Batgirl #49 has raised some questions about current DC canon, and one of the most popular stories of Batman lore, The Killing Joke.
Spoilers from here on out.
Barbara has dealt with the ramifications of being shot by the Joker, and subsequently paralyzed and forced to give up being Batgirl, for over 2 decades. The Killing Joke, however, wasn't necessarily supposed to be canon, but over the years DC and fans have sort of adjusted to it as being so.
Batgirl #49 now makes that assumption a bit murkier. So the answer to the question "did The Killing Joke get removed from DC Comics continuity?" is...
In #49 Batgirl is trying to defeat a villain named Fugue, who has attempted (and succeeded) to mess with Bab's mind and insert fake memories. After Frankie helps set things right (with the aid of a digital copy of Barbara...long story), the two enter into a chase through Barbara's mind. It is here that we start to see some of the nightmares and alternate memories that Fugue has planted, and one of those features Brian Boland's iconic Joker with the text "Smile" and another picture on the right with the gun that shot her. It is implied that this is a false memory, but is never actually confirmed as such.
After the story hit, artist Babs Tarr took to twitter to spur the theory on even more.
We undid some things... pic.twitter.com/juwjyIXcry— BABS to the BONE (@babsdraws) March 2, 2016
Writer Cameron Stewart took to Twitter a bit later, and added some clarification to the discussion, if clarification actually means "I'm going to let you figure it out for yourselves".
Now that we’re a few days out from it, a thought on Batgirl 49: I’m often interested in ambiguity as a narrative device. One of the things we intended for this issue was for it to be read in several ways, depending on your own interpretation and/or preference. I believe that an individual’s subjective interpretation of a work of art can matter as much as the artist’s intent. What does an image mean to you specifically? How do you interpret it based on your own set of experiences? There’s no right or wrong answer. This is, I think, an unusual concept for the superhero genre, where material is often strictly deemed canonical or “real,” or not. There’s no right, and no wrong, way to read that page. It is what it is to you. We deliberately set it up that way. If you want to read it as retcon, you’re welcome & encouraged to do so. If you want the timeline as-is, you are also encouraged to do so. Your own personal “truth” in this story is what we want you to take from it. How you read that page is how it is.
Since Stewart and Fletcher took over the Batgirl book with Babs Tarr, the character has had a much brighter and more welcoming vibe to it. With the success of this new direction, not having the ramifications of The Killing Joke be so instrumental and critical to the characters mythos seems like a logical next step.
It is odd though that they are also releasing The Killing Joke animated film so close to these changes, but to be honest, that isn't what defines the character anyway, so it is perfectly fine. Fans seemingly felt the same way after that variant cover featuring the current Batgirl and Boland's Joker hit news sites and ignited an uproar.
We have enough brooding around Gotham these days and then some, we don't really need more.