I also think it shows how a variety of different interpretations on a similar theme can generate a varying array of ideas that enhance and develop a character.
deepstructure started by quoting me, and then elaborated...
"Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT -- is NOT!!! based on [The Killing Joke]."
while perhaps literally true this hides the fact that it was definitely influenced by it as goyer admits in this article:
“I think that there are elements from The Dark Knight, elements from The Long Halloween, elements from The Killing Joke,” he says. “But it’s not like we were specifically adapting one specific comic book or comic book arc.”
and nolan admits in this one:
"MM: I take it will be less Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson than the Joker we saw portrayed in a comic like 'The Killing Joke'?
Nolan:Yes. I would certainly point to 'The Killing Joke' but I also would point very much to the first two appearances of the 'Joker' in the comic."
and then both goyer and jonathan nolan talk about here:
"MoviesOnline: Not a lot of Killing Joke in this one.
DAVID GOYER: There’s a little bit of that dynamic between the Joker and Batman.
JONATHAN NOLAN: I think there’s a ton of it if you look at it from a slightly different perspective. What is the Joker trying to do in The Killing Joke? He’s trying to drive one of Batman’s allies crazy.
DAVID GOYER: Yeah, I think we definitely called that relationship from the Killing Joke.
MoviesOnline: What other comic books did you reference?
JONATHAN NOLAN: It’s easier to say what didn’t we reference? It felt like we read all of them. I grew up a Batman fan and David did too. So, there’s a lot of that already in there and when you embark on these things, DC sends you everything.
DAVID GOYER: Obviously there’s some of the Long Halloween in there. There’s some Miller stuff. I think in this one there’s less though than the first one. Some of the Denny O’Neil stuff. But it’s like yeah, we were looking at stuff from the 80s."
so not based on, but certainly influnced by.
It's a chicken and an egg argument.
"...while perhaps literally true this hides the fact that it was definitely influenced by it..."
Of course, it is influenced by it. The Dark Knight is an adaptation of a pre-existing character with over 60 years of material. Even, in the pieces quoted above, they state they went back through everything.
The early Joker influenced Alan Moore's THE KILLING JOKE. The central tension between The Joker and Batman is the same tension that has always been present between these two adversaries. It isn't specific to The Killing Joke.
How far does Batman have to go to stop The Joker? How far is too far?
The Killing Joke is just a variation on that central theme. So is Jeph Loeb's recent HUSH. So is THE DARK KNIGHT.
The difference is in the details -- mainly the plot.
You don't see people touting "The Dark Knight was based on HUSH." People bring up The Killing Joke (my personal opinion, is because they think it makes them look savvy, even when your average person hasn't read it).
The most notable facet of The Killing Joke is that it is the FIRST TIME the Joker is given a backstory. An origin. His features are altered in a vat of bubbling acid. And from that he shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon.
Johnathan Nolan sites influence from The Killing Joke, "If The Joker had a past, he'd prefer it to be multiple choice," which is why The Joker gives multiple variations on how he got his facial scars.
But that interpretation of The Joker is completely unique to The Dark Knight movie.
This gets to the central point of this post:
Where is the line drawn between creation and derivation?
Are we to assume that everything based off a pre-existing franchise is influenced by what came before it? Or are there grey areas in which old ideas are expressed in new and unique ways?
Isn't that the essence of creation?
How much "authorship" and credit are we to give these new writers? How much is to be given to the writers of the past?
I find this an interesting question.
If you look at the art of Batman, the way people drew him -- you can definitely site influence on how the next artist interprets the character.
Neal Adams drew what is probably the most definitive Batman. Jim Lee's work heavily draws from it. But you can also see some Frank Miller Batman in Jim Lee's work. And yet, Jim Lee's work stands alone -- and is very recognizable in its own right.
Where is the distinction to be drawn between influence and an artist's own personal take on the subject matter?
I'm not sure there is an easy answer to this.
I, obviously, don't think The Killing Joke had as much influence on the movie as your average fanboy likes to tout. But I won't argue that it is completely non-existent. It's definitely there. More in, The Joker's attempt to drive Gordon crazy is a similar parallel to what The Joker does to Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight.
But that's a small part of The Killing Joke. And it's really just a piece of The Dark Knight.
My personal taste, is to give the benefit of the doubt to the newer versions. To say, this is something new. If you like it, if it feels fresh and entertaining, then mission accomplished. To me, the 1989 Batman seems much more based off of Alan Moore's 1988, The Killing Joke, than this new 2008 Batman movie.
And things get even muddier.
In an interview responding to The Joker's lack of a psychological reasoning for him to be the way he is, Johnathan Nolan says:
...a specific backstory to [The Joker] -- authoritative, would be, kind of, reductive to his character.In this interview, he is actually siting The Killing Joke as a specific influence he was responding to.
Which is ironic, in that The Killing Joke is the first book that gave The Joker a specific and defining (authoritative) backstory. Before the accident with the Batman, The Joker was a two-bit hoodlum. After, he becomes the powerhouse of evil and insanity that we know today.
In the same interview:
When, for me, the most interesting version of [The Joker] is the one that was never made at all. Just an elemental force. In my imagination, there is no beginning or end to this character. He has, kind of, always existed. That first frame in IMAX, where you see him from behind and he's holding a mask -- to me, it's as if the moment before that shot, he just... was conjured out of thin air.He used The Killing Joke as a reference for something he didn't like. And yet, the line from The Killing Joke about Joker's past being multiple choice, sparked Nolan's idea on how he was going to handle this problem.
The origin of ideas gets very muddy.
We can all agree, that elements of The Killing Joke are very present in Tim Burton's Batman (I hope). And yet, Johnathan Nolan makes a comment that makes the idea of influence even muddier.
I mean, I love the Nicholson take on it...Even in the Nicholson performance, the Burton film, that character, Jack Napier -- we don't ever really know what made him in the first place. He's already a sociopath, before he falls into the vat of chemicals. It's a foregone conclusion. It's the icy on the cake. I think the Joker is, and always will be.To summarize the muddiness with a long run-on sentence --
Johnathan Nolan likes Jack Nicholson's performance of The Joker in Tim Burton's Batman, which was based directly from The Killing Joke, not because he has a definitive backstory, which is the big piece the 1989 movie took from The Killing Joke, but because Nicholson's take was that this character had always existed. It wasn't the vat of chemicals that made The Joker, which it clearly was in The Killing Joke.
He is influenced by an influence that was a completely different take on the original influence.
And that sentence above, is the main reason why I give the benefit of the doubt to the new writers. You really want to say it was "based on" from that? I wouldn't. You can site influence from anything that has pre-existing material for any reason. For the reason WHY something was done. For the reasons they WEREN'T.
THE DARK KNIGHT feels like something new to me, while completely understanding the material that came before it. That is what I think is important.
What's your take?