by Nevs Coleman

This whole Killing Joke thing, then.

(Before I get started, let me make totally clear that these are my personal opinions, not those of Raygun Comics or any of their employees. I’ve not been asked to write this by anyone, this is me talking as someone employed by the comics industry for 20 years and rising offering up my tuppence.)

Re: This whole ‘Let’s retire “The Killing Joke” concept’.

Short Answer A) No. Fuck Off.

Long Answer B) Here’s why.

The idea of a comic being offensive to some members of the comics community is not a new one. We’ve been having this argument over Miracleman, From Hell, Zap, Omaha The Cat Dancer, Love & Rockets, Sandman, Bone (!!!), Verotik, Zap, Weirdo, any number of Crumb books and such for literally decades.

I appreciate that we are in a more conservative time, in terms of reader reaction to concepts. That’s fine, people are totally allowed to be offended by things. That’s not a notion I’m dismissing. What I’m suggesting is that the sensibilties of some people should not be allowed to determine what the rest of us can and can’t have access to.

Much of the argument against KJ, beyond the events in the book have been on the quality of the work, that even Alan Moore now dismisses it as a Batman Annual that got out of hand. This is not the reason for ‘retiring’ things. Trust me, the shelves would be a lot emptier if the quality of the work was cause to retire books left up to me.

That’s the point. It’s not up to me to say ‘This is good, and this is rubbish.’ The Comics Medium is exactly that, a space where all kinds of idea can and ought to be explored. Once the structure for removing a offensive work from an audience is created, then I think we’ll have a problem.

There is an alarming habit of the people who are pro removing work from the library of comics to presume that their tastes reflect everyone else’s (Or possibly that they are somehow more enlightened than the idiots who need educating on why they ought to be offended.) This is obviously quite a dangerous path to go down and does sound like ‘We’re doing this on behalf of the stupid people.’ Attempts to justify this behaviour are usually done with caveats such as ‘Oh, it’s shit anyway, who cares?’ Subjective taste should not be a factor, here.

Well, here’s the thing:
Let’s say, hypothetically, it takes a Change campaign with 5’000 signatures to get Killing Joke ‘retired’ (Again, in this instance, retired meaning the print run is allowed to run dry and we’ll never see new copies again.) 5’000 signatures are gathered. Goodbye Killing Joke.

Well, then what?

You see, EVERY time, without fail, Marvel or DC do something progressive or LGBT friendly, like Batwoman being a lesbian, Thor being a woman, Iceman being gay, Captain America being a Black man, etc etc, etc, the OTHER side of Fandom also gets offended. Seriously, every single time. Check the forums.

The side that think honestly thinks Marvel is attempting to turn children homosexual via its liberal, pinko agenda. And if you’ve created the process to get Killing Joke successfully removed because…The Joker does bad things to a woman, then you’ve set a precedent for ‘This concept offends me, remove it.’

Now all the homophobes and racists now also have the power & right to say ‘I find a sympathetic portrayal of a lesbian to be offensive, and so do four thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine of my friends.’ We have come incredibly far in terms of sympathetic portrayal of LGBT in the last 30 years (Anyone who’s read the infamous Hulk Shower sequence, or the outing of Northstar can testify to that.) and to give people who are opposed to this a weapon to cripple that progress so that some Batman comic that’s been in print for over 25 years you don’t have to read can be pulled from the shelves

That’s not a price I want to pay for your standards, and speaking of paying….

So, we’re all aware that The Killing Joke is being turned into an animated feature. As with all these things, an exposure to a larger audience means increased sales for the source material, so once the cartoon is out, new customers will come in asking for copies of the original Killing Joke.

Except, according to this plan, KJ won’t be on the shelves anymore.

Any comic shop worth their salt can sell at least (and I’m massively lowballing, here.) 20 copies of KJ a year. The current printing of the book has a retail price of around £15. Without the cartoon, that’s £300 every 12 months. Let’s call it £500 after the cartoon hits the shelves. That’s £500 per shop, mind..That’s £5K for London’s comic shops alone.

Is anywhere in the plan to ‘retire’ The Killing Joke a point of compensating retailers for the lost income on projected sales of that book, or are they just meant to take the hit because…and please correct me if I’m understating a case here, a bunch of people have decided a comic is offensive a few decades after it was published and want it ‘retired’. Does that include the digital version? Considering TKJ has gone through at least 20 printings, are retailers not allowed to sell 2nd hand copies, also?

i promise you, the Code you try to create today will be the Wall tomorrow’s kids will kick against. They’ll make you look as silly as Mary Whitehouse does in 2015.

Off to the Mart now. If this stupid plan does work, We’ll be able to sell The Killing Joke for loads of money, because nothing makes something desirable like being told other people have said you shouldn’t read it.


One response

  1. It is to weep.

    I thought we were all Charlie.

    August 3, 2015 at 09:23

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