Home Comics & Toys Watchmen almost stopped Batman: The Killing Joke from being made

Watchmen almost stopped Batman: The Killing Joke from being made

3 min read

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Iconic. Controversial. Jokery. Those are just a few of the words which have been used to describe Batman: The Killing Joke over the years. It’s one of those landmark graphic novels, from an era that redefined the caped crusader as a vengeful force of gritty justice, not some campy dark knight who got rid of sharks by spraying them with a special repellent and hopping back to his stately mansion.

More than that however, it’s considered the definitive Joker story. A tale about how one bad day can drive anyone mental enough to spend a few years waging a one-man war on a city and its flying rat-themed vigilante protector. This year, The Killing Joke finally gets an animated adaptation, a direct to DVD and Blu Ray film that features the finest Batman and Joker actors around.

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But it’s an adaptation that DC and Warner Bros. Animation have been trying for years to get right. It’s just a pity that Zack Snyder’s Watchmen movie almost killed it. That’s according to Warner Bros. animation’s Bruce Timm, who told Empire how the lacklustre box office results from Snyder’s Watchmen movie cast a shade of doubt on adapting a novel which was pretty dark to begin with:

This is actually the third time that The Killing Joke came up for production. The first time, it was because we had told the home video department that chances are if we do this story, it’s going to get an R rating. This was years ago, but they said, “We’re okay with that, but we’re going to kind of hedge our bets monetarily.”

The idea was because the source material was not really long enough to do a full movie, we were going to do a shorter movie at a lower price point, so that would hopefully offset the loss of sales that we would have by the fact that it wouldn’t be an all age title. But right around the time we were ramping up, the Watchmen movie was released and underperformed. Everybody kind of took a step back and said, “Well, maybe the time’s not right for an R-rated superhero movie, so put it on the shelf.”

The second time DC and Warner Bros. tried to get this project off the ground? It was curtailed by the unfortunate shooting that took place at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado:

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A couple of years later, it came up again and we even had started production with character designs and stuff. But then that horrible shooting at the Dark Knight Rises theater happened and everybody got nervous again about it, because of gun violence, so we put it back on the shelf.

Go forward a couple of more years and it came up again. At this point we kind of looked at the whole thing and felt if we were going to do it, there were certain things about the original story that had always kind of bothered me. I mean the idea of adapting this story always kind of terrified me, because of how relentlessly grim and bleak it is.

And what happens to Barbara Gordon in the story is very controversial to this day.


Third time’s the charm then. The animated adaptation will include new material, that expands on Batgirl and makes the tragedy that befalls her have a deeper impact. Y’know, instead of just being a throwaway victim for the Joker to use in his quest to prove a point.

Last Updated: June 3, 2016


  1. Sorry but The Watchmen just wasn’t that good, as a graphic novel or on film. I know some think Alan Moore is some kind of comic god but I disagree. Half the characters were blatant rip-offs and the other half were unrelatable or unexciting. Dr. manhattan (while deliberately unrelatable) was interesting and Rorschach was a lot of fun. Absolutely everyone else was derivative at best. The watchmen was only noteworthy because at that time very few comics and graphic novels went for that sort of gritty introspective treatment of the superhero genre. I don’t think that was because Moore was any great genius but because of his inherently curmudgeonly nature.


    • Erik

      June 4, 2016 at 06:34

      Moore’s best accomplishment (in my humble opinion) was Constantine.


    • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

      June 4, 2016 at 08:04

      There’s no denying Watchmen is a cult classic. Sure almost all of them relied on super strength or speed but each character formed an important part of the story puzzle. Also I loved the time period it was set in. Ozymandias solution to the cold war at the end of the movie while horrifying was a stroke of genius that no one, not even Dr Manhattan could stop. Moore might not be a genius but he told a damn good story


    • Viking Of Science

      June 6, 2016 at 08:12

      You realise of course that The characters being tropes, or as you put it, Rip-offs is part of the point, right? Watchmen isn’t about Night-Owl, Silk Spectre and the rest’s adventure. They’re merely an Allegory of Comic book characters during that time. Watchmen was about deconstructing comic books, not about a blue man hanging out on Mars.


      • Erik

        June 8, 2016 at 03:08

        Maybe had he done his deconstruction with more interesting characters I would have gotten into it more. Even for tropes they were boring and tedious. I know there are tons of fans. I’m just not one of them.


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