Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The REAL Meaning of The KILLING JOKE??? || Comic Misconceptions || NerdSync

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(electronic jingle)

- We've been talking a lot about

The Killing Joke these past few weeks.

We've discussed misconceptions about the book,

and the meaning behind its mysterious ending,

but at the heart of it all, is writer Alan Moore,

and artist Brian Bolland,

who brought this piece of art to life.

They know what happened during the final panels.

They know what story they were trying to tell.

However, if you recall, Moore once said about the story,

quote, "I don't think it's a very good book.

It's not saying anything very interesting." End quote.

And yet here we are, three videos later,

four if you want to count the

Batgirl sex scene from the movie,

which you know, not many people do,

but the point remains, clearly, the story is interesting.

It's a critically acclaimed, award-winning comic,

yet Moore dismisses it as pretty much garbage.

Even Bolland wasn't happy with the

initial release of the comic,

that's why he went and recolored the whole thing.

They might be the authors of The Killing Joke,

but do their opinions, and intents even matter that much?

(rock music)

As this is the final part of our three-part saga

on The Killing Joke, I would like to

remind everyone that parts one and two are right up there,

and in the description down below.

It's been a few weeks, so let's do a quick recap.

We discussed a few fan theories

surrounding The Killing Joke, including

an idea popularized by Grant Morrison,

that Batman kills the Joker, as well as

Julian Darius's theory about how Batman

stabs the Joker with the clowns own poison needle.

We also learned what exactly Alan Moore

intended the ending of the book to be.

According to The Killing Joke's script, quote,

"They are now both helpless with laughter

and have collapsed forward onto each other,

both ragged and bloodied, each holding the other up

as they stand there clinging together

in the rain." End quote.

So, does this mean that all of those interesting

interpretations we've discussed so far are just meaningless?

I mean, we have what looks to be our answer.

The text tells us what happens.

Is it pointless to speculate our

own understanding of that iconic story?

Of course not, which is why I said, in part one --

- I'm not saying that you can interpret

Joker dying at the hands of Batman

simply because Moore didn't explicitly write that.

- Wait a minute, that doesn't make sense, right?

Shouldn't we be trying to find out what the author says,

and cite that is the ultimate meaning of a comic book,

or novel, or movie, or whatever?

Doesn't an author get the final say on their own work?

I mean, sure, we could have our own interpretations

of why Batman is looking at his hand in this panel,

or what exactly Jokers joke means,

but none of that holds any weight,

compared to anything Moore and Bolland say about it, right?

That sounds like an intuitive idea,

but philosopher and literary theorist,

Roland Barthes disagreed with this notion

in his 1967 essay, The Death Of The Author.

In it, Barthes explains that an author's

interpretation of their work is absolutely valid,

but, no more valid than ours, as the readers.

Comics are meant to be read, so we, as the reader,

should be the ones to find meaning in a work,

or, as John Greene puts it --

- Because the book does not exist for

the benefit of the author, the book exists

for the benefit of you.

- Again, I want to stress here that this

does not say that an author's intent is meaningless.

It is indeed valuable, but what they believe

the meaning of their work to be is not

the interpretation, but an interpretation.

For example, Moore once explained

his interpretation of the comic as this, quote,

"The Killing Joke is a story about Batman and the Joker;

it isn't about anything that you are ever

going to encounter in real life,

because Batman and the Joker are not like

any human beings that have ever lived.

So, there's no important human

information being imparted ...

... Yeah, it was something that I thought was clumsy,

misjudged, and had no real human importance.

It was just about a couple of licensed DC characters

that didn't really relate to the real world in any way."

That seems completely absurd.

No important human information being departed?

No real human importance?

I asked you guys on Twitter,

and got dozens of different responses for

applicable life lessons learned from The Killing Joke.

Even if Moore never intended for them

to be in the story, they are still there.

Are we just supposed to ignore them

because it was never his intent?

Of course not! His intent doesn't matter.

Now, if your goal is to specifically find out what

Moore and Bolland actually intended for The Killing Joke,

then yeah, their perspectives might be useful

to you in that particular pursuit,

but if you're simply looking for

meaning in the comic itself,

you don't need anything but the comic itself.

Before you get your pitchforks ready,

this does not mean, however,

that every interpretation is valid.

If theories and headcannon are based on

flawed understanding of the text,

then they are also flawed.

I also can't just propose an interpretation that is

completely random, with nothing in the text to support it.

For example, I can't say that at the end of

The Killing Joke, Joker suddenly turns into R2-D2,

and beep-boops away as Batman stares in awe,

silently finishing his tuna fish sandwich he

had been saving in his utility belt,

thus the story is meant to be an allegory

for the dangers of commercialism.

That is nonsense.

The idea here is not that every single interpretation

is created equal, no matter how absurd it is,

but rather the simple idea that

the author's own interpretation of

his or her own work isn't that special.

You could also see how little

authorial intent seems to matter,

by looking at the comic book industry itself.

In a field filled with reboots, alternate universes,

retcons, and just so much deus ex machina,

just so much, one can't help but feel if

anything being written in the comics right now

will even matter in the future.

Besides all the big universe altering events,

comic book characters get tossed around

from one creative team to the next constantly.

Even a simple change in writers or artists can

make Batman feel like a completely different character,

effectively undoing everything the previous authors

attempted to do with the character.

"But, that's just how it is in the

world of big-time funnybooks."

Limited comics writer, Eric Larson,

in an article he wrote, regarding the time he almost

made Elektra a Skrull, a story that we

actually covered on this channel before.

"The creative baton gets handed off to the next runner,

and the next runner can take it anywhere he's allowed to

bu the powers that be, even if it means

undermining the efforts of those who came before him.

But all is fair, his stories will inevitably

be undone by the next guy."

"It wasn't just that every character seems

to get a new voice and personality

and face and physique when handed from one

creative team to the next,

but often everything that came before was ignored,

contradicted, or written off as somehow not real.

It's at a point where I can no longer believe

that these characters are the same people anymore,

and it's to a point where I can't get caught up

in their adventures, because I know that

somewhere down the line, whatever

had happened will be tossed out the window,

just as everything else had been countless times before."

Of course, this is mainly applicable

for the big two publishers.

Creator owned comics can be a little better about this,

by having one writer, and the internal logic

of the characters, and the world they inhabit

more often remains intact,

but when you open that world up to be a shared universe,

with countless authors contributing new stories

every single week, toes are going to be stepped on.

Remember, despite what you may have heard,

The Killing Joke was always meant to be cannoned,

so Moore and Bolland were tasked with creating a story

in a universe they shared with everyone else at DC comics.

Even still, he left a lot of the story elements open ended,

for the next creative team to pick up,

and do whatever they want with it,

regardless of what Moore may have intended.

That team just so happened to be husband and wife duo,

John Ostrander, and Kim Yale,

who were working on Suicide Squad at the time,

and they absolutely hated what Moore and Bolland

did to Barbara in their story.

They took it upon themselves to transform her into

the computer hacking, intelligence gathering Oracle.

There's no hiding the massive popularity of Oracle,

but it's not like Moore intended for Babs

to take on that new identity when he made Joker shoot her.

Ostrander and Yale took it upon themselves

to fix what they thought Moore had ruined.

It's a double-edged sword, right?

Sure, the nature of comic books can make an author

question whether or not it's worth putting

so much effort into a story, when it will likely be ignored,

and become undone by the next author to

tackle the character, but that same

disregard for authorial intent is also what

can fuel great stories, like Under The Red Hood,

or Winter Soldier, or any of the

Rebirth stuff going on right now.

Authors who worked, or are currently working

on those books were at one point

just like you and me, readers.

Readers who realize the original author's intent is not law,

there is always some wiggle room.

And, for the sake of opening

this very video up for interpretation,

let's bring someone else in here,

someone who is skilled at breaking down

the meanings behind comic books.

- [Hass] Hello, I'm Hass, from the

YouTube channel, Strip Panel Naked,

where we do weekly videos, breaking down comics.

I'm just popping in to add my two cents,

as the meaning behind the work is something

I find really interesting in comics.

The intent from an author in a piece of work

is always fascinating, because any art with intent,

be it just to tell a good story,

or to change the world, will be

read by people who are bringing

their own individual baggage to the story.

It means that if both, say, Scott and myself

read a comic, like The Killing Joke,

regardless of if Alan Moore said it wasn't

saying anything very interesting,

we both walk away from that with our own

interpretations and meanings.

What's interesting is that those interpretations

will undoubtedly be different, in huge, or subtle ways,

because we bring our own individual life experiences

to our readings of it, and that's why

I consider it a flawed response to say

that a book inherently isn't very interesting.

I mean, how many times have you seen

a bad review for a movie or book that you really liked?

If I read a book, I bring with it my own experiences,

vastly different to that of the author,

and vastly different to that of the other readers,

I take my own meaning from the book,

implied from your story.

So, for me, The Killing Joke was more about dealing

with the problem of an unfacable, unspeakable evil.

When you have to deal with something

that seems so unstoppable, so insurmountable,

how do you approach that?

Was not the reason Moore told the story?

By all accounts, and from his very mouth, no, it wasn't.

The other question though is,

does it invalidate my reaction and response to it?

That's the reason why artists create art in the first place,

right, to get a reaction from an audience.

The idea of art is to provoke,

to allow us to examine and to understand.

If the work opens up other doors to a reader,

that isn't in the authors initial intent,

why should that make any genuine human understanding

derived from it less real?

- An author doesn't get the final say on their work.

An author gets the first say, and then releases

it to the world for us to interpret it

through our own experiences,

knowledge, beliefs, and culture.

Thanks for the wise words, Hass.

People might not know this,

but you have a brand-new show,

right here on NERDSYNC, right?

- [Hass] I do indeed.

It's called Comicana, and in each episode,

I take an in-depth look at a part

of the craft of storytelling in comics.

In the first episode, we looked at how you

control pacing through panel design and dialogue.

In the latest episode, we talked through

how speech balloon and caption placement

plays a role in guiding your eye through a page.

That episode is available right now,

linked in the description a day early

for those of you watching.

Check it out, and I'll see you over there.

- Sounds great!

In the meantime, I'd love to know

what you guys think about all of this.

How much does authorial intent really matter?

Does the comic book industry even allow it to matter?

And, what does The Killing Joke mean to you?

Let's talk about it all in the comments down below.

If you liked this three-part series on The Killing Joke,

go ahead and give this video a like.

If you miss the first two parts,

or just want to watch them again,

you can check them out right here,

in one convenient playlist.

In part one, we bus Grant Morrison's theory

about how Alan Moore always intended for

Batman to kill Joker, and learn a little bit

more about the development of The Killing Joke comic.

Part two was about an insanely cool theory

you may not have heard of before,

was joker really paralyzed at the end of the story,

to mirror what he did to Barbara?

Click right here to find out.

And once again, check out the latest episode of Comicana,

and show Hass some love.

If you're new here, make sure you hit

that big sexy subscribe button,

so you don't miss out on all the new videos

we make for you every single Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,

that explore the history, science, art,

and philosophy behind your favorite comic book superheroes.

Until next time, my name is Scott,

reminding you to read between the panels,

and grow smarter through comics. See ya.

The Description of The REAL Meaning of The KILLING JOKE??? || Comic Misconceptions || NerdSync