There has been several excellent animated adaptations of famous Batman comics, from The Dark Knight Returns to Batman: Year One, but it’s fair to say that this summer’s premiere of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke is probably the most eagerly-anticipated of them all.

Batman and Joker voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are reuniting for a feature-length animated film delving into the greatest Joker story ever told, tracing his difficult beginnings as a struggling stand-up comic to the genesis of his rivalry with the Dark Knight.

The Killing Joke animated movie will stay true to the celebrated graphic novel, first published in 1988, but producer Bruce Timm has revealed the movie will open with a Batgirl-focused prologue, showing Barbara Gordon’s superhero fighting alongside Batman.

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Timm told Empire: “We thought if we were going to expand this to feature length, we didn’t want to just pad out the original story by putting in a bunch of stuff between sequences of the story, because it’s literally a whole other half of movie that we could add. So we took that opportunity to basically tell a Batgirl story, which we don’t often get a chance to do these days.

“And it was great, because we could spend more time with her as a character and get to understand what she’s all about and how she’s similar to Batman in some ways, and really different in others. They come at the crime fighting thing from two completely different places.

“The good side of that is we get to spend more time with her and learn that she’s an interesting character. We get to really like her. The bad side of that is that we get to like her so much that when The Killing Joke part of the story happens, it’s, like, “Oh, no!”, because we really like her. So it’s a double-edged sword.

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Hamill himself weighed in by saying that he was adamant about staying as true as possible to the source material, confessing that he’s a ‘Killing Joke purist.’ With that, the Joker actor revealed that they’ve done an ‘incredible job’ of adding to the story with the Batgirl prologue.

“I can’t imagine how people are going to react to this, because I’m a Killing Joke purist,” Hamill said.

“When they first talked about it, I said, “The only way we can do this is as a book on tape so that we honour every comma, every word, every letter, every syllable of Alan Moore’s script. We can add music and special effects to enhance it.” They kind of said, “What are you talking about? Nobody is doing this as a book on tape. It’s not commercially viable for us to do it that way. See if you can get the rights and record it in your basement or something if that’s what you want to do. This story has to be expanded.”

“If we just adapted The Killing Joke as an animated film, it would maybe be fifty-five minutes. They’ve actually done a really incredible job of supplementing it with Barbara Gordon/Batgirl material.