The cartoon adaptation of The Killing Joke, a controversial Batman story in which The Joker cripples (and, depending on how you read it, rapes) Batgirl, debuted at Comic Con last night. The cartoon is R-rated because that's what we need, R-rated cartoons about children's characters, and it brings back voice talent from Batman: The Animated Series to give the whole thing a special kind of creepy frisson. Remember that perfect all ages version of Batman? Well, here he is in a story that even the original writer disavows these days!
Of course everybody knows that The Killing Joke has its controversial elements, so how do you make it exciting for the kids today? You add more controversy - namely you have Batman fuck Batgirl before she gets crippled.
I'm not kidding:
idk how to feel about this pic.twitter.com/gsBGHsYet5— ☕ (@AcroNite7) July 22, 2016
Look, I don't want to get into another debate about whether or not cartoons and comic characters are for kids. That debate has been going on since The Killing Joke itself, which was a major push in taking superheroes more seriously. What I want to talk about here is the fact that this shows the people at DC animation are existing in a fundamentally broken state - they have missed the point of Batman completely.
See, it's called "The Batman Family," and within that construct Batman is the patriarch. HE IS THE FATHER. Yes, Batgirl's literal father is Jim Gordon, but her superhero dad is Batman. That's the relationship. It has always been the relationship. It's the correct relationship. It allows Batman to stand distant yet supporting, and it creates a scenario where all the Robins and Spoilers and Batgirls and Nightwings et al go between trying to get Batman's approval and trying to lighten the dude up a little.
To change that relationship is troubling, and it would need to happen in a story that is further redefining the whole Batman Family. You can't just shove Batman into Batgirl in a story where the rest of the character dynamics are essentially the same. Especially in a story where her dad - Batman's best crime fighting pal - is so important. Now you have Batman fucking his best pal's daughter, which is a fine porno conceit but profoundly troubling in all other areas.
And forget about the fact that Barbara Gordon's sexuality is being explored in a story that will leave her terribly sexually vulnerable. It's gross. And it feels like it repositions the Joker's attack on her as punishment for having sex. Horrible.
The Killing Joke cartoon should never have been made, but I get why it was - there's money in them thar hills. But this? This is the kind of thing someone at DC animation should have seen coming, should have understood why it's so bad and wrong. This is fundamental betrayal of the Batman character, perhaps even worse than having him murder thugs in Batman v Superman.
I hope that this cartoon is just the vestigial tail of a changing DC Films. The lead time on this was long, so the current tonal shift in the DC Movieverse and of DC Rebirth couldn't be taken into account. I hope that this is the last gasp of grossness and that future DC animation follows the path laid by the movies and comics. Or at least that they stay away from metaphorical incest.