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Killing Batman: The Killing Joke from Continuity

Last week, Batgirl #49 raised many questions for long-time readers, resulting in some mixed reception and overall uncertainty over how one of DC Comic‘s darkest and more influential books may or may not have been removed canonically from the Batman universe.

Spoilers for Batgirl #49 and Batman: The Killing Joke below.

Batgirl has recently been grappling with a villain by the name of The Fugue, a character who, as is shown in this issue, has been implanting false, damaging memories into Barbara Gordon‘s mind. Upon realizing that this is occurring, Batgirl sees a plethora of such false memories flash before her eyes, showcasing some of her fears and struggles as if they had taken place in her life. One of these memories, as you may have guessed, is suggested to be The Killing Joke, as an image of the Joker in his straw hat holding up a camera and saying “Smile” can be seen on the left side of the full-page panel.

This alone would have led some readers to believe that this move was meant to remove the story from canon altogether, writing it off years later as a bad dream, but the creative team added fuel to the fire soon after. Artist Babs Tarr posted the following to her Twitter account:

Understandably, a lot of fans have felt mixed about this change. For many, The Killing Joke was a game-changing story that altered how The Joker was seen, presented one of the most plausible origin stories for the character, turned Barbara into the Oracle and is generally seen as one of the best Batman stories ever written. Removing that removes an important part of DC’s history, and leaves some rather important questions unanswered. How was Barbara crippled for as long as she was before the start of the current series? Why do other characters remember the events of The Killing Joke?

Co-writer Cameron Stewart may have alleviated the blow to a degree though, with his own line of nine Twitter posts:


While a thoughtful move by Stewart to try and clean things up, I feel like this became something of a cop-out, and a frustrating one at that. As with any timeline, I feel like, moving forward, it needs to be made clear what is or isn’t a part of the narrative. Otherwise, future writers will be left with little indication as to how they can proceed with the character in certain ways. I’m as big of a fan of The Killing Joke as the next person, but if the intent was to write it out of continuity, then that’s what needed to be established, not some half-baked “whatever you want” answer. Additionally, this feels like a Mass Effect 3-like move, trying to appease fans by altering the end result to best suit their tastes or needs, a practice that needs to stop in order to preserve the integrity of their writers and the intentions of their final products.

Regardless of what side you take, The Killing Joke is still out there on many shelves, including my own, and will remain an important entry in the DC mythos.

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