Got in a discussion on Twitter about this a bit ago, then saw news on it: the idea of Killing Joke getting cut from DC canon.
I think Killing Joke never should’ve happened and should be cut from two completely different angles.
First and more obvious: the intent behind Killing Joke was terrible. Its whole purpose was to get rid of Batgirl, and use the act of getting rid of her to build up the narratives of other male characters. The editor behind it literally told Alan Moore to “cripple the bitch.” Everything concerning Barbara built up as Oracle was not planned, and happened mostly to salvage the character in the aftermath.
That’s as far as I feel I need to say on that angle, because I think it’s been covered extensively by other people.
Here’s the second, less obvious angle: Killing Joke isn’t even a good story for any of the characters, including Joker, and it doesn’t go far enough.
**SPOILERS for Batman Beyond below**
If you’ve seen the original cut of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, you know what happened to Tim Drake. The Joker kidnapped Tim and tortured him for weeks, until Tim finally snapped. The entire premise was turning Tim from Robin into Joker Jr., which Joker succeeds at.
it demonstrates who the Joker is and how terrifying he can be on multiple angles. This is a guy who is willing to torture children to turn them into a twisted parody of himself. His actual method of torture is representative of who he is. Harley’s willingness to help shows how abusive and persuasive Joker is. It demonstrates the risk of Batman taking on children, both for the harm that could come to those children AND for all the secrets someone like Joker can get out of them.
Everything that happens to Tim Drake, happens because it’s inherently unique to Joker. All of the threats I mentioned a moment ago aren’t just threats. They’re threats laced with Joker’s specific brand of insanity. They were all focused on the goal of taking one of Batman’s kids away from him and turning that kid into a Joker knockoff. Similarly, Tim Drake’s identity as Robin is crucial to this telling. His superhero identity matters.
Tim Drake killing Joker with a gun is uniquely terrifying on so many levels. Not only because it goes against Batman’s code, or because it’s a kid committing murder, or because it’s how Bruce’s parents were killed. It’s all of those things plus the fact Tim Drake is about the same age Bruce was when Bruce’s parents were gunned down. In killing Joker, Tim Drake is a twisted young Bruce murdering the murderer.
The horror of Joker here isn’t how brutal he can be. It’s how his brutality can home in on the psychological weaknesses of his targets and destroy them inside.
Now look at Killing Joke.
Joker does nothing to prey about the psychological weaknesses of Barbara, Commissioner Gordon or Batman. He didn’t target Barbara because she’s Batgirl; he targeted Barbara because she’s Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, and Joker merely played on how any good father wouldn’t want to see his daughter suffer. It doesn’t prey on Batman’s relationship with Commissioner Gordon either, because even if Batman didn’t exist, Gordon would still be Commissioner and still have to face off with Joker.
The exact same thing would’ve happened no matter where Batman was. The only difference is Batman’s existence meant Gordon got saved by someone.
It doesn’t even say much about Joker. It does nothing to represent his identity through his actions or the unique danger he poses. The closest Joker comes to that is framing Barbara’s crippling like pornography, but that’s only a representation of how twisted his worldview can be.
When you get right down to it, Killing Joke isn’t even a good Joker story. Literally any character could’ve done what Joker did. Any random criminal could’ve shown up at Gordon’s house, knocked on his door, blasted Barbara in the spine and taken photos to really fuck with Gordon’s head. You can almost imagine one of Falcone’s men doing exactly that to send a message, in much the same way as the infamous Godfather horse head.
The absolute best anyone can ever say about Killing Joke is that it’s brutal and may have inspired some good content, but even the latter may not be true. For all we know, we might’ve had even better stories if Killing Joke never existed.
If DC Comics is serious about providing good stories and characterization (which is a big assumption; they still haven’t given Harley Quinn back her namesake harlequin theme, and they’re still pushing Man of Steel), they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by ditching Killing Joke. Most people I’ve seen in heavy support of Killing Joke do so exclusively because they like “edgy” brutal content and have convinced themselves it’s crucial to Joker’s development without really thinking of what it does(n’t) do for Joker as a character.
In sum: there’s no reason at all to keep Killing Joke canon. It may have become an iconic Alan Moore and Joker story, but it was created with poor intentions and does nothing for any of the characters involved. If DC’s going to have something like Killing Joke in canon, it needs to be more psychologically extreme and character-driven than this. “Joker shot Barbara in the spine, took porno-style pictures and showed them to a crawling, leashed and naked Gordon before Batman saved him and arguably killed Joker” isn’t enough.