Animation Legend Bruce Timm On Batman: The Killing Joke

(Photo: WB Animation)

With a $4 million, two-day box office haul and a controversial twist that has had fans arguing since before its first screening at Comic Con last week, Batman: The Killing Joke has become the film equivalent of its ultra-successful, ultra-controversial comic book namesake.

The film came together -- with the return of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as The Joker -- thanks in no small part to the efforts of executive producer Bruce Timm, who has been working with the pair since Batman: The Animated Series.

Timm joined to discuss the movie at Comic Con International: San Diego last week. You can check out the video here, or read on below. The first thing, as soon as I heard that there was going to be new material added to The Killing Joke, my first thought is it's a hell of a sacred calf to be playing with.

Bruce Timm: Yeah. Well, that's why we added the stuff. The way we did, the original source material was just too short, just straight up was just too short to make a feature film out of. The first couple times we talked about doing it as a movie, that's all we were going to do was do just the comic and it was going to be about a 30 minute movie.

We said, "okay, we're going to expand it to feature length. What's the best way to do that?" We could have literally stuck in a bunch of sequences in amongst all the events of The Killing Joke and expanded it to feature length. We could've made it more like a traditional movie and give it more of a slam-bang finale or whatever. We absolutely didn't want to do that, so we thought our best bet would be to add a whole, complete mini-movie that's almost completely separate from The Killing Joke to the front of the film.

It also helped us with one of the problems I've always had, [which] is that Barbara basically is a plot device in the original comic. She's not really a fully-rounded character at all, so this gave us a chance to spend more screen time with Batman and Batgirl and Barbara. It's almost a completely separate story, which honestly, when I watch it, I like just as much as The Killing Joke part. In a weird kind of way, it's not really messing with the sacred cow. I think one of the interesting elements of that is thinking all the way back to when you first started doing these DC animated features, there was the Catwoman short that was on the Batman Year One. The DVDs used to come with a mini-movie at the front of it as a standard feature. Is that something that even occurred to you, that you were kind of going back to form when you had to do this?

Timm: No, it's a completely different thing. Those were like bonus content. It's maybe a little bit of a bait-and-switch in that we kind of folded it into the entire story and into the movie, but it's kind of a separate animal. It's weird because, like I said, even though it's not completely connected to The Killing Joke, it kind of is and to understand that, you'll have to see the movie to see what I'm talking about.

Even though the Joker's not even mentioned in Part One, there are things in Batman and Barbara's relationship that informs what happens in The Killing Joke, so it's subtle. It's not completely disconnected, the way those DC Universe shorts were. Obviously, when you're looking at a book like this, more than almost any of the other movies that you've done, Brian Bolland's touch really helped define that.

Timm: Absolutely. Did you guys put a little bit more time necessarily than usual in trying to craft that tone? I know a lot of the time the New 52 animated movies have become a little bit more house style.

Timm: This movie has its own unique look that doesn't look like the 52 movies.


We tried to do what we could to put in little visual things that kind of connected to what Brian did in the comic, but there was no way we were going to make it look like Brian Bolland drew this comic. There's not another person in the world who draws like Brian Bolland except Brian. We didn't try that hard to try to crack the DNA of Brian Bolland's art style, but like I said, we did what we could to kind of adapt it.

We just knew going in, there was no way it was going to be a perfect match.