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.


  1. Another stumble toward cultural nilhilism. I’d say there’s not much farther to fall, but somehow the bar keeps getting lowered.

  2. Somewhere along the way of superhero history we decided to steal them away from kids and twist to our own dark liking. We lose our childlike innocence as we age. Out of spite and jealousy of the young we steal their fiction. All those kids who loved superheroes growing up are now writing the stories that today’s kids can’t watch. There is something oddly out of sync with an R-Rated Batman cartoon. It’s just wrong. I hope it is an aberration and not a new trend.

  3. Rocky, you said it all. I hope you don’t mind that I used your quote on my Facebook page (and attributed it to you).

  4. I had never seen the full “Women in Refrigerators’ list until now. Appalling. It’s even more appalling when female fans point to this list, and male fans don’t see any problem. Like female characters exist to be killed, raped, crippled, depowered and driven insane. That’s their function.

    Had to laugh at Mark Millar’s comment that “rape is a rare thing in comics and is seldom done in an exploitative way.”

    HA! Millar’s own comics refute that statement. I can’t think of anyone who has used rape in an exploitative way as often as Mr. Millar.

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