OK folks, this is pretty much all I have left on the Killing Joke/Batgirl #41 variant-cover debate:
I’m writing this because it would be impractical to answer every comment — good or bad — at this site or on social media. I’m also not inclined to do it. The pieces I’ve written so far stand for themselves and I’m not going to re-argue them.
However, there have been accusatory comments that misrepresent my point or at least misunderstand it, so here goes:
1. My original story can be found here.
2. The follow-up — in which I make the point that you can still have a twisted, violent Joker without the exploitation of The Killing Joke — can be found here. (You may not consider The Killing Joke to include sexual exploitation. I do. We can agree to disagree.)
3. My Batbook of the Week column this week, which coincidentally features comments by artist Cliff Chiang about his Killing Joke-themed Batgirl cover, can be found here. I strongly argue that Chiang‘s cover is a triumph of heroism and the human spirit. This is the cover that should have stood as Barbara‘s final victory over that dark chapter.
4. My arguments against The Killing Joke do not mean I don’t like adult, mature-themed Batman stories. Far from it. If you’re taking that away from this, you’re not reading this properly. In fact, in the first story I make the point that Batman: Year One is perhaps the best Batman story ever. I’m also proud of the original Dark Knight Returns poster that is framed on my wall. I also understand that “bad things happen to good people.” Don’t take my criticism of this one subject and say I’m indicting an entire genre of comics stories, Batman or otherwise.
5. I was accused of celebrating Rafael Albuquerque and DC‘s decision not to publish the variant because a friend congratulated me on Facebook. I’m not celebrating. I agree with the artist’s decision and with DC‘s decision. I never actually called for the cover to be pulled but I do agree with the move. Nevertheless, I’m not dancing over this.
6. There’s a fine line between censorship and sensitivity. That is, to coin a phrase, a never-ending battle. In this case, I came down on the side of sensitivity. Tomorrow, I might call out something in a different context as censorship. There are no absolutes. Context is everything. You could write dissertations on the difference and I’m sure people have. I just know how I feel in this case.
7. This decision — or any arguments in favor of it — does not mean that freedom is dead. Freedom lives because we get to debate and argue and make points and counterpoints. Just because a point of view on one issue leads to this kind of decision, it does not mean this is the end of freedom or creative expression. Again, there are no absolutes.
8. Connecting my point of view to Wertham and The Seduction of the Innocent is way off base. I cheered the end of the Comics Code. I’ve run excerpts of Wertham-bait at this very site. Wertham was a wrong-headed charlatan who provoked congressional panels and threats of state-sanctioned censorship. Criticizing this image and The Killing Joke is a far, far cry from that.
9. Some people have made the bizarre suggestion that I’d called for The Killing Joke to be banned or, at least metaphorically speaking, burned, locked away in some vault or taken from people’s homes. Untrue and laughably so. That’s absurd. I just happen to think it’s an unnecessarily mean-spirited story and don’t like the outsize influence it’s had for nearly 30 years. There are much better Batman stories out there. If you want to buy it, own it, read it every night, whatever, knock yourself out. My dislike isn’t an attack on your liking it. I never criticized fans who like the story. That’s their taste and their right, just as it’s my taste and my right to criticize.
10. Feel free to continue to comment. Just keep it clean and no-name calling, please. No need to be uncivil.