I recently rolled onto DC Women Kicking Ass for some reason. I don’t know, I generally have little in common with DCWKA but I’m a comic book news junkie and she grabs some interesting news from time to time. Anyway she commented on a new jacket featuring panels from The Killing Joke. The short of it is DCWKA finds TKJ misogynistic, overrated and points out Alan Moore hates the story. I agree about the misogyny and while I like TKJ I won’t argue its over rated simply because the word itself is meaningless now so I really don’t take it seriously when anybody throws that word around. My biggest problem with this article is that it does not mention Brian Bolland and only one comment brought him. Bolland drawing Batman and Joker is why I believe Killing Joke is popular. Not Alan Moores story.
Don’t get me wrong, I find a couple scenes in the book to be among the most memorable of Jokers material-his “origin” or the final scene with Batman but TKJ exists simply because Bolland. Pointing out that Alan Moore hates story is fine but why not mention that he did the book because Brian Bolland wanted to draw a Batman and Joker story. That’s the genesis of the book. It wasn’t an organic situation-Moore has stated numerous times he didn’t really know what to do. Also Moore has pretty much said that is the strength of the book is Bollands artwork. Of course, I guess you can kind of blame Bolland for what happened to Babs, even though it was not his idea nor did he write it but Moore took this project because Bolland.
You might think Brian Bollands art is not enough reason but keep in mind its one of the few Bolland comics that readily available. Brian Bolland mostly quit doing sequential artwork after TKJ, becoming known mainly as a cover artist. I’m pretty sure anyone who has read comics for a number of years has seen Bolland’s work grace covers for Batman, Wonder Woman, several Grant Morrison series and more. If you want to find Bollands art outside TKJ your best bet is to stick with cover collections (DC has a nice one) because the option are very limited. DC reprints Camelot 3000 every few years, you can try a few Judge Dredd trades or find the Complete Bolland Dredd collection (which might actually be missing a couple stories due to US copyright/trademark issues. I forget if it was his stories). There is more he did in his early years at Rebellion but very little is available. Brian Bolland is, for a number of people, one of the best artists in American/UK comics and his interpretation of Batman and Joker are iconic. I knew Bollands Batman and Joker before I ever read TKJ. In fact, its one of the reason I picked up the book. The other was just to see why people like Alan Moore so much (I read it the same day as Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow which is vastly superior). Sure there are people who don’t like Bolland and probably dismiss the notion that his version is that good but what would art be without detractors? Despite dissenting opinions Bollands Batman and Joker have remained quite popular.
Now, maybe I’m wrong and people like TKJ mostly for the story. I don’t see how that’s possible, its a pseudo-origin framed around making Gordon mad by shooting Babs for no real reason than he can. Alan Moore put more thought into his WildCATs run (which is fucking awesome!). But hey-if they like it, cool. I do think the brilliance is on the art because I don’t see how any other artist could have made that story as popular as it is. Brian Bolland is why I believe the Killing Joke is as popular as it is and why it will continue to be popular.