Brian Bolland

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Batman: The Killing Joke Special

The very BEST Alan Moore ending in his entire body of work. – Guillermo del Toro, filmmaker

The Killing Joke is a story about Batman and the Joker; it isn’t about anything that you’re ever going to encounter in real life, because Batman and the Joker are not like any human beings that have ever lived. So there’s no important human information being imparted … Yeah, it was something that I thought was clumsy, misjudged and had no real human importance. It was just about a couple of licensed DC characters that didn’t really relate to the real world in any way. – Alan Moore, the original writer, The Killing Joke

Wanna say that again, pussy? – Brian Azzarello, screenwriter, Batman: The Killing Joke

Out of nowhere–well, the questionably sincere loins of 2016 DC Animation–comes Batman: The Killing Joke, the animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s seminal 1988 comic book one-shot, starring Tara Strong as Batgirl, Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill in his much-anticipated return as The Joker. Matthew Hurwitz and I thought it might be nice to sit down and hash over the film, much like we did for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Little did we know Killing Joke wouldn’t just turn out to be terrible, it would find astoundingly terrible ways to be terrible.

So join us now, as we gaze long into Batman: The Killing Joke and peel back each layer of superhero comics, animation and movie history that lead from the original book to a movie that did virtually everything wrong. Yeah, you knew we were the only ones up to the task. While everyone else is ranting about the instantly-infamous Batman / Batgirl hookup sex scene, only The Comics Fondle Podcast gives equal time to discussing the idiocy of this version having The Joker use circus freaks as a gang of deadly goons.

(We do actually get to discuss some good things, like “Batman: The Animated Series” and some comics. It’s not all doom and gloom. There’s whimsy)

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Judge Dredd 19 (May 1985)

Judge Dredd #19Wagner and Grant amp up the block war storyline, but turn it into a long investigation. Dredd is trying to track down the person responsible for the block war mania. It’s strange, once the suspect is identified, he also refers to the condition as block mania. It’s a small thing, but it does show where Wagner and Grant aren’t paying attention.

The investigation is exciting, with some very nice art from Smith and Steve Dillon. There’s enough content the issue feels very substantial, especially the way the story of the suspect goes. The cliffhanger is a good one and kind of cool to be the aftermath of a mundane investigation. It’s well-done, but it’s not as interesting.

So a good feature. Then the second, shorter story has Dredd stopping criminals while the people around them respond with apathy. It’s neat one.

The big story was far more impressive though.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant; artists, Ron Smith, Steve Dillon and Brian Bolland; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 15 (January 1985)

Judge Dredd #15The issue has Wagner looking at various aspects of the future–block life, block wars, reasoning apes, what happens when a judge needs to retire–but none of them really stand out.

The first story, resolving the Judge Child storyline while Dredd deals with a block war, has art from Brian Bolland. It’s gorgeous, but too static, too constrained. Bolland doesn’t have any fun with the future, but he also doesn’t have any fun with his composition.

In contrast, Mike McMahon goes crazy in the other pages. There’s humor built into the panels and the composition is inventive. The McMahon stories–even Mills’s pointless ape one–come off a lot better; there’s something distinctive about them, whereas Bolland’s is purely functional.

Of course, Wagner’s handling of that first story is a lot more functional and less narratively playful than the rest.

It’s a mixed bag, but with some definite pluses.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Pat Mills; artists, Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Tony Jacob; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 14 (December 1984)

Judge Dredd #14It’s a really weak issue. Both writers–Wagner and Mills–go as melodramatic and sappy as possible. How can Judge Dredd be sappy?

For most of the issue, Wagner focuses on Dredd’s sidekick robot, Walter. The joke with Walter is he is annoying and an issue of Walter stories seems a little too much. The Judge Dredd Christmas story, for example, is about as saccharine as Judge Dredd should ever get it but the subsequent stories take it even further.

In some ways, Mills’s story with Judge Rico’s return is even worse. Most of the story is told in summary with Mills focusing on tender moments from Dredd’s life. The ending is even worse. The difference between Wagner and Mills being Wagner makes Dredd sympathetic in the context of the comic, Mills tries to make him sympathetic overall.

Some nice art from McMahon but this issue is a stinker.

C- 

CREDITS

Writers, John Wagner and Pat Mills; artists, Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland; colorist, John Burns; letterers, Tom Frame and Tony Jacob; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 4 (November 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #4It’s another strong issue, with Wagner giving Dredd a series of imaginative sci-fi encounters. The first one is the most traditional, with Dredd trying to track down a human visitor to a strange alien world. But Wagner has already established the character–who has contracted a strange alien disease–so Dredd has to enter that story.

But there’s also some drama with Dredd and his fellow judges based on his treatment of one of the other judges. Wagner probably could tell this subplot better but it works well enough.

The second big story has Dredd and company against an intergalactic salesman. It’s s silly story, but s fun one. Some very nice start throughout it too. Smith handles the action well.

The last story has the Angel family on a desert planet. It’s a little too much how Wild West Wagner makes the planet.

But it’s still real strong.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Brian Bolland, Ron Smith and Mike McMahon; colorist, Ian Stead; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 2 (September 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #2Wagner takes Dredd and company–though the company is rather indistinct–on an intergalactic quest. They’re in pursuit of the Angel family, who have kidnapped the Judge Child. There’s not a lot on the pursuit, but rather a series of imaginative sci-fi encounters.

The first has Dredd encountering a space station where the computer has taken over. Kind of 2001 with a lot of action. Not entirely original, but it works.

The second encounter, on a planet where the humans can download their consciousness into chips to live forever (another person loans out their body for the consciousness’s usage), is the best. This section is where Dredd gets a sidekick and Wagner gets to write the most.

Since Dredd is hopping from planet to planet, it never feels episodic.

The finale has him against a living, hungry planet.

Some great art from McMahon, Bolland and Smith throughout.

Excellent stuff.

A 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland and Ron Smith; colorist, Ian Stead; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest 1 (August 1984)

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Quest #1Judge Dredd heads into the Cursed Earth looking for a mutant child who’s going to have to save Mega-City One, or so one of the pre-cogs says. Writer John Wagner comes up with some decent encounters for Dredd–this issue’s primary villain is a “garbage god” who has thousands of slaves mining antiques from pre-apocalypse Memphis for him. There’s an ancient Egypt thing too; it doesn’t make much sense, but the Brian Bolland and Ron Smith are is excellent so it doesn’t need to make any.

The series is more compiled entries from 2000 AD but never feels too bumpy–with Wagner so focused on Dredd trying to find the child, it’s mostly action. The biggest bump comes after the end of the Garbage God episode, with Dredd continuining his hunt into Texas.

That finale, which leads to the cliffhanger, makes the issue seem a tad bloated.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Brian Bolland, Ron Smith and Mike McMahon; colorist, McMahon; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 12 (October 1984)

Judge Dredd #12It’s a surprisingly awesome issue, with Wagner giving Dredd a big dumb sidekick, but one with a lot of character and comic relief value. They have to get back to the surface (Dredd and company escaped underground), so there’s a decent action sequence when Wagner brings them up against some other judges.

He also explains why the rest of the judges are falling in line with evil, crazy Chief Judge Cal. It’s sort of obvious and should have been handled better, but once Wagner has it out of the way, the rest of the issue’s smooth.

Especially once the focus turns to Dredd’s annoying robot. Wagner is able to follow it through the evil judges’ side of the story and since Chief Judge Cal is crazy, it’s very amusing. His jokes are a lot less forced now.

There’s some great art from Ewins at the end too.

Real good issue.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; artists, Brian Bolland, Garry Leach, Ron Smith and Brett Ewins; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 11 (September 1984)

Judge Dredd #11Somehow, even though Bolland and McMahon alternate the chapters in this issue–so it’s always very clear when moving from one to the next–the story flows a lot smoother. Maybe because Wagner has gotten into the middle of the story, he’s established the lunatic rule of Chief Judge Cal. He’s moving through instead of building up.

He also focuses a lot less on Dredd and his plans. Instead, it’s mostly Cal and his lunacy, though without as many new absurd jokes. Or, if there are absurdities, Wagner backgrounds them instead of bringing them out front as his focus. It works much better.

And Cal’s lunacy gives McMahon a real chance to show off. In the craziest parts of the issue–usually involving Cal having an episode, sometimes on the air, sometimes just for his weary supporting judges–McMahon just goes wild. It looks great.

It’s a sturdy, steady issue.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, John Wagner; pencillers, Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon; inkers, Bolland, Garry Leach and McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

Judge Dredd 9 (July 1984)

Judge Dredd #9It’s something of a lackluster issue.

The opening resolves the Cursed Earth storyline, but it’s the final chapter and probably should’ve somehow been fit in with the rest of the Cursed Earth issues. Especially since it’s extremely anticlimactic, though Mills does attend the character relationships he’s developed.

Then Wagner takes over with Dredd on trial, followed by Dredd as a fugitive, followed by Dredd redeemed, followed by Dredd versus a conspiracy. The compiled nature of the series comes through way too much–every few pages it stops and starts, sometimes going in a wildly different direction.

And Wagner’s characterization of Dredd, who’s shouting off one-liners, seems too forced. Wagner’s characterizations of the rest of the cast is similar–he’s rushing. There are some occasional high points, like Dredd’s showdown with a robot duplicate, but otherwise it’s a problematic outing. The constant Dredd in danger cliffhangers get tiresome really fast.

B- 

CREDITS

Writers, Pat Mills and John Wagner; pencillers, Brian Bolland, Brendan McCarthy and Mike McMahon; inkers, Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Brett Ewins and McMahon; colorist, John Burns; letterer, Tom Frame; editor, Nick Landau; publisher, Eagle Comics.

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