Batman: The Killing Joke just got more controversial. EW has confirmed the upcoming animated adaptation of the infamous Alan Moore comic depicts a brief sexual relationship between Batman and Batgirl, which is not present in the source material.
The relationship occurs during a prologue focusing on Batgirl/Barbara Gordon (voiced by Tara Strong), who is portrayed as a protege of Batman/Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy). In a scene that leaked online ahead of the movie’s Friday evening premiere at Comic-Con, Batgirl and Batman become intimate on a roof, and Batgirl begins to remove her clothes. Sex is implied but not shown, and there is no nudity.
EW has learned the prologue was added to the film in an effort to further develop the character of Batgirl, who is not deeply explored in the comic, and to flesh out the story. The original Killing Joke comic, a one-shot, is a relatively slim 48 pages.
The leaked material from the movie quickly ignited controversy among fans on social media, which is unsurprising given the contentious history of The Killing Joke. Published in 1988, Moore’s comic is an origin story of sorts that finds the Joker taunting Batman by capturing, torturing, and paralyzing Barbara Gordon (who has retired as Batgirl). While some have hailed the comic as a definitive Joker story, others have criticized it as misogynistic.
The Killing Joke movie is not the first animated Batman work to portray or allude to a relationship between Batman and Batgirl, but doing so to in order to raise the dramatic stakes of Batgirl’s brutal assault is unlikely to sit well with Killing Joke detractors.
Batman: The Killing Joke will screen in theaters July 25 and 26, accompanied by a Digital HD release July 26 and a Blu-ray release Aug. 2.