The ambiguous ending of Alan Moore and Brain Bolland’s Killing Joke, in which the  Batman and Joker famously share a laugh and some hearty back-slapping, has always been a talking point for fans, the subject of speculation as to what exactly occurs in those final few panels, where the rain ceases to fall on that small patch of grass, and the light beaming from the police-car is blocked, and silence falls.

The interlude in the rain obviously suggests physical contact of some kind between the 2 men;  my personal take over the years has been that the Batman and Joker shook hands in a mutual moment of understanding about the untenability of both their situations, an acknowledgement of one another and a  comprehension that no matter how seemingly similar their paths, they would remain divergent, and for an instant- for the few seconds that handshakes lasts they are both okay, even agreeable. with those thoughts, and with one another.

It is one of my favourite moments in comics, from one of my favourite books and I admit to romanticising it a little. I’ve never bought into the notion that the Batman is closer in treading the lines of insanity to the Joker, that they’re 2 equally crazy sides of a coin,  a reading repeatedly expounded in books like Arkham Asylum, Secrets, etc. While the ending of The Killing Joke could be interpreted as another meditation on the similarity of the men’s pathologies, the story itself reiterates the ultimate difference that sets them apart: Bruce Wayne had one bad day and turned it into an arguably(!) healthy outlet for justice, a tribute to his parents lives, which develops into a greater fight for the betterment of a city and its people (depending on what you regard as continuity), and the Joker’s alleged one bad day turned him into a psychotic killer. Deep down, both are aware of their similarities and ultimately, the larger differences that separate them, but the implied gesture of that handshake, that momentary, context specific solidarity is something I really like.

There have been online discussions which have theorised that perhaps the final encounter ended in violence of some kind, a reading which most recently, Grant Morrison, has advocated. Talking on Kevin Smith’s podacst, Fatman on the Batman, he explains why he thinks The Killing Joke is the ultimate Batman/Joker story and why it could only have ended with the Batman killing the Joker (full audio of relevant clip below):

‘That’s what I love about it- Batman kills the Joker…that’s why it’s called The Killing Joke…The Joker tells the ‘killing joke’  at the end and Batman reaches out and breaks his neck… and that’s why the laughter stops…the light goes out because that was the last chance of crossing that bridge.

Alan wrote the ultimate Batman Joker story… because he finished it… the laughter stops, it abruptly stops, it’s quite obvious.’

It’s a more fatalistic reading, one which I’d never given much thought and certainly very different to what I’d previously considered, but I quite like it: superheroes killing people, even villains is still curiously -and let’s be honest, incredibly irrationally-  a big no-no- ‘what makes him different to you?!’  and ‘you’re letting him win!’ being familiar, cliched refrains. It would be nice, perhaps then, to think that the Batman took what would in reality be the affirmative action of swiftly ending the life of the man who had taken, and was sure to take, the lives of hundred of others, albeit off panel. When considered, death is the only outcome of the Batman/Joker dance, the realisation of which Batman alludes to in the opening pages: in fact, if you take the 2 panels with ‘We’re going to kill each other, aren’t we?’ and ‘I just wanted to know that I’d made a genuine attempt to avert that outcome… just once’, it’s difficult not to see it as a pretty heavy bit of foreshadowing right there.

The genius of those open-ended final panels means you can pick the ending you think fits best, a sort of choose-your-own adventure depending on your mood! I guess we’ll just chalk it down to another mysterious secret only Alan Moore knows the answer to….



  1. Wow….just….wow.

    Alan Moore…schooling the hell outta folks two and a half decades later….

    It’s right there…..and we all missed it….

    I’m truly….truly amazed. Just goes to show you never stop learning how truly great “the great” storytellers are….

  2. And Bolland’s art….I’ve never felt he has received the proper love he should have from the fans of the comic art community he should have….this just adds to it….

    I am still amazed….just…mind blowing how utterly cool this ending has just become…

  3. I also heard the pod cast, so I’ve try to look it up. I can’t find my copy, which bother me more then anything LOL. But I seen the page on line and I’m not really sure. Yet, it does has me wondering.

  4. Maybe The New 52 has erased it, but I seem to remember a story where Barbara Gordon scolds Batman for standing there laughing with The Joker, when the police arrived. And this after the Joker had shot and paralyzed her.

  5. Nah, this is Grant projecting what he would have liked. KJ was always firmly in continuity, the laughter and then the sirens just fade out between panels.

  6. Totally with Paul Mellerick here. Anything beyond that — the simplest and most obvious interpretation — is purely an invention of the reader’s.

  7. Cool idea, misleading headline. As I recall, in interviews Alan Moore has said he thinks the idea of Batman doesn’t work as an adult concept and that he was basically saying that Batman and the Joker are both kind of crazy – and that he somewhat regrets writing the story because he isn’t sure it’s a valid way to tell a Batman story.

    I’d argue that the ambiguity of the ending is what gives the story its power and timelessness: Batman and the Joker are such iconic, archetypal concepts that writers (and readers) can layer their own meanings onto them. Morrison’s new interpretation is certainly valid, though it’s not how I read the ending or understand as the author’s intent (which could be part of why Moore considers the work a failure, as great as it is).

    Funny how we’ve gone from talking about “rape in comics is evil” to “The Killing Joke rulez,” though.

  8. Which reveals how in touch with reality the guy who has been driving the Batman bus for the last few years is.

  9. I’m fairly confident that Grant Morrison and Alan Moore both know a thing or two more about writing than internet commenters, so I’m inclined to agree with Grant’s take. It certainly gels more with the Joker’s “final joke” and the earlier conversation than the two of them just standing there laughing until the cops show up.

  10. I never read it as Batman killing the Joker, since events in the Killing Joke–especially Barbara Gordon’s paralysis–were referenced right away in the Death in the Family storyline. I supposed it’s possible to have the last three panels of a book fall into the “imaginary story” category, but that ending literally never occurred to me.

  11. @Andrew – exactly. That would mean there were two versions of the story, one where he did and one where he didn’t. Seems unnecessary.

  12. Well…I think this story was added to continuity after the fact. When this story was written, there was no such thing as “Elseworlds” yet, but The Dark Knight Returns had established this sort of out-of-continuity storytelling.

    It’s entirely possible that Alan Moore wrote this with that ambiguity in mind. That HAS to be a possible ending to the Batman/Joker story.

    Considering the bad blood that has existed between Moore and Morrison, according to what I’ve read on this site, it felt a lot like Morrison was very much taking a high road in the discussion of this story.

  13. “Well…I think this story was added to continuity after the fact. When this story was written, there was no such thing as “Elseworlds” yet, but The Dark Knight Returns had established this sort of out-of-continuity storytelling.”

    In Killing Joke, Batman had a picture that had the Kathy Kane Batwoman, the Bette Kane Batgirl, Ace the Bat-Hound, and Bat-Mite. None of those characters existed in continuity by the time Killing Joke was published.

  14. I’ve never bought into the notion that the Batman is closer in treading the lines of insanity to the Joker, that they’re 2 equally crazy sides of a coin, a reading repeatedly expounded in books like Arkham Asylum, Secrets, etc.

    Why not? A reader should be able to assess the behavior of the characters in terms of normal human psychology. If their behavior isn’t normal, what purposes do the deviations serve? Are they symbols? Being written for children? Props in an absurdist story? Characters in a badly-written story?

    Both the Joker and Batman are regularly written to behavioral extremes; both being insane, but in opposing directions with differing effects on their personalities, is the explanation that makes the most sense. Batman’s obsession with fighting crime is a more extreme version of the “With great power. . .” neurosis that keeps the heroes going like wind-up toys.

    If the characters’ behaviors are part of the framework, that affects an assessment. Soap operas are boring, in part because the characters are all sociopaths, neurotics, or otherwise mentally ill; sane people are boring, compared to them. The hero with the soul-killing sense of responsibility can’t test his belief because as far as he knows, retiring for a day will result in someone being killed. The irrationality of that belief doesn’t mean that superhero comics are junk; it means that writers should do stories that involve rational motives and reactions.


  15. I never read it as Batman killing the Joker. I just assumed that the moment was over and things were going back to the way they were (the drops of rain in the puddles appear in the first few panels of the comic as well) since the cops arrived (you can plainly see them arriving), plus, as Paul points out, the sirens fade as well as the laughter.

    Why would Batman kill the joker right in front of the cops?

    It is an interesting thought, though–it fits with the name and adds an extra layer to the flashlight joke.

  16. I agree with Eman 100%. The last “eeee” is smaller, meaning the police are going away, not getting closer. Morrison always has great big ideas that are great, but I disagree. His argument doesn’t match the evidence: T-minus hours until Moore refutes the hell out of this.

    Beautiful art aside, I’ve always hated this comic because its sucker punch is so cheap and explicit — nothing subtle about it at all. Moore disavowing this comic — that was really cool.

  17. We talked about the book on our Sneaky Dragon podcast recently. I mentioned the theory some people have that he kills him at the end. I think it’s just two actors who have been through this scene a hundred times finally breaking character at the end, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway style.

  18. @synsidar The whole Batman constantly towing mental precipice and his mental conflict over what he does and the reasons for it, is a very legitimate reading of the character and I think even a couple of good books came out of it. As a purely personal preference though, I’d like to think he evolved beyond that phase of his life, and I think a maturer, and less neurosis laden Bruce Wayne/Batman makes for a more interesting character and potentially better stories.

    I have the worst memory ever, but there’s a recent Bat book somewhere where he talks about not just doing this because of his parents, how he made peace with that long ago, that the anger and drive from that instigating factor is long gone, and he goes on to talk about what Batman and his purpose means to him today. That appeals to me on a greater level- to see that man, that Batman face off against the Joker, rather than another ‘I’m mad in my way, you’re mad in your way’ tale.

  19. I’ve never liked the ending of the Killing Joke, because I read it as Batman and the Joker sharing a laugh. That makes it seem like all the pain that Joker caused meant nothing to him. I don’t like the idea that Batman is crazy, especially that he is as crazy as the Joker, that they are two sides of the same coin. I like the interpretation that Batman killed the Joker. I also never thought it should be regarded as being in continuity.

  20. “oops, I forgot my whole point of evidence: how can Batman break his neck if he’s grabbing him by the shoulders? Moore and Bolland are not nearly that sloppy.”
    Well, within the panels where we don’t see them, Batman could be moving his hands up to Joker’s throat.

  21. Batman killing the Joker really does work well as an ending, connecting both to the dying of the siren and the dying of the laughter. Showing Batman killing the Joker wouldn’t have worked; it has to be implied. His death is superior to any other resolution of the story.

    @Zainab: I’d buy Batman maturing if it were reflected in his stories, but it’s not. A reader can posit a character having all sorts of normal interests, pursuits, and behaviors, but none of that means anything if the stories don’t show them.


  22. These different interpretations are kind of cool to read. Yeah, he could have brought his hands up, but it’s MOORE, you know? Nothing is left to chance with him and what is shown on a panel. It just seems like a jump (grabbing to killing) that just isn’t there. Batman also could have given him a head-butt, but nothing says that, either. But sure, definitely could.

    Love the Corman/Conway analogy.

  23. While DC did place it in continuity, I could have sworn I read someplace where Alan Moore never intended it to be in continuity. I think the same is true of Son of the Demon.

  24. “Great – here come all the “I always thought of it that way” comments. Sheesh.”

    While some people might prefer to believe that Grant Morrison is a visionary genius who has decoded a hidden meaning that absolutely everyone else missed in a twenty-five year old comic book, this is not remotely the first time I’ve heard someone give the “Batman killed Joker” interpretation of The Killing Joke‘s ending. Frankly, I would have thought that the vast majority of people who participate in comic book fandom on the internet would have at least heard that interpretation by now, even if they didn’t personally think of it on first read; to wit, that version of events didn’t occur to me when first going through The Killing Joke and when I later reread the story after hearing the “Batman kills Joker” analysis I could certainly see where it was coming from, but didn’t (and still don’t) think that was the best take on what happened.

  25. I talked about all of this a while back in my book on “The Killing Joke” (titled “And the Universe So Big”).

    Morrison’s right that Batman kills the Joker — IF you’re willing to see it. But he’s wrong about the snapping-the-neck business (which isn’t going on, in those panels). It’s the Joker’s own toxin.

    That’s why the Joker starts laughing (differently) in that panel. It’s also why he doesn’t fall; “The Killing Joke” establishes that the toxin paralyzes people (like that guy on the amusement park animal, held in place). You can also see the Joker’s hand stiffening, in the panel following the “hit” (which is inconsistent with strangulation, in which people tend to defend their neck, but consistent with what we’ve already seen of the toxin).

    Also, there’s that strange page earlier, during a fight scene, in which Batman, after tumbling from a blow, spends half of it staring at his hand… right after he’s kicked the needle out of the Joker’s. It’s a totally bizarre page no one seems to talk about.

    And the whole rain motif? It’s circles of water, with lines of rain crashing into the center. A visual echo of the poison needle device. (Moore used similar visual echoes in “Watchmen.”)

    It’s all right there. But part of the genius of the work is that you can so easily ignore it, if you want.

  26. Bolland jokes about the ambiguous ending in one of the collections, and a quick google search shows that Morrison’s interpretation has been around the block and then some.

  27. Two pages before the last page of TKJ, moments before The Joker launches into his joke, The Batman talks twice about not killing each other. I don’t find it very likely The Batman changed his mind quite so quickly. Grant Morrison sees what he wants to see.

    On the other hand, the last page is drawn ambiguously enough that I’ve had people ask me if The Batman did kill The Joker, when I’ve showed them TKJ, since the book came out in 1988.

  28. I think Julian’s nearly right. The sharing a laugh thing always rang weird to me. It’s a sentimental scene we might WANT to see, but not in this context.

    What makes sense is that they’re both poisoned with Joker venom. They both die.

    Which is a story that can only be told with this level of indirection.

  29. “I always thought he just knocked him out because Batman doesn’t, well, you know… kill people?”

    Oh, but he has to kill him see because it’s DARK and nothing is worth a damn in modern superhero comics unless it’s DARK. Because DARK automatically equals quality and intelligent storytelling don’t ya know and that is that is the unofficial legacy of Alan Moore and Frank Miller whether they ever intended it or not. ..well, Frank probably did.

  30. “Oh, but he has to kill him see because it’s DARK and nothing is worth a damn in modern superhero comics unless it’s DARK”

    Yes, I’ve said for years, I want GOOD comics, not DARK comics. Dark comics can be good — but whenever a writer describes someone as “a dark character,” that’s usually short-hand for a snarling psychopath with no depth of characterization.

    I’ve heard the “Batman kills Joker” theory in the past, and never understood how anyone saw that. For my money, “Hunt the Dark Knight” always topped this one though. Especially for the ending in which Batman realizes that he CAN’T kill. It’s not in his nature, a fact of which The Joker mercilessly taunts him.

  31. That script would sure seem to indicate that no one is dying there. Read panel 3!

    If Batman and the Joker are, per Moore, preordained to kill each other, or, since Batman is the hero, the Joker dies, why wouldn’t the best time be now? It’s certainly not a case of the characters being irreplaceable.

    Any great story with characters in it has great characters. Readers don’t fetishize characters because the characters are great; they fetishize them because their personalities lead them to fetishize things, and fictional characters are some of those things.

    Replacing Batman and the Joker in the public’s consciousness would be as simple as a talented writer deciding to write a story or stories featuring similar characters. The difference between the success of that story and the success of the Batman and Joker properties is that readers would react to and celebrate the artistry of the writer’s (or creators’) story instead of projecting feelings onto the characters.


  32. Can somebody, anybody, explain to me how continuity in comics like these work?

    I’m not a die hard Batman reader, but I’ve read most of the big stuff.

    In TKJ, we see a photo of Bat-mite, and a scene that shows Batman working in the late 30s/early 40s.
    But TKJ also established the paralyzed Barbara Gordon and the Red Hood thing.

  33. @Jacob When Alan Moore wrote TKJ, his (and, I believe, DC’S, such as it was) intention was for it to be a stand alone tale out of continuity- they hadn’t started doing Elseworlds yet, but sort of along those lines: out there in terms of timeline. However, DC later decided to incorporate it into continuity and it’s been accepted as such since.

    But, y’know ‘comics continuity’ – an oxymoron if ever there was one!

  34. But, y’know ‘comics continuity’ – an oxymoron if ever there was one!

    I’d argue that, generally, any problem with a story that results in continuity being blamed for it can be blamed on another, larger issue, such as poor editorial control or a story being published when the premise should have resulted in it being canned.

    I haven’t been following ALL-NEW X-MEN; one reason for nobody to follow it is that the time travel element blows up the premise. Several people commented early on that the time travel element was really minor, and the treatment of the characters justified liking the series. Then an X-series event comes along, and time travel mechanics are central to it. So much for continuity, so much for Marvel, so much for ______. Bad ideas can’t produce good stories.


  35. Only Alan Moore could write a Batman comic where a woman gets shot in the womb, stripped naked, and photographed, only to be used to screw with a male character’s mind, and it’s not the thing people keep bringing up.

  36. 1) Telescoping the ending by a) calling the book “The Killing Joke”, and b) having Batman say “this will end with one of us killing the other” is certainly a good argument that yes, Batman does kill the Joker at the end. (Of note: in “Man of Steel”, Zod telescopes that same ending about 10 minutes before Superman snaps his neck.) But with such obvious foreshadowing, if in the narrative Moore wanted it clear that Batman DID kill the Joker, I think he would’ve written that the art actually show it. The way it is visually makes it vague, and the conversation of Batman saying it’s going to happen is the seed that plants the thought in your head. It’s really up to the reader to interpret it, which is the beauty of it.

    2) The police are NOT driving away in those last few panels. The “EEeEEeeEE”‘s start small, then get bigger, but then they change slightly in size accordingly with the volume of a siren. But also visually you can tell they didn’t drive away because the light from the headlight (the yellow beam down the center of the panels) is bigger.

    In panel 7, no one is laughing anymore. Make of that what you will.
    In panel 8, the police car’s siren is off, but the headlight is still on.
    In panel 9, the headlight is either off or obscured.
    OR, instead of the sound stopping, it could be read that the sounds are getting so loud they drown out. Or just fade out like the end of a movie.

    Either way, the police stopping the car or driving away does not prove or disprove Batman killing the Joker.

    3) I knew he was a replicant all along!

  37. I love the idea that the recurring rain motif symbolically reveals the killing device. A murder mystery with Batman at the center…love it!!

  38. “Only Alan Moore could write a Batman comic where a woman gets shot in the womb, stripped naked, and photographed, only to be used to screw with a male character’s mind, and it’s not the thing people keep bringing up.”

    Trust me; there’s people that keep bringing it up from every politicized angle you can imagine.

  39. Trust me; there’s people that keep bringing it up from every politicized angle you can imagine.

    No there aren’t. The guy’s right. Moore is one of those writers whose popularity has made him immune from criticism in “the problem with rape in comics” type stories in the comics media even though the majority of his body of work contains at least one gratuitous one.

  40. @Johnny Memeonic — To say that Alan Moore is immune from criticism of his use of rape as a plot device in his early comics work is not only wrong but willfully ignorant. Seriously, just Google any combination of the words I just typed above and see what comes up.

    Also, Moore has repeatedly expressed remorse/regret/revulsion at the bleakness of his early ’80s work, and “The Killing Joke” in particular, which indicates some understanding of the problem of rape in the stories (or “the problem of rape,” as you put it; not sure why you feel the need to diminish a legitimate and urgently needed line of criticism in modern superhero comics).

  41. Just finished rereading Bolland’s remastered version when all this hubbub came up. I have to say, it seems like Paul McEnery is correct, they both die of the Joker venom at the end… if either dies at all.

    Moore’s script is irrelevant to the discussion because all of the cues are visual – as meticulous as Moore is a writer, Brian Bolland is probably MORE meticulous an artist, and likely added it all himself. So it was Bolland, at the carnival, with the Joker toxin.

    While I prefer that interpretation myself, the ending is deliberately left ambiguous, which is why it’s masterful. Still, the ending in which they both die is the most narratively sound one.

    (*I should also note that this story wasn’t intended to be in continuity originally, and Barbara Gordon had either been paralyzed in continuity elsewhere, or continued to be mobile in continuity for a while after – though the citation escapes me now, I remember having very, very long discussions about this years ago with folks more knowledgeable about the subject. I think what happened is that Kim Yale and John Ostrander brought her paralysis into continuity afterwards, though John would be a better source than I to comment on those circumstances.)

  42. Was the Joker’s origin in The Killing Joke made part of the post-Crisis canon?

    Otherwise, I see it as an “imaginary story”, a “Last Batman Story”.

  43. As much as I respect Morrison, I think his reading of the final page is simply mistaken. As a number of other commenters on here have pointed out, Batman actually grabs The Joker by the *SHOULDERS*, not by the neck–so whatever else we may say about those final panels, whatever happens between Batman and The Joker as the cops are arriving happens “off-camera,” so to speak. It’s not part of the actual TEXT at all.

    What seals the deal for me even more on this, though, is how Moore explains panel 5 in the script that Zainab linked us to. (BTW: thanks for that! fascinating stuff!!)

    Moore’s script says that the two are holding one another up and “clinging together.” I think that this is best read in the context of some of his other work–Watchmen, for example, or his work on Marvelman/Miracleman. The innate problem that Moore sees within the superhero genre is the culture of fetishized violence and how it’s continually escalating. Batman is ultimately responsible for CREATING the Joker, and the Joker in turn perpetuates the need for Batman’s own existence. As intent as he is on exploring that dynamic, I think he’d probably feel that Batman actually killing the Joker would just be too cheap an ending, and indeed probably would only serve to distract from the overall point he’s trying to make: that violence of the sort that Batman relies upon only serves to make differentiating between the stock categories of “hero” and “villain” a treacherous, doubtful enterprise. I think that also makes better sense of why Moore closes with the images of the rain puddles (concentric circles widening and blurring into one another) and specifically requests in the script that Bolland’s last few panels have a more abstract, formless feel to them.

  44. @Johnny Memeonic — To say that Alan Moore is immune from criticism of his use of rape as a plot device in his early comics work is not only wrong but willfully ignorant. Seriously, just Google any combination of the words I just typed above and see what comes up.

    Also, Moore has repeatedly expressed remorse/regret/revulsion at the bleakness of his early ’80s work, and “The Killing Joke” in particular, which indicates some understanding of the problem of rape in the stories (or “the problem of rape,” as you put it; not sure why you feel the need to diminish a legitimate and urgently needed line of criticism in modern superhero comics).

    The use of quotes is to separate the subject from the rest of the sentence for clarity, you’re the one reading hidden meaning that’s not there. And I have read Alan Moore express some regret over making super-heroes grim ‘n’ gritty, but that’s not the subject at hand. That subject is his use of rape as a plot device, which is he is most certainly NOT sorry about since it’s still in his most recent works (re: LoEG and Neonomicon) and still as gratuitous as ever.

    And he is not criticized. Google only gives out no-name blogs and forum posts, which all have limited reach and qualification. Why is he not constantly challenged on the major sites like CBR, Comics Alliance, etc like other creators and companies are?

  45. I don’t know — my only guess is that it must be a massive hypocritical conspiracy by the comics journalism industrial complex against big corporate properties.

  46. Batman indeed kills the Joker at the end of “The Killing Joke”. I have observed that the joke itself actually has much foreshadowing and symbolism that supports this theory. This, for the most part, is focused on the last two pages (final 16 panels) of the book (see: http://walyou.com/wp-content/uploads//2011/11/the-Joke-e1321612787299.jpg and http://fourthage.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/killing-joke-last-page.png). Here’s a detailed breakdown I wrote; let me know what you think:


    + The Joker says this same thing at the beginning of “The Killing Joke”, when Batman enters the Joker’s cell. The two guys in the joke are Batman and the Joker, and the lunatic asylum represents their “fatal relationship”, also referenced at the beginning of the book.


    + The escape from the lunatic asylum represents them putting an end to their fatal relationship, which again goes back to the beginning where Batman says, “I’ve been thinking lately, about you and me. About what’s going to happen to us, in the end. We’re going to kill each other, aren’t we?”


    + The picture shows the Joker looking at Gotham City in the moonlight. The town is Gotham City, and the narrow gap is the water that separates them from the town. Freedom symbolizes insanity/madness.


    + The Joker is the first guy, who makes the jump with no problem; or, in other words, he goes “loony” shamelessly. His “friend”, or Batman, refuses to lose that kind of control. To the Joker, “he’s too afraid of falling.”


    + This is the Joker’s final offer to Batman to join him in evil… to embrace freedom.


    + This line implies that the Joker believes Batman is really just as crazy as he is.


    + The final three panels of “The Killing Joke” symbolize Batman falling as a result of the Joker. The third-to-last panel shows the sunlight reflecting vertically off the rain puddle between Batman’s feet and the Joker’s feet. The Joker is the first guy who has already jumped across the gap, while Batman is the second guy who “daredn’t make the leap”. The sunlight represents the flashlight offered by the first man (the Joker) to shine across the gap. Again, the water (in this instance, the pool of rainwater the sunlight is reflecting off of) is the gap.

    + The second-to-last panel is a zoom-in of the previous panel, an indication that the reader should look closer.

    + The final panel is the flashlight turned off. The first guy (the Joker) turned the light off on the second guy (Batman). The fall represents Batman sinking to the same level as the Joker. He is a killer. Batman kills the Joker because the joke is a threat. If Batman doesn’t kill the Joker, the Joker will continue to try and kill Batman and other innocent people. Thus, it’s The Killing Joke. Batman laughs at the joke, which symbolizes that he and the Joker now have common ground… they are both murderers. Again, The Killing Joke. Finally, going back to the beginning of book again, Batman murdering the Joker is foreshadowed when he touches the Joker in his cell. The Joker’s white paint rubs off on Batman’s glove, representing that the Joker’s blood will be on Batman’s hands.

  47. It looks like Batman killed the Joker but how can he kill his most important nemesis. It seems that no one actually dies in comics. if they did they find a way for them to come back. The end panels are beautifully done though it sure does leave it to people’s imaginations. I guess that is the fun of it.

  48. “Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another… If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!” Same goes for the ending…

  49. I kind of recall hearing that interpretation years ago — and dismissing it so completely that I had forgotten it. I can see now why it could be interpreted that way, but I don’t think so.

  50. Johnny Mnemonic said:

    “And he is not criticized. Google only gives out no-name blogs and forum posts, which all have limited reach and qualification. Why is he not constantly challenged on the major sites like CBR, Comics Alliance, etc like other creators and companies are?”

    The original post to which I responded, that of Mr. Goddard, did not specify “major sites.” He only said that “people” never bring up the Moore-rapiness, and so I wrote what I wrote to dispute that.

  51. Upon first reading this comic and seeing the final page I thought it was pretty obvious that he killed the joker. And the title says it all. A killing joke at the end of the comic as the finale. Duh.

  52. I’m sorry but Batman didn’t kill the Joker. The Joker killed Batman! Batman’s not one to laugh, as we all know. However the Joker is known for making the dying laugh, the Joker finally killed the Batman in the perfect way, at the end of one of his Jokes, a true Killing Joke!
    Batman hand goes out to keep himself from falling, due to the powerful joker toxin running through is blood.
    At the end there is a line between the two men, one Batman would never cross. Batman would never kill, however The Joker would, only it has to be perfect. Alan knows this, therefore the ending between these two is inevitable.

  53. I was recommended this amazing graphic novel because I’ve only just started reading comics and I have always loved Batman and the Joker, So I bought it a few weeks ago only knowing a few things about the whole book and after reading this spesiffic page I was like nooo. I saw it straight away and questioned it straight away, Did Batman just kill the Joker? And your right it is ambiguous, but it’s done perfectly and I can’t believe it’s taken so many people this long to see it… And the way it’s done simply make the reader think, did Batman or didn’t he. Genius!

  54. Of course Batman killed him. There’s no ambiguity whatsoever just people are too stupid to see the clues. The third to last square has the gap between batman’s feet and Joker’s feet and that’s the gap between the two prisoners. And there is a light that’s from the car that represents the flashlight. Batman is asking joker to come over to his side but joker doesn’t trust him because he thinks Batman will turn off the flashlight, no more bridge or opportunity for the Joker, and he dies. Batman ends up turning off the flashlight, which is the last square, Batman had killed the Joker. Even though Gordon wanted Joker to be brought back by the book, Batman’s intent isn’t that, he doesn’t say, Sure thing Gordon I’ll bring Joker back the right way, he instead says, I’ll try my best which means he doesn’t really know if he is gonna let joker live. His intent from the start is to end the conflict between him and Joker in one of two ways, they become friends and learn to co-exist (perhaps reference to the cold war) or one of them ends up killing the other (which is a nicer way of saying Batman kills the Joker because Bruce is logical and won’t let the Joker win in the end because that would endanger all of Gotham City and all the people he cared about). From the start of the comic, he is determined to end the Batman-Joker feud one way or another and that is why this has to be the last confrontation between the two.

  55. Batman is reaching out to take the Joker’s shoulder as they laugh, as one might do to a friend or acquaintance when you share a joke that has a strong effect. It was a motion of support, a moment where they were not, perhaps, enemies in their own shared madness… and the yellow line is the coin, of which they are the two sides.

    Naturally, it would only be a moment, and then that moment would pass and the touch of support in their laughter would tighten as Batman secured the Joker for the police.

    That’s my take.

  56. If “the laughter stops, it’s quite obvious” is a clue, why does the siren suddenly stop as well? I don’t think it’s ‘quite obvious.’

  57. Um, Batman strangles him to death, and the blood pools up in the rain as the cops arrive. I don’t see how or why this is unclear.

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