|Canonical picture of Batman and Joker kissing unrelated.|
So why I am starting a post about Alan Moore's 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke with a summary of the first issue of Scott Snyder's 2012 Batman arc "Death of the Family"? Well, apart from "Death of the Family" looking to be totally awesome and something that everyone, comic fan or not, should check out, it's because "Death of the Family" is a crossover event focusing at least in part of the Joker's schemes for the rest of the Bat family. And in particular, his upcoming confrontation with Barbara Gordon.
|The upcoming Batgirl 14|
|Why? Because the editor said "cripple the bitch," that's why.|
|The original scene.|
As I've said before, far be it from me to tell people what to like. But regardless of whether one loves or loathes the New 52 Batgirl, I will vehemently argue that we should never forget The Killing Joke, not in Barbara's past, and not in comics history. Whether, like Alan Moore himself has grown to, one regards the comic as needless, dreary dreck, or thinks it's a brilliant piece of writing and a definitive Joker story, "moving on" from the book and its impact of Barbara's history is not the answer. I've seen many arguments to the contrary, and I'll try to address them all here:
1. Barbara already worked through her trauma while she was in the wheelchair. There's no sense in revisiting it again.
|The Killing Joke, revisited.|
2. The constant moping about her paralysis is dragging down the story. They should have removed The Killing Joke from continuity entirely.
This is one of those instances in which the relaunch was damned no matter what it did. When it was announced that Barbara would walk again, there was immediate outrage that her time as a disabled icon would be erased. When it turned out that she'd still been a paraplegic and the time still affected her, there was ire about how she focused too much on that experience and that it should have been left out completely.
Even if you think that The Killing Joke should have been removed from continuity, it hasn't, and it's not about to disappear. Being irritated with the character for having PTSD over a terrible experience and working through the impact the trauma had on her life strikes me as more disrespectful to the character than revisiting her horrible experience ever could be.
3. No one but Gail Simone wants to see Barbara confront the Joker again. Been there, done that.
|Oracle vs. Joker|
Yeah, no. I've been waiting for this moment since I heard Barbara would walk again, and I know I'm not the only fan who feels this way. If you're not interested in seeing it, fine, but I'm sick of hearing about how Gail Simone can't let go of the past and is writing her own self insert fan fiction and so on. She's treating the character with the same respect she's always shown Barbara Gordon, and attacking her as a supposed deluded fan girl just because you aren't enjoying the arc is gross and uncalled for.
4. The Killing Joke isn't about Barbara. The story fridges her and tosses her aside. I don't want to see her dwell on something that wasn't even about her.
The Killing Joke wasn't Barbara's story. She was the equivalent of the opening kill at the start of a horror movie. But today The Killing Joke is as much Barbara's story as it is Bruce and the Joker's. She's not the opening kill. She's the girl who takes a beating, feels the pain, but refuses to stay down. And that, as Oracle or as Batgirl, is awesome.
5. The Killing Joke is a gross and problematic story, and even Alan Moore regrets writing it. Let's move the hell on already and forget about it.
This, for me, is the big one. The problematic elements of the story are exactly why we shouldn't toss it aside. When Gail Simone realized that the treatment of women in comics tended toward the gross and problematic, she didn't forget about it and focus on positive portrayals. She started the Women in Refrigerators web page and ended up working in the comic industry, writing all the badass female characters all the time. The treatment of Barbara in the story should not be forgotten. It should be remembered, discussed, critiqued. We should make it clear that the casual maiming of female characters is not okay, and not something that we as fans will tolerate. If we ignore stories like these, if we decide that what's done is done and we should just let it die, nothing will change. We'll still live in a world in which an author can ask, "Is it all right if I cripple this woman?" and an editor can answer, "Yeah, okay, cripple the bitch."
I don't want to forget The Killing Joke. I want a world in which Barbara remembers it, in which readers can't dismiss the terrible impact it had on a character's life, and can't tolerate the same casual cruelty happening to a female character again. I want readers to remember it, and further to remember how despite the trauma, Barbara is growing and recovering. How, despite the attack that she will carry with her for the rest of her life, she's still strong. And most of all, be it paralyzed or walking, you can't keep a Batgirl down.