The Dark Knight, the 2008 movie release which serves as a sequel to the 2005 release, Batman Begins, was based on the stories of three Batman comic books, The Long Halloween, The Killing Joke, and The Man Who Laughs reports Clive Burmeister of Outer Limits comics. . .

These books also directly influenced the way in which actor Heath Ledger chose to portray the villain of the Dark Knight movie, The Joker, who is a far more intense, psychopathic and deranged individual than represented in earlier Batman movies and other comics.

The Man Who Laughs is an incredibly fluid and powerful piece of writing by acclaimed comic writer Ed Brubaker, who has also written award winning stories for Gotham Central and Captain America. Crossing from the perspective of Captain James Gordon, to that of Batman, Brubaker keeps the story running at a fast pace as he introduces the first grisly murder scenes which will precede The Joker’s first appearance. When we first encounter the character of The Joker, he is a dark and twisted maniac, whose insane intensity stands out in stark contrast to the gloomy Gotham City environment.

And this new villain is even something of an enigma to the experienced minds of the detective and the Batman himself, who find it increasingly hard to predict or anticipate the criminal mind of someone as baffling as the Joker. The Joker subsequently kills his victims with such an unstoppable drive, that the citizens of Gotham City begin to panic and flee the city as if a hurricane was approaching. When Bruce Wayne (Batman’s secret identity) becomes the next target on the Joker’s hit list, Batman must not only find a way to elude his police protection, but must also find a link to what motive the Joker would have in his demise and solve the riddle of his true scheme before time runs out, and the clocking is ticking away very fast indeed.

This is definitely one of the best Batman books around, giving a really good portrayal of who the Batman is and what he stands for. It is also one of the best portrayals of the character of The Joker that I’ve seen, making his brand of psycho truly unique and believably scary and not just silly. Also included in the Hard Cover edition is a second story, entitled Made of Wood, and also written by Ed Brubaker, which gives another deep and enticing look at the detective side of batman and how he differentiates himself and his role to the public from other, more generic heroes.

"Definitely one of the best Batman books around!"

Alan Moore, a legend amongst comic book writers, is responsible for some of the most famous and ground breaking stories in the industry, including the all time best sellers: Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Swamp Thing. It is therefore hardly a surprise that his Batman story, The Killing Joke, became one of main sources of inspiration behind The Dark Knight. Using the unique details and depth in character which Alan Moore masterfully applies within the story, and the incredibly comprehensive array of facial expressions and emotions which Brian Bolland captures of The Joker, Heath Ledger formulated his own psychology and motivation to perfectly capture his role of The Joker for the movie.

The Killing Joke tells the story of how just one bad day can drive anyone over the edge and into the depths of insanity. Or rather, how a series of grim situations may drive some people to madness, but others, using the strength within themselves, can overcome it. As with most tales involving The Joker, the story unfolds with extreme brutality, as the villain’s shaky grip on morality leads him to commit an atrocious crime, so abhorred by the Batman, that he must battle within his own system of values over the merits of rehabilitation or obliteration of his bizarre foe.

As one of the benchmarks on the personality of one of the more popular Batman villains, The Joker, The Killing Joke is a suitably renowned and sought after book. It is unlikely that any fan of Batman comics will have had much of a period where he has not heard of this book, and even more unlikely that with its popularity it has never been suggested to an interested reader. It is one of those stories which will stick with you, which will make you think, and which will probably, one day, remind you of a joke . . .

- Clive Burmeister



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