In a victory for free speech, the review committee for the Columbus, Nebraska, Public Library and denied a challenge from a patron who demanded the removal of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke from library shelves.
Batman: The Killing Joke depicts Joker’s violent torture of Jim Gordon and his daughter Barbara. It had a profound influence on the Batman universe’s continuity, introducing Barbara Gordon’s shooting and subsequent paralysis and opening the door to her transition into the character Oracle.
According to Tyler Ellyson with local news source Columbus Telegram, the patron who filed the complaint claimed that the graphic novel “advocates rape and violence.” Three of five library review board members were present for the decision, and they voted unanimously to retain the book. Ellyson writes:
“I don’t find it worthy of being removed from the shelf,” board member Carol Keller said during last week’s meeting.
Others agreed, saying many comic books and other publications include violence and the patron’s interpretation of rape was misconstrued.
The book is currently shelved in the young adult section of the library with several other graphic novels. Ellyson notes that the review board consistently denies material challenges posed in the community, ensuring the availability of materials for patrons.
While this case is a victory for free speech, Batman: The Killing Joke can now be added to the list of Alan Moore’s books that have been challenged in libraries. Watchmen, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and most recently Neonomicon have all been challenged. Most challenges fail, but Neonomicon was unilaterally removed by the library director in Greenville, South Carolina, despite a review committee’s recommendation that the book be retained. The fact that some challenges succeed only highlights the need to keep fighting for the right to read!