Over the weekend at San Diego Comic Con, Warner Brothers announced that they would be making an animated adaptation of the classic Alan Moore graphic novel The Killing Joke. It will be executive produced by Bruce Timm, fresh off the heels of Justice League: Gods and Monsters. The film will feature a brand new 15-minute prologue, an addition that has many diehard fans excited.
The Killing Joke’s Legacy
Published in 1988 and featuring artwork by Brian Bolland, The Killing Joke sent shockwaves through the DC universe as well as the comic book community at large. It was violent, dark, philosophical and pushed the envelope. The basic plot was an origin story of the Joker, depicting him as an average man wrecked by tragedy who became a psychopath as a result.
The Joker sets out to prove that any man can be pushed past the limit and into criminal insanity by “one bad day.” His test subject of sorts is the noble commissioner Jim Gordon, who he kidnaps and tortures. This torture involves shooting his daughter Barbara Gordon, subsequently paralyzing her. The Joker gleefully takes photos of the scene and shows them to Gordon, hoping he will crack.
Gordon doesn’t break and even insists when rescued by Batman to make sure that the Joker is arrested under proper rules and regulations. It’s a story about the foil of the Batman and Joker. Both are forever changed by one awful day but have two different reactions to it. Both are extreme, but similar in trauma.
The comic affected readers so much that it was made canon in the DC comics universe. Barbara Gordon remained crippled and became the Oracle while the Joker’s origin was also canonized. This was despite the Joker admitting that his version of the story may not be accurate. The Killing Joke went on to inspire many adaptations of the Joker including Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan’s iterations. It also was the winner of the prestigious Eisner Award for best graphic album.
So What’s The Problem?
There are some social justice warriors who think that this new animated film should take an opportunity to change course and self-censor. What does this mean? Well, it stems from a long running controversy about the graphic novel from our favorite people… feminists. See, feminists feel that in the fictional world of Gotham where men are constantly destroyed, mutilated and traumatized by the Joker that females deserve to be treated better.
In 2010, Sharon Packer criticized The Killing Joke, stating that it was violent to its core. She went on to say that it was evil and violence targeted towards women because Jim was merely tortured and Barbara was physically hurt more. Mental health is apparently not important to Packer, and men certainly seem disposable to her.
So of course, with this story now getting the animation treatment, the argument has reared it’s head again. SJWs are making their case to Warner Brothers that the violence towards Barbara Gordon should be either modified or removed completely. It’s not hard to guess that some would rather just see Jim Gordon hurt than his daughter whom must be protected at all cost. Because patriarchy, right?
Should It Be Changed?
There is a precedent to change the comic. The writer Alan Moore has stated on several occasions that he wasn’t happy with how the comic turned out. Moore felt that he may have gone too far with the storyline. One thing in particular that seemed to disturb him was how it was made canon instead of confined to a one-shot. According to Moore, when he went to DC Comics Editor Len Wein about being allowed to paralyze Barbara, his response was “Yeah, okay, cripple the bitch.”
Moore seems to have some real guilt about his writing with The Killing Joke, even going so far to lament his own message in the comic:
The Killing Joke is a story about Batman and the Joker; it isn’t about anything that you’re ever going to encounter in real life, because Batman and the Joker are not like any human beings that have ever lived. So there’s no important human information being imparted … Yeah, it was something that I thought was clumsy, misjudged and had no real human importance. It was just about a couple of licensed DC characters that didn’t really relate to the real world in any way.
And it’s not like Bruce Timm doesn’t have any reservations about the storyline: opting to avoid the angle in the animated universe, and deciding to give the Joker a criminal background as an enforcer for the mob. It is possible that there could be some modifications made to the story, but will it be a creative decision or a mandate from feminists?
If the Barbara Gordon flashpoint (excuse the term) is taken out, feminists will rejoice and claim it as a victory. This is an interesting topic, as the creator of the art has some sort of desire to self-censor but the fans of the work do not want it. I personally vote to keep everything the same as it makes no sense to change such a wel-established plot point, but I wonder what everyone else thinks.
Would removing the extreme violence be the right thing to do? Was what happened to Barbara too violent? Or is it a non-issue? Either way, whenever the SJWs get involved with comics it seems to always end with a bad joke.