Batman: The Killing Joke, March 1988, DC Comics, Cover by Brian Bolland.
"Batman: The Killing Joke" (1988) cover art by Brian Bolland
The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its celebration and examination of iconic comic covers from the 1970s through the 2000s, this week returning to the Bronze Age of Comics, the Eighties. The decade was a transformative one for comics, as they became more adult-oriented and increasingly written for an audience that had grown up with comics and was still reading them into adulthood.
Landmarks in this change of direction were influential comics like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, and Alan Moore’s Watchmen and this week’s POP Retro Cover Of The Week, Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland.
Batman: The Killing Joke was a self-contained story published as one of DC’s Prestige Format trade paperback graphic novels, with a slick card stock cover that featured upscale touches like embossing behind the title and creative credits.
The cover image features Bolland’s beautifully detailed illustration (the texture on the seams and cuffs, the Joker playing card cufflink!) of a close-up of the Joker taking a picture with his SLR, saying “SMILE!” to his unseen subject. This scene does not appear in the book, and seems to be meaningless. Until the Joker reveals to a captive Commissioner Gordon sick photographs of his daughter, a very bloody and critically injured Barbara Gordon, whom the Joker has just shot, in more ways than one. Suddenly, the seemingly innocent cover image becomes cruel and sadistic. And instantly iconic.
Next week: A cover from the 1990s