The Killing Joke No Longer A Part Of Batgirl Continuity


After years of the classic story The Killing Joke serving as a cornerstone of Batgirl’s history, the latest issue has effectively turned it into a “What if?” story.

When it was published in 1988, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke took the idea of “grim and gritty” and the character of the Joker to a place some weren’t prepared for. The story, which sees Barbara Gordon crippled, an attempt to drive Commissioner Gordon insane and what many fans have interpreted as the final confrontation between the Batman and his arch-nemesis, has become a classic and what many think of as the best Joker story of all time.

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The Killing Joke‘s place in DC continuity has always been somewhat… fluid over the years. Both Moore and Bolland have said that the story was never meant to be a part of Batman’s history and was instead intended as a “What if?” tale that was just supposed to tell a great story.

However, once Gordon made her debut as Oracle, the wheelchair bound uber-hacker who was a greater force for good than Batgirl ever was, The Killing Joke quickly became a key part of the character’s history, one that has been referenced many times over the years.

The Killing Joke even played a huge part in the New 52 launch of Batgirl, which saw Gordon get the use of her legs back and resume her career as a superhero. This didn’t sit well with everyone, as some thought she was a more interesting and complex character as Oracle, but regardless The Killing Joke was always there in the background, casting a shadow over everything.

That was until Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr took over the book and gave Batgirl a complete makeover. Gone were the angst and self doubt and they were replaced by fun and a hero who was supremely confident in what she could do.

If anything, the new Batgirl was the polar opposite of The Killing Joke and everything it represented.

And now, they have removed the story from Batgirl’s history completely.

In Batgirl #49, it was revealed that some of Gordon’s memories are fake and were placed there by The Fugue for some dastardly purpose. In the process of expelling the false memories, we see some very familiar key scenes from a certain graphic novel.

Yep. Fletcher and Stewart finally got to remove The Killing Joke from Batgirl’s continuity once and for all, something they have been itching to do ever since they came on the title.

Since the issue was released this past week, fans have been divided about the change. Some are quite happy with the removal of the classic tale form the character’s backstory. Others, like myself, feel it is a loss for Batgirl and for whomever takes the book over when it is relaunched as part of Rebirth. The Killing Joke defined Barbara Gordon for decades and its loss will leave a hole that will be difficult to fill.

For his part, Stewart realizes this change won’t be popular with everyone and went to Twitter to try and calm those who weren’t happy.

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Whether it is part of DC history or not, The Killing Joke will always be remembered as one of the greatest Batman/Joker stories of all time. And of course future writers will still be able to use it if they choose as inspiration for stories that have yet to be told.

Something all the really great comics do.