Batman The Killing Joke

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Throughout the history of comic books in North America, there have been several iconic comics that have stood to create a literary canon for the medium, despite its low culture signification. One of these comics was Batman: The Killing Joke, in which writer Alan Moore and illustrator Brian Bolland delve into the psychology of the iconic supervillain the Joker. Despite its reputation as one of the best comics of all time, it is also one of the most controversial because of the violence enacted on Barbara Gordon, the civilian identity of Batgirl, by the Joker. Batgirl Volume 3: Death of the Family, written by Gail Simone and drawn by Daniel Sampere (with one issue written by Ray Fawkes and drawn by Ed Benes), details the harrowing reunion of…show more content…
Though Barbara’s shooting was reserved for psychologically traumatizing Jim in The Killing Joke, here it is revisited and refocused to address the traumatic experience that Barbara had. When the Joker’s henchmen attempt to re-enact the shooting of Barbara in Death of the Family, she is shown in a flashback to her original shooting in The Killing Joke, where she writhes on the floor. In a comparison between the original scene of her shooting and the revised version of it in Death of the Family (see Figure 2), the revised version shows only Barbara with a dark backdrop in order to graphically focus the scene is on Barbara herself. Through Sampere’s depiction of the pain and struggle that Barbara felt at the time of her shooting accompanied by Barbara’s non-diagetic narration of the event, the reader is able to understand what was at stake during Barbara’s shooting. In The System of Comics, Thierry Groensteen uses the term arthrology to describe how the graphic elements of comics relate to each other through predicated visual motifs that can exist from a panel-to-panel linear reading or further (Groensteen 22). By using the similarities in the graphic elements of the two comics, Simone and Sampere participate in a translinear arthrologic connection, which uses the graphic similarities between The Killing Joke and Death of the Family to integrate the two narratives.…show more content…
Though the character of Barbara Gordon was severely and harshly exploited in The Killing Joke to the extent that Brian Bolland wrote in the afterword of the deluxe edition of the comic that he had to “grit [his] teeth… [doing] such terrible harm to poor Barbara”, Simone and Sampere take advantage of DC’s reboot to address this mistreatment, which is especially significant given Simone’s prior engagement with issues regarding the mistreatment of women in comics, in general. Where Barbara was used as a plot device to propel the characterization of the male characters and the overall plot in The Killing Joke, she is used as the main focus of Death of the Family where the ignoring of her traumatizing experience that took place in The Killing Joke is addressed and then overturned. Where Barbara is depicted as a powerless damsel-in-distress figure who is incapable of struggle against the Joker despite her past as a crime fighter in The Killing Joke, she is made the hero who is implicit in her own victory, able to emerge powerful in a brief moment of psychological weakness in Death of the Family. Though in The System of Comics Thierry Groensteen was speaking of comics panels when he wrote that they “must be understood as a component in a larger apparatus” (5), this is
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