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DC Comics writers asked if Batman stories will speak out on gun violence

“You become very aware, very quickly of how careful you have to be with these characters”

The text-less cover of All-Star Batman #9 (2017) Jock/DC Comics
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Marvel Entertainment isn’t the only comics giant to find their characters unexpectedly intersecting with America’s conversation around gun-violence at New York Comic Con this weekend. During the Q&A segment of DC Comics’ Spotlight on Batman panel, a fan posed a question of the half-dozen Batman writers in attendance.

Did DC Comics have any plans to do an anthology to benefit victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting on Oct. 1, as the company did after the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting; or to use Batman to make direct commentary on gun control?

The cover of Love is Love, DC Comics and IDW Publishing’s anthology for the benefit of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting
The cover of Love is Love
Elsa Charretier

The short answer was no. No plans were presently in the works, but, if that was a book they truly cared about, panelists urged those in attendance to make sure DC Comics was aware of that interest. The moderator noted that Love is Love, a collaborative anthology between DC Comics and IDW Publishing whose proceeds benefited victims, survivors and the families of victims of the Pulse mass shooting, was an effort spearheaded by Marc Andreyko, an Eisner Award-winning queer comics creator.

But Scott Snyder, the clearest architect of DC’s Gotham City setting of the past six years, had a longer answer.

“It’s really up to DC,” he said about the subject of a benefit book. “All of us are always pretty active in trying to give support in that regard.”

“It’s hard with a character like Batman,” he added, moving on to the subject of directly addressing the topic of gun control in a Batman story. “I think he ... it gets politicized in ways that become uncomfortable. He’s a character who genuinely hates guns and doesn’t use guns.

“That’s the panel, the Frank Miller panel,” he said, referring to a panel from Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns, in which Batman orders a gang of teenage allies calling themselves “Sons of Batman” to throw away their firearms.

Batman orders a teenage gang of allies to throw away their firearms, in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (1986) Frank Miller/DC Comics

“‘This is the weapon of the enemy.’ It doesn’t mean that everybody that writes Batman is anti-gun, and not gun owners or anything like that. But when we get into those discussions about what our characters would do, it really — It’s one of those things where I feel like our personal passions are the things we express on social media. ...And you can do stories, we’ve done ones on Batman that I think touched on some of that stuff, and I’ve seen other writers address things that I think are personal to them or are topical in that regard. But it’s really... it’s a difficult spot.

“I mean I was writing Joker when some of that stuff happened, with people dressing like the Joker and shooting up theaters,” Snyder said, referring to the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, in which a gunman opened fire at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. The shooter identified with recurring Batman villain the Joker. At the time, Synder’s “Court of the Owls” story arc was running in DC’s Batman title, and was immediately followed by his first major Joker storyline, “Death of the Family.”

“You become very aware, very quickly,” Snyder continued, “of how careful you have to be with these characters, just in terms of keeping them true to core and speaking about things you’re passionate about — and yet also not giving them such elasticity that they can be used or coopted by things that are ugly.”

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