Monday, March 31, 2008


I've been impatiently awaiting the hardcover printing of BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE, by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. It's one of - if not THE - best Batman stories in the last 20years. The book finally came out and to my dismay, the artwork has been tweaked and the entire book recolored by Bolland himself.

Originally, in 1988, Bolland was [apparently] behind on schedule so John Higgins (Watchmen) was brought in to color the book. Higgins' coloring and color choices were not in line with Bolland's original vision, which is why Bolland has recolored it for the hardcover release.

I have to say, I prefer Higgin's coloring. It was trippy, dramatic, emotional and felt like the Joker's psychosis spilling out onto the world, especially during the scenes within the old broken-down funhouse. The bright, overtly-vivid colors made the fear and violence of the story that much more disturbing, which played off the Joker very well. I mean, look at those pages below... the colors are quite maddening!

The new re-coloring is bland and removes so much of the drama, mood and emotion of the story. It feels like someone turned on the lights at the party. I do like the crisper pencils in this hardcover and it better showcases Bolland's fantastic artwork. But it simply does not serve the story. I think what I miss the most is the original's COLOR PALETTE more than the actual coloring itself.

In the end, I feel the story did not need any tweaking and I am not a fan of this "Special Edition" of a classic Batman tale. I'm putting my new Killing Joke hardcover up on ebay. I'll stick to the original.

Other changes made include:
* Yellow Bat Chest-symbol no more. The yellow oval has been removed, leaving only the black bat emblem, more inline with the "Year One" look, which is what Batman is currently sporting.

* When the Joker is born, he is now bleeding out of his eyes and mouth.

* The Penguin is now in the background of a bar. Why is he in this story now? It has no baring on the story and visually disrupts the panel's composition, distracting the eye away from the subject.

* Greedo now shoots first.
Left is the original, Right is the re-coloring.

If you haven't read Batman: The Killing Joke before, I highly recommend it! Either find a reprint of the original, or pick up "DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore", which includes other awesome Alan Moore stories!

Contact LISA'S "NEPTUNE COMICS","GOLDEN APPLE COMICS" or your local comic shop to find your copy today!
(*pics from around the Net)


Frank Gillespie said...

NO, NO NOOOOOOO! For crying out loud I ordered this. It almost makes me want to...smash!

Anonymous said...

yea,..i gotta agree with you on this one all the way. It doesn't have nearly the same feel (especially the funhouse).
This is probably due to today's trend in comics, as to were everything has to look "realistic" or airbrushed. If it serves the story, so be it,...but in this case it actually detracts from it....

JSchroeder said...

THANK YOU! I can't tell you how disappointed I was when we got this. I understand Bolland wanting to use this opportunity to show his audience the graphic novel he really wanted, but his choices really neuter the atmosphere.
The inclusion of his Batman: Black and White short is a nice bonus; but again with the pointless coloring?

Anonymous said...

Coloring has changed so much since this book first came out. I have to call BS on Bolland saying this is how he envisioned the book. Unless Brian can see into the future, and know how coloring will change.

Anonymous said...

"This is probably due to today's trend in comics, as to were everything has to look "realistic" or airbrushed."

Bolland has said in interviews the new coloring is what he wanted in 1988, so I hardly think this is "due to today's trend".

I agree the new coloring is bland. I'll stay with my original copy.

Good post, btw!

Andrew Glazebrook said...

I'd rather have a Black and White version and a packet of felt pens so I can colour my own version, I'm good I don't even go over the lines.

Anonymous said...

the coloring of killing joke in that Alan Moore DC trade is an improvement on the original due to today's printing process and paper stock. frank, perhaps you can exchange your hc for that trade?

Tommy! said...

Nice book review! I've been reading about the new changes & have to agree that the new coloring job is kinda lame. When I read your comment about "Greedo shot first" I cracked up!! It's like DC Comics "pulled a George Lucas", ha ha!

BATMAN FAN? Visit The Bat-Blog!

Thanks, Tommy

C.J. said...

No way, I much prefer the new coloring. I know I'm the minority on this, I think it looks MUCH better all gritty and dark like that. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I reckon the sepia in the new one was better in the flashback scenes, with the coloured objects here and there (reminds me of Sin City).
But I have to say that the violently coloured version of the funhouse in the previous one was way more effective in expressing Joker's psychadelic insanity.

B2 said...

Craig said: "Coloring has changed so much since this book first came out. I have to call BS on Bolland saying this is how he envisioned the book. Unless Brian can see into the future, and know how coloring will change."
Come on, you don't think an artist can have a vision that is hemmed in by the realities of a process currently available? If Bolland says this is what his original vision was like, who are you to say otherwise?
Plus, I like the new one better.

Jim said...

From what I've heard from folks around me, opinions are split. To each their own.

Personally, I prefer the psychodelic color pallette... but like the newer, cleaner inking.

Anonymous said...

The re-colored edition is much more vivid than you're letting it on to be. The copies you're putting up are desaturated and blurred; while the originals are bright and completely in tact.

Jim said...

I had both copies (returned the new one).... I still stand by my comments - I prefer the original.

Dave said...

Brain is brilliant but his colouring flat, unimaginative and atmosphere free, The original is vivid, dynamic and Higgins changes the colouring depending on the scene's local, Brilliant.

Unknown said...

I think the old coloring looks really fun and psychedelic but I prefer the new because I feel it brings out the harrowing aspect I love so much in the story. The old definitely brings the funhouse to life, but that sense of despondence is much more clear to me in the new coloring. Especially with Barb getting shot and Batman coming to terms with the inevitable abusive cycle he must suffer with the joker. Oh, and the insane asylum is way creepier.

Luis Diaz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luis Diaz said...

Absolutely nonsensical.

Wait another 20 years and we'll see which one stands out best.

If the original was bad then I'd understand. The creepiness of the book was in part by the coloring job of Higgins.
Brian Bolland grew to be a fine colorist of his own work, but maybe he should have spent the time Coloring Camelot 3000 instead which could use a revisiting instead of this book.

I won't get it. I love my 3rd printing edition of The Killing Joke I got in the early 90's.

Terrible, terrible.

If Brian had done another completely different story maybe it would be okay, but he has no sense of "color" lighting. He is not very radical. Monochromatic and very safe use of colors.

Jiggins tried all kinds of things and it wasn't computer which is superb. Like "The Incal" colorists. Exceptional water-color ink colorations.

Maybe we should have a colorist color the Sistine know because the technology wasn't there.

Unknown said...

I think both are equally good, I mean some parts like fun House is great with the original colors but the joker flashbacks work extremely well with the monochrome colors and the rest is great with either version’s color. I’m just saying what I think and I prefer the new version, but if you like the original good for you.

Jim said...

Oooh, I’d love to see a combo version with the monochromatic flashbacks and the hyper saturated funhouse!