The voice actors Mark Hamill (The Joker) and Kevin Conroy (Batman), along with Bruce Tim producer Bruce Timm of Batman: The Killing Joke, were recently interviewed by Empire Magazine on the animated adaptation of the popular comic book by writer Alan Moore.
ABOUT THE KILLING JOKE’S LEGACY
You know, there’s a lot of sides to that. On one hand, yeah, it’s one of those famous comics from the ’80s that kind of brought worldwide attention to comics and to Batman in particular. Tim Burton sited it all the time as his favorite Batman comic around the time he was making the first Batman movie. So obviously it had a big impact. I think it was one of the first really adult Batman stories that DC had ever done. It’s pretty seminal.
ON THE TONE OF THE STORY AND THE DIFFERENCES WITH OTHER VERSIONS
The thing about The Killing Joke is that it was probably the darkest story that had ever been told with those two characters up until that time. But these characters aren’t set in stone. They’re, for lack of a better analogy, kind of living characters in terms of who’s in charge of telling the story. I’m going to tell different kinds of stories than Scott Snyder’s going to tell or Frank Miller’s going to tell. I’ve said this before, but one of the great things about Batman is that there have been so many different iterations of him. Everything from Adam West on the one hand to Christopher Nolan on the other and all the different flavors in between. There are just so many different things you can do with the character, especially Batman’s relationship with the Joker. Actually, one of the saving graces of The Killing Joke, one of the things I always liked about it, was that even though it supposedly gives Joker’s origin story, Alan Moore kind of hedged his bets by giving the Joker that line towards the end where he says, “Well, sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes I remember it another.”
ON THIS VERSION OF THE JOKER
I love the fact that the Joker is so unrelenting in his lack of humanity in this story. He’s so extreme that it pushes Batman to the edge of not adhering to his code of honor. Which can happen. You almost question whether or not he’s going to make an exception in this case, because the Joker is so extreme. It’s chilling stuff. When I’m in character, and, yes, I’m in the studio so I’m not turning into the Joker by any stretch of the imagination, but what I’m saying is that if you’re in character and in the zone, you relish it. Then you take a break and you think, “Jesus, what did I just record?” That was really creepy.
ON THE JOKER’S BACKSTORY IN THIS STORY
When the Joker says, “If I’m meant to have a path, I’d prefer it to be multiple choice,” I agree with that. I think it takes a lot of the mystery out of him to do a flashback and show who he was before he was the Joker. When you unmask the Phantom Of The Opera, you go, “Well, that’s not so bad. It’s like a bad sunburn or something.” Unless you’re looking at the silent version with Lon Chaney. That was horrifying. It’s all about the mystique. It’s like taking Darth Vader’s helmet off: “Oh, it’s just that guy with the egghead and the scars? That’s not so scary.” With the flashback in this, you get the idea that if it was the Joker telling the story, you could doubt him. He’s a pathological liar. I think he’s one of those people that lies so much or lives in his own fantasy that he’s not even sure if he’s lying or telling the truth.
ON BEING INTRODUCED TO THE CHARACTERS DARK SIDE AND THE KILLING JOKE
When I got the role twenty-four years ago [on Batman: The Animated Series], my only exposure had been the Adam West show, which was wonderful, but almost kind of a Warhol take on Batman. A pop art Batman. So they had to bring me up to speed on the Dark Knight, the film noir quality of it and the tragedy of his childhood. Ultimately I just used my imagination and improvised while I was in the studio, because I did not have a lot of background on it. As I brought myself up to speed, Mark Hamill, who’s a real maven about this stuff, turned me on to The Killing Joke. I read it and thought, “Now I see what everyone’s so excited about. This is a great story.”
ON HOW BATMAN DIFFERS FROM OTHER VERSIONS IN THIS STORY
Despite everything that goes on, the humanity of Batman comes through so much more in this script than many of the others. The struggle of Batman with evil and with wanting to reconcile himself to evil, to subdue evil and actually save the Joker. That’s the wonderful thing about this script… actually all the Batman scripts are so psychologically complicated. For an actor, there’s a lot of material to sink your teeth into. Batman is such a complicated guy that there’s always another realm to go to with him. He’s not just the square-jawed action hero, like Superman. You know, “Here I am to save the day.” He’s this complicated, dark, broody guy and so much fun to play. He’s very much locked into a pattern. He’s almost the victim of his own success, and he does what he does so well. He’s accommodated the tragedies of his childhood by adjusting in such a complete way that I think he feels trapped in there. He doesn’t see a way out, which is why no one can really get close to him.
To read the full interview head over to EmpireOnline.com.
Batman: The Killing Joke is available for pre-order with a release date of August 2, 2016.
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