The cinematic Batman has been at the center of the media spotlight since the Aurora theater shooting for obvious reasons: The assault took place during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. But the comics version is under scrutiny, too, which explains why DC has delayed an upcoming issue, and why so many aficionados are re-reading tales suggesting the Joker -- the alleged role model of suspected gunman James Holmes -- is less mad than he lets on. According to a Complex.com post linked above, the latest comic book, "Batman Incorporated #3," is being held for a month because of a scene concocted by writer Grant Morrison and artist Chris Burnham that's said to be reminiscent of events in Colorado.
No details about that scene have been released, but Burnham tweeted the following:
It's not just a Batman comic with guns in it. There's a specific scene that made DC & the whole Bat-team say "Yikes." Too close for comfort.
— Chris Burnham (@TheBurnham) July 24, 2012
Of course, plenty of sequences from Batman comics -- and there have been more than seventy years' worth of them -- may contain echoes of the attack, if only when it comes to sequences depicting innocent people being targeted by callous villains. But reports that Holmes identified himself as the Joker upon his arrest, and dyed his hair red, have focused attention on that particular character. That's especially true in regard to a question raised by the gunman's bizarre first court appearance: Was he exhibiting overt symptoms of mental illness or faking it?
Despite the amount of time the Joker has spent in Arkham Asylum (a facility that seems pretty damn escapable), debates about his sanity have cropped up on numerous occasions. Take "Going Sane," from 2008, described at Batman.wikia.com like so:
The Joker lures Batman into a trap that he believes kills his arch nemesis. Batman's apparent death snaps the Joker back to sanity and prompts him to undergo plastic surgery in order to look like a normal human being. The Joker attempts to lead a normal, honest life, donning the name Joseph Kerr (a pun on his criminal moniker) and engaging in a small romance with a neighbor. Normality does not last for the Joker, however, as he later discovers Batman to be alive, which drives him to insanity. The Joker then mutilates himself in order to restore his trademark white skin, green hair, and crimson lips, and resumes his quest to destroy Batman.
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And then there's "Batman Black and White," a series that ran for several months in 1996. Here's how our friends at Wikipedia describe an edition entitled "Case Study."
When the Joker is once again captured and sent to Arkham Asylum, a doctor laments that all of his work has not pierced the Clown Prince of Crime's insanity. Another doctor offers up a report written years ago, which suggests that the reason the Joker cannot be cured is because he is not insane. The report outlines the Joker's history before his accident, and suggests that his "revenge" against Gotham for ruining him is to commit perfectly sane crimes under the guise of madness. The doctors are convinced, but Harleen Quinzel is then escorted past, commenting that she was the one who wrote the report prior to her personal sessions with the Joker. The doctors wearily put the report away, realizing that though it is plausible, its origin renders it worthless -- it is just another one of the Joker's sadistic pranks, left where it would someday be found, examined, and ultimately dismissed; a spot of hope crushed just as it shines brightest.
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An animated synopsis of "Case Study" can be viewed below. Rather than expecting it to shed any light on James Holmes, look at it as a reminder that these tales will last long after their association with a terrible real-life event shifts into the background.
More from our Television & Film archive: "Photo: Christian Bale visits Aurora theater shooting victim Carey Rottman."