Vids I Dig 138: Strip Panel Naked: Analyzing the Art of ‘The Killing Joke’

From Strip Panel Naked’s YouTube description: On this episode I wanted to try and approach the ending of The Killing Joke by Brian Bolland, Alan Moore, John Higgins and Richard Starkings, and see if I could peel back some of the art. The idea was to see how Bolland and Moore approach the panels, and how that helps build and clarify some of the symbolism and subtext if the book, specifically around the ending.

Comic Review: Camelot 3000

Published: December,1982 – April, 1985
Written by: Mike W. Barr
Art by: Brian Bolland, Bruce Patterson, Terry Austin, Tatjana Wood

DC Comics, 320 Pages

Review:

I used to see Camelot 3000 in the back issue bins all the time when I started out collecting comics. I was a dummy that only bought superhero comics and toyline tie-in stuff, so I never gave it a chance.

However, over the years, I’ve heard great things about it and I’ve since gone out and collected all twelve issues of this DC Comics maxiseries.

Having now read it, I thought that all the hype was pretty justified. It was an energetic and exciting read. I crushed the whole thing out in a cross country flight and it made the time pass with ease, even if my seat was smaller than a can of corn.

Mike Barr’s story was stupendous with lots of layers, superb character development and also, one of the most original takes I’ve ever seen on the King Arthur legend.

Furthermore, the whole comic is visually stunning thanks to the fantastic art of Brian Bolland, who is a legend in my book.

Also, it touches on some social issues a few decades before those issues started to be addressed in mainstream entertainment. It’s certainly a comic book ahead of its time and it presented these things with care and respect.

I love that this tapped into great fantasy storytelling, mixed it up with solid science fiction and ultimately gave us something that truly feels epic. And I’m not one to throw the word “epic” around, as it is used too often like “awesome” and has lost its intended meaning.

Camelot 3000 is most definitely a classic in the comic book medium and one of the best series to come out of the outstanding ’80s.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: ’70s and ’80s fantasy comics, as well as other DC maxiseries from the era like Watchmen and V for Vendetta.

Documentary Review: Future Shock: The Story of 2000 A.D. (2014)

Release Date: September 21st, 2014 (Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: Paul Goodwin
Cast: Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Dan Abnett, Brian Bolland, Carlos Ezquerra, Alex Garland, Dave Gibbons, Scott Ian, Karl Urban, Nacho Vigalondo, various

Deviant Films, 110 Minutes

Review:

I don’t know if I’m just burnt out on these type of documentaries but this one didn’t keep my attention.

Reason being, it didn’t tell a story, really. It did go through the history of 2000 A.D. but everything was done in a heavily edited interview format. There was no narration and this felt kind of disorganized.

Being an American and not as familiar with this comic as someone from the UK, I was hoping for a good, comprehensive history on this. It probably works well for UK fans but Stateside I felt like it missed the mark.

Granted, it was cool seeing a bunch of creators, whose work I love, talking about 2000 A.D. with a lot of passion. I liked seeing the bits on Judge Dread and the stufff involving Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison. Their two cents are always worth the price of admission when it comes to talking about comics of the past.

Still, even though this was full of people I wanted to hear from, it was quite long for what this needed to be and for how it was presented.

Maybe get some narration, organize the sections a bit better and tell a more cohesive story.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other comic book documentaries of the last few years.

Comic Review: Batman: The Killing Joke

Published on: March, 1988
Written by: Alan Moore
Art by: Brian Bolland, John Higgins

DC Comics, 36 Pages

Review:

Batman: The Killing Joke (written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland) is highly regarded as one of the best Batman stories ever written. It is hugely popular and fanboys the world over embrace it like it is some sort of geek bible. It tells the origin story of the Joker and gives us the event that leads to Barbara Gordon’s transformation from Batgirl into Oracle. It essentially covers a lot of ground for only being 48 pages.

Being written by Alan Moore (Wathcmen, Swamp Thing, V For Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) adds a certain level of credibility and mystique to this tale. That being said, for me, it doesn’t live up to the hype and the fanfare. The story isn’t bad but it just doesn’t develop into something all that thought-provoking, which is what one would expect from Alan Moore.

The Killing Joke gives us one of the many Joker origins and the one presented here has seemingly become the most popular. The thing is, there have been several different Joker origin stories told by several different writers that all vary to large degrees. In fact, in Batman canon, no Joker origin story is considered to be “the one”. The mystery of the character is that we just don’t know what his true origin is and frankly, I think it should be left that way: open for debate till the end of time. Christopher Nolan’s film The Dark Knight plays off of this, as his Joker goes on to tell varying stories of how he got his scars. Even the film Joker’s beginnings are unknown.

When it comes to the character’s origin, I’m more in favor of what was written by Michael Green in Batman: Lovers & Madmen. If you haven’t read it, I suggest that you do. I found it to be a better story than The Killing Joke.

The one thing that The Killing Joke has going for it, especially at the time of its release in the late 1980s, is the amazing art by Brian Bolland. The scenes are fantastically orchestrated and Bolland’s ability to convey emotion through his subjects is pretty spectacular. This definitely upped the ante at the time and brought a new level of artistry to the comic book industry, which was in the midst of a big evolutionary jump at that time. The inks and colors were also incredible and gave this book such a vibrant presentation. More than reading this graphic novel, I just liked to stare at its pages in awe.

I do thoroughly enjoy The Killing Joke but apart from the revolutionary art, it lacks in meat and potatoes, which is pretty uncharacteristic of Alan Moore. I think a lot of people embrace it simply because Moore’s name is on the cover, as he has become a comic book writer who has been deified by the fan community. I’m not saying that Moore hasn’t earned that distinction but this book isn’t on the literary level of someone who has reached that level of worship.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other iconic Batman stories of the time: Year OneDeath In the Family and The Dark Knight Returns.

Comic Review: The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told

greatest-joker-stories-ever-told

Published on: 1988
Written by: various
Art by: various, Brian Bolland (cover)

DC Comics, 288 Pages

Review:

The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told is a hefty trade paperback I have had in my collection since around 1989. I remember my mum buying it for me just after the first Michael Keaton Batman film came out that summer. I have cherished it ever since and actually read through it in its entirety almost yearly.

The title of this collection says it all. Up until the point that I got this as a ten year-old child, these were the very best Joker stories of all-time. And here they were, collected in one mammoth book for my little fingers to thumb through like a fiend – absorbing every evil deed that my favorite comic book villain could dish up.

Sure, some great Joker stories have been told over the last quarter of a century since I first got this collection but regardless, for any fan of the Joker, this trade paperback is absolutely essential.

The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told starts with the first Joker story ever and gives you some solid works from each decade up through the late 1980’s. There is half a century of fantastic Joker tales, his best tales.

The style and tone of the writing and the artwork changes from decade to decade and this book is also a pretty cool piece of history, as reading through its stories are like riding in a time machine. It isn’t just a piece of Joker history or Batman history, it is a piece of comic book history and shows the reader the best there is from each epic era.

If you collect comics or you just like Batman or the Joker, this should already be in your library. If it isn’t, what’s wrong with you?

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The modern villain anthology collections under the Batman – Arkham banner.