I recently read an article about DC Comics’ expanded story for The Killing Joke animated feature that got under my skin. Ignoring the problematic aspect of “fridging” Barbara Gordon in the source material, and Azzarello’s grade school response to a journo who asked him a question about the new material, I wanted to address the expanded story. [NOTE: I have not seen the movie, but my comments are regarding subject and story, not execution. It may be a fine adaptation of The Killing Joke, but I find issue with the prologue storyline at the conceptual level.]
If you don’t have an interest in the entire article, the part that stood out to me is this:
In that [all-new expanded] opening, we meet Barbara Gordon as a young librarian who has started donning the Batgirl costume in order to attract the attention of Batman—not just in crime-fighting prowess, but sexually, telling co-workers that she has “a man in her life” (throughout, Batman is apparently portrayed as emotionally distant from Barbara).
This culminates in the sex scene moment mentioned above. After the encounter, Batman keeps away from Barbara, refusing to speak with her, leaving the young woman spurned (the film shows Barbara waiting for Batman to call her on the phone). Then, of course, the rest of The Killing Joke happens—and any fan of Batgirl knows how that plays out. Barbara is paralyzed in front of her own father after being shot in the stomach by the Joker, an infamous moment widely considered to be one of the lowest points in Batgirl’s 40+ year history.
The Killing Joke movie has indeed added more Batgirl—now, she’s a jilted romantic interest who only exists in the story to justify Batman’s ongoing conflict with The Joker. [READ THE WHOLE THING HERE]
See for yourself.
idk how to feel about this pic.twitter.com/gsBGHsYet5
— ☕ (@AcroNite7) July 22, 2016
I just don’t see how that could be the best idea they could come up with to expand upon this story and deepen Babs’ character. The following outline is what I came up with in the hour I spent driving my son to camp this morning. In traffic. With my son singing along to the stereo in the back seat.
We open with Batgirl chasing after a group of villains (one of whom is perhaps visually reminiscent of the Red Hood). As she’s pursuing them, they break off into two groups, and she decides to follow the apparent leader of the gang. He’s a decoy, however, and the ones who broke off ambush her after he leads her into a bottleneck (say a dead-end alley). They have her back to the wall and she fights fiercely, barely squeaking out a win, capturing some, while a couple get away. But she’s got the head of the gang. She ties him up and leaves him for the police with a note, Batman style.
On the rooftop above the alley, Batman stops Batgirl, explaining that he was watching, but didn’t intervene because he knew she could take care of herself. He takes the opportunity to mentor her, however, and counsels that she be more careful. “You’re talented and daring. But that’s not enough. You have to be smarter and more cunning than they are. If you’re reckless, you might not get a chance to help the people who need you tomorrow, and the night after, and the one after that. Fight hard. But always be smarter. You are more than Batgirl. You’re someone else’s only hope.” He ziplines away, and she’s filled with pride that he could have easily intervened to save her, but respected her enough to let her save herself instead. Because she’s that good (though she can be better).
Back at home, she’s sore, but still riding high on her encounter and lesson from The Batman. She’s making dinner for her dad, who has had a hard day at the station. The doorbell rings….
[Insert The Killing Joke here]
[Post credits coda]: Barbara in a wheelchair, wheeling up to her computer to advise Bruce for the first time as Oracle. Because she is still a god damned hero despite the Joker!
Maybe I’m being arrogant, but that opening is exciting, humanizes BOTH Batgirl and Batman, tells the story of their relationship without cheapening either it or her. It also preserves Bruce’s relationship with Jim Gordon, while keeping the stakes in The Killing Joke storyline focused where they are supposed to be: on the Joker being wrong about how “one bad day” can destroy a person like Jim Gordon (or, perhaps more importantly, Batgirl).
Holy shit. Look! I wrote a better Batman pitch than Batman writer, Brian Azzarello (and I don’t call people “pussies”). You can call me, DC, when you’re ready to script a Batman animated feature that respects the whole Bat-Family and the intelligence of all Bat-fans, male AND female.