Batman: The Killing Joke

In July 2016, I was at San Diego Comic-Con when Batman: The Killing Joke premiered. I wasn’t in attendance for the screening because Ehlers-Danlos syndrome has limited my ability to stand in long lines. But after B:TKJ was shown, I spotted its screenwriter, Brian Azzarello, doing a signing at the Image Comics booth.

Well, it would have been a signing if Azzarello was signing anything.

No one was in line for Azzarello. I was waiting for a signing by Paper Girls artist Cliff Chiang. I kinda smiled at Azzarello. He gave me a funny look and said, “I like your dress.” I was wearing a Batwoman DC Bombshells dress. I said thanks.

I didn’t understand the funny look at the time. Later that day, a friend told me about the uproar over B:TKJ. The SDCC audience did not like the film and voiced their opinions loudly.

But hey! I like Azzarello. He’s funny when he’s on panels. Check out this photo of him plotting his next entertaining quip at Boston Comic-Con 2013.

Aaron Lopresti, Scott Snyder, Tony Daniel, and Brian Azzarello at Boston Comic-Con 2013. Photo by Amy Galante

As a librarian who has spent time in a wheelchair, I feel a kinship with Barbara Gordon. I felt obligated to checkout this adaptation. I also felt guilty because in 2016, I interviewed Alan Moore and he was such a sweetheart.

My verdict: Barbara Gordon’s head-over-heels crush on Batman wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Her interactions with her library co-worker were cute. Still, this Barbara Gordon was more appropriate for DC Super Hero Girls.

I thought that the B:TKJ animation was shoddy. I watch a fair amount of animation. I guess I’m spoiled by Pixar, Studio Ghibli, and Laika.

Moving beyond the animation, I tried to be open-minded. I was looking forward to hearing The Joker voiced by Mark Hamill. He nailed it. I kept thinking of when Hamill read, in his evil villain voice, a tweet posted by Donald Trump.

The creepiest part of all was Ray Wise, as a naked Jim Gordon, yelling, “Where is my daughter?!?” I’m sure that some folks could hear that and not think of Wise’s role as Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks, but I’m not one of those folks. I expected to hear Grace Zabriskie at any point.

But … yeah. For a not-for-kids animated feature, it lacked a more mature plot, dialogue, and animation. When it did try to push the envelope, it was just gross; it looked like a Saturday morning cartoon with nudity.


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