The painful irony...

All those people, including children, were shot dead by an armed lunatic at a Dark Knight screening. Many others were maimed and some more may die.

It’s a cruel tragedy—and everyone’s heart goes out to the families of victims. President Obama immediately appeared in public, and spoke feelingly, his voice breaking with emotion, offering sympathy—and he was just being there for us.

Now, Batman is a materialization of our psychological longing for someone powerful to come and save us even when it's darkest... someone who's 
got the darkness in his hand so he's not overwhelmed by it. You see, when it’s nighttime—Batman’s bailiwick—we’re instinctively more afraid. Yet it makes sense to us that the spirit who’d save us from the darkness would be a creature of darkness—a bat.

The darkness comes in broad daylight too, of course…

Batman wears his darkness in his costume...some people at the theater were dressed as Batman. (No one dressed as Batman tried to tackle the gunman--of course I don't blame them, but it’s another fillip of irony.) Batman was there, and yet Batman didn't show up. We have no Batman in the real world. He’s a comforting fantasy. We're alone, against the madness of the violent. We have to face this kind of thing without him.

As one of my friends pointed out, heroes did show up, soon after the shooting—police, emergency medical personnel. Indeed, the police got there quickly enough to corral the killer in the parking lot. He surrendered. He wants to live to enjoy the attention, no doubt.

At this point we only know that he’s a young white male who was at the University of Colorado for awhile. We know his apartment was booby-trapped. The booby-trapping—and the fact that he was bristling with numerous guns--speaks of a militia, or survivalist, mentality.

Someone said he was dressed like “the Neo character in The Matrix” –but really, that was probably just a coincidence of style. He surely chose to dress dramatically, like a typical gun-fancying jackass would in such an instance.

I’m not anti-gun, per se—I plan to buy a shotgun. But a big question that arises is—did he have a documented history of mental illness? Good chance of it. If he did—should he have been allowed to own guns? Especially, as reported, a version of the AK-47--which he used in the theater?

I can answer that last question.

The answer, as far as I’m concerned, is flatly… no.

The NRA, of course, resists the “intrusiveness” of firm, clear rules exposing a person’s psychological problems to the vetting process for gun ownership.

We’re short on facts about this man at the moment. We do know that this happened “just down the road from Columbine”. These killings resonate with the Columbine murders.

Batman didn’t show up at Columbine; he didn’t show up today. The people at the theater were  there partly to see evil arise—a tale of fighting evil is weak stuff without some strong evil in it; but most of all they went to see Batman prove, at least in a fantasy, that evil can be stopped before it’s too late.

We haven’t got Batman in real life. But we could have firmer gun control laws—and they might’ve been in place…where Batman couldn’t be.

[Photo credit: JustASC /]

John Shirley is the author of numerous novels, story collections, screenplays ("THE CROW"), teleplays and articles. A futurologist and social critic, John was a featured speaker at TED-x in Brussels in 2011. His novels include Everything is Broken, The A SONG CALLED YOUTH cyberpunk trilogy (omnibus released in 2012), Bleak History, Demons, City Come A-Walkin' and The Other End. His short story collection Black Butterflies won the Bram Stoker Award, and was chosen by Publisher's Weekly as one of the best books of the year. His new story collection is In Extremis: The Most Extreme Short Stories of John Shirley. His stories have been included in three Year's Best anthologies. He is also a songwriter (eg, for Blue Oyster Cult), and a singer. Black October records will soon be releasing a compilation of selected songs, BROKEN MIRROR GLASS: Recordings by John Shirley, 1978-2011. The authorized website is at ...