Warner Bros. and DC Comics announced on Friday that they will be producing three new direct-to-video animated features featuring Batman for release in 2016. With Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice poised to explode onto the big screen next March, there will no doubt be another resurgence of interest in Dark Knight-related merchandise.
Among the three new animated movies coming our way next year will be an adaptation of what is arguably one of the greatest stories of the Caped Crusader ever told, Batman: The Killing Joke.
A one-shot graphic novel first released in March 1988, The Killing Joke was written by comics legend Alan Moore, (V for Vendetta, Watchmen) and illustrated by his fellow Englishman, the great Brian Bolland (Judge Dredd). The story followed the Joker as he launched a brutal and relentless campaign to drive his greatest nemeses Batman and Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon.
Animation legend Bruce Timm, who has been a crucial player in DC’s animated empire since Batman: The Animated Series, will executive produce Killing Joke, and the movie will feature an original 15-minute prologue designed to set up the events of the story in a way that will hopefully please fans of the original graphic novel and newcomers alike.
Along with Frank Miller’s groundbreaking miniseries The Dark Knight Returns, Killing Joke was a classic tale of gripping tension and bleak humor and it provided longtime fans of the Batman universe with an eye-opening glance at the Joker’s tragic backstory. Moore and Bolland invited readers to feel genuine pathos for one of DC Comics’ most iconic monsters, even though it was difficult to trust his version of the events that lead him down the path to becoming the Clown Prince of Crime.
The graphic novel also has moments of nightmarish violence, the most horrific being when the Joker shoots Gordon’s daughter Barbara, paralyzing her from the waist down. If you have ever read Killing Joke, you’ll know that the worst is still to come.
Killing Joke joins other classic Batman stories such as Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One in being adapted into feature-length animated form. It will be joined next year by the release of Batman: Bad Blood, an original story that will introduce Batwoman to the DC Animated Universe, and Justice League vs. Titans, another original that will feature the DCAU debut of the Teen Titans.
The release of Killing Joke appears all the more appropriate as this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Joker’s debut in the pages of Batman #1 (April 1940). Dark Knight Returns and Year One were both outstanding animated films and two of the best in DC’s expansive line of DTV releases. Killing Joke should be no exception. Now I’m pretty interested in who they cast for the voices.