Warning: After hearing this, you may never read one of the greatest Batman stories ever the same way again.
Professional nerd, filmmaker and Batman superfan Kevin Smith had longtime Batman writer and living comics legend Grant Morrison back on his Fat Man on Batman podcast this week, and in between discussion of Morrison's end to his seven-year run of Batman tales and his upcoming Wonder Woman graphic novel, the pair began chatting about Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's seminal 1988 one-shot book, The Killing Joke, regarded by many as one of the best Batman comics ever created, and perhaps the ultimate Batman vs. The Joker story.
Both agree that it's a great comic, but Morrison blew Smith's mind when he said that almost no one gets what's really going on in the final panels of the book, when Batman and the Joker share a laugh as police cars approach.
“No one gets the end, because Batman kills The Joker," Morrison said. "That’s why it’s called The Killing Joke. The Joker tells the ‘Killing Joke’ at the end, Batman reaches out and breaks his neck, and that’s why the laughter stops and the light goes out, ’cause that was the last chance at crossing that bridge. And Alan Moore wrote the ultimate Batman/Joker story — he finished it.”
Take a look at a full page of the comic below, featuring the panels in question. In the bottom row of panels, you can clearly see the Joker's laughter disappearing, the siren sound fading out, and the lights from the approaching cars going out (or at least, the reflection of the lights in the puddle).
Morrison notes that the brilliance of the sequence lies in how ambiguous it is, and also claims that artist Brian Bolland has hinted that the Joker's dead in the past, but has never truly answered the question. It certainly looks like a plausible explanation for the events on the page, but is it really what happened? Did Moore covertly write his own ending to the Batman/Joker saga?
Listen to the full Killing Joke exchange between Morrison and Smith (with corresponding art) in the video below, and let us know what you think.