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Nebraska library refuses to pull ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’

killing joke

A Nebraska public library has rejected a request to either remove Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke from shelves or move the 1988 DC Comics one-shot out of the young-adult area.

“I don’t find it worthy of being removed from the shelf,” the Columbus Telegram quotes Columbus Public Library board member Carol Keller as saying at last week’s meeting.

A patron had objected to the comic, saying it was “very adult” and “advocates rape and violence.” However, in a 3-0 vote (two members were absent), the board disagreed, contending that many prose books and comics depict violence, and that the patron’s interpretation of rape was “misconstrued.”

In December, the director of the Greenville County Public Library system in South Carolina removed Neonomicon by Moore and Jacen Burrows from shelves following a challenge from a parent — despite the recommendation of her board that the book remain available.

That same month, the Columbus Public Library also unanimously declined a request to remove the movie Bruno from circulation.

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Comments

33 Comments

Good call, Columbus Public Library.

How in holy hell could someone conclude that Killing Joke “advocates rape”?

Stick to your beliefs Columbus LIbrary. But..you should’ve left the “Bruno” movie in circulation. Bad move by Greenville County by removing Neonomicon. Once you cave in, more will follow!!

Good on them. The section, after all, is called “young adults,” not “precocious bigot.”

@kalorama….because some idiots think that any action in fiction that’s shown, regardless of context, it’s equivalent to advocating it.

This just sounds like a situation where they might want to just move it to a different section. If this woman feels it is more than “young adult,” I can see her making that argument, but don’t remove it entirely.

More overeactionary parents sounding off. I’m sure it has a mature label on the cover, so what’s the issue?

The real issue is that some parents long held perceptions of what a comic can be, are being shattered into tiny pieces. Because of that, they see them as some kind of evil, when novels have been doing the same kind of stuff for countless years yet get an okay pass.

Nothing to see here, move along.

I concur – good for them. Hunger games does not depict violence? Kids killing kids. Guess they should remove this book as well

So should we pull the Bible for advocating prostitution and crucifixion?

In your face censorship! Now I want to know why the pricks at the Chicago Public Schools shelved “Persepolis.”

Mark Twain said: “Banning books is like banning steak because a baby can’t chew it.” – we should be free to CHOOSE FOR OURSELVES what is appropriate. Letting others do your thinking for you is just lazy!

I think the second part: “move the 1988 DC Comics one-shot out of the young-adult area” that needs to be called out. There are books, graphic or otherwise, that aren’t intended for children, and what constitutes Young Adult varies from library to library.

I haven’t read Killing Joke in over a decade, so I don’t remember exactly how graphic it is, but it might be better located with the other Mature trade papers over in 741.5 rather than YA 741.5. I know I went several rounds with the local library trying to get Laurel K. Hamiliton moved from the Shelf with Buffy and Twilight over to the Adult Fantasy section where it belonged.

“Advocates rape and violence”

Firstly, there’s no rape in it as far as I know and secondly is that some over-sensitive parent I’m hearing there? Books and movies have been showing violence since like forever. So, it’s only comics that can’t depict violcence. It’s not even that graphic to be considered unsuitable for young adults, by the way.

What kind of image do these parents have of comics, really?

@Oy: the Columbus Library declined to remove “Bruno”; i.e. it is still in circulation.

Please note that the parent did not ask that “the Killing Joke” be removed from the library, but moved out of the “young adult” section (which may be visited by younger children). This is not censorship, no more than putting a PG-13 or R rating on a movie is censorship. In both cases, it serves as guidance for parents. When Tim Burton’s “Batman” came out, I was asked by my 3rd and 4th grade parents if I thought “The Killing Joke” was appropriate for that age group. I was honest: I did not think so. 7/8 and older, no problem. 5/6–depends on the
kid. But I thought 3/4 was too young. There are, as one poster above noted, mature themes in the book. (I should note that I think “The Killing Joke” is one of the best Batman stories ever written.

Should “The Killing Joke” be in the Young Adult section or the adult section of a library? I’m not sure that there is a right or wrong answer to this question, different people will see things different ways. That’s why we have elections. That’s why people vote. The majority wins and that is the decision that goes forward.

I’m pretty sure “The Killing Joke” is actually quite anti-Joker.

My library has comics section (it’s a wall, but it’s a start) and a little red sticker on stuff that may not be suitable for kids.

I think on the one hand if “young adult” refers to about 14 and up, fair enough, I think we all read Killing Joke about the time we were 14 BUT if it’s within easy access of the children’s section, maybe moving it wasn’t such a bad idea. It’s a pretty gruesome book, go read it again and the themes a definitely not kid friendly.

There’s also an idea here that maybe the person considered the comic to mature for kids, this is a good thing comics actually need that kind of exposure.

B. Clay Moore

May 14, 2013 at 12:26 pm

The killing joke is absolutely appropriate for the “young adult” section.

If not, there shouldn’t be a “young adult” section.

You see the second word there? “Adult”?

It implies an assumed level of maturity that is exactly in line with the content of the book.

-BCM

Jake Earlewine

May 14, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Praise the library for showing good sense — and the balls to stand up to ignorant people.

“I don’t know The Joker is the bad guy hurr durf durf!”

as someone from this area, I’m especially proud of the Columbus Library for this decision, as we are a VERY red state with very active parental watchdog groups.

ironically enough, it was also the Columbus Public Library that allowed Abbie Hoffman’s book “Steal This Book” to be republished when major city libraries (and the Library of Congress) were found to have no copies available: http://www.tenant.net/Community/steal/

We should start banning the Bible because of all the awful things that happened in it. There was this one part in the book where this guy gets crucified! Straight nailed to a cross! Talk about violence…

@Oy – read this part again:

“That same month, the Columbus Public Library also unanimously declined a request to remove the movie Bruno from circulation.”

Any’ ‘young adult’ that staggers into a library, and then get a book out is worthy of The Great Beard.

Awesome, I wish my public library had as much balls!

James Crankyman

May 14, 2013 at 7:54 pm

@Gavin,

Right on.

This perplexes me, but not to the extent that I want it to. I’m sure that some hyper-reactionary parent saw this “Batman” book on the shelves and started leafing through it and determined somehow that the horrific violence that does occur and then concludes through their own paranoia that the whole book is somehow condoning violence and rape.

Whether or not the physical act of rape occurs within this book, it’s certainly sexual assault, so that’s just splitting hairs really. But there are Batman books out there that might be considered for all ages that have a LOT more violence in it than this book. If the parent had bothered to read the book, as I did when I was twelve years old when it first came out, they might have gleaned onto the point that not every problem that Batman faces can only be solved with his fists. So the book actually makes a point of NOT condoning violence. And only the most dense could somehow see the sexual assault of Barbara and think it’s somehow condoning rape.

Bravo to the public libraries that aren’t condoning censorship.

Wow, talking about advocating this and that! Good job, Columbus library!

It’s about time someone stood up to one or two whining, know-it-all-know-nothing people. This is how censorship starts and it’s best to kill it quickly.

Everyone is crying over censorship and not having this book pulled off the shelf, but had a fit and wanted to censor and stop Orson Scott Card’s Superman story before anyone had read it because of his personal views. I don’t want any library to pull a book from its shelves just as I wouldn’t want to see someone be censored and not have a story published just because of his/her beliefs. Ignorance is a two way street and I hope we don’t go down either way.

As someone who has read Neonomicon I agree that it is inappropriate for teens and young adults and should be moved to the adult fiction section. It contains graphic sexual violence and bestiality. I know I’m no prude because Garth Ennis is my favorite graphic novelist, but I found Neonomicon gratuitous and trashy with bad writing and very poor pacing.

Im truly impressed and happy that the Killing Joke wasnt pulled or moved. I read the book as a 14 year old and my impressionable mind wasnt damaged. (That had occured years before). We have to be vigilant and wary of book burners! In my opinion Twilight is a much more damaging and dangerous book. You wont see me fighting to ban it.

We better ban history books then, since clearly history advocates all sorts of atrocities.

Fight for your rights!

Side note: “However, in a 3-0 vote (two members were absent),..” That part was funny.

“I think we all read Killing Joke about the time we were 14…” – lead sharp

When I was fourteen (1974), Alan Moore wasn’t in the comics industry yet. If Brian Bolland was, I believe that he was just beginning. I read “The Killing Joke” at twice that age, when it was published.

I don’t have a strong opinion on the suitability of “The Killing Joke” for fourteen-year-olds, though I think it would be fine for most of them. I do object to people who assume that everyone is just like them, which is what “lead sharp” did. Many different people are in comics fandom, and that’s a very good thing.

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