Should Batman Kill The Joker

By Roger

I haven’t had as much time to read comic books since stopping our comics podcast several months ago. It isn’t that I haven’t wanted to read specific titles, but rather that I’ve been working on several novels.

I’ve read the two newest Guild Wars novels, which I will most likely write about soon, as I loved them so entirely… as well as the first in the Diablo: The Sin War trilogy, Birthright, which I’ve not yet finished as I find I have to muscle through various parts due to my dislike of Richard A. Knaak’s style.

However I’m not here to discuss his shoddy writing.

I found the following video online today, and it got my mind racing. It poses the question; should Batman kill the Joker? It’s a question similar to those which I’ve discussed with Vince often, when discussing whether there should be more real-world type consequences and morality choices in comic books.

I found it interesting to hear what these people had to say, as they actually work in the industry. I wasn’t surprised by those who said no, or who discussed the lack of permanence when it comes to death and dying in comic books.

Still, I so wish such things could exist.

Before we go further, here’s the video for y’all to watch and then I’ll continue.

Source: Comic Vine

The problem with creating strong characters in comic books is that editors and fans aren’t likely to want them killed off (at least not permanently). Sure, a morbid mob chose to axe Jason Todd, however oh look… he’s back.

This leads to a lot of problems. As a writer, you’re forced to consider the iconic status of a character before deciding how realistically you can have them behave.

To be fair, in this case, Batman is not like to ever kill the Joker. It goes against his every moral grain. However in addition to being a strong character trait, that is also a very convenient excuse for why he doesn’t actually act as an actual person would.

Now, I know that’s casting one hell of a stereotype upon all of us, however I think it’s fair to say that even Gandhi would have take a shovel to the side of the Joker’s head after he’d killed Todd.

There’s another problem with killing off the Joker though, which has little to do with the morality of the man with the pointy eared cowl, and that is that it would force comic book writers to work harder at their craft. I will say this, making certain to bold the word which I think most important; many comic book writers have gotten quite lazy. I want the emphasis on ‘many’ to imply that it is not ‘all’ or even ‘nearly all’… but rather ‘many’.

There are those that are truly gifted. Those who create with such imagination and talent that you don’t have to work at believing their stories. You simply do. In a world where grown men and women run around in costumes, you don’t question their motives or actions because they ring true.

That’s important to me. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, however I don’t want to be thought a fool. And let’s be honest; there are many comic book writers who treat us as such. Whether by their own design or that of an editor who guides their work, the end result is still the same; a exasperated sigh and a loud “oh, come on”.

So how then would comic book writers have to work harder? Simply put, they would have to be far more creative.

You see, I don’t believe that writing that takes morality and consequences into account would be the problem. I think that most writers would love to be able to allow Batman the choice, for I don’t think he’s had that opportunity but for a few spin-off titles that don’t exist in the DC cannon.

The problem is that in the wake of the Joker’s death (bad pun, I know), another villain would need to be created that is as enigmatic, gripping, important and useful in the character development of one Bruce Wayne.

That is no small task.

There’s a reason why iconic characters aren’t killed off. It’s because it’s bloody hard work having to constantly create characters that are interesting enough to cause readers to buy comics. Thought it’s certainly possible.

One look at The Walking Dead series will prove that you can create a world wherein anyone, be they hero or villain, can die a gruesome death, and the audience will return every single month for more of this emotional torture.

Some may argue that this works within the context of that series due to the nature of the story. I believe that it can work in any series, however editors and fans have to decide whether they want to read a iconic series wherein consequences do not exist, but characters live on forever; or more of a ‘realist’ series where characters are likely to behave as you may… however don’t get too attached to them. And if you don’t think that we as fans have a say in this decision, how about we all stop buying ‘Batman and Robin’ and see how long before the title is cancelled.

We do have a say. And my vote is for moral consequences.

My answer is that yes, Batman should kill the Joker – so long as a truly gifted writer is allowed to create the build-up, as well as the fall-out… as it would make for one hell of a story-arc.

[Editor’s Note: Originally published at ZenBuddhist.me.]
After a 25 year absence from comic books, Roger has returned, thanks in no small part to the iPad.

2 Comments

  1. joe April 6, 2011, 5:38 pm

    Batman should have killed the joker many times over, but now we enter into the interesting dynamic of who is batman without his villains? namely who is he without the joker. The joker has caused a lot of damage to batman, his friends, his “family” but his moral code dictates he shouldn’t kill the joker. But without the joker, batman’s one true nemesis, who is he? The joker is the one villain who has always managed to elude, vex and define Batman. Yet every time bats locks him away, the joker breaks out and kills again.

    And then, who is the joker without the batman. remember the comic arc where batman was gone? Joker was down-right docile. Stopped killing. no one got his jokes so there was no point. Batman emerged, and the joker was born again. The two are yin and yang, I don’t think one can exist without the other at this point, both in comics or in fan’s minds. Should Bats kill the joker? Absolutely. Will it ever happen? no, not in our lifetime at least.

    Reply
    • Roger April 6, 2011, 7:00 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Joe… I really hope to see a lot of your comments on this site. Your insight on a variety of characters should make for a lot of fun discussions.

      In regards to your reply, here’s my take…

      I can appreciate the dynamic that you speak of between Batman and Joker. It’s something that has been alluded to many times, probably most prominently in The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, which you mention in your reply. I mean, it’s a romantic notion….that there is a yin to your yang. That there is someone who defines you so entirely. And it makes for fantastic comic book writing. It’s powerful. It’s something that we can understand and believe that in so defining these characters, it makes them grander than they actually are.

      The problem though, is that it is also very, very limiting. It’s black and white. And that’s not what Batman is.

      Batman is far more complex, and to describe him so simply is a disservice to the character. If anything, what defines Batman is a constant need to protect the city and its people… a courtesy which was not extended to his parents. Whether that’s by defeating the Joker, Two-Face, the Riddler or any other whack-job does not matter. The Joker has become the most iconic Batman villain, however he is far from the only one.

      The other argument to consider is that the Batman is responsible for every single death incurred by the Joker.

      Every last one of them.

      Some may argue that the Joker is responsible, however if you consider that he is in fact absolutely off his rocker, then he is not responsible for his crimes. This is also something which Miller mentions in The Dark Knight Returns.

      In our society, the justice system is responsible when someone is killed due to a madman who slipped through the legal cracks. The legal system is supposed to protect us.

      In Gotham, Batman is that justice system. It’s all well and good to argue that the (corrupt) legal system is the justice system, however they are not. If you don’t believe that, you’ve not read any Batman comics. Batman is Gotham’s justice, and truth be told, if I had the choice, I’d drop a lot of our justice numbnuts and replace them with one insane man in tights.

      So every time the Batman lets the Joker live, he is failing the people whom he has sworn to protect. And he is directly responsible.

      I would respect him a lot more if his moral code dictated that saving innocent people’s lives was more important that putting down a rabid dog.

      Reply

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