There were these two guys in a lunatic asylum.
One was the definitive voice of the Joker, the cackling, sadistic laugh we all remember from Batman: The Animated Series, or that Star Wars thing that all the kids are talking about these days. His one desire since he began voicing the Crown Prince of Crime was to do an adaptation of the definitive Joker story, the one explaining the origins of the Joker, and how all it takes sometimes is one bad day to turn a man into a monster. The other was the writer of that aforementioned story, one of the most critically acclaimed writers of superhero stories of the last few decades. An immortal superwizard who could bend space, time, and dimensions, had a fabulous beard, and knew how to write a compelling story. At least two of these things are true.
So Mark Hamill turns to Alan Moore and says ‘Alan, it’s finally happened. We’re going to do an adaption of the Killing Joke.’ Alan Moore shakes his head, sighs the deep, soulful sigh of someone who worships a magic snake god. ‘No, no, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s going to be great. I’m voicing the Joker, we’ve got Kevin Conroy as Batman, Tara Strong as Barbara Gordon, Bruce Timm’s coming on to direct, we’ve got everyone from the Animated Series. It’s the dream team in action.’ Even as Mark made the pitch, he saw that Alan wasn’t convinced. ‘Oh, I get it.’ says Mark, chuckling briefly, ‘You’ve got this thing about your works being adapted, don’t you?’
Alan looks up and looks Mark right in the eyes. ‘V for Vendetta, From Hell, Watchmen, and don’t even get me started on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Mark, or we’ll be here all night. It’s the same every time people start adapting my works, Mark, it never ends well.’ He pauses. ‘I mean, even before I put curses on them.’
Mark raises his hands in a conciliatory gesture, and certainly not in the manner that one would raise their hands to try and reassure an alpha predator. ‘Okay, look, I know most of the adaptions have been bad, but remember how the Justice League handled For The Man Who Has Everything? Wasn’t that good?’ Alan nods, because that was good. The story had been respected, and what elements had been changed were changed for the continuity of the show and because it was being shown for kids. Although personally, Alan couldn’t see why people would be adverse to seeing Jason Todd burnt to ashes, particularly after Red Hood and the Outlaws had been a thing.
Finally, Alan comes clean. ‘Look, Mark, the voice casting’s great, the direction’s great, and I’ve got no doubt you’ll carry it brilliantly. But you’re forgetting one thing.’ Mark gestures for him to elaborate. ‘It’s DC you’re dealing with here, and if there’s one thing you can say about DC, it’s that they can’t leave well enough alone.’
Before Mark could say a word in rebuttal, there appeared the third lunatic in this particular ensemble, waving over at Alan, who could only shake his head and grip his mighty staff of power ever harder. ‘Mark, Alan, hi! It’s me, Dan DiDio!’
‘Hello, Satan.’ murmured Alan out of clenched teeth.
‘Satan, pff. This guy, what a kidder. Satan’s got an exclusive with those other guys. So Mark, listen. We’ve made… well, we’ve made a couple tweaks to the script.’
Mark looks at Alan, who looks for all the world like he’s going to take a swing and never stop, and asks hesitantly, ‘… Changes?’
‘Yeah, so listen. We feel that the story, while it’s a classic, needs a bit of expansion. I mean, when Alan wrote it, it was never supposed to be in canon, so Barbara comes off as… well, a bit of a shallow character. It’s about her getting paralysed, but it’s not about her… see what I mean?’ And when he was finished, the most amazing thing happened. The immortal lich king, Alan Moore, was stunned.
‘I can’t believe I’m saying this, Dan, but that might not be the worst thing you’ve ever said. You’re right, when I wrote The Killing Joke, it was just supposed to be a one shot. I’ve always regretted that Barbara didn’t get more involved in the story in the end.’ Mark Hamill nods too. ‘Yeah, that sounds like a great idea! So what’re we doing?’
‘Right, so get this. We’re going to add thirty minutes in as a prologue at the start. And it’s going to be about this crime boss, who objectifies Barbara. And then, Batman totally comes in and wants to take Barbara off the case, because she’s being objectified.’ Silence greets this statement. ‘And then, to prove that she’s totally her own independent woman, she has sex with Batman. On the roof. Right there and then.’
As quick as hope had flared to life in the black husk that now replicated the functions of the human heart of Alan Moore, it quickly died. ‘So you want to make Batgirl more involved… by making her more of an object. You want to reduce Batgirl to little more than titillation even before the events of the actual comic where she is paralysed occur. A straight adaptation is a license to print money, you licentious git, but you can’t leave well enough alone. What charlatan did you come up with to write this piece of hackery?’
‘Hey guys, I’m Brian Azzarello.’
And with nothing more than a tap of his cane, Alan Moore dissipated into a cloud of darkness, to disperse into a legion of bats. His revenge would come. Oh yes, it would. Mark Hamill, on the other hand, can only stare blankly, now knowing that no matter how fantastic his performance would be, the only thing people would be talking about afterwards was how Batman had sex on a rooftop with his best friend’s daughter. Decades of ambition and desire gone up in an Alan Moore cloud of bats.
The metaphor got away somewhere. Obviously, the parts featuring Mark Hamill are the best bits, because they are The Killing Joke. Skip the thirty minutes at the start, and you’ll have the adaptation we’ve waited for years to enjoy.
Goddammit, DC. Couldn’t even do The Killing Joke without screwing it up.