Before a shocked country, let alone investigators, can begin to get a grasp on what led 24-year-old James Holmes to open fire during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, killing at least 12 and wounding dozens more, at least one newspaper writer is willing to take a wild guess: a comic book. Specifically, Frank Miller's landmark 1986 miniseries The Dark Knight Returns.
Under the headline, "Was the Batman shooting movie shooting imitated from scene in 1986 comic?," The Washington Examiner's Sean Higgins claims the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, "bears eerie similarities" to the scene in which "a crazed, gun-toting loner walks into a movie theater and begins shooting it up, killing three in the process."
In an effort to bolster his shaky, if not downright groundless hypothesis, Higgins points out that The Dark Knight Returns served "a key inspiration" for director Christopher Nolan's big-screen trilogy. (Why stop there, though? Coupled with Miller and David Mazzucchelli's "Year One," the miniseries has influenced virtually every depiction of Batman over the past quarter-century.)
Perhaps not convinced by his own tenuous evidence, Higgins abruptly shifts gears, writing, "Was the shooter imitating this scene from the comic? Maybe, although in the scene the shooter is portrayed as inspired by his disgust at pornography and heavy metal music. The police’s investigation will surely reveal more in the near future."
It's a favorite tactic of political commentators: throw out an unsubstantiated, if not downright irresponsible, assertion, but cushion it within a question. "Hey, I'm just askin'!" It's dishonest.
When the Aurora Police Department is only now, as I'm writing this, officially releasing the identity of the suspect and the details of his arrest -- never mind a final tally of the wounded -- it's pointless, crass and outright ridiculous to speculate whether a scene from a comic that's older than the accused shooter is might have somehow led to such an unfathomable act.
Attempting to draw a link between a scene in that comic -- or in any comic -- and the tragedy, particularly when we know virtually nothing about the shooter, not only trivializes the magnitude and brutality of very real events, but leads to the scapegoating and excuses that inevitably accompany stories about people doing horrible, horrible things.
It also brings into question why a website would float an unsupported headline like "Was the Batman shooting movie shooting imitated from scene in 1986 comic?," unless it's simply trawling for traffic. But that couldn't be it, could it?
Hey, I'm just askin'.