Batman: The Killing Joke is one of many of DC's animated adaptations of its best-selling comic book series. This adaptation will be very different as it is R-rated, for reasons listed below. Speaking of adaptations, the Dark Knight Detective has had so many adaptations through the years, and it would be a good time to discuss the 5 Best and Worst Versions of the Batman.
According to CTV News, Batman: The Killing Joke will premiere at San Diego Comic Con, taking place in between July 21-24. It will have a release on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital HD, but there is still no word on the release date. The trailer can be seen below.
The film has an R-rating, and for good reason, as it is a faithful adaptation of comic written by now legend Alan Moore. When the one-shot comic first appeared in 1988, it featured a scene where the Joker shot Barbara Gordon in the chest at point blank range. To make it even worse, the Joker took off her clothes and took pictures of her naked wounded body to taunt Commissioner Gordon in a later scene. The controversial scene still is talked about today after Batgirl #41 cover stirred feelings recent.
Yes, this is a darker take on the Caped Crusader, but the Batman has had a lot of dark versions of him, which leads to the 5 Best and Worst Versions of Batman. Let's get the worst out of the way.
5) Batman TV Series (1966-1968)
You knew that this TV show would have to make this "worst" list somewhere, and the reason why it is so low (or so high, depending on how you interpret this) is its camp factor has passed the test of time. Adam West and Burt Ward really defined how people saw the dynamic duo for decades, as a fun-loving team of crime fighters who operated in the day in full public, and were regarded as heroes of Gotham City. Many say that this show is a parody, but it was really just a low-budget adaption of a lot of the light-hearted and frivolous stories of the "Silver Age" that were around at the time. These two actors are planned to star as voice actors for an animated movie taking place in that Batman 66 universe soon, and honestly, there is a lot of fun to be had with this show and its movie.
4) All-Star Batman and Robin (2005-2008)
This was a comic book series written by legendary comic book writer Frank Miller and artist Jim Lee. The All-Star line was meant to highlight the character outside the mainstream DC Universe, and to really capture what the character was all about. However, Miller's Dark Knight ended up being a crazy version who kidnaps Dick Grayson after his parents are killed, and "loves being the Goddam Batman" as he delights in beating up criminals and fleeing from the cops. While it does take less mental restraint to put on a bat-suit and fight crime, Miller's version feels like Batman snapped somewhere along the line.
3) Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
This is not a criticism of Ben Affleck's performance, but how the character was portrayed in the context of the story. By modern-day interpretations, Batman is seen as a dark figure of justice who fights crime with a very strict code of ethics of what he will and won't do for the sake of justice. This version has him put brands on criminals so they can be killed by other prisoners when they are arrested. Not only that, it shows Batman using guns and knives to take out foes, and a scene where he just stabs a man in the chest. Granted, Batman has been in "it's either you or me" scenarios before, but this film really emphasized Batman's brutality that really shouldn't have been there. It does show him not using the brand at the end, which might be a lesson learned on his part, but he might have gone too far.
2) "Silver Age" Batman (50's and 60's)
Batman originally began in the comics in 1939 as a pulp hero, who would show no remorse when dealing with criminals, but during the 50's and 60's, the character was given an overhaul of campy hero charm. This was brighter "Silver Age" of comics, which brought about very far-fetched stories. One of the worst of this came in Batman #147, where "Batman Becomes Bat-Baby", where Batman is reduced to a preschool age, and yet still has his adult strength. This is erring on the lighter side of Batman, and it would take years as well as the Batman 1966 show to rid Batman of these stories that the official DC continuity is trying to forget every happened.
1) Batman and Robin (1997)
To its credit, the original Tim Burton Batman film should be in the best versions list. It was the film version that really showed that Batman could be a darker character that could be taken seriously, not to mention the classic Joker villain portrayed by Jack Nicholson. The problem was Burton's follow-up of Batman Returns, which he had complete creative control over, was dark to a surreal level with penguins and rockets on their backs. By the time the third film of Batman Forever came along, director Joel Schumacher kept the dark look but interjected more campiness with the Jim Carrey Riddler and a poorly done Two-Face by Tommy Lee Jones. Once Arnold Schwarzenegger was tapped to play Mr. Freeze for Batman and Robin, it was apparent that this film series had reached complete camp once again, and this is the film that is said to have almost killed the Batman franchise. To its credit, the fourth and final Burton/Schumacher film is fun to watch just for its camp value alone, like the original TV series.
Okay, now it is time to look at the best Batman versions.
5) Batman: Arkham Video Games (2009-2015)
If Batman is going to be dark, you might as well run with it. In this particular game series, Batman is really the hero in black in a world full of shadows and villains that want to bring even more darkness into the world. It is a style that is very gritty and shows a world where the only bright colors are of the neon signs of Gotham City in the night. Not only that, you can play as Batman in this game, so what is not to like?
4) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
The eighties were not good to DC as its characters of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were well known, but considered Super Friends child's play. Then Frank Miller (yes, the one that wrote All-Star Batman and Robin) writes a four-issue limited series made for mature readers about Batman that had huge mainstream success. The series took place in a future where Batman had retired, but the rising tide of crime and possible world devastation causes him to take up the cape and bring a new form of justice to a dilapidating Gotham. It features a final confrontation with the Joker, and its influence can be seen in Batman V. Superman as Batman takes on the Man of Steel in the fourth issue for an epic one-on-one.
3) Modern Comic Book Batman (1988-present, with some exceptions)
After the success of The Dark Knight Returns, other writers realized the potential of using Batman dark figure for justice, and there have been some good Batman stories that have happened as a result. One of the first was Batman: A Death in the Family, which has Joker killing Robin (Jason Todd). There was KnightFall in 1993-1994 which consisted of Bane breaking Batman's back, and lasted two years. There have been other massive storylines like Batman: The Long Halloween (1996-1997) and its follow-up of Batman Dark Victory (1999-2000), which really brought about the origin of the character. Then there was Batman: Hush, which featured almost all of Batman's villains, extended family, Catwoman, and Superman.
2) The Dark Knight (2008)
After the failure of Batman and Robin, it was time for a reboot, and Christopher Nolan, who had directed the hit indie-flick Memento, was just the man to do it. Batman Begins was a modest success in 2005, making the character dark again, and using villains like Ra's al Ghul and the Scarecow, who are not well known by non-Batman fans. However, once legendary villains of the Joker and Two-Face were added for The Dark Knight, the Batman story became less about costumed crime-fighting and more about the nature of law and justice. Most remember the posthumous Oscar-worthy performance of Heath Ledger, but all remember the ingenious take on Batman here. Too bad there wasn't much success with The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
1) Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)
With the success of Batman, Warner Brothers felt it was time for a new animated series. It was probably the best decision that they ever made, and for television animation, it used minimalist backgrounds with a dark color palette to create a series that felt too adult for its intended children audience. This was when Kevin Conroy voiced the Dark Knight and Mark Hamill was the Joker, which most fans want as their ideal voices for these iconic characters. The show was as violent as it could be for a TV Y7 audience, but it really showed Batman's noble character and code of ethics. It was not afraid to tackle issues of dealing with anger, drug use, not to mention domestic violence. In short, it was the perfect mix of the dark with the light, something that Batman truly represents at his best.