If You Can’t Take a (Killing) Joke

This past weekend, San Diego Comicon happened and with it came the usual batch of trailer releases (Justice League and Wonder Woman FTW) comic and toy announcements as well as panels featuring fans’ favorite shows and movies. One of these premieres was for The Killing Joke animated movie that they have been pumping up for the last few months because A) it’s considered one of the greatest Batman stories ever told and B) it is the first DC animated movie that would be rated R which is quite a big deal if not totally unsurprising as the original story featured some very dark material. What was not very dark or original is the apparent love affair between Barbara Gordon/Batgirl and Bruce Wayne/Batman. Aside from any Elseworlds I may have forgotten, this relationship never happened in the comics however, it was hinted at in the animated series by Bruce Timm so it is not without basis.

My first love is Lady Justice! …and Catwoman…and Vicky Vale..and Silver St. Cloud…and

The general consensus is that it is poorly handled and frankly didn’t need to be injected into the story. Having not seen the film I can’t confirm or deny that these opinions are validated. One of the biggest complaints that seem to have arisen is that the film paints a very unfavorable portrait of Barbara Gordon in that she is a weak protagonist who only got into the crime-fighting gig because of her sexual attraction to Batman. Just playing devil’s advocate here guys but she works in a library and the best persona she could come up with was someone else’s sloppy seconds. They may have a point. The other complaint is that the movie overall treats her like reheated owl’s piss that’s been reconstituted and left out in the sun all day. Well, yeah. That’s what the Killing Joke always did. It made Barbara Gordon a victim. It wasn’t until John Ostrander and his wife, Kim Yale turned her into fan favorite Oracle in the Suicide Squad comic a couple of years later that the character showed any strength in adversity. I have written previously about this strength of character and how it is one of my favorite aspects of Barbara Gordon.

I mean, the original was written by Alan Moore who said that putting on a costume and fighting crime was a sexual fetish.

The creators have taken to defending their decision, as is their right. Some have opted to take the high road while others seemed to take it a bit more personally and could have, to say the least handled the situation a bit better. A creator has every right to disagree with a fans opinion but he does not have the right to disrespect the fan with said opinion. Just my two cents. I can say from my point of view that if they needed to pad the story to get a better run-time I would have thought more focus would have been spent with the Joker. His name is referenced in the title after all, but I digress.

killing joke
“You expect a change to the source material will be embraced by fans? and they call me crazy!”

All in all, it is a bit disappointing to hear the one of my favorite Batman stories’ adaption to the big and small screen has been met with mixed to poor reviews. However we live in a golden age of superheroes. If they don’t get one right, there are plenty more to choose from. Because ultimately, if you can’t take a joke, you have no business in the funny books.

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