Batman fans have been waiting for an animated film version of the Alan Moore comic, The Killing Joke, that pits The Dark Knight against the formidable Joker - and reveals who the latter was, before he became the iconic, insane villain synonymous as DC's most famous bad guy. Fortunately, U.S. admirers of the story - a one-shot comic book story that had only ever been told on the pages of the 1988 publication - don't have to wait much longer for the adults-only tale, which hits shelves in August after a premiere at San Diego Comic-Con 2016.
Mark Hamill (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) is onboard to, once again, offer his superlative voice acting talents as the Joker. Kevin Conroy joins him as Bats, while Tara Strong voices Batgirl/Barbara Gordon: a character who will play a larger role in the upcoming animated Killing Joke film that she did in Moore's source material, as suggested by official plot details and images released for the film.
Producer Bruce Timm has been keen to talk about the dark tone and general struggle to make the Killing Joke animated film. He revealed to Empire just how much of a risk it was to make such an adult Batman story:
"This is actually the third time that The Killing Joke came up for production. The first time, it was because we had told the home video department that chances are if we do this story, it's going to get an R rating.This was years ago, but they said, "We're okay with that, but we're going to kind of hedge our bets monetarily." The idea was because the source material was not really long enough to do a full movie, we were going to do a shorter movie at a lower price point, so that would hopefully offset the loss of sales that we would have by the fact that it wouldn't be an all age title.But right around the time we were ramping up, the Watchmen movie was released and underperformed. Everybody kind of took a step back and said, "Well, maybe the time's not right for an R-rated superhero movie, so put it on the shelf."
So it appears the likes of director Zack Snyder's Watchmen (itself, based on a famous Alan Moore graphic novel) had a significant impact on the development history behind the Killing Joke animated movie adaptation. Interestingly, Timm states, it was considered a huge gamble to be making an R-rated animated film about the Caped Crusader just six or seven years ago. However, with the recent success of the R-Rated Deadpool at the box office having paved the way for more comic book adaptations to explore mature/violent subject matter (including, for example, the upcoming R-Rated Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Director's Cut home release or the impending theatrical release of the R-Rated Wolverine 3 in 2017), it seems like the animated Killing Joke movie has emerged at exactly the right time.
Timm also told Empire that The Killing Joke animated movie wasn't postponed just once, but twice, and even faced the possibility of being canned altogether at one point:
"A couple of years later, it came up again and we even had started production with character designs and stuff. But then that horrible shooting at the Dark Knight Rises theater happened and everybody got nervous again about it, because of gun violence, so we put it back on the shelf. Go forward a couple of more years and it came up again. At this point we kind of looked at the whole thing and felt if we were going to do it, there were certain things about the original story that had always kind of bothered me. I mean the idea of adapting this story always kind of terrified me, because of how relentlessly grim and bleak it is. And what happens to Barbara Gordon in the story is very controversial to this day."
There were a number of massive factors that made getting The Killing Joke into production a complete nightmare: the whole uncertainty of an unexplored R-rated comic book movie was, at the time, totally unexplored, but real-world factors like gun crime and horrific mass shootings like at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises will have put Timm and his team under enormous pressure and also must've been hugely conflicting in terms of what was morally and financially the right thing to do, too. We'll find out soon enough if now is, in fact, The Killing Joke's time at last though.
On that note - here are some fresh images from the Killing Joke animated movie that have now been released online:
Batman: The Killing Joke will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in the U.S. on August 2nd, 2016.