One of the main characters in Batman’s mythology who is most affected by The Joker’s behavior in The Killing Joke is Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl. And yet Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s acclaimed graphic novel presupposes that its reading audience had a working knowledge of the character, one that wouldn’t require any introductory information or explanation as to why they should care about what happens to Ms. Gordon at the hands of the Clown Prince of Crime. The R-rated animated adaptation, however, thinks there’s room for improvement.
Make no mistake, the feature-length version of The Killing Joke will faithfully adapt the beloved graphic novel, as promised by producer Bruce Timm in a recent chat with Empire. The longtime Batman and DC Comics properties producer offered up plenty of insight behind the scenes of The Killing Joke, but the most interesting bit concerns the additional material front loaded onto the story before the adaptation, in the truest sense of the word, really kicks off.
Here’s what Timm had to say about the decision to fold in a new Batgirl story:
We thought if we were going to expand this to feature length, we didn’t want to just pad out the original story by putting in a bunch of stuff between sequences of the story, because it’s literally a whole other half of movie that we could add. So we took that opportunity to basically tell a Batgirl story, which we don’t often get a chance to do these days. And it was great, because we could spend more time with her as a character and get to understand what she’s all about and how she’s similar to Batman in some ways, and really different in others. They come at the crime fighting thing from two completely different places. The good side of that is we get to spend more time with her and learn that she’s an interesting character. We get to really like her. The bad side of that is that we get to like her so much that when The Killing Joke part of the story happens, it’s, like, “Oh, no!”, because we really like her. So it’s a double-edged sword.
Personally, I think that’s a great approach. It’s flexible storytelling like this which allows for a proper “adaptation” and not just a “translation” across media. How well the execution of this idea is pulled off remains to be seen, but Mark Hamill, a.k.a. The Joker, seems to be on board:
I can’t imagine how people are going to react to this, because I’m a Killing Joke purist. When they first talked about it, I said, “The only way we can do this is as a book on tape so that we honor every comma, every word, every letter, every syllable of Alan Moore’s script. We can add music and special effects to enhance it.” They kind of said, “What are you talking about? Nobody is doing this as a book on tape. It’s not commercially viable for us to do it that way. See if you can get the rights and record it in your basement or something if that’s what you want to do. This story has to be expanded.” If we just adapted The Killing Joke as an animated film, it would maybe be fifty-five minutes. They’ve actually done a really incredible job of supplementing it with Barbara Gordon/Batgirl material.
And if you’re worried that new material will some how diminish or cheapen the source, or that it will be out of sync with the tone of the main storyline, Hamill’s comment should put your fears to rest:
Even that surprised me, how edgy the Batgirl material was. This is not your father’s Batman. The one regret I have is that if I was nine years old, there’s nothing I would rather see more, yet it really isn’t for kids. I hope people understand when they say it’s R-rated, they mean it.
Timm was less concerned with the new story and more concerned with adapting the controversial moments from the graphic novel itself:
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.
I didn’t think it possible, but the inclusion of new material actually makes me even more excited to see the final version of The Killing Joke, but I’m sure some of you may feel differently. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! Also, be sure to head over to Empire for more from Timm, Hamill, and Kevin Conroy. Tara Strong also stars as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, with Ray Wise as Commissioner James Gordon in the adaptation directed by Sam Liu (Batman: Year One, Justice League vs Teen Titans). Look for it on home video:
- July 23rd: Available digitally on Video On Demand services from cable and satellite providers, and on select gaming consoles.
- July 26th: Digital HD via purchase from digital retailers including Amazon, CinemaNow, Flixster, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, Xbox and others.
- August 2nd: Available on Blu-rayTM Deluxe Edition for $29.96 SRP, Blu-rayTMCombo Pack for $24.98 SRP, and DVD for $19.98 SRP.
Get caught up with all of our recent coverage of Batman: The Killing Joke at the following links:
- ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ Blu-ray Special Features Confirmed
- ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ Blu-ray Release Date Revealed [Updated]
- ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ Trailer Promises That the Film Will Live Up to Its R Rating
- Animation Roundup: Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill Confirm ‘The Killing Joke’s Rating
- ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ Gets R Rating