batman_the_killing_joke_first_print_coverLast week, in Batgirl #49 – a comic with an apparent target demographic of Millennials – writer Cameron Stewart and artist Babs Tarr told a story that could be seen as retconning the events of Alan Moore’s and Brian Bolland’s 1988 one-shot, Batman: The Killing Joke.In the wake of that story, Stewart argued that his story could be seen as a retconning of The Killing Joke, or not, depending on how you interpret the story… as if the plot of a story that is intertwined in almost 30 years of DC history and countless dozens of titles and stories could be considered subjective to “your own personal truth.”

During that same week, another comics podcast – one hosted by Millennials – that we greatly respect did an episode calling The Killing Joke problematic due to its treatment of Barbara Gordon, and arguably overrated and unnecessary.

These attitudes toward The Killing Joke are somewhat understandable, given the concept of “women in refrigerators” that arose in comics fandom in 1999, and the fact that Moore chose to have Joker sexually assault Barbara Gordon in the story. Because of these elements, it’s easy to dismiss the story as dated and problematic… especially if you weren’t alive and actively reading comics in 1988.

Which we were. Which means that we remember that Barbara Gordon wasn’t Batgirl at the time of The Killing Joke. And that The Joker wasn’t really defined as a character at all after Crisis On Infinite Earths until The Killing Joke. And that comics fandom was, at the time, strongly against even Robin, let alone any character from the 1966 Batman television show.

So we decided to, at least up to a point, defend The Killing Joke. Not just from a historical standpoint, but from one of story, questioning whether Barbara was, in fact, fridged in the classic sense… while still agreeing that the sexual assault aspect of the story is completely unnecessary, and asking once question we’ve never seen asked: why didn’t Moore just have Joker kill Barbara?

We also discuss:

  • Escape From New York #15, written by Christopher Sebela with art by Maxim Simic, and
  • Doctor Strange #6, written by Jason Aaron with art by Chris Bachalo!

And, the disclaimers:

  • This show contains spoilers. While we try to shout out warning ahead of time, be aware that we’re going to ruin the ending of a story written 28 years ago that has been referenced in literally hundreds of comic books since then.
  • This show contains adult, profane language, and is therefore not safe for work. If you don’t want your significant other to learn why Alan Moore could have sold a million photocopies of his butt in 1988, get some headphones.

Thanks for listening, suckers!

I’ve read through Batman #15 about four times so far, even though it is a middle part of a long crossover, meaning that even though there is some decent action and some forward plot motion here, there isn’t a hell of a lot in the way of real epiphany or resolution here. Sure, we learn the origin of that giant Joker card that Bruce keeps in the Batcave (and, based on that origin, that there is either a custom printer somewhere in Gotham who once hung up the phone and told his assistant, “Yup: Bruce Wayne is Batman. Or maybe The Joker. Either way, make sure the check clears before you start work,” or that Bruce is much arts-and-craftsier than I would have originally anticipated), and we discover how it’s at least possible that Joker knows the identities of the Batman Family, but it’s not like there are any big, sweeping moments that would normally keep someone reading and re-reading an individual issue of a comic book.

Instead, I found myself going over and over the book, wondering about what was actually going on in the heads of Batman and The Joker. We have Joker running around, attacking the people closest to Batman and his allies, claiming that he’s doing it to make Batman his best… but why? A razor-sharp Batman would make life infinitely more difficult for Joker, so what’s his motivation? And then there’s Batman, keeping at least one significant secret from Robin, Nightwing, et al, and trying to keep them away from the battle – despite the fact that at least Batgirl and Red Hood have, shall we say, intensely personal reasons for wanting to take Joker head-on – and apparently willfully ignoring some evidence that Joker might have the upper hand on him, all while implying that he thinks Joker is trying to prove a point… but why? And what point?

I kept rereading the issue trying to figure out what it is about each of these characters that is making the other act in ways that really don’t seem to be in their own best interests… and then I realized that, despite decades of reading stories about these two guys, that I’ve never really given that question a whole hell of a lot of thought beyond the obvious: “Joker is insane and kills a lot of people despite Batman constantly trying to stop him.” Which is fine as a plot engine, and one that has driven one hell of a lot of damn good comic books and movies over the years, but almost none of those stories ever made me think any more deeply about each character’s real motivations beyond that bullet point.

However, Batman #15, despite being a middle chapter, made me ask those questions. Which helped hammer home that Death of The Family is shaping up to be one pretty special Batman story.

Scott Snyder spent a lot of his time at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con hyping his Death of The Family storyline as one of the definitive Joker storylines of all time… and at the time, it sounded like an awful lot of hype. Here’s what I wrote about his comments at the time:

“It really is our Killing Joke… this is an explanation of what makes The Joker special as a villain.”

“He will rape and kill… and do everything to break you,” Snyder said. “[We wrote The Joker] the most fucking twisted we possibly could.”

All of which sounded promising, but let’s face reality: there ain’t a comic writer alive lucky enough to get to write the main Batman title, with The Joker as the villain no less, who ever said, “The Joker? Fuck that guy. He’s no K.G. Beast, I’ll tell you what. So yeah; I fucking phoned it in… what’s that? Yeah, it’s spelled L-O-B-D-E-L-L…”

So the hype kinda slid off my back at the time, but now it’s three months later, and Batman #13, the first issue of the Death of The Family crossover, is out in comic stores. And sure, there’s been a lot of excitement over the story, and yeah, the owner of my local comic store, where they know me by name and ask me not to ask the paying clientele if they want a dose of my “Joker Venom and / or Happy Juice,” told me, “That’s the way The Joker should be written,” when he handed my my copy… but it’s all just hype still right? That’s the question I asked myself when I opened the book an hour ago, and…

Son of a bitch. Now that’s The Joker.

Editor’s Note: I acknowledge that these pictures suck. We’ll upgrade our cameras once we receive your subscription check. Oh, you don’t pay for this? Then fuck you and enjoy the pictures you got.

Last year we kind of wandered into the panel for Scott Snyder’s American Vampire, mostly to make sure we’d have a seat for the DC New 52 panel that followed directly afterwards. Don’t get me wrong, we were following American Vampire in kind of a general way, but I had fallen away; the initial hype around one of the early stories being written by Stephen King hadn’t been enough to keep me in the book except in a “flip through when I happened to see it on the shelf” way. The point is that last year, we were able to walk right into Snyder’s panel without having to wait around in a line.

That was 2011. This year, Snyder’s writing Batman, which has consistently been one of the best books of DC’s New 52 and the source of the first post-reboot DC crossover event. So this time around, for the Batman panel yesterday? Yeah, we waited in line.

The Batman panel covered all the Batman family books, from Batman to Red Hood And The Outlaws… meaning walking in Amanda and I steeled ourselves for exciting news running the gamut from Batman’s post-Owls Joker encounter to Starfire’s post-Red Hood stranger’s penis encounter. However, weird former Teen Titan sex revelations or no, Snyder started the panel off with a laugh: “Avengers Vs. X-Men, who wins? Batman.” I hate it when my comic writers are funnier than I am. But I digress.

It’s, err… a day (We’ve just about given up on a regular schedule for this thing)… which means that it’s time for another exciting episode of the Crisis On Infinite Midlives Podcast!

Brought to you, as always, in crystal-clear Drunkard Digital 2.0 surround sounds (2.1 if Rob burps into the microphone! And you don’t want to know under what circumstances it becomes 2.2!)

Discussed in this week’s program:

  • Monthly Comics: Holding The Line at 20 Pages plus House Ads and Shilling for Harley Davidson!
  • Looney Tunes, or: The Diagnosis of Super-Villains (Ooh! I vote Tertiary Syphilis!), and:
  • Our unreviewed books of the week: Deadpool, Dead Man’s Run, and the conclusion of Spider-Island!

And you can follow along at home with these links, kids!

As always: wear headphone when listening at work unless you’re tired of your job!

Enjoy the show, suckers!