative theory or interpretation ( batman is gay, batman goes public as a team, superman in jeans,.) most of it being pure bravado without any impact… He does it again with his whole bAtman kills the joker…and praises Moore which is kind of new. He must get really desperate… The problem of Morrison is that the deconstruction exercise doesn’t pack quite the punch that it did 25 years ago… Alan Moore did it several times with brilliance (swamp thing, miracle man, watchmen ) and the same goes for the over literary/drug induced approach (from hell). It’s like Moore did everything Morrison could do two decades ago and Morrison will never be more than a provocator and an imitator. Morrison is to Moore what oasis is to the Beatles: he’s kinda obsessed by him and love/hate him but the latter is barely aware of the former existence.

  4. I think he killed the Joker. Not to mention how Burton’s Batman ’89 film followed the year after kinda seems reminiscent to those acts taken.

  5. The finale to the Arkham City video game is very similar to this. Batman informs the Joker that even after all the murders, all the mayhem that the Joker has caused… he would have still saved him.

    The Joker dies laughing at that, claiming “yknow… that’s pretty funny.”

    • That is such a great ending. Because even Batman is standing there, with the cure in his hand, he says:

      “Every decision you’ve ever made ends with death and misery. People die. I stop you. You’ll just break out and do it again…”

      Which makes it seem as though Batman finally has the chance to end this ongoing nightmare and that he should take it, but we all know that he wouldn’t let anyone just die right in front of him. Not if he has the power to fix things, in this case, within the palm of his hand.

      • I loved how he carried Joker’s body out of the theatre too and gently placed it on the police car waiting outside the Arkham City wall and how dejected Batman seemed that he wasn’t able to save even his worst enemy.

      • @ ACW

        After he killed Jason Todd, I liked how Batman mentioned how he should’ve ended the Joker’s existence years ago. But now Jason’s dead.

        • Funnily enough, I watched Batman: Under the Red Hood last night on Netflix. Good flick. I highly recommend it to those who haven’t seen it.

  6. I’ve always read it as Joker was killed, seems pretty obvious to me.

  7. I don’t think he killed him. Sure, what he did was bad but Batman gives an whole monologue about wanting to save him. The script even says they collapse against each other in laughter. I don’t think that means he killed him however the final artwork makes it look.

    • a whole monologue*

  8. “I won’t kill you, but that doesn’t mean I have to save you.”

    Yes, I realize this is what Batman says to Ras’ al Ghul in “Batman Begins”, NOT to The Joker. It DOES, however, illustrate what I think is one of Batman’s most basic tenets (at least, post-gun-carrying reality) in his never-ending, grim pursuit of justice…whether lawful in the strictest sense or not. Batman shall always allow for the possibility of change, of betterment, of redemption by saving innocents (in some cases, “innocents”) whenever he can and bring in the bad guy…bloodied, bruised, unconscious, broken, whatever…but ALIVE. This includes and holds ESPECIALLY true for The Joker, his arch-nemesis.

    I agree with those who say The Joker survived this encounter, as much for the above reason as for the “evidence”, such as it is presented in those panels and the script.

    The alternative, however, IS a fascinating philosophical point to ponder…

    • Oops…

      “…bringING in the bad guy…”

    • I dunno, I think that’s a pretty poor choice for a quote, considering Batman legitimately kills al Ghul in that scene.

      • Exactly.

        I do not like that at all about Nolan’s Batman. He DID kill Ra’s Al Ghul and he DID kill Harvey Dent. Not the crash of the train or the height of the fall. Batman is the one who decided whether they lived or died.

        Which makes no sense when he throws Joker off the building, but finds a way to save him. So, he’ll save someone more dangerous than Ra’s and Dent combined, but he doesn’t care about anyone LESS dangerous?

        • Ra’s al Ghul, well, that’s a matter of opinion. According to the law, letting someone die is murder. But Batman doesn’t always follow the law, remember, he’s a vigilante after all. I never thought the circumstances of how someone died mattered, as long as Batman didn’t legitimately murder someone, which he didn’t.

          As for Harvey Dent, he didn’t tackle him to kill him. He did that to save Gordon’s kid. Dent falling to his death wasn’t part of the plan, it’s just what happened. Batman even fell and survived, showing that the height wasn’t really fatal, it’s just the way he landed.

          Ra’s al Ghul didn’t pay attention to his surroundings and suffered the consequences. Batman simply didn’t interfere. The only way to stop Dent was to tackle him. It was more important to save the kid, but that doesn’t mean Batman didn’t care about letting Dent die. In TDKR, he’s clearly suffered because of this. As for The Joker, the circumstances were different. The Joker didn’t jump, or trip and fall while fighting Batman. Batman grabs him, and throws him over the ledge, mercilessly. However, he immediately saves him. If he didn’t do that, it would have been murder.

          It’s all a matter of opinion, of course, but again, I always thought Batman determining who lived or died in a fight wasn’t the point. His only rule was to not murder, which he never did. It’s more about how you would define murder or casualty.

          • A batarang could’ve knocked the gun from Dent’s hand. That is easier to pull out than just summoning the strength to tackle him. Grapnel gun to Dent’s leg, pull him to the ground, knock out punch. No one dies.

            In TDKR, Bruce wouldn’t have given a crap if Rachel hadn’t died. That’s why he stopped being Batman. He found no reason to keep doing it because his girlfriend died, and I guess that automatically makes her more important than his parents. It’s sloppy writing.

            • For Dent, it was the heat of the moment. Who knows what tech he had on him when he confronted Dent. But again, I think you’re reading to far into it. The point is, he acted on instinct. And the gun was pointed at the kid’s head with his finger on the trigger, which means that even if Batman through a batarang at it, it would have most likely gone off and killed him.

              As for TDKR, it wasn’t just because his girlfriend died. Dent’s death, the chaos Joker put Gotham through, everything was eating him alive. And let’s not forget that in The Dark knight Returns he quit because Jason died, so it isn’t out of character for him to quit over someone dying. And don’t forget that he quit at the start of peace time in Gotham, the war was over. The original intention was never to be Batman until the end of his life, he wanted to fix Gotham, and bring order and justice back to his city. And he did. That was the point.

              It’s all a matter of opinion of course. You don’t like TDK trilogy, I have no problem with that. But I do defend what I like. As for The Killing Joke, I completely agree with everything you said. It’s the definitive Joker story out there, and inspired Nolan and Ledger’s interpretation of the character in TDK and did it flawlessly, another reason why I love that film.

            • I think you forget about the whole part in TDK where Batman takes the fall for Dents murders. Thats a good reason to stop being Batman. So that every time you go out to fight little petty crime there aren’t police chasing after you and deterring attention away from the real criminals. Remember once things got real intense again he had no problem going back to batman even with Rachel still dead

            • How was it Rachel dying that made Bruce quit, he was Batman after she died in TDK, it was just a contributing factor, it was mostly the dent act that made him realise Batman was no longer needed.

          • If he had time to quip about not killing vs not saving, then he had time to save him. Letting someone die is morally no different than killing someone.

            He could have tackled Dent a different direction, swept his feet out from under him, just disarmed him or just jumped in front of him and taken the shot with his armour. As a master martial artist and tactitian there are a dozen different ways he could have handled that situation that did not end in Dent’s death.

            As for falling himself. Again he was wearing armour, padded costume and has trained himself to take a fall, especially if he goes over on purpose. Dent had none of that and was forced over unexpectedly by someone who is known for planning out every single move he makes.

            • But Dent had a gun to to kids head…Like what is so wrong with the tackle and even with it he STILL MANAGE TO CATCH Dent before falling. He couldnt hold on become he was just shot but if were really going to nitpick at HOW batman saves a kid from being shot, I think he did a good enough job both saving the kid and making an attempt to save Dents life.

              • Agreed.

      • Ben Moore…

        You say “poor”; I say “perfect”. We don’t have to agree, but I maintain that the quotation is a great indicator of WHY I can easily believe the Joker lives…and a perfect illustrator of (at least, in part) the deeper essence of the Bruce Wayne Batman character. Batman tries to prevent crimes. Barring that possibility (and, let’s face it, when The Joker is involved, that possibility becomes all the harder to achieve), he attempts to bring criminals to justice. Often, he succeeds; sometimes, he does not.

        At NO point does he pretend like is going to sugarcoat his dealings with the criminal element. However, he DOES (again, post-gun-toting earliest Batman) actively work to keep himself at least straddling, if not altogether avoiding, that line of crossing over into becoming the very fiend he combats every night. He is smart…he KNOWS Joker will likely continue his steady descent into Hell. Batman WANTS Joker (and all of the other socio/psychopaths) to find redemption, and if he sees the merest gleam of that possibility, he will try to stoke that fire. He canNOT, however, let up in the nightly battle…he cannot afford to do so.

        So, what does all of this have to do with Batman NOT killing The Joker at the end of THE KILLING JOKE? Simply this: Batman has fought this same fight countless times. He has suffered because of this deranged man countless times. He has dealt with the fallout of these dealings countless times. Why NOW would he suddenly break? I maintain he did NOT. He DID have a moment (or even multiple moments smashed indelicately together) where he realized the absurdity of this situation and shared a release of the built-up emotions with the ONLY person capable of sharing such a revelation. He laughed with The Joker.

        Then, whether he punched, kicked, knocked out, drugged, or, in whatever way, subdued Joker and turned him in / left him for the police…or, if you REALLY want to blow the minds of the readers, walked away and let Joker go off into the night, continuing their evil nightly dance (NO, I do NOT believe this, but it is just as viable as saying Batman killed Joker…or did NOT).

        As for the quotation itself, Batman did NOT kill Ras’. He had given him multiple chances to redeem himself. Those did not take, so Bruce simply allowed the consequences of Ras’ al Ghul’s choices to catch up with him. Batman is not a social worker. Ras’ had the chance to escape (please, no “but Batman had stuck him there in the cockpit, and he was unable to free himself in time”…REALLY?) but CHOSE not to…hence, the look of resigned peace on his face in those last moments before the crash. Batman also did NOT kill Harvey Dent in TDK. This time, he was trying to get Harvey away from Gordon’s family while, simultaneously, freeing the one already captured member from Dent’s threatening grasp.

        One final note: To ALL who continue to gush with admiration and worshipful love for the “can-do-no-wrong” brilliance of Alan Moore…I agree that he has written wonderful works and is a fantastic and imaginative writer, but he is NOT perfect. Thus, it is that I much preferred the Dr. Manhattan ending of the “Watchmen” film to the goofy, silly giant alien squid bomb ending of Moore’s graphic novel. Also, if you are so sure that Moore’s subtle tones and “out of the box” philosophizing would make it quite easy and understandable for him to have Batman finally snap and kill Joker, those same qualities would make it just as simple for him to give the two a bizarrely appropriate, NON-lethal ending to this chapter of their shared existence.

        Though I have my view, of course, I’m claiming it is better (or worse) than the opposing view. it is merely JUST AS VALID AND VIABLE.

        • Oops…I’m NOT claiming it is better (or worse) than the opposing view.

          Sheesh.

  9. I prefer to languish in the ambiguity. Did Batman kill the Joker? Did Young Goodman Brown really see his wife worshiping the Devil in the clearing that night? What is Eli the vampire, really? A really great story will leave the question open, daring you to answer it and never providing satisfaction. It’s toffee for the brain, and I’d rather we didn’t have a conclusion, despite what DC has decided on their own time.

    They gave Rob Liefeld three books, what do they know?

  10. Well, I must say I am nothing short of shocked at the amount of responses that claim – “Oh yeah, I always knew that. Batman kills the Joker in The Killing Joke.”

    I… I just…

    *stares at screen in disbelief*

    • Haha.

      I’m feeling the same at this point.

      I honestly always thought it was the one rare moment the two could act like friends, even for the briefest of moments before the police take him away.

      • It’s a genius moment because you’re so used to seeing Batman about to break one of Joker’s limbs and then drag him back to Arkham.

        Here, Batman is simply talking to Joker as a human being. And Joker is responding as a human being.

        I imagine, to The Joker, sanity is a religion he cannot believe to be possible. And Batman is trying to force him to convert for his vision of the greater good, but The Joker simply tells him that it’s just far too late for that. So, for once in their lives, they accept who they are. Set aside their differences. And have one good laugh.

    • There seems to be plenty of “Captain Hindsight”s at the moment. I can’t say it crossed my mind that he would do it at the time. I guess the legend outweighed the implication.

  11. I think it doesn’t matter….we are given what we are given….the message is there is a purging a cleansing….a melding of this classical mythological conflict….who is to say the joker hasn’t moved closer to Batman’s righteous darkness….I always turn to how it affects me which might mean what questions I ask about myself….the continuity questions, plot points, the ending assumed or not assumed is secondary…..what we might hope s there might have been some sort of peace that this cleansing has….I so doubt it….but they both look so weary in this final sequence I will always hope….

  12. I think if Batman snapped his neck, there would have been an FX with “Crack” or “Snap”. But it is Alan Moore, so who knows except him what he intended.

    • That’s what I was thinking.

    • IF Alan Moore intended for Batman to kill The Joker at the end of the book, there’s no way he would’ve included a “snap” or a “crack” or whatever. That would ruin the perfect ambiguity of the scene.

      • ^^and that’s exactly what is so fun about interpretation, you can spin it any which way you like.

        Perhaps the focus zooming on the rain is a representation of something that will always be continuing ’til the end of time.

        The rain can represent The Batman vs. The Joker. It storms. Then it clears up. After a while, it storms again. It has no ending. That’s the whole point.

        The way I see it, if Batman kills the Joker that ruins everything about the dynamic.

        • You went too far and forgot about light line between them that disappears and the laughter that stops before the car stopped.

          • By your interpretation, I could just as easily say the laughter stopped because Joker was knocked unconscious…or released back into the night.

  13. Like I said, the ending of the story is pretty ambiguous, and no one can really prove if Batman did or did not kill The Joker in The Killing Joke. It really just depends on what the reader visualized while reading the story for the first time. But remember to not get ahead of yourselves. The panel clearly shows Batman grabbing his shirt, not his neck, making it harder to prove if he killed Joker. And whatever Moore’s original intentions were, DC mad

    • … made it canon, there for, he did not kill the Joker. It’s fun speculation, but nothing more.

      • So if i tell you that our blood is not red but in fact potato colour you’ll believe it?

        • This made NO sense, whatsoever.

        • Wow, I thought I made bad analogies, but that was just terrible.

  14. These are all great theories, I don’t have one. By looking at the Script, The Joker begins with the most laughter. As it goes on the laughter switches places. In the end, Batman literally gets “The Last Laugh” I believed Joker Died. If not, the whole set-up is a pretty funny joke itself

  15. if that was intended as the line he never crosses, he DID NOT cross it just his cape did. there is no debate at all he DID NOT kill the joker. its absurd to think so.

    • It’s fun, but it can be debunked just as quickly as it’s suggested-

      Staring at your hands is a martial arts tactic. It causes misdirection as it’s meant to be a distraction. You could say in those shots that Batman is staring at his hands playing “rope-a-dope” with the Joker. There doesn’t have to be an object in his hands to explain why he is staring at them.

      The reason the EEEEEEEE’s are underlined in the text is to emphasis high point in the siren pitch, as a siren fades in and out from loud to soft.

    • The article suggests that Batman might have used the Joker’s own poisoned needle on him, states how quickly it works, and then ignores the fact that there are four pages separating that one from the ending – two of them containing extensive dialogue.

      In the video Julian Darius says that Batman might have used the needle in the panel where you see him with his hand on the Joker’s shoulder, which is at least more plausible. However, he states that Batman “spends half the page staring at his hand” during the fight scene four pages before. This is nonsense. His hand is in his eyeline in one panel. In the panel before that, he has both hands over his face because he’s adjusting his cowl, having had it pulled down by the Joker and been hit over the head with a lump of wood.

      • Ah, ignore that first paragraph. I thought the writer of the article was suggesting Batman used the needle when he punched the Joker. My mistake.

  16. I prefer to imagine that The Killing Joke is in continuity. So yeah, the Joker survives… but that’s quintessential to their relationship, hence ‘ultimate’ Batman/Joker tale. BUT at the same time, I think of “The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller as ‘thee’ final Batman story (Let’s forget about “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” lol). To me, it’s tantalizing to think about how the Batman of “The Killing Joke” becomes the Batman of TDKR. From the man who can at least laugh at an impossible situation (if only for that moment), to the bitter regretful Dark Knight who snaps the Joker’s neck in TDKR.

    • No need to imagine:

      “The Killing Joke” is canon, “The Dark Knight Returns” is not.

      • I’m aware. Which is why I began my statement with “I like to imagine”. Read.

        • If you’re aware it’s canon, why did you say “imagine”? Saying “I prefer to imagine it’s in continuity” suggests that it’s not in continuity, when in actuality, it is.
          *confused face* ;)

  17. Scrodingers Cat.

    We do not know if Joker is alive or dead.

    What we have to ponder.

    Can Batman exist without the Joker and can the Joker exist without Batman.

    • +33 Golden interwebs for applying quantum physics to a Batman/Joker discussion.

  18. Well, if it is canon, then the Joker isn’t dead. If it ISN’T canon then, to me, Batman clearly killed the joker at the end.

  19. This interpretation is NOT in the script. This interpretation, in NO way, is depicted in the comic. This was left intentionally ambiguous, to keep people chattering about it, and sell more copies of the comic. They can say (even the writer) that they meant the Joker to be dead, but he is NOT definitely dead. The last panel we see with Batman contacting the Joker, he has a hold on his SHOULDERS. Then, nothing. Sloppy writing, sloppy, child-like art, and a cheap ambiguity to sell more comics. Ambiguity does not always equal art, people. Sometimes, it’s just laziness, and/or greed.

    • agreed. great comic, but the ending was artsy fartsy intentional crap. like the end of Inception. lol. “WAS HE IN A DREAM?!?”

  20. The script says Batman starts laughing because he realizes ‘they’re “preordained” to kill each other SOMEday’. Batman didn’t kill the joker in this comic.

  21. plus, batman isnt grabbing the joker in that picture, hes putting his hand on his shoulder as they are laughing together. “collapsing onto eachother in laughter” as again, the script states.

  22. furthermore, the light hasnt gone out in the last frame either. the frame has zoomed in so close to the puddle you cant see anything else other than the rain drop rings. AGAIN, as the SCRIPT spends GREAT detail on. and the sound seemingly fades away. artsy-fartsy.

  23. This is ScreenRant and not ComicRant, right? Am I in the right place?

  24. My copy is packed away so correct me if I’m wrong but the story begins the same as it ends with panels showing light in rain drops.

  25. Anybody notice in the new 52 comics Barbra Gordon is back on her feet. How anybody can walk again after getting A .45 slug through the L1 vertabre I don’t know. Anyway it always seems Joker is trying to get Batman or the police to kill him,but they won’t do it.

  26. I think this entire discussion highlights the entire point of that last panel.

    It could have been anything. It’s up to the reader. It’s art that means different things to different people, and through that, becomes more about us.

    “I think Batman had enough and killed the Joker”

    “I think Batman won his way and just knocked him out, staying true to his morals”

    It says more about the person reading the book than it does about Batman. And that is why it is so brilliant.

    • “it says more about the person reading the book than it does about Batman”

      Everyone can move along now. JB wins.

  27. I agree with Morrison that its implied that Batman killed him and the Joker wins. Batman breaks his rule, for him. Even if in this timeline Bruce Wayne continues to be Batman he will always be a murderer in the eyes of the law.

    Maybe on some level the Joker understands that the Batman genuinely wants to make the world better and thinks its funny he has to break the law to do so. Things like laws and rules are all arbitrary to him.

    “You got rules. The Joker, he’s got no rules.” The Dark Knight.

  28. What, did Batman kill the Joker right in front of a cop car? I don’t think so.