Make It Go Away: The Killing Joke Retcon

Comic Book Femme Fatale  March 25, 2016


WARNING: Spoilers

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual assault, sexual violence

My sister asked me the other day what the most influential moments of my life have been thus far. I told her the positive ones; the days my siblings came into my life, the day I first watched an episode of Teen Titans, the day I was accepted into Americorps. These are the days I try to focus on, the positives in my life, the things that I know for certain changed me for the better. There are influential days that are less cut and dry. The day I first read Identity Crisis and cried in the shower for the better part of an hour. The day I read The Killing Joke and stayed under my covers for almost an entire day. Everyday when someone who wasn’t named Sue Dibny or Barbara Gordon told me their story. I try not to define myself by the bad days. I think that’s why I identify so much with Barbara Gordon. She refuses to be defined by her worst day.

When I was eighteen, I experienced a sexual assault at the hands of someone I trusted. The words to describe my experience did not come until a year later when the first of many friends opened up about her own similar experience.


When I first heard, before ever I read the comic, that the events of The Killing Joke had been retconned (or at least murky canonically), I was elated. Trexperiences are just that, and I don’t think there’s a single survivor who hasn’t wished their trauma never occurred.

But the more I thought about it, the more uneasy I began to feel. Studies show thattraumatic experiences can mess with the way people remember events. To make the event go away, through a super villain literally rewriting Barbara’s memories, seems entirely too real. Entirely too personal. I remember staring at a ceiling and wondering if my mind was playing tricks on me, willing the bruises to be imaginary, willing the event to be a misunderstanding. To me, it feels disrespectful to simply go POOF!(Maybe) It’s gone! It was your imagination! It never happened!

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