I wasn’t able to score a badge at Comic Con because all the Comic Con Casuals who care about Hall H bought them all. I was able to watch it Monday night at an AMC theater.
To me, Killing Joke is one of those essential Joker stories. Nay, it’s one of those essential comic book reads period. I don’t care what Alan Moore says. Sure, it is not as deep as his other famous work, those being Watchmen and V for Vendetta but it stands out as a story that reinvented one of the most famous fictional villains. It left a big impression on me when I heard the Joker say ‘We are not contractually tied down to rationality’.
This was a different character than the one I saw growing up watching BTAS on weekday afternoons on Fox.
I never saw the Killing Joke as ‘problematic’ or ‘misogynistic’. To me, those words dilute the impact of the Batman mythology. I see it as a suspenseful tragedy. It’s tragic for many reasons. This is the story where Barbara Gordon was paralyzed. It was the ‘death’ of Batgirl. This was the same book where fans were introduced to a possible origin story of the monster. We are shown that the Joker once had a family and needed to provide for them when his meager earnings as a failed comedian were not enough. This was taken away and he hit rock bottom. The death of his wife and unborn child led to Joker’s birth. I see Killing Joke as the ‘death’ of the colorful and child friendly image Batman had due to the popularity and influence that 60s TV show had.
I am bringing up the subject of ‘misogyny’ because the novel has gained prominence again due to the premiere at Comic Con last week. I knew it was going to be a touchy subject because of what the Joker did to Barbara in an attempt to break her father, Jim Gordon. Nowadays, the general consensus seems to be that Joker did not rape Barbara but even without penetration, what he did was sexual assault and that is just as bad. Even without physical contact, he did violate Barbara.
Interestingly, the topic of misogyny came up again but it wasn’t for the reason I initially suspected. I found out that it was due to the extended scene that was added at the beginning of the movie. The Prologue was added to enhance Barbara Gordon because her part in the novel was small. It has been argued that she was used as a pawn between Batman and Joker. I personally never saw it that way. I saw it as a story between two iconic characters. I saw it as another chapter in their mythology. I saw it as a change in their dynamics. By paralyzing and violating Barbara, Joker made his battle with Batman personal. She was an unfortunate target. That does not mean that the Killing Joke is misogynist. Many like to use this argument but they seem to forget that the following year with the publication of A Death in Family, Joker actually kills Robin, Jason Todd, who is the second to don the pixie boots after Richard Grayson left.
I have yet to hear of any accusations of misandry.
Because of this, I think it is very short sighted to call the Killing Joke misogynist. However, the accusations of misogyny are not directed at what occurred between Joker and Barbara. They were leveled at the sexual encounter between Barbara Gordon and Bruce Wayne after a heist.
I admit, the first time I heard about this, I was in my car scrolling through. A friend posted it. I actually yelled out loud in my car when I read that this had occurred.
I was a little grossed out at first. When you think about Batman and Batgirl, you think about the teacher/student relationship. Then again, we aren’t really surprised when we hear about students sleeping with their professors. Last time I checked, Barbara was not underage. I can’t be completely upset about the scene because it was clear that Barbara initiated the sexual activity and I think this is part of the reason why people are up in arms. I guess some people aren’t used to seeing a beloved fictional character, much less a female, be so, um, well, bold. I don’t see this as misogyny but more as people responding to something out of their comfort zones.
Barbara’s reaction to Bat Pimp was not entirely unexpected. I mean, there are people who would respond the way she would. It’s not abnormal. Then, there are women like Selina Kyle who would just walk away shamelessly proud. I think Barbara’s reaction to Bruce’s coolness the ‘morning after’ was more due to her youth rather than any “misogyny” on part of the creators. I can’t see Selina or even Ivy acting the way. Her almost killing someone as a result of being an emotional mess afterwards makes her look like a well rounded character with conflicting emotions about a choice that she made. That is what makes her intriguing. To call this characterization ‘misogyny’ is just short sighted and missing the point. Just because she didn’t act the way you thought she would or wanted to is not ‘misogynist’. Please save that word for ISIS members.
Personally, it would not have bothered me whether there was a sex scene or not.
Now, onto the movie. The local theater at a showing at 7:30 and 10. When I got there, I found out that there was an eight o clock showing. I am actually glad I got this option because I met some very interesting people sitting right next to me!
What I liked about the film adaptation.
It was a near perfect adaptation with some minor adjustments. The part where Joker says ‘It’s garish and ugly’ is further expanded upon. Joker describes the abandoned carnival as ‘I don’t know if it’s rats or bums, but it is piss.’ Bitch and hiss. That is the J!
I noticed the part where Batman is looking up at the computer screen. In the original novel, we see him looking up at a bunch if images of his enemy. To us, they are iconic Joker covers. However, in this version, the images are updated. The image is provided by a friend I made at the screening.
I like how the creators ‘updated’ this part. It was a nice reference to Joker stories after 1988. I see, The audience from Dark Knight Returns p.2, Nicholson Joker, LedJoker, Jason Todd, Laughing Fish, Batman #1/Man Who Laughs.
Another part that stood out to me was when after Gordon was captured and went to on the ‘Ride of Torture’. In the original novel, Joker says ‘To reflect upon life and its random injustice!’. In the movie, he says ‘random unpredictability’. I thought this was interesting because in the former, when Joker says ‘injustice’, we see his face reflected on the puddle. He looks very upset. The word injustice emphasizes this because his origin is revisited. In the movie, his use of the word ‘unpredictability’ and his grinning face make him look less tragic even though the origin story is a part of it. This makes Joker look a lot colder, meaner, and detached. In this sense, he is almost a reflection of his enemy who is also detached and cold from most human interaction. This makes him look like he embraced his change and with this new façade, he was able to indulge in his battle against humanity and all its sentimental candy floss. His tragedy was a more of a stepping stone rather than a sad and random event that changed him. This makes Joker look more in control which is a contrast to who he was prior, i.e. a lowly comedian getting handed a bag of shit.
The way Bruce Timm and company handled the ending made me appreciate the graphic novel even more. It is one thing when you read it, it’s something else when you hear the actors say them. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill added an extra layer to this emotionally charged part and they did it beautifully. Hearing Joker say ‘No, it’s far too late for that’ was chilling because it was one of the few times when we see and hear the two enemies speak in a peaceful manner. It’s been done a few times in comics (Devil’s Advocate, Broken City) but this was the first time that we hear them interact in a way. Hearing Batman genuinely care and offer Joker rehabilitation was one of the few rare and personal interactions that make them so fascinating. The tone, the emotion, the rejection….it all went so perfectly. This was definitely one of the highlights of the movie.
The times I laughed out loud:
1. Batman smirking
2. Hearing Barbara Gordon and Jeannie comment on Batman and Joker’s um, sexual performance. This film confirmed that Bats and Joker fuck like champs. How come nobody is talking about this?
The only part I was ‘Meh’ on was the musical number. I imagined that Joker’s song was going to sound a lot darker. In fact, I was hoping for something along the lines of Scar in The Lion King’s “Be prepared” or Rasputin in Anastasia in “In the dark of the night”. I felt that the number was too light and happy. I don’t know if this juxtaposition was supposed to be in contrast to the horrible images Gordon was subject to. I wasn’t too pleased. It took some teeth away from what was otherwise a brilliant comic adaptation.
I will be buying my copy next Tuesday at Best Buy. I will get the deluxe edition. I will put it right up there with Return of the Joker, Mask of the Phantasm, Dark Knight Returns 1 and 2 and Assault on Arkham as a must own.