To understand the true duality in the dynamic between the Joker and Batman, you need to understand, they were birthed from the same thing: tragedy. If you read the brilliant Alan Moore masterpiece, The Killing Joke, and you follow it as the seminal Joker origin story (which most do), than you know, The Joker got dealt just as crappy a hand by fate as Batman did.
Some would even argue, Joker got it worse. Losing your Father and Mother in front of you, especially when you are a child, is a tragedy. But some say having your pregnant wife die and then falling in a vat of acid that scars you for life in a heist gone wrong is even worst. And though both were born from tragedy, most think they turned out wholly different from one another, a yin to the other’s yang. But I would argue that point. Batman is just as fragile and mentally unstable as the Joker. He has just as many toys and is just as keen on playing dress up. He just happens to fight for the good side. But here are five moments that will make you question which one of the two is really the crazier one.
Batman Goes Yellow
This really is one of my favorite Batman moments ever. It just drips with so much swagger. But it also hints at a darker, more sociopathic side to him as well.
Did you know that Green Lantern’s powers don’t work on anything yellow? If you are deep enough into comic lore you do, and Batman did, too. So when Green Lantern wanted to “talk” to Batman about some of his more questionable methods of fighting crime, namely using Robin, a young boy, to help him, Batman decided to take protective measures incase things got out of hand. He painted the entire room, and himself yellow, and calmy sat in the room, drinking lemonade.
This scene just sort of sums up just how few f*cks Batman gives.
Now don’t get me wrong, this was not so much a moment of genuine insanity,but a moment of ingenuity and foresight. It was also the moment when the Justice League realized Batman was probably not one to mess with, and was perhaps just a bit more calculating then they had thought prior. For a guy with no superpowers, he really had the Justice League by the balls.
I began the list with this because it is just the slightest hint at just how tapped Batman can get.
Batman Laughs At The Killing Joke
Now I understand Moore’s whole point in this story was to show that the most extreme situation can break the weakest of us. It also shows us, in between the lines, that it is sometimes the most insignificant thing that can push even the strongest of us over the edge. Though the whole book is filled with insane and memorable moments that would go onto become Batman canon, it is the final frame of the book, if you read it “right”, that is easily the most unsettling.
After the Joker has what can best be described as the worst day ever, and his sanity breaks (“all it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy” is the best Joker line ever), we see him descend into darkness to do some truly terrible things.
When Joker paralyzes Barbara Gordon is truly one of the most chilling moments in comics.
And then he does this:
Anytime people tell me that Ledger’s Joker is the most evil and anarchistic, I tell them to read The Killing Joke.
So he paralyzes Barbara Gordon by shooting her through the spine, and then he kidnaps her Dad, the commissioner, and sends him through a funhouse, driving him insane by drugging him and showing him the images of her, naked and bloody on the floor.
But you get to the end and the commish is ok. He is a steely, silver fox and seems to have made it out alright.
You know who isn’t ok, though? The Batman. And if you read the book quick or do not understand the name of the book or the message behind the story, this might be lost on you (I have seen MANY threads online that are filled with people asking why Batman laughs at the Joker’s joke at the end of the book. Sorry guys, you didn’t “get” it). I am getting ahead of myself, let me explain.
So everything is over. Barbara is crippled but alive, Joker is caught, commissioner Gordon is alright.
Now flash to Batman and the Joker standing in the rain, and the cops are on the way.
So Joker tells Batman a joke (which I won’t ruin here) to which Batman start laughing, slow at first, and then louder and louder. The laughter quickly becomes contagious, and the Joker and Batman are standing in the rain, laughing their asses off.
What you need to realize here is that, an hour earlier, this guy that Batman is laughing with crippled one of his closest friends and tried to drive another one insane.
And Batman is laughing at his joke. Maniacally, even.
This was the moment that truly broke Batman. I believe Batman laughs here because he is already gone. The Joker is laughing because he knows he won.
He broke the Batman.
Some think the way the shot cops out of frame, that Joker actually gets choked to death by Batman here. Either way, Joker won.