Batman: Death of the Family

BM-Death-of-Family-cv_z30flliquw_Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's run on Batman has met with acclaim since its start in 2011, up to and including Harvey nominations for Best Continuing Series, Best Writer, and Best Artist. Death of the Family, a collection of the team’s recent Joker story arc, features a surprising blurb from the Huffington Post—“a book you need to read”—surprising because Death of the Family has reactionary leanings one might think only the comics press would be willing to indulge. As the comics press has. Reviewing Death of the Family's critics is not the same as reviewing Death of the Family, but responses to the work, along with Snyder and Capullo’s book, tell a larger story about how the culture surrounding these comics enables their worst qualities.

Death of the Family finds the Joker returning to Gotham City after a long absence and attacking Batman’s allies in an attempt to reinvigorate his rival. The Joker’s implicit homosexuality and his villainy wind together throughout the story, and Batman’s caped crusade reads something like a battle with gay panic. Given the Joker's traditional depiction as a psychopath-cum-performer in dandyish purple dress, the coding of the character as a gay man arguably goes back decades. Were this not creator Jerry Robinson’s intent, readers can still locate the Joker within a tradition of villain portrayal that relies on gay signifiers and a feminizing of male figures. Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns took the character’s sexual orientation from subtext to text, presenting a Joker who calls Batman "darling" and "my sweet." Unlike most other iterations of the character, Miller’s Joker applies lipstick in full view of the reader—he’s not only a performer but also a genderfucker. Snyder and Capullo take Miller’s interpretation a degree further. The character doesn’t actively identify as a gay man, but the writer and the artist double down on Miller’s coding and insinuations.

Snyder wrote prose horror stories before coming to comics, and Death of the Family begins in the manner of a slasher movie. Capullo’s opening panels are cinematic in the dullest sense; readers see a series of widescreen exterior shots as a van approaches a dark and stormy Gotham. This is prelude to the Joker’s first attack, on the Gotham City Police Department. In the pages that follow, he breaks the necks of police officers under the cover of darkness.

Capullo’s design for the Joker resembles that of a slasher-movie menace. For reasons predating Death of the Family, the character’s skin has been removed from his face, and Joker holds it on with sutures. The effect is ridiculous, although the design at least departs from portrayals of the Joker as a criminal dandy. (He also wears a handyman’s jumpsuit for the story’s first few chapters.) But Snyder and Capullo’s take on the Joker as a movie monster is not incompatible with their queering of the villain.

As Harry Benshoff argues in Monsters in the Closet, “the figure of the monster throughout the history of the English-language horror film can in some ways be understood as a metaphoric construct standing in for the figure of the homosexual.” Benshoff’s book, published in 1997, already reads like the product of an earlier era, but then so does Death of the Family, and the processes Benshoff outlines relative to horror films applies to Snyder and Capullo’s work as well: “homosexuality is used to further delineate the depravity of the villain.” Death of the Family’s Joker is a monstrous other, and his monstrosity manifests itself through both acts of violence and romantic overtures.

In one of Death of the Family’s backup features, a flashback drawn by Jock, the Joker enlists the help of Harley Quinn, his quasi-ganster’s moll. Like Snyder and Capullo’s slasher film scenes, the inclusion of Harley might read as evidence that Snyder isn’t leaning on allusions to the Joker’s queerness. But the Joker rebuffs a come-on from Harley, too focused on his plans for Batman. (This being a contemporary DC Comic, these plans still require Harley to take her clothes off.) Harley Quinn proved immensely popular among fans following her debut in Batman: The Animated Series, and yet neither Snyder nor Grant Morrison, the other most popular Bat-writer of the last decade, has used her in Joker stories in any large capacity. Harley acts as a herald for Joker in Snyder’s story, but following that moment, the story doesn’t find room for her.


Throughout Death of the Family’s opening chapter, the Joker’s dialogue is light on the terms of endearment that readers find in The Dark Knight Returns. “How I’ve missed you,” he tells Batman in a recorded message, but that’s the issue’s most charged line. Only in the story’s second installment do Snyder and Capullo escalate the gay coding of Frank Miller’s work. When Batman finds the Joker waiting for him on a Gotham bridge, his enemy’s first words are “Hello, darling.” A few spreads later, after a trap snares Batman, Capullo stages a series of homoerotic exchanges. One panel depicts Batman bound and on his knees, his head at the level of the Joker’s crotch while the Joker clasps two hands together with glee. On the opposite page, with Batman still trapped, the Joker bends over a rail and points his butt toward Batman’s face. Making guesses about the intentionality of these compositions is a losing game. But Capullo’s intentions are not the only measure of whether or not Death of the Family is a homophobic text. Even as possible accidents of staging, they contribute to a story in which Batman’s terrorized by an opponent who seems to operate out of a single-minded desire to fuck him.

Occasionally, references to the romantic or sexual undercurrent of Batman’s struggle with the Joker read as deliberate efforts by Snyder to foreground the topic. In the third chapter of Death of the Family, as Batman contemplates the Joker’s emotionless eyes, he urges himself to “Ignore the fact that what you [finally] saw those black points expand with … was love.” Prior to this, the Joker teases Batman with talk of their next encounter: “You might even kiss my hand… As I just kissed yours, my lord, hee hee! My kiss captivates, you see?... It’s that full of devotion!”

In the closing chapters of Death of the Family, the Joker leads Batman through what could be called a tour of intimacies. After Batman’s pursuit of the Joker brings him to Arkham Asylum, he discovers a group of Arkham guards who have been dressed in Batman or Joker outfits and forced to dance with one another—the Joker’s own literalization of the Batman-Joker dynamic. Once Batman frees the guards, the Joker lures him into a makeshift throne room—“where the magic happens,” the Joker says. The story’s final issue begins with a burlesque of a domestic scene: Batman and his loved ones held captive at a dinner table, with the Joker, back in his purple finery, presiding over the meal.


The homoerotic qualities of Batman vs. the Joker have rarely (if ever) been as overt as they are in these scenes, but although the notion of a DC-sanctioned Batman story revolving around gay panic has the crackle of the subversive, novelty is not the same thing as progress. Some of the details in Death of the Family differ from earlier Bat-stories; the larger beats are mostly the same. (Batman defeats his enemy and preserves the Bat-family unit.) Inasmuch as homosexuality is a concern of the story, its treatment isn’t normalized, much less positive, and Snyder and Capullo’s coding of the Joker can’t be considered outside of a larger effort to create the most frightening villain possible.

Since at least Fredric Wertham’s accusation that the Caped Crusader and his Boy Wonder were sleeping together, Batman stories have lent themselves to queer readings. In interviews at the start of Grant Morrison’s multi-title Batman run, the writer even teased “the gay Batman” as an aspect of the series he hoped to revive. Perhaps Snyder sought to explore this feature of the character with the best intentions. But Death of the Family is more reactionary than radical, and Snyder has been the beneficiary of low expectations in the comics press.

The culture of superhero comics encourages repetition; Marvel and DC creators recycle tropes, story structures, and approaches to characterization. Inasmuch as readers approach these comics with certain expectations—to see the last-minute return of a believed-dead hero, the dissolution and reunion of a superteam, etc—this isn’t necessarily a problem. It’s something of a social compact. But the traditionalist character of these comics means creators often recycle the comics’ worst elements too. And in the case of Snyder and Capullo’s Joker, the comics press has signed off on this recycling process.

Most reviews of Death of the Family read like entries in a competition to out-praise the story. Stuart Kelly of The Guardian calls it “a classic in waiting,” while Joey Esposito of IGN suggests that the story will “linger long after you put this comic back in its bag […] absolutely stunning.” Kelly is typical of Snyder and Capullo’s critics in his eagerness to note the story’s romantic overtones and his unwillingness to consider their implications. “That the whole arc of Joker's schemes is a form of twisted love letter (and dinner date), designed to prove that he loves Batman more than anyone, is just part of the multi-layered thrill of this storyline,” Kelly writes.

Among the more alarming takes online comes from Newsarama contributor Forrest Helvie. Colin Smith, of Too Busy Thinking about My Comics, criticized the story for a structure that left readers “longing to see the Joker not simply defeated, but beaten and demeaned,” one of the few reviewers to do so, and gave Helvie the opportunity to explain why he graded the final issue of Death of the Family at a perfect ten out of ten. In a guest post on Smith’s blog, Helvie cities the story’s Harley Quinn scenes:

That Joker rejects Harley in favor of his pursuit of his latest and "greatest" scheme centred upon elevating Batman to all new "heights" speaks to the psycho-sexual tension Snyder is weaving into this story. Harley is used and cast aside […] one of many examples that highlight the depravity and inhumanity of Joker. And while I am hesitant to say the Joker gets what he deserves, […] it is hard to feel bad for the beating the madman finally receives from Batman in light of his demeaning treatment of one who he ought to have treated with at least some .. modicum of decorum if not deranged affection.

The same gestures that mark the Joker as an other, gestures with a “psycho-sexual” charge, also stoke the reader’s desire to see him thrashed. For readers like Helvie, this process isn’t merely a part of the text; it’s evidence of the story’s sophistication.

A possible instance of actual subversion takes place in the final chapter of Death of the Family, and during a highly visible moment. As the Joker dangles above one of the Batcave cliffs, Batman threatens to “stop the game once and for all.” Readers learn that he knows the Joker’s name, his history, and that he’ll tell an unwilling Joker all about it. “I can whisper it right into your ear,” Batman says, and drags his enemy upward until he holds him cheek to cheek. At this, the Joker panics and lets himself fall. It’s one of the most homoerotic moments in a story full of them, and the only time Batman appears to embrace the tension. But if Batman’s weaponized whisper complicates the dynamic as Snyder and Capullo have presented it to this point, the gesture also brings to mind a dog whistle—that is, the perfect metaphor for Snyder and Capullo’s story. At the climax of Death of the Family, as elsewhere, intimacy is a threat—or even a reason to jump.


35 Responses to Batman: Death of the Family

  1. DanielT says:

    I enjoyed reading this but it’s an essay and not a review.

  2. Jack Feerick says:

    You’re new around here, aren’t you?

  3. It was recently brought to my attention that Scott Snyder often adjusts his dialogue in the collected editions of his comics. In the collection of “Death of the Family”, Snyder removed much of the flirtatious dialogue. In one scene, Snyder adjusts “There’s the spirit, hon! I sooo love it when you talk dirty” to “That’s the spirit! Get angry! Get -”

    The removal of almost all dialogue with a queer subtext brings into question Snyder’s process of revision. Was he uncomfortable with the homophobia that was in the original text? If so, would he have adjusted some of the more homoerotic compositions? Or was he just uncomfortable with criticisms of his work for its homophobic undertone?

    I’m inclined to believe that he was uncomfortable with the subtext he had written based on his personal politics, but it could make for an interesting conversation with the writer.

    Thanks for a great article and genuine piece of criticism. It’s saddening that this kind of take on mainstream comics can only be found at a handful of sites. If this sort of critical analysis was more widespread, it might help to elevate the wider audience and form as a whole. Or I might just be far too optimistic.

    Below is a link to an imgur collection comparing the original comics and collected edition. The headings are not mine, and for some odd reason seem to believe editorial forces made the changes when Snyder has been very open that these adjustments are of his choosing.

  4. Derrick Sanskrit says:

    Fantastic read, Greg. Thank you for the analysis.

  5. Alin says:

    When DC launched Justice League #1 people reported that the dialog in the print versions differs from the one in the digital ones. Is it really the case that Snyder adjusts the dialog for the trades or did they simply collect the other version that the person compiling the album read? If it is the former, do we now actually have three versions of the same text in existence?

  6. Excellent review. The comics’ press needs more of this: insightful, well-researched criticism of the superhero genre that isn’t borne out of blind fanboyism.

    I must admit, I actually quite enjoyed Death of the Family as it was coming out month-to-month. I thought it was a well-paced horror story with some impressive art, though the dialogue was a bit on-the-nose at time. But this article makes me want to go back and do a queer reading of the arc. I certainly picked up on the sexual overtones, but for whatever reason, the homosexual subtext, and all the “gay panic” implications that it would carry, didn’t quite register with me in my initial reading.

    I must say though, maybe I’m maybe I’m just in denial because I’ve enjoyed much of Scott Snyder’s work (though I do agree that he’s overpraised), but I find it hard to believe that Snyder is truly homophobic. I think it’s more likely that an exposure of the Joker’s implied homosexuality came as an unintended and (initially, at least) unnoticed result of exploring the character.

    And if nothing else, there was a fairly decent issue months before DotF began that followed Harper Row as she defended her gay brother against homophobic bullies. It may not absolve Snyder of his crimes, but it’s worth noting.

  7. Greg Hunter says:

    Huh! Thanks for posting that, Chase–I didn’t ready any of ‘Death of the Family’ in single-issue form, so this is all news to me. I’m curious whether Snyder’s talked about edits like those in interviews–

  8. Greg Hunter says:

    Appreciate you reading it, Derrick–

  9. Greg Hunter says:

    Yeah, I’m not inclined to paint Snyder as homophobic either. I just, at the same time, can think of enough interpretations of the Joker which didn’t rely on gay coding that I find Snyder’s take hard to excuse–

  10. JRC says:

    I haven’t read this story, so take this opinion for what you will, but isn’t there a justifiable interpretation for The Joker as a person who can’t accept his sexuality and is acting out horrifically to destroy temptation? It isn’t Joker’s queerness that makes him vile, but his inability to embrace who he is?

    Aside: there’s not only a long history of gay = villain, but also presenting anyone artistic and creatively intellectual as Evil for being outside the norm of mundane society. Joker works well in this interpretation too.

  11. Juhawh says:

    This review is interesting and I have a lot of thoughts on it, agreeing and disagreeing on many points, which I will now ignore and say something completely unrelated and pointless and unnecessary about the comic in question.

    I read this comic, and it was ruined for me about 3 issues in when, as part of the crossover ploy, the bat family people were captured and being “killed” by the Joker, and then Batman was trapped in a room forced to watch on some TVs, and the Joker was like “haha your bat family is dead, now get into this electric chair so I can electrocute you to death,” and then Batman gets into the chair and gets electrocuted. I couldn’t figure out why.

    I mean, I know that I personally know they weren’t going to kill any of those characters and cancel their books, and I know that Batman doesn’t know that DC won’t cancel their books (not even green lantern could tell him that) so he doesn’t know they can’t really die, but still, I didn’t get why he would just go into the electric chair. And then of course the Joker zaps Batman but without killing him because he has much bigger plans fwee hee hee etc. It wasn’t a matter of “Batman shouldn’t do that” because I don’t really care what Batman should or shouldn’t do, but more of not knowing why I should care about a protagonist that looks like he’s giving up.

    It reminded me of the end of Quantum of Solace where Bond was acting like he was so trapped that he had no choice but to kill himself in an attempt to fake out the audience in a way that could not ever possibly succeed. Except this was happening because the comic just needed to be a few issues longer, Batman couldn’t hurry up and win.

  12. I must be really dense, because I didn’t pick-up on the homoerotic overtones at all in this story, although I did recognize them in Frank Miller’s seminal work. Reading this article, it does make sense. More and more writers have made everything the Joker does be for the sole purpose of getting Batman’s attention, a singular obsession. I can definitely see the gay undertones in this story now when they are pointed out to me.

    Regardless of undertones I still thought it was a pretty weak story after a somewhat-interesting start. I don’t know why so many people rave about it.

  13. JRC, don’t forget that even with more gay heroes, quite often it now seems to be the case that bi-sexual=villain (or at best, anti-hero).

  14. D.D. says:

    To me, the question of the Benshoff-level subtext in this story, given its target audience, is something like, “if a tree falls in the woods and no one’s around to hear it . . .”

  15. I’m all for more critical analysis of popular comics, but this is a pretty narrow and simplistic reading. It’s as if you decided that Death of the Family was “a story in which Batman’s terrorized by an opponent who seems to operate out of a single-minded desire to fuck him” at the start and then glossed over anything in the text that didn’t support your thesis.

    You take the lines from a character named “the Joker” way too literally, and you end up missing the more nuanced dynamic at play between him and Batman. Why is his affection for Batman automatically assumed to be sexual? Do you love your close male friends? Does that mean you want to fuck them? Batman has a giant reproduction of the Joker’s card hanging in the Batcave, which doesn’t suggest an entirely normal or healthy relationship on his end either.

    The story starts with the birth of a two-headed lion cub at the zoo, “a two-headed monster,” in the words of Harvey Bullock. To which Commissioner Gordon replies, “Polycephaly. It’s not as uncommon as you think.” Might Snyder and Capullo be giving us a hint as to what kind of story will follow?

  16. Mike Hunter says:

    Why is [the Joker’s] affection for Batman automatically assumed to be sexual? Do you love your close male friends? Does that mean you want to fuck them?

    Maybe ’cause of little hints such as that he calls him “darling”; says “You might even kiss my hand… As I just kissed yours, my lord, hee hee! My kiss captivates, you see?… It’s that full of devotion!”…?

    It certainly gets tiresome when any interaction between members of the same sex — whether friendship or enmity — gets “queered” by those pursuing ideological agendas.

    But it’s pretty obvious what is going on in “Death of the Family”: non-vanilla sexuality employed to make yet another tiresome plot retread “edgy,” “transgressive”; the villain ever more loathsome. Noxious.

    If there’s indeed “anything in the text that [doesn’t] support [that] thesis,” please inform us; I’m open to changing my mind.

    And how one can look at the page excerpts above (not to mention Greg Hunter’s cooly described synopsis) and talk about how we “end up missing the more nuanced dynamic” in the work, is baffling. This is “nuance”? Oy!

    But then these days, a drunken manboy toppling onto a wedding cake and splattering the guests is seen as subtle comedy…

  17. Welcome to ‘The Comics Journal’.

  18. I’d been told, and I quote, ‘there’s strong homoeroticism’ in this one– coming from a background in comics (reading and creating) where GLBT characters are the main focus, I started reading Death In the Family. I saw no homoerotic behavior at all–what I saw was queer-hate-bait. You’ve pointed out every issue I had with the way Joker was written in this arc. Sexual identity is not sexual deviation, and yet here the Joker’s words and actions toward Bats, just come off as another reason for heterosexual-male fans, to hate the Joker.

  19. Greg,

    This is a well thought-out and articulate post. I appreciate the scholarship. Your work here makes me think of Scott Bukatman’s work on masculinity in “Matter of Gravity” where he suggests that the hyper-masculine superhero (we could insert Batman here) has to constitute himself over and against the othered villain – the one who embodies that which is emasculated, feminine, and thus, evil. Synder’s particular rendition of the The Joker play directly into this motif, as you have put your finger on. Bukatman suggests that the superhero is the armored body set apart from the flowing bodies of the villains: stable against chaotic; black against purple; the hard-tested masculine against the “emotional” feminine. The idea that The Joker “puts on face,” puts on the makeup that makes him attractive and recognizable to Batman is quite interesting, as well.

    Again, great work. I am definitely going to pass this along.

  20. Greg Hunter says:

    Thanks Josh, I’ll give Bukatman a look–

  21. Holy shit, it’s Mike Hunter!

  22. Andrew Taylor says:

    Another bit of evidence Death of the Family is homophobic: Ann Nocenti and Rafa Sandoval’s tie-in issues for Catwoman (#13-14, if I recall correctly), where the Joker tries to recruit Catwoman as his surrogate–to be Batman’s “Queen,” if you will–which she outright rejects in favor of pursuing her own interests, unrelated to Batman or Joker. This only becomes explicit in part two, after Catwoman followed a trail of clues seemingly related to her childhood, after which the Joker is mocked for his obsession with Batman.

    While that choice is problematic in itself, I read that scene as Nocenti taking aim at Death of the Family and Scott Snyder’s portrayal of the Joker. Also, building a tie-in (likely editorially mandated) precisely around the title character telling the key figure/depraved homosexual villain of the main story-arc to piss off and leave her alone is kind of inspired.

  23. Scott Bukatman says:

    Hey, thanks for the shout out! I’d just emphasize that I’m entirely on the side of the flowing, chaotic, purple, emotional… Just to be clear.

  24. Josh Barfield says:

    Scott, sorry I didn’t make that clear. The Joker is most definitely an x-body.

  25. boyhauser says:

    A well written analysis, if not pretty on-the-nose. I mean when hasn’t the most interesting thing about DC been the dynamic between stoicism, repression, and the male status quo in Batman and the flirty, fruity, depravity of the Joker?That’s the point. The fascist cop meets carnivale. It’s called sexual tension. The subversive thing is that unlike other heroes, the family unit that Batman preserves is every bit as gay as the Joker. The Clown Prince embodies everything that Batman represses, gay or not, and the more he beats him down and bottles him up, the more twisted and intense he is when he reappears. So yes there’s a simple subtext of homophobia but I think that it’s couched within a deeper narrative about freedom and identity.

  26. Sweetiepie says:

    “[The] structure .. left readers “longing to see the Joker not simply defeated, but beaten and demeaned,”. Please, Smith could have put a sock in it. The ending was more than satisfying, and it was not only a clever way of showing how Batman could win (if he counts killing Joker as a loss), by not physically “pulling the trigger” so to speak, it also showed how he did it playing the Joker’s own game, and entering the dark crevices of his mind to the point where the Joker himself went over the brink himself before Batman could finish the job- and this in turn was an a powerful example a character development motif and theme very popular among readers: how far has Batman gone down the abyss, and how similar are he and Joker really? Batman didn’t need to demean joker with punches and kicks- he did so psychologically, which was the only time in DC history someone was able to get through the madman with words alone. It also showed that the Joker’s mind can be demeaned- all these years, we haven’t seen him as the lowest he can be, with his chaotic mind at the bottom of the abyss. No- batman found a lower point which Joker himself couldn’t bare to face. Besides, leaving the Joker’s fate and origin up for interpretation was what readers really want anyway.

  27. Jon Holt says:

    Why not simply point out Joker’s pointing to an anus on the splash page of “The Punchline”? What Capullo does with the background (the hole in the wall beyond the dinner table that the Joker is really pointing his finger at) perhaps takes just as a homophobic rendering as does Synder’s script. It’s an invitation to sodomy. That, or, Synder and Capullo are having a big joke on us.

  28. Oliver_C says:

    I confess the ‘anus’ didn’t register with me: I was too distracted by his freakishly paper-thin right hand. That and the fact that the whole dinner-table tableau owes a large and unacknowledged debt to the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ films.

  29. The story started badly and went downhill from there, so the ending was very far from satisfying for me. It read like every other Batman/Joker story I’ve read.

  30. Enjoyed reading that Greg, thank you.

    I bought it monthly and somehow managed to make it to the end! I was baffled by the positive reviews it got, so pleased to see another viewpoint.

    One thing that really bugged me about that last issue – and something that tends to occur in super-hero books generally – is characters being written differently depending on whether they are the lead or supporting role. In the “dinner table” scene the Joker concocts a villain-of-the-week type trap that any of the characters involved in would escape from with ease in their own titles. Here though they are reduced to plot devices and emotional crutches for Batman, simply because it says ‘Batman’ on the front cover.

  31. flashlight_eyes says:

    I think that the author is doing a bit of assuming on most readers relationship with the joker. He really is a celebrated villain, and while some fans may feel compelled to hate him because he is weird or strange, I feel like you are not giving many comic readers enough credit here.
    Batman is, like most super heroes, most of the time a rather boring main character, or at his most interesting times, a repressed one. He is the normal gaze that we take on as we combat his villains, and while they still occupy a traditional evil role, I don’t think there is another mainstream comic franchise that so often wants us to question who is really the good/evil one or crazy/normal between hero and villain. I don’t necessarily think joker’s queerness is supposed to add to how much we hate him, but most likely add a more interesting motivation than just “i am evil and I want to kill the things you love”
    Not that it is a nuanced look at queerness, but I still find it distinctively different than how you have framed it here

  32. Forrest H. says:

    Thoughtful write up, Greg (and sorry for being late to the party!).

    Two points of clarification here: First, in either my review or my post on Colin’s site, I in no way suggest – let alone explicitly state – the homo-erotic tensions (implicit and explicit) are to be seen as extensions of Joker’s villainous behavior. Moreover, I was simply attempting to point out the fact that they are present without the qualitative evaluation you’ve provided here. As one of your commentators mentioned above, they were unaware that this was a latent current in the series, and I wanted to point it out. Second,you misread my comments and selectively misquoted me if you believed I saw this as a story that would “stoke the reader’s desire to see him [the Joker] thrashed.” At the very end of the post on Colin’s blog, I mentioned the reader should walk away from this story line with a sense of disappointment in Batman… hardly the words of a cheerleader.

    Of course, you are right that there is a longstanding tradition of homosexuality being unfairly linked to deviant behavior and made manifest in monstrous characters, and I think you’ve done your work in presenting a valid interpretation reading of this arc.

    Thanks again for the thought-provoking reading. As Colin and I both mentioned to one another at the time and do to this day, the medium is richer for a diverse field of interpretations.

  33. Mike Hunter says:

    Gregory Paul Silber says:

    Excellent review. The comics’ press needs more of this: insightful, well-researched criticism of the superhero genre that isn’t borne out of blind fanboyism.

    indeed! Gad, here it is 2014, and “The Comics Journal” (née 1977) is still the skeleton at the feast in opposition to the prevalent “blind fanboyism.” (At least no longer in such isolation.) The more things change…

  34. Pingback: The Orange Won't Peel | Up North, casting hooks | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book ResourcesComics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources

  35. Mike P says:

    I don’t think at all that the story is just about the Joker wanting to “fuck” Batman nor do I believe that the authors intended to employ erotic undertones as a means to tap into the reader’s subconscious and get them to hate the Joker even more.

    Think about it like this: we have a character whose origins, intentions, and motivations are essentially unknown. A complex character, an unreliable narrator, and an UNPREDICTABLE menace to our beloved superhero, Batman. This is the reason why the audience simply loves the Joker. The unpredictability weaved within his character keeps him from going stale and it’s very rare that you’ll find anyone who disagrees.

    Now, think about someone who will stay up all night to drive you mad. Kidnap your family, kill your sidekick, and kill hundreds to get under your skin. Is it not plausible that you would also assume that this very same charter has an overwhelming hatred for you? Well, yes, of course. Why else would he do this? However, in the Batman comics, the Joker LOVES Batman and makes no effort to deny it. That contradicts almost every action he takes as a comic book villain and it simply is part of the complexity of Joker’s nature. It is this very irony that makes every word he has to say worth listening to – in desperate hopes of getting a better glance onto his TRUE character, his real motivations, or anything of the sort. Joker’s love for Batman is what keeps comic readers guessing as to why the hell he’d do this to someone he’d “love”. But then again, we delve into more and more complex themes that Batman comics often contain.

    Believing that the entirety of the “Death in the Family” is all about some “gay-panic” where Snyder is trying to evoke homophobia to play into a hate for the character seems to be a stretch. In one singular instance, where this may be the only Batman-Joker comic, sure, it is a major element of the story that he has this obsession. But it seems as though you failed to look at the Joker character as a whole when evaluating the meaning of why this complex and often baffling villain is so affectionate with someone who’s life he makes a living hell.

    It is the same reasoning that says that the Catcher in the Rye really did say to kill John Lennon and that The Things They Carried was choppy story solely focused on Vietnam and anti-war themes. Looking too deeply into one aspect of a story may render you blind to overarching themes. It just seems too ridiculous to dismiss the whole series as homophobic propaganda story with no depth at all. (Keep in mind, I have never mentioned my own opinion on the series, I am just pointing out that this review may be looking way too hard on a simple NUANCE of the story.)

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