The Batman Shooting – Life Intimating Art Or Vice Versa?

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Graphic Novel by Frank Miller

No sooner than a gunman got finished shooting a crowded Colorado movie theater straight to hell, the societal blame game started. With guns involved, no one was going to blame the current state of gun control. Not that it didn’t prevent ABCNews from initially blaming the Tea Party or Micheal Bloomburg from making an attempt. With the biggest summer movie premier of the summer involved, Batman—both the current movie and the cultural icon—would get the blame.

The Washington Examiner went one step further by tying a scene from “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,” a graphic novel by Frank Miller, to the shooting, where a disgruntled man, angry at the pervasiveness of heavy metal music and pornography, sits down in a porno theater and pulls out a gun. The last panel shows a news anchor announcing the shooting with details coming up next. Was this life intimating art or vice versa?

Unless a copy of the graphic novel shows up in the shooter’s possession, I’m not sure if such a question can ever be answered. The shooter—like any American-grown terrorist—may have been drawn by the outsized publicity for the movie and the huge crowd gathering at the midnight showing to find an audience for his violence. Killing 12 and wounding 58 people will get his name—which I’m not using in this blog post—a quick ticket into the history book. The next nut job will have to do something even more brazen to get attention.

Sometimes a violent shooting does intimate art. After several high school shooters had reportedly read or were in possession of “The Rage” by Stephen King (originally published under the Richard Bachman pen name), a novel about a teenager who shoots the teacher dead and takes over classroom at gunpoint, King ordered the publisher to declare the book out of print. He wrote the novel while was still in high school, where his pain and anger at society was still raw, becoming something of a how-to manual for teenage readers who had easy access to guns and a deep-seated grudge to bear.

As a short story writer who writes mostly horror, does the Batman shooting inspires me to write something as equally horrifying or more so? No, not yet.

I’m always amazed that real life incidents are more gruesome than anything I can think up with my imagination. Although a weird incident can prompt a 500-word flash story, something this serious should sink into the subconscious before bubbling up after a long time in a story somewhere. Eleven years after the World Trade Center attack, I’m only now becoming receptive to writing a 9/11 story. Because I waited to let everyone write their stories in the aftermath, the story I write will be my own zeitgeist that stands apart from crowd.

Meanwhile, I’m working on my non-speculative short stories this weekend. The horror of the real world and my imagination is something I don’t want to deal with. I’m no longer dying to see the new Batman movie. Maybe next weekend.