After watching The Dark Knight (2008) the Batman sequel by Chris Nolan, I retrieved some old comics and graphic novels, which have been stashed away for quite some time. The best Batman vs. Joker story, in my own humble opinion, which also, I think bear similarity in theme with the above movie, are as follows :
a) The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller, Lynn Varley, Klaus Jansen ~ DC, 1986). Originally published as "prestige format" series of 4 books, this is my first "proper" introduction to the world of Batman, albeit taken place 50 years into the future. Bruce, now past his prime and in his 50s, has retired his Batman alter ego, possibly forced or co-erced by the US govt and the numerous legislatures in place. Most of the Justice League members had also retired, briefly mentioned in the storyline as Diana (The Wonder Woman) went back to her people, Hal (The Green Lantern) gone to the stars. The most interesting arc of this series is the one whereby Joker, also old and hadn't spoken for several decades, in a near vegetative state of behaviour, is "revived" by the re-appearance of Batman. He has been in Arkham Asylum for years now, but after catching the news on telly that Batman has returned to Gotham City, his mental state of mind and old sociopathic behaviour are sparked off once more. He escaped after cunningly deceived a psychologist to allow him to appear in a certain talkshow, whereby he slaugthered hundreds of the audience with his trademark "laughing gas". He further fatally poisoned a dozen of so boy scouts on top of several dozens more during the climatic fight between him and Batman. As Batman always abide by his code of "not taking lives", Joker, severely injured, used his last ounce of strength to twist his own neck, a suicidal last "gift" to his eternal foe, but ultimately to ensure that Batman would be hunted by the law in proper, now that he has taken the life of the Joker. It would eventually caused Batman to showdown with Superman, now a US govt agent and President lackey. Excellent reading. I like the illustrations too (before Frank Miller changes his style in Sin City : The Dame To Kill For). I got the out of print tradepaper back version with book one cover. I hope that I would eventually be able to afford a copy of the 1st printing series in its entirety, and also if I could locate it...
b) The Killing Joke (Alan Moore, Brian Bolland ~ DC, 1987). A "one-shot prestige format" graphic book, about the origin (which has since been "revised") of Joker. The storyline took place in present, but alternatively flow back and intertwined with how Joker came to be. Taken place during one of "numerous" escape from Arkham Asylum, he took Commisioner Gordon hostage, and crippled his daughter (Batgirl) Barbara in the process. His motive? To prove that the "average man" when confronted with the horror of the real world, would take refuge in the realm of insanity. He subjected Gordon through a number of pyschological torture before confrontation with Batman. After being defeated by Bats, whilst waiting for the police to arrive, Joker and Bats had an interesting conversation whereby it strongly hinted that both of them may be doomed to be eternally locked in enmity. I am lucky to obtain a 1st printing copy in mint condish from a senior at UWA, Perth for AUS30.
c) Arkham Asylum : A Serious House On A Serious Earth (Grant Morrison, Dave McKean ~ DC, 1988). A hardcover graphic novel in its original format, this book hold a serious sentimental value as it was a birthday gift from my dad who happpened to visit KL during a business trip and dropped by the now defunct The Mind Shop in Damansara to get it. We were staying in Penang during that period and there was virtually no comic shop there. About the origin of Arkham Asylum and its founder, again, the storyline go back and forth in the present and past and how it all fit in the climatic end pages of the book. Dave McKean visually "revised" nearly the entire Bats' Rogue Gallery in this one. The Joker is visually scary, as well as other infamous inmates such as Clayface, Killer Kroc, Dr. Destiny, Maxi Zeus...not so much about The Joker, but more about Bats and his own fear as well as Armadeus Arkham, the founder. Yet, it is worth mentioning as this is the scariest Joker on book I had seen thus far.