What Did Joker Do to Barbara in ‘The Killing Joke’?

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‘The Killing Joke’ is considered to be one of the darker and more controversial graphic novels regarding Batman and his arch nemesis, the Joker. The novel was published in 1988, written by Alan Moore, and illustrated by Brian Bolland. In 2016, the novel was adapted into an animated movie called Batman: Killing Joke. Joker planned to prove that anyone can be driven to madness after experiencing just one terrible day, much like he himself had endured. Barbara Gordon became a victim of Joker’s twisted plan, but what did Joker do to her?

In ‘The Killing Joke,’ Joker shoots Barbara in the spine, leading to her paralysis from the waist down. The Joker then proceeds to undress and photograph her, using the pictures to psychologically torment her father, Commissioner Jim Gordon, as part of a twisted plan to prove that anyone can be driven to madness after just one bad day.

Some critics think ‘The Killing Joke’ is one of the best Batman stories ever published. However, it is also considered to be a dark and controversial tale that depicts the extensive torment of Barbara and Jim Gordon and also provides an origin story for the Joker and an introspective look at his character. Further in the article, you can find out what ‘The Killing Joke’ is about and what Joker did to Barbara.

What is Batman: The Killing Joke about?

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Batman and the Joker had an ongoing circle of conflict for years, and Batman: The Killing Joke begins with Batman visiting Arkham Asylum to speak with the Joker about it. When Batman came to the Asylum, he discovered that the Joker had escaped and left a decoy in his place. Meanwhile, the Joker is preparing his twisted scheme and purchases a run-down amusement park as part of it.

The novel was significant as it provided the readers with Joker’s origin story via flashbacks. The novel digs into the Joker’s past in a series of flashbacks. We get to see him as a struggling comedian who agrees to participate in a criminal heist to support his pregnant wife. Tragically, his wife dies in an accident just before the heist, but he is forced to continue with the plan. During the heist, he is pursued by Batman and falls into a vat of chemicals, which disfigures him and drives him insane, leading to his transformation into the Joker.


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Back in the present, Joker plans to prove that anyone can be driven to madness after just one bad day. He wants others to experience suffering and tragedy as he did. He chooses Jim Gordon as his test subject and his daughter, Barbara Gordon, as bait.

The Joker came to Barbara’s apartment and waited from the other side of the door until she opened them.

What Did Joker Do to Barbara in ‘The Killing Joke’?

When Barbara opens the door, the Joker shoots her in the spine, which will ultimately causes her to be paralyzed from the waist down. He undressed her and photographed her in an injured state. Later on, he would use those photographs to torment her father.

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After Joker shoots Barbara, he kidnaps her father, Commissioner Jim Gordon, and takes him to the abandoned amusement park. Joker’s main goal was to break Jim Gordon’s sanity and to do so. He used Barbara’s pictures to torment him psychologically. He forces Gordon to go through a twisted carnival ride where he is shown the horrific images of his daughter’s suffering.

Joker wanted to prove that, in Jim Gordon’s case, anyone can be driven to madness with the right amount of suffering and misfortunes. Joker wanted him to suffer and feel like he did. Gordon went through significant pain and torment, but somehow he endured.

Eventually, Batman tracked down the Joker and rescued Jim. Gordon is furious and tempted to harm the Joker, but eventually, he insists that Batman captures the Joker without resorting to violence. That would demonstrate that Gordon has not succumbed to madness and that Joker’s plan has failed. So, Batman did as instructed. When he confronted the Joker, he offered to help rehabilitate him, but the Joker refused, believing it was too late for him to change.

The story concludes with the Joker telling Batman a joke, which symbolizes the ongoing conflict between them. Batman and the Joker share a brief moment of laughter before the police arrive, and the story ends ambiguously.


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Overall, ‘The Killing Joke’ is one of the darker tales that delve into the psyches of both Batman and the Joker and shows the torment of Jim and Barbara Gordon. Joker is trying to depict the nature of sanity and the impact that trauma can have on individuals. As for Barbara Gordon, this novel also had lasting repercussions for her, as she would eventually become Oracle, a vital source of information and support for Batman and other superheroes, after her paralysis.

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