Unlike its rival Marvel franchise, DC and the Batman universe it has created can't seem to escape both criticism and controversy in its latest slew of releases. From the poor reception of this spring's blockbuster Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice film to the very mixed review of their latest animated film, Batman: The Killing Joke, it seems like DC can't seem to put a good foot forward.

The Comic-Con premiere

Batman: The Killing Joke was unveiled by DC at the San Diego Comic-Con just yesterday, but the controversy began even before the official screening as scenes were leaked online.

From bad reviews to critiques of its portrayal of Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, the animated film is generating more controversy for the DC universe.

An article in Gizmodo pulled no punches in a piece titled, Batman: The Killing Joke is a Disaster, Right Down to its Comic-Con Panel. The article chronicles the new animated film's tumultuous reception during a DC panel at the Comic-Con convention, including heated words between a writer in the audience and co-screenwriter Brian Azzarello over the film's portrayal of Batgirl.

The Batgirl controversy

As Time Magazine points out, while the animated film adaptation is new, the story comes from a Batman comic first published in 1988. According to reports, fans are upset at the sexualization and trivialization of Barbara Gordon's character.

In the animated film, Barbara only puts on her suit and becomes Batgirl to attract Batman's romantic attention. The new animated film even includes a sex scene between a young Batgirl and father figure Batman. While an attraction has been hinted at in the graphics novels and animated films in the past, this is the first time it has been explicitly depicted.

The most horrific scene in the animated film occurs when the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon in the stomach, paralyzing her and ending her career as Batgirl. The Joker then shows nude pictures of the crippled Barbara to her father, Commissioner James Gordon.

Perhaps worst of all, according to some fans, is the fact that the scene serves only as a prelude to the inevitable battle between Batman and The Joker.

As the piece in Time Magazine points out, feminists have long taken issue with the sadistic plot twist in and how Batgirl is savaged in a way that male superheroes never are. Even Alan Moore, the writer of the original 1988 graphic novel of the same name, has expressed his regret over the Batgirl story line, which he acknowledged was only a plot device to set up the Batman/Joker clash.

Even if fans are having a mixed reaction to the latest release, DC enthusiasts still have plenty to look forward to, notably the highly anticipated release later this summer of Batman spin-off, The Suicide Squad live action film.

Batman: The Killing Joke will be released on home video on Monday, July 25.

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