“NO GUNS, NO KILLING.”
That line from “The Dark Knight Rises” has resonated all day with author, comic-book writer and Batman scholar Brad Meltzer (Superman/Batman, Green Arrow), who tells Comic Riffs that he is reeling from news of the shooting tragedy that occurred at a midnight screening of the film in Aurora, Colo.
“That line bears repeating,” says Meltzer, recounting a scene in which Batman dissuades cat burglar Selina Kyle from resorting to firearms to fight. Batman, Meltzer reminds us, is a symbol against gun violence.
As the nation and the world absorb the horrific news of the multiplex rampage that left 12 dead and dozens more injured, the comics community responds both to the human tragedy and to its bizarre connection to the new Batman film.
On the human scale, author and comics writer Neil Gaiman (The Sandman, Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?) tells Comic Riffs: “It’s a huge and appalling tragedy.”
DC Comics writer Scott Snyder (Batman: Gates of Gotham, American Vampire) tells us: “I’m incredibly saddened by the events in Aurora, and my condolences go out to everyone involved.”
“This has been an incredibly sad day for all of us,” Joe Quesada , chief creative officer of Marvel Entertainment, tells Comic Riffs. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the people of Colorado.”
And Christopher Nolan, the filmmaker whose Batman trilogy concludes with “Dark Knight Rises,” says in a statement: “Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community.”
Nolan, in his statement, also notes his passion for the theatergoing experience, saying: “I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theater is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.”
(That idea — of movie theater as innocent place turned savage — of course has strong echoes of Batman’s own origin story: Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered after leaving the Monarch movie theater.)
Amid the true tragedy, Meltzer says our reactions speak to the very reason America needs — and craves — heroes.
“We’re a country that’s scared — there are scary things in the world right now,” Meltzer tells Comic Riffs by phone from Florida. “9/11 knocked us back on our a--. The idea that someone out there is trying to kill us.”
Meltzer says he believes that a collective national fear feeds into why superhero films have done especially well commercially for the past decade.
“Even the bad superhero films do well,” Meltzer tells Comic Riffs. ”Why are they working? It’s not because of the violence [depicted] or because they’re colorful — it’s because we’re a country that is worried and scared .. and right now is starving for heroes.
“It’s even in the political culture — look at who we nominate for president,” he continues. “We’re not looking for politicians — we’re looking for saviors. ... We want someone who can stand up among us.”
Some commentators are looking through Batman comics, including Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns,” for some kind of insight into the shooter’s actions. Meltzer believes those who do so are missing the big picture.
“You can go through 60 years of comic books looking for one page that points to someone killing someone in a theater — and ignore the [many] stories of Batman, standing completely against gun violence.”
HOW OTHER CARTOONISTS responded to the tragedy: