In Defense of Comics and the Dark Knight Trilogy…

Like many Americans, for the last few days the tragedy in Colorado has been constantly in my thoughts. There’s no escaping the story of James Holmes, who killed 12 and wounded 58 people at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises–even if I wished to put it out of mind for a brief respite, his face is plastered on every news website and the event is recounted constantly on television. For me, the shooting brings up a strong cocktail of two emotions. The big one, of course, is sadness. The other is annoyance.

Why annoyance? I’m annoyed that the art form I love–comics–and three of my favorite films–Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises–have to be dragged through the mud due to the actions of one hopelessly deranged individual. So far, I’ve been surprised by how rarely news pundits have insinuated the films themselves or the comic book industry are to blame, but that could well be because we’re still at the “too soon” stage of mourning. I’m sure though sooner or later there will be a backlash on comics-culture, and that’s something I’m not looking forward to.

Every article I’ve read so far has found it necessary to point out how James Holmes said “I’m Joker,” and today I read his hair is dyed a “comic book shade” of orange and red. Already, there’s enough material to condemn comics and the Batman films for many Americans. I’d like to point out a few things…

1) There’s a tragic irony at work here. For me at least, every movie in the Dark Knight Trilogy leaves me with one strong emotion after viewing: the yearning to be a better person. I’ll bet a lot of Batman fans feel the same thing. Leaving the theater after the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, having no knowledge of what transpired in Colorado, I felt, thanks to the film, a desire to help people. I’m almost never inspired by films to change my life in any way, but the Dark Knight movies are exceptions. Of course, I don’t mean I want to become a masked vigilante. I wouldnt’ be surprised if many of the films’ millions of viewers felt something along the same lines when we watched the story of Bruce Wayne unfold.

2) James Holmes is not the Joker. If you watch The Dark Knight, you’ll notice that while the Joker’s death count is high, nearly all of his victims share one thing in common: they’re either involved with law inforcement or are criminals themselves. The Batman comic and movie series has always been an amped up version of a cops and robbers game. While I’m not condoning violence towards either criminals or law enforcement officials, I would at least say they know their life is on the line due to their professions. James Holmes however found it necessary to kill completely innocent, unarmed civilians who only wanted to watch a good movie. To reitierate, he’s not the Joker–he’s worse.

My hope is that in the coming weeks, people will keep in mind that if one person became deranged and killed others in connection to a fictional film series, there’s millions and millions of other people who have watched those same films and not done the same–people who have resumed their normal lives, people who take great care to help and support others around them. That’s perhaps the biggest tragedy in life: most of us are essentially good. It only takes the actions a few people–or one in this case–to ruin things for the rest of us.

—Note: normally this is a much more light-hearted site, and I look forward to going back to writing enthusiastically about comics and even the Batman films soon.

What are your thoughts on the recent Colorado tragedy?

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