When DC Universe, the animated films arm of DC Entertainment, announced they’d be bringing The Killing Joke into their stable of animated features, there was much speculation on whether the AU story from Alan Moore and Brian Bolland would be toned down in the translation. Fans of the dark meditation on whether “one bad day” is all that separates a good man from madness will be happy to hear that today DC Universe announced they’ve accepted an “R” rating from the MPAA for the upcoming animated release.
This makes Batman: The Killing Joke “the first non-PG/PG-13 rated movie in the nine-year history of the DC Universe Original Movie franchise,” according to the publicity rep for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The controversial comic tale of the Joker’s assault on Barbara Gordon for the purpose of trying to incite her father Commissioner Gordon — often Batman’s moral compass — to go insane has long been divisive among comic fans. Though released in 1988, as recently as 2015 the story was referenced in this infamous Rafael Albuquerque cover that was scrapped at the request of the the artist and the Batgirl creative team.
But the story, animated by Bruce Timm whose work on Batman: The Animated Series has proved one of the definitive entries on the long-running DC character, will fully embrace that dark story line. Said Sam Register, president of Warner Bros. Animation:
“From the start of production, we encouraged producer Bruce Timm and our team at Warner Bros. Animation to remain faithful to the original story – regardless of the eventual MPAA rating….The Killing Joke is revered by the fans, particularly for its blunt, often-shocking adult themes and situations. We felt it was our responsibility to present our core audience – the comics-loving community – with an animated film that authentically represented the tale they know all too well.”
To refer to The Killing Joke as a tale that comic-loving fans know “all too well” is a pretty fitting description for a story that left Barbara Gordon wheelchair-bound and suffering PTSD for over a decade. One of the most famous entries on Gail Simone‘s “Women in Refrigerators” list, it’s a story that Simone herself would partially rectify in her New 52 run. That comic saw Gordon’s Oracle incarnation recover from her paralysis and begin to consign The Killing Joke continuity to her past, which paved the way for the current, chipper Batgirl of creative team Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher.
Actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their Batman: The Animated Series roles as Batman and The Joker, respectively in Batman: The Killing Joke, set to premiere at SDCC this year. Voice work superstar Tara Strong will voice Barbara Gordon with Ray Wise of Twin Peaks fame taking on Commissioner Gordon.
Check out the teaser trailer for the highly anticipated film below.