Though those of us who cover pop culture have been mostly focused on the live-action side of superhero media lately, Warner Bros. is still in the business of churning out high-quality animated features starring the heroes and villains of DC Comics, and yesterday we got the trailer for the latest, particularly significant entry, Batman: The Killing Joke.
Based on the classic 1988 graphic novel by writer Alan Moore (the guy who created Watchmen) and artist Brian Bolland, The Killing Joke, in addition to providing a possible origin for the Clown Prince of Crime, tells the story of The Joker’s theory that “one bad day” can turn a good man bad. To prove his theory, he sets about destroying the life of Gotham City Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, which includes the paralysis and apparent sexual assault of his daughter, Barbara. The treatment of Barbara Gordon in the story has proven particularly controversial in recent years, and news that it would be adapted as an animated movie has not been entirely well-received. Nevertheless, the story has been extremely influential. It’s reportedly one of the few comics Tim Burton read in preparation for making Batman in 1989, and the Joker/Batman dynamic expressed in its telling had a huge influence on the 2008 blockbuster The Dark Knight (though in that film, it’s Harvey Dent who’s challenged with “one bad day”).
Warner Bros. is pulling out all the stops for this one. The film is produced by Bruce Timm, one of the masterminds behind the seminal Batman: The Animated Series, and its stars are Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (the Joker), who helped Batman: TAS become a classic among fans with their voice performances. Hamill’s toyed with the idea of retiring from the role, which he’s played for almost three decades at this point (including in the Arkham series of video games), for years, but fan love keeps bringing him back. This time, it looks like he’s playing the darkest version of the character yet, because this is the only film in the DC Comics animation canon to be rated R.
That’s right, an R-rated cartoon about superheroes. Brace yourselves.
The Killing Joke arrives in July.
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