This essay, Why Batman Should Kill The Joker (bigthink.com) has made the rounds of the comic book related websites I visit. It's not a new topic for debate, and certainly it's one I've occasionally pondered in my years of reading Batman comics and watching Batman in other media, but I thought it would be interesting to hear some perspectives by Batman and comics fans here.
The kneejerk reaction is usually No, Batman shouldn't kill the Joker. Because Batman doesn't kill. He has established moral and ethical principles, borne out of the urban violence that killed his parents and set him on the path to create and become Batman. (Never mind that in his earliest incarnation, Batman did kill, and he used a gun, but that's been retconned out of what is now the established and universally embraced impressions of Who Batman Is.)
One can argue that if Batman kills The Joker, he not only loses his moral high ground and his deepest held principles, but he basically starts down a slippery slope. Does he start killing all of his enemies? Does he kill Penguin, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze? That's actually kind of unthinkable, or it is to me. My conception of Batman just doesn't have room for the idea of Batman as executioner. I find The Punisher, for example, kind of abhorrent. Batman's values and principles are what make him heroic and admirable.
But one can also argue The Joker is a special case. The Joker is the absolute worst. I would be comfortable in saying, in DC Comics, The Joker is the worst person in the Multiverse. Worst person as in human being; not talking about worlds-destroying space entities like The Anti-Monitor or whatnot. The Joker is simply the worst. He's irredeemable. He can't be rehabilitated, he can't be reasoned with, and as long as there is breath in his lungs and blood pumping in his heart, he will never stop killing and causing damage.
Would Batman be justified, in this one special case, in killing The Joker? Does the amount of good Batman accomplishes whenever he stops the latest rampage or massacre Joker causes balance out the harm Batman indirectly facilitates by letting Joker live? Personally, I don't think it does. I think The Joker is the one circumstance whom Batman has an obligation to sanction. This opens up the philosophical discussion of whether it's ever right to take a life. And we know Batman never will actually do it (not in the established continuity of DC Comics, you know, the one that "counts", outside of Elseworlds, other Earths, and even the Tim Burton Batman film.) But you also can't tell me deep down, whenever Batman engages The Joker he doesn't secretly wish somehow Joker will finally be killed somehow. Just not by Batman's hands directly.
And of course, the real reason Batman will never kill The Joker is because those characters have to continue in perpetuity. There's always more money to be made by another Batman/Joker story in every form of media. As Heath Slater Ledger's Joker said in The Dark Knight, "I think you and I are destined to do this forever."
But me personally, I would not think less of Batman if he did us all a favor and sanctioned The Joker. I'd sleep better at night, in the Gotham City of my dreams.
(edited by John Orquiola on 2.3.12 1135) @CMPunk “@ZackRyder: @CMPunk She played me bro” I got your back.
Minus as you pointed the giant chunk of cash Joker brings in, Batman should kill the Joker. Jason Todd's, of all people, speech in Red Hood is dead on. He makes a very well rounded reasonable explanation on why killing Joker is what needs to be done. Batman's response is a bit underwhelming that it would be too easy. Considering the shit, Joker has put him threw I doubt it will be easy at all especially if he did at the end of Killing Joke or Death in a Family. I still say he kills him in Killing Joke, but that is another debate. Batman would not succumb to his level, because if Superman can kill Zod then Bats can kill Joker.
Superman not only killed Zod, Nod and Ursala in Superman II, he killed them in the comics as well. Superman didn't really have a problem with it since he had no choice and the same thing with Doomsday. He had no choice regardless if he knew it was his last act or not. He killed Doomsday and never apologized for it. Batman has had on many occasions, he has had no choice but to kill Joker or let innocents suffer. He has chosen Joker. In the comics he kills Jason Todd by accident when Todd has Joker with a gun to his head. Batman has killed a Robin to save Joker. Their relationship is pretty fricking sick at this point and it calls into question everything Batman does.
One of the best and bizarre moments in comics is Magog in Kingdom Come just outright killing Joker. Only to have Superman pitch a fit about and leave only to find out Joker killed Lane. I'm sorry, as much as I love Kingdom Come, I don't think Superman would have that much of a problem with it. I think the DCU in a lot of ways seems to want to protect the idea of killing Joker, because he is a of a few characters if not the main one in comics that if any character would kill him outright, it would be justified.
I would love to see for all the numerous failed attempts of getting Aquaman to be a bad ass since the 1990s, for him to just kill Joker. As pissed off as fanboys would be, the amount of street cred he would get would be unbelievable. Make it a bitch death to. Just snap his neck after Joker fucked up Merena or poisoned a river or something. Then have Arthur go diplomatic immunity, what are you going to do and walk away.
Yet, we all know that cash is the reason they won't kill Joker even though in Batman '89 they did and WB instantly regretted which is why Ledger's Joker was allowed to live even though Ledger decided to check out. If we actually lived in a world of Batmans, Jokers and what not and someone did not go out of their way to kill someone like Joker after the hundreds of people he has murdered or fucked up, I would be shocked. Even in the comics, Joker has been the DC hatchet man from Todd to Gordon's wife to Alexander Luthor. Eventually, you would think someone, someone would be like you know what fuck this and Lee Harvey Oswald him coming out of Gotham court. If Batman did try to stop that person, that person would be just as justified as putting one in between Bruce's eyes.
(edited by lotjx on 2.3.12 1341) The Wee Baby Sheamus.
Twitter: @realjoecarfley its a bit more toned down there. A bit.
One reason Batman shouldn't kill the Joker is because he would be breaking the law. Gordon would then have to try and bring him in. As long as Batman has a no kill policy, the policy can look the other way, but as soon as he kills, he becomes a murderer in the eyes of the law.
Also, I think Bruce knows he's a little batty (har), and if he kills Joker, then it is Two Face. Kinda like how an alcoholic knows he can't take that first drink.
Originally posted by odessastepsToo bad the easy answer is not just "because hes a good guy/hero."
Yet it is, together with some of the arguments brought up in the other posts.
If Batman kills Joker, the ying not only loses his yang, he becomes the yang. Batman needs his (one true) moral code in order to stay on the team of good guys/heroes. If he doesn't have that, he has nothing to fight for.
The interesting thing, as pointed out in the essay. If there was ever a character that deserves to be killed by his hero-nemesis it'd be Joker.
Obviously we know Joker is never going to be (permanently) killed off since he's one of the most iconic characters in comics...BUT, looking at it strictly through logical purposes, he should've been dead a long time ago.
I can buy why Batman wouldn't kill Joker. What I can't buy, however, is that NOBODY has killed Joker already. Why hasn't a hero who is willing to be lethal (Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, or Aquaman, who's already been mentioned in this thread) said 'enough is enough' and ended Joker permanently?
I say 'hero' since, while it makes sense that several villains have a beef with Joker as well, none of them have the stones to try it. As that line from the last Crisis storyline put it, "when criminals want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories." Even someone like Lex Luthor would hesitate to plot Joker's assassination because if it failed, he knows Joker would bring a world of pain back at him. An ultra-powerful villain like Brainiac or Cyborg Superman wouldn't have such qualms, but they probably think themselves above having to deal with one 'regular human.'
(Actually, that last point is something I've always assumed about super-powered characters: they don't really know each other's powers. I'd imagine that in the DC Universe, relatively few people actually know Batman is a mortal man, particularly given the lengths Bruce Wayne goes to build up his mystique. The same goes with Joker...more characters would take shots at him if they knew he didn't have any powers, but they don't know that.)
Originally posted by ScottyflamingoOne reason Batman shouldn't kill the Joker is because he would be breaking the law. Gordon would then have to try and bring him in. As long as Batman has a no kill policy, the policy can look the other way, but as soon as he kills, he becomes a murderer in the eyes of the law.
Well, technically, Batman's activities break the law in numerous ways and Gotham PD turns a blind eye to it, but I see your point.
"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone." --- Bart Giamatti, on baseball
Originally posted by Big BadI can buy why Batman wouldn't kill Joker. What I can't buy, however, is that NOBODY has killed Joker already. Why hasn't a hero who is willing to be lethal (Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, or Aquaman, who's already been mentioned in this thread) said 'enough is enough' and ended Joker permanently?
And this is one of the major reasons I don't like the "universe" concept in comics. For the few benefits of team ups and match ups you get a lot of logical flaws.
Hell, in the Marvel Universe, NYC should be a crime free utopia with the amount of heroes there. And why hasn't the Punisher whacked at least ONE of Spider-Man or Daredevil's villains?
The character of Batman can't kill the Joker because that would put him on the same level as the Joker, any street scum in Gotham, and most importantly, Joe Chill, the guy who murdered his parents. In front of him. When he was 8. He's not just the Dark Knight and the World's Greatest Detective, but also the most noble person in comics. There is plenty of sound logic in stopping Joker before he strikes again, true, but his being Batman in and of itself is illogical.
Wait, we're debating logic in comics? Pfft. Let's just analyze the fiction here.
If Batman kills Joker he becomes just another comic book character. Part of the allure of Batman is the ethos; he may be the world's smartest, most capable human being, but those take a back seat to his drive, passion, and dedication to upholding law and order. This even leads to tragedy, as pointed out succinctly by the Killing Joke and A Death in the Family, but the story of Batman ultimately is a tragedy. And I don't mean in the normal comic book "Character X died" sort of way. Batman compares up there with Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, the story of a man who's morality and nobility ultimately led to his undoing. It compares to the Odyssey in that he may be the best and bravest, but rather than Poseidon being his constant threat it's crime and chaos itself.
And if you read that last sentence in the voice of Adam West, pat yourself on the back.
"Laugh and the world laughs with you. Frown and the world laughs at you." -Me.
I'd second the recommendation for Ball Four without any reservations. Jim Bouton tells a really good story that actually leaves you wanting more. I'd also recommend Ron Luciano's The Umpire Strikes Back for those who like slightly more comedic books.