After the announcement last summer at SDCC of Batman: The Killing Joke getting the animated treatment, speculation was rife over whether or not the film would receive an R rating over its graphic subject matter. We can now put that speculation to rest as Entertainment Weekly has broken the news the animated film will indeed be rated R.
Batman: The Killing Joke is one of the most definitive graphic novels of all time and has influenced Batman comics since its publication in 1988. Written by Watchmen and V for Vendetta scribe Alan Moore, with art done by Brian Bolland, the story sees Joker escaping once again from Arkham Asylum with the goal of proving a simple point to Batman and Gotham City. To that end, he attacks Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, in a brutal assault that cripples her for life, as well as kidnapping Commissioner Gordon to drive him insane with the trauma inflicted upon his daughter. Needless to say, it is not a light story at all and a very untypical Joker story, at least at the time it was published. It is also notable for being one of the first ambiguous origin stories for The Joker, one which has been picked up by numerous other writers for comics and animated series.
“From the start of production, we encouraged producer Bruce Timm and our team at Warner Bros. Animation to remain faithful to the original story — regardless of the eventual MPAA rating,” said Sam Register, president of Warner Bros. Animation & Warner Digital Series. “‘The Killing Joke’ is revered by the fans, particularly for its blunt, often-shocking adult themes and situations. We felt it was our responsibility to present our core audience — the comics-loving community — with an animated film that authentically represented the tale they know all too well.”
While it has proven to be a definitive story, it is not without controversy for its treatment of Barbara Gordon. Only last year was there renewed controversy after artist Rafael Albuquerque made a variant cover for Batgirl that referenced her attack in a stark tonal shift for the title.
Despite the divisiveness The Killing Joke has garnered its animated adaptation is one of the most looked forward to as its once again reuniting longtime Batman and Joker voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, along with returning Tara Strong as Barbara/Batgirl. Batman: The Killing Joke will premiere this summer at SDCC before being released on Blu-ray later this year.