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Even Batman Knew The Killing Joke's Romance with Batgirl Was Weird

In the animated film adaptation of The Killing Joke, Batgirl creates an awkward dynamic with Batman as she tries to pursue a romantic relationship with him. It's bizarre and in many ways inappropriate. Yet in older comics, Batman knew that he and Batgirl didn't belong together.

Barbara Gordon debuted in 1967, within the pages of Detective Comics #359. She was created for the Batman television series and then went on to be part of Batman's crime fighting team in the comics as Batgirl. Long-term she has been a romantic interest for Dick Grayson — not Batman. However, in Batman: The Killing Joke (2016), she initiates a sexual encounter with Batman on a rooftop after being frustrated by him removing her from a case. Batgirl's role in this film — and the initiation of any kind of romantic relationship with Batman — has been largely criticized by fans. This aspect was especially strange since none of it is in the original graphic novel of the same title.

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In The Brave and The Bold #78 from 1968 — just a year after Barbara's debut as Batgirl, she's involved in a new plan with Batman. Created by Bob Haney, Bob Brown, Mike Esposito, and Milt Snapinn, the story "In the Coils of Copperhead" starred Batman, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman working together to trap Copperhead. To do so, Batman creates a zany plan to make himself appear distracted enough to bait his foe into stealing a special artifact. The distraction is created by Batgirl and Wonder Woman pretending to be in love with Batman. The two confess their love for him and try to one up each other. While largely a fake ploy, it becomes clear that even in jest, Batman has no interest in Batgirl and they just don't belong together.

As part of the ploy, Batgirl tries to justify why she's the better pick for Batman. However, Batman states bluntly that it wouldn't be a match. Regardless of what fake argument she comes up with, it doesn't make the caped crusader budge at all. Although he pretends to enjoy the attention later, he never actually compliments either heroine as being good for him. Barbara is a great crime-fighter and a valuable part of the Bat-Family, but the two just don't belong together. The forced and incredibly cringeworthy romantic pursuit in The Killing Joke film is exactly that: forced. It's also one-sided.

The Brave and the Bold #78 sees the fake attraction plan work, but it works far too well. While trying to stop Copperhead, Wonder Woman and Batgirl continue with the ruse, which allows Copperhead to escape. The only thing these actions succeed at is frustrating Batman. He turns on the two heroines angrily, upset that they caused Copperhead to get away with the artifact that Batman's in charge of protecting. Wonder Woman and Batgirl point out that it was initially his plan, causing Batman to agree and explain that he is especially frustrated by that fact. In this moment, it's clear that the fraudulent romantic advances and how far the girls took them are more of an annoyance than a worthwhile strategy.

There are many reasons that Batman and Batgirl should never be involved in a legitimate relationship. One point has always been the age difference, considering that Bruce took Robin in when his ward was a child still and Barbara's around Dick's age. In this regard, Batman should be more of a parental figure. Another is Batman's friendship with Commissioner Gordon. Regardless of the reasoning, Batman already knew that he and Batgirl aren't a match — not even as a joke to catch a villain, much less as seriously as The Killing Joke portrayed.

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