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"Using Sex And Pining For Bruce" – The Killing Joke Q&A From The San Diego Screening

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Jeremy Konrad writes,

Before the screening of The Killing Joke tonight, a majority of the voice cast,including Kevin Conroy, Ray Wise, and Tara Strong. Also joining them were writers Bruce Timm and Brian Azzarello, and director Sam Liu.

They began the panel by talking about adapting the graphic novel and how it was not enough material for a full runtime, so they knew they would have to add scenes and tweak things a little with the story itself, but take great care in doing it. Somewhere in the process, they decided to give Barbara her own story. Timm says he has always felt bad about how she ended up in the original novel. They felt it would introduce Barbara to the audience and making her a richer character. They say it makes the shooting scene later even worse and apologize.

Midway through these answers, Mark Hamill called the panel to apologize for not being there. He thanks the fans over the years for all of their support of him as the Joker, then gave us a little treat by performing some Joker for everyone.

Tara Strong is up now, and talks a little about how when she first booked the Batgirl gig she had just moved to town and was so excited to get the job. She loves that the story goes to a very dark and emotional place and cried when she saw the film.

Brian, Bruce, and Sam talk a little bit about how they decided where to add to the story and talked about how difficult it was since the story itself is so tight. They found a lot of it ended up being the Batgirl prequel, talked more about how richer it made Barbara as a character. Liu then talked about how at the beginning he just sort of took everything they were doing in and how smartly they handled the material. He felt that it allows the audience to ease into the material before the more heavy stuff comes later on. It allows us to get to know who Babs is and what her relationship with Bruce is like, and finishing up said that it is a shame to call the actors only voice actors, because they brought more emotion to the roles that comes out on the screen.

The question was then posed to Kevin Conroy about how this performance was different. Big response from the crowd, as he goes into saying how for him, his performance as Batman has always been about consistency while at the same time keeping everything fresh. That is what he loved this material, it's a psychodrama instead of being more focused on action. There was more to grab onto as a performer.

Ray Wise is then asked about being the new Jim Gordon. He has loved Batman since he was ten years old. He appreciated that he was able to create his own version of Gordon. He praised Gary Oldman and his portrayal as well. He then spent a little while gushing over getting to work with this cast, especially Strong, before turning to talking about how hard of a task it was to perform the material. Bringing Gordon to the brink put him through the ringer, and he had to grunt and groan a lot. He says to hear the voices, and feel the acting.

The panel jokes about the R rating, telling the 12 and 14 year olds to go to bed.

Mark blew everyone away. All the Joker stuff he has ever done has led to this. He had said over and over that he just wanted to do Killing Joke. Timm says as many times as I have seen it, they still stop and marvel at how good everyone on the cast is whenever they see it. In the flashbacks, he kinda just sounds like Mark, and it's oddly moving.

Tara does Harley and the crowd loves it.

The Joker song is discussed. They say song is interesting, they kinda panicked realizing they had to do it. Bruce didn't know what it should sound like, but they knew it had to be odd. Mark was thrown by how normal it sounded, he thought it would be darker. There will be a cool special feature on the recording of the song, showing Mark recording it. The soundtrack is coming out now as well.

Azzarello and Timm then discuss how they handled the ending. They asked many different people how they thought the book ended, and nobody agreed. At SDCC, Azzarello pulled Timm out of the DC party to tell him he had figured it out and they hashed it out right there.

As the panel closed, they announce that the next three animated films will be Justice League Dark, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, and Batman and Harley, which will be an original story by Bruce Timm.

After the film, there was a Q&A session. And it is here I must make a confession.

I have also written a review of this film, and after viewing it, I had very big problems with a certain part of it. I was looking forward to the discussion after the film, so maybe they could be addressed and I could get some answers to some of the more troubling things I felt needed addressed. The questions mostly ended up being material covered in the panel beforehand, things like how hard was this story to adapt, things of that nature. I was getting more and more frustrated, thinking that nobody was going to bring up what I think was a troubling portrayal of Barbara Gordon in the prequel film. I was getting more and more frustrated.

The very last question posed to the panel addressed this. The question was asked by a person cosplaying as the Joker: Batgirl, Barbara Gordon is such a strong female character. Why was this more about the males in her life? The crowd applauded the question.

As they fumbled with the question,saying they do feel like she is portrayed as a very strong female character, I lost control of my emotions and, invigorated by someone asking the question I wanted to hear, I shouted from the audience with frustrated sarcasm,

"Yeah, by using sex and then pining for Bruce."

The panel understandably asked what was that. I repeated myself, but the crowd was both booing and clapping at what was said. Clearly they had heard me the second time, because instead of responding the second time it was said, Azzarello yelled from the stage

"Wanna say that again? Pussy?"

As if it had been shouted and then someone had decided not to keep the discussion going after making an accusation. I then repeated it again, and both Azzarello and Timm went into a long answer.

Timm says that they get a lot of flack for making Bruce seem infallible, and this helps to show that he can make huge mistakes. They say that there is clearly an attraction there between the two of them, and that that is a human and very real thing and that it would be interesting to explore that. That Barbara shows strength by being the one that pulls away, because she wants to be Batgirl so badly, but knows she has to leave it behind. It makes her a stronger character.

That is where the Q&A ended. Clearly, it was contentious, and I let my emotions get the best of me, and I need to be better than that as a journalist. But it was not necessary to use that derogatory word, especially in this situation, in a public forum. Hopefully, no offense was taken by anyone.

The Killing Joke is available on Blu-Ray and DVD.

[Rich adds – Jeremy. I'm glad you did what you did. Bleeding Cool represent!]

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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