Originally released in 1988, DC’s controversial graphic novel The Killing Joke explored an alternative origin story for the Joker. Edgy scribe Alan Moore’s story and Brian Bolland’s stunning artwork fleshed out the Clown Prince of Crime as a tragic character and created a ripple effect in the Batman storyline. Aside from establishing the Oracle character and redefining the Batman continuum, the standalone story also won an Eisner Award, but remained largely difficult to develop thanks to its dark material.
Along the way, though, there have been several attempts to film the tense storyline, though. Most recently, Bruce Timm began work on a feature film in 2009, which was ironically shelved due to Warner Bros.’ lack of faith in R-rated superhero films, partially as a result of the Watchmen film’s weaker-than-desired box office performance. This time around, the studio chose to create a full-length animated version of The Killing Joke and is considering carrying an R-rating on the gritty feature. Warner Bros./DC has also just confirmed its leads today.
Perennial Caped Crusader favorites Mark Hamill (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Kevin Conroy are slated to return as the Joker and Batman, respectively (via CBR). Hamill and Conroy first teamed up across the lines of crime for the groundbreaking Batman: The Animated Series. Warner Bros. also confirmed that Tara Strong (Zootopia) will return, and Ray Wise (Agent Carter, Twin Peaks) will lend his voice to Commissioner Jim Gordon.
With regard to his return, Hamill noted:
"The chance to work once again with Kevin Conroy, my favorite Batman, in what some consider the definitive origin of this iconic villain is a dream come true for me. I am beyond thrilled to return as The Joker in 'The Killing Joke!'"
With the exception of Wise – whose only previous DC-universe role was as the voice of Perry White in Superman: Doomsday – all three leads have worked in their respective roles before. Hamill, aside from his role in the animated series, also played the joker in various Justice League and Superman series, as well as the Arkham video game trilogy. Strong played Batgirl in several video games, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, also voicing Harley Quinn in the Arkham series and LEGO Batman3: Beyond Gotham. Conroy, of course, has portrayed Batman throughout scores of games (such as Arkham once again) and series, including Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and the Justice League animated program, among other roles. Says Conroy:
"I’ve had the great privilege of voicing Batman for more than two decades, and some of my favorite moments in the recording booth have been alongside Mark Hamill. Mark always enables me to be a better actor. I’m thrilled that we’re both back to bring these characters to life in one of the most heralded Batman/Joker stories of all time."
A strong cast is always a good sign for any project, but especially an animated project. Hamill and Conroy already have great chemistry, and Strong and Wise both add years of acting and voice work experience into the mix. Casting proven voice actors is absolutely vital when making an animated version of such a definitive storyline. The most impressive voice work blends seamlessly into the animation. Since the actors’ voices are our only human link to their animated vessels, though, even the most impressive animation would fail without their ability to convey urgency and emotional weight.
No matter how strong the cast and the animation is, every aspect of the production will need to be top notch. A storyline that carries as much weight and comes from such an acclaimed work of sequential art will fall under heavy fan scrutiny. But Warner Bros. generally creates exceptional animated features, including Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Under the Red Hood, so hopes are running high for this adaption of The Killing Joke.
Batman: The Killing Joke will be released to stores in summer of 2016. Stay tuned to Screen Rant for further updates.