While I thoroughly enjoyed the portions of the 2016 animated film which were a direct adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke, it’s very hard for me to defend the first half of the movie. It featured a very misguided attempt at empowering Barbara Gordon. I’m not the only one that thinks so. The backlash was immediate at the panel and eventually, the wider fanbase voiced similar feelings.
Overall, any movie version of The Killing Joke was going to be a tough sell to begin with because the graphic novel on which it is based being controversial, particularly in its depiction of sensitive subject matters, and its perfunctory treatment of Barbara Gordon.
Apparently Kevin Conroy, the one and only Batman, was unhappy with the movie and was hesitant to take the role. Red Carpet News caught up with Conroy himself at MCM London Comic-Con and asked him directly how he felt about it.
“… That’s a rough story for people that young.”
Conroy cleared up his thoughts:
“It wasn’t that I was unhappy with it. It’s just that I was aware of how controversial it was. I appreciated that a lot of people were disturbed. I wasn’t. But I appreciated the fact that people were.”
He explains that he was concerned about the “Broad audience” that Batman attracts, reminiscing on Batman: The Animated Series. Though the show was meant to be an adult series, in terms of theme and story, the demographic at the time was mainly made up of children, and the show had to abide by regulations that made sure children could watch it safely.
With this thought it mind, he fully explains his reservations at the time:
“The issue I had with [The Killing Joke] was that it was a great mature story for Batman/Joker, but I know that a lot of the audience is still under 12 and that’s a rough story for people that young… I didn’t have problems with the story, but I understood people who did.”
Conroy then shares an anecdote about friends who enjoyed the movie, but won’t let their children see it.
Check out the full video:
From what I gathered, it was important to him to fully express how he felt without being misrepresented. This is one of the few times that I felt like Conroy was being candid in an interview, as he looks to find the correct words to fully convey his feelings.
For me it’s evident that Conroy sees and speaks to young fans all the time, and was more concerned about them than anything else. This makes sense. Despite everything, B:TAS was a cartoon aimed at children and Conroy was just looking out for them.