We’re all shocked & saddened by the events that took place last night in Aurora, Colorado. I’ve been watching a lot of the news coverage, & I’ve really been struck by the responsiveness of the Aurora County Emergency Services. Ninety seconds is an incredible response time, & the fact that Holmes was apprehended before reaching his car is pretty amazing. Given that his apartment seems to be wired with explosives, & that he had purchased more than six thousand rounds of ammo, he obviously wasn’t going back home, & I can’t help but suspect that he would’ve caused much more violence elsewhere, had he not been apprehended. It’s clear that James Holmes is a real-life super villain & the Aurora County First Responders are real-life super heroes.
As a comic book fan, it provides a sobering context for a character like the Joker, which is sometimes lost, or at least diminished, compared to the greater battle of good versus evil. What does someone with no super powers feel & experience when confronted with that kind of evil? 24-hour news stations have been inundating us with horrific, real-life, first-hand testimony. And as details emerge about Holmes & his premeditations & capacities, I’m unsettled by a sense of familiarity. I can imagine the trip wires in his apartment, the weaponry packed in his car, & I can see him returning, dramatically lit, through the theater’s emergency exit. It’s truly something that could have been straight out of a comic book. A riveting comic book, at that.
So once the news media exhausts the second amendment arguments, & once the Aurora Police have gained access to Holmes’ apartment, I’m sure they’ll turn to the role that movies and comics played in this tragedy. But the truth is that comic books describe the evil that exists in the world, they do not inspire it. They do not cause the sense of dejection or failure or alienation that motivates one to commit such an atrocity. And comic books (or movies or music or video games, for that matter) do not constitute the weight that triggers a manic episode, or a turn down such a dark path. The things that turn our children into monsters are far more insidious, and much more difficult to nail down or demonize, than comic books.
I was frustrated when multiple reports began to emerge earlier today that Holmes was reenacting a scene from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. USA Today reported, “in a 1986 issue of Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns series, there is a Batman-inspired massacre at a porn theater by a lone gunman.” Which is flat out wrong… the whole point of the scene is that the shooting was carried out by a religious schizo, acting out against a message he heard when he played a Led Zeppelin album in reverse. The Gotham news media reporting it as “Batman-related” illustrates the media bias & their inability to fact check. The irony here should be self-evident. But what really gets me is that no context whatsoever was needed to understand what Frank Miller was saying. It was all contained in that single page. There’s just no excuse.
I’m sure more of this type of thing is on the way, unfortunately. But I hope that, as Holmes goes to trial, we get to the bottom of his alienation, because that’s the only way we’re going to prevent this from happening again. The coverage of Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold in the wake of the Columbine tragedy (which occurred just 15 miles from the theater in Aurora) was downright shameful, rife with so much absurd speculation that any truths that may helped prevent the Aurora tragedy were impossible to uncover. Let’s do better this time.