PackageWell the battle lines are very clearly divided this time. On one side are the girls and the queers. On the other are the old time fanboys. The subject? The cover to the BATGIRL showcase edition. Yes, yes, yes, we KNOW she was not and never was a butt kicking superhero. We have never read a Batgirl comic in our lives, but apparently the whole joke was that while Batman and Robin did all the work, this silly chick was standing around putting on make-up and breaking nails and making a nuisance of herself. (Note to social historians: this interpretation does not make Batman and Robin any less gay.)

batgirlI stand by my original comment: if this was not a deliberate tweak for the entitled fangirls, it was an act of Jughead-like cluelessness. Kalinara actually had to sit down for a while and wait for her heart to stop pounding:

I was furious when I saw it. I’m not ashamed to admit. I’ve calmed down a bit since. Now it just makes me a bit tired. I think it’s a bit more obviously meant as a parody than say the Heroes for Hire cover, which I also think was meant tongue-in-cheek, but… Call me a humorless bitch if you want, for me, this joke fell flat.


Against the girls are arrayed the boys. Their weapons? Historical accuracy and the classic cry “Honey, you’re getting all worked up over nothing!”

Take Manly Beau Smith:

The internet seems to be making things a “shoot first and ask questions later” kind of landscape. When I saw the published cover I totally got what DC Comics was going for. They were representing the lay of the land in pop culture at that time. If you watched the Batman TV show or even read the comics during that time then you got it too. Does this mean we should now start reinventing history and doctor real photos of the past to represent the current slant of this all too politically correct world?


Beat commenter Robby Read has an even more succinct statement.

Do you people know ANY comic history? What’s the big deal? This is NOT an invented cover! It’s a modern redo of “BATGIRL’S COSTUME CUT-UPS!” a story in this volume. It’s not sexist — or if it is, it’s a sexism reflected in the stories inside.


Well, “you people” do know a little about comics history. And we’re often amazed by how often people don’t really think about this at all. Does anyone remember this?
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From a historical perspective the images are from the period where McCay became a professional cartoonist. It was my decision to approve a cover which promoted the presence of that material within the book. In hindsight, Checker Book Publishing regrets the size and prominence on our cover of an image with potential to inflame racial sensitivity, and also the exclusion of other images from McCay’s work which may have served to dilute and lend context to his stereotypical depiction of Africans. Subsequent volumes of Winsor McCay: Early Works, of which twelve volumes are planned, will not contain such images on their covers, nor will a second printing of this volume in the event that one should become necessary.

That said, we never considered leaving the Jungle Imps material out of the book, nor will we hesitate to publish other McCay work containing stereotypical imagery (which it often does) in future volumes. We equate dilemma for those putting out a Gone with the Wind DVD…do you remove the Oscar winning performances from the film…due to their negative depictions, or do you assume that every reasonable person understands that this was pre-1960’s. It was the times. Fast forward to 2003- much more racially offensive material is easily found by just turning on MTV. The mistake was not made with the same malice and forethought of say; a Jack Chick comic. Future volumes will pay special attention to avoid being racially insensitive while maintaining the artistic integrity of the original work.


The Batgirl cover is a win-win for the entitled fanboy: they get to say “Yes, yes, we all know it was sexist! That was then and this is now!” while dismissing any objections with “What are you getting so worked up about, honey?” Personally, I don’t think it was any more than DC’s concern that the cover HAD TO BE a depiction of the splash page — it’s likely no one ever stepped back and said “You know we are trying to launch a line of comics to get more girls reading comics, maybe we should put a less offensive cover on this historically accurate reprint book.”

No one is asking for Batgirl to be retconned into the kind of grim and gritty avenger — with giant boobs and torn costumes — that she is in the No-Fun era. But people who don’t see the larger pattern here of how DC presents its female characters is engaging in a little retconning of their own.

1 COMMENT

  1. As much as I think DC’s cover choice was stupid and that there’s really nothing to debate concerning its stupidity, a cover that reinforces a sexist view of female behavior doesn’t to my mind come within a country mile of having a cover that depicts a race of people as sub-human monsters. I just wanted to say that.

    Also, I don’t get how any of the critiques of the reaction that you’re slamming here represent fanboy entitlement. They might represent stupidity, willful obliviousness and/or callousness, but I don’t see any assumption that their views should be served based on their affection for/patronage of the character

    So do I put the “sweetie” on the end of this post myself or will that be done for me later?

  2. I have to say that the best portrayal of Batgirl I’ve seen to date is one WB’s (or whatever it is now) The Batman. On the show Batman babies her (in a semi sexist way) but she’s out to prove that she can hold her own, and she does quite well. The shows only good when she’s on it.

  3. Tom: I think it’s the “historical accuracy” meme which unites both. One is certainly far more shocking, but both are examples of not seeing the forest for the trees. No need to add “Sweetie” as your post is not patronizing.

    Chris Mnlght: It’s no surprise that a cartoon show has a more balanced portrayal — they have to answer to a far larger crowd of humorless feminists.

  4. I don’t think sexism has anything to do with the cover as much as stupidity. Honestly, I picture several DC editors high-fiving over their “whacky” cover … or twiddling their thumbs, afraid to speak up and tell someone that Batgirl applying make-up will probably NOT sell a book.

  5. “I have to say that the best portrayal of Batgirl I’ve seen to date is one WB’s (or whatever it is now) The Batman.”

    Argh. Prepare the bamboo shoots, tie his wrists.

    The best portrayal of Batgirl is from Batman: The Animated Series — by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. Barabara is portrayed a little older, and much more competant and mature. “The Batman” version is your run of the mill “Hell-oooo!” and “Um, ex-CUSE me?” teenage kid. With a mask and cape.

  6. This is the same Batgirl they introduced to tie in to the TV show, whose secret headquarters was hidden behind her makeup vanity, and whose arsenal included blinding bad guys with powder. Looks like an fair representation of the book’s contents to me. Afraid I don’t see how accurately packaging a bunch of lighthearted comics about a superheroine who’s more into makeup than fighting ties into how DC is mishandling their characters today.

  7. The cover would have worked if the message of “See how silly Batgirl was then? Thank goodness we don’t depict women characters in a demeaning and triviliazing way any more!” was true. Since it’s not, the joke falls as flat as a PhotoShopped Power Girl. Even flatter, I guess.

  8. “Barabara is portrayed a little older, and much more competant and mature. “The Batman” version is your run of the mill “Hell-oooo!” and “Um, ex-CUSE me?” teenage kid. With a mask and cape.”

    At the most, this just seem like a difference in taste. I prefer the newer Batgirl for two core reasons. The first being that a teenage Batgirl has much more room to grow and be interesting as a character, rather then an older more seasoned one. The second is simply that I teach teenagers, and find them far more interesting, tenacious, uncorrupted, imaginative, and thoughtful them most adults.

  9. I’m not so much offended by the cover as kind of shocked at the poor quality of the whole thing. Sexism aside, both this and the JLA “Power Boobs” cover were poorly done and awkward. These covers face several gatekeepers along the way for approval. Each gatekeeper has to initial it on the little cover approvals sheet. Who approves these covers? Why is there not somebody of authority somewhere in this process who is in a position to receive this cover on his or her desk and say; “hey, I’m not signing off of this, this sucks”?

    Jenette Kahn used to be that person. She was very aware of the image DC was sending out into “the world.”

  10. “No one is asking for Batgirl to be retconned into the kind of grim and gritty avenger — with giant boobs and torn costumes — that she is in the No-Fun era.”

    I’m sorry Heidi, but if you are talking about the current Batgirl (Cassandra) here, then for someone who just admitted to have never read a Batgirl comic you jump to conclusions awfully quick.

    I guess your prejudice comes from that one cover you posted here before, but that’s very misleading. Cassandra was very rarely pictured with big breasts and had a torn costume only on that one single cover. Fact is, most of the time she was drawn a lot less “sexy” than 90% of superheroines.
    Also she is and was hardly a typical “grim and gritty” character, but had a shy and vulnerable personality with complex, thoughtful stories. For representatives of the “no fun” era you should better look elsewhere.

    By the way, I agree with what you say about that Showcase cover. But you should maybe consider to sometimes check your assumptions about stuff you admit not to be well-informed about.

  11. “The second is simply that I teach teenagers, and find them far more interesting, tenacious, uncorrupted, imaginative, and thoughtful them most adults.” I don’t teach teenagers, and don’t find them to be … Each his own.

    Val: “Sexism aside, both this and the JLA “Power Boobs” cover were poorly done and awkward.”
    The JLA boobs cover? What are you refering to?

  12. “The JLA boobs cover? What are you refering to?”

    Oh NO You Don’t…

    The Beat is where I go to seek refuge from the endless barrage of PowerGirl Roxors! threads that is Newsarama… :D

    btw – Glad to see this article. Chris Sims from http://www.the-isb.com showed me this cover yesterday, and I was pretty shocked. It’s like DC and Marvel are in a mad dash to offend every female reader on the planet. :(

  13. I must come out of the closet and admit that I did read those Batgirl comics when they came out, and I remembered them as much more sexist than the Showcase volume is. She’s actually much more independent and self-assured than I remembered. Which, of course, makes the cover even more stupid.

  14. I’m just kind of bewildered there’s not one editor at DC that thought perhaps the cover might ruffle a few feathers.

    Or perhaps cared enough to not use the cover.

    Either way.

  15. “I don’t teach teenagers, and don’t find them to be … Each his own.”

    Nor do many “old school” types. I consider it a prejudice that comes from people being set in a lifetime of ways. Please, don’t take that as a jab. It’s not meant as one. It’s just that so many “more mature” people have this attitude towards young people. They should be comics core audience and we as a whole are looking down our noses at them, male and female. “What I am now is what I was then. I am not more acceptable then then.” said The Cranberries, and it’s true. To judge young people based on your generation or the perspective your many years have given you (for wisdom does not come with years, as so many would like to think) is in truth, only misanthropic. I believe that if you put aside your preconceived ideas about teenagers, and actually took the time to talk to one, you’d find that what I’m saying is true. This attitude (in my mind) is a far greater problem in comics then sexism. Manga companies don’t think this way, and they’re reaping the benefits.

  16. “Oh NO You Don’t… The Beat is where I go to seek refuge from the endless barrage of PowerGirl Roxors! threads that is Newsarama… ”

    Uh … right … so, anyway … what JLA cover are you refering to? A link, perhaps?

  17. “It’s like DC and Marvel are in a mad dash to offend every female reader on the planet.”

    Well, Marvel has been an event-driven company for sometime. Some newsweek-type magazine recently had an article about female comic readers. If Marvel can get publicity by angering female readers … hey, why not?

  18. I agree that there’s a problem obvious in the way DC (and Marvel for that matter) handle their female characters. It’s a BIG problem, as far as I’m concerned.

    However, this is just a cover — don’t lose any sleep over it. DC could’ve put a better cover on it to prevent Internet ranting, but that wouldn’t change their underlying problem. Get mad at the disease, not the symptom.

  19. I did read the Batgirl Showcase and for all the cover defenders out there, that cover is NOT representative of her character in those comics. It’s a very weird choice for the cover and a most unfortunate one, IMO. Alas.

  20. “The best portrayal of Batgirl is from Batman: The Animated Series — by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. Barabara is portrayed a little older, and much more competant and mature. “The Batman” version is your run of the mill “Hell-oooo!” and “Um, ex-CUSE me?” teenage kid. With a mask and cape.”

    Best portrayal is obviously Yvonne Craig. Swinging theme song, revolving walls, dancing to cossacks…how can you beat that? She was also very competent at times.

  21. Having owned that issue, it was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw the cover image. (Fun if dated story with her “vanity” and a run in her tights – almost wrote “wardrobe malfunction” but thought better of it – played a part in resolving the case.) But even though it was from a fun story, being put on the Showcase cover it’s context was completely lost and just adds fuel to the fire lit by the MJ statue. I can see them opting for another image with as many times as the “Million Dollar Debut” cover has been reprinted or homaged, but there HAD to be a better cover or splash page they could’ve used.

    Then again, if they had used an image of Batgirl in peril, the WiR card might have been played.

  22. Bad idea for a cover, just from a sales standpoint –why send that message about the character to potential buyers? It doesn’t make me (an old time fanboy, I guess) want to pick it up, and I can’t see the image as a book’s cover appealing to, well, anyone who doesn’t already know and like Batgirl. So, I vote for cluelessness as the motivator.

    However, anyone getting “furious” about it should consider talking to a counselor about anger issues.

  23. So, which cover should have been used?
    or, if the covers are problematic, would it be possible to take an image from a story and rework it?
    and while we’re on the topic, which would be the best and worse Lois Lane cover for a Showcase collection?

  24. Heidi, I hope you realize it’s possible for someone to be patronizing towards you without being one tiny bit sexist.

    The best Lois Lane Showcase cover would be embedded with a computer chip so that every time you passed by your bookcase it would fall off the shelf, forcing you to catch it.

    Here’s a question to those who are upset by the cover from a moral standpoint. Do you object to these stories, many of which exhibit chauvinistic ideas, being reprinted at all? If not, why not?

  25. Quoth Val:

    These covers face several gatekeepers along the way for approval. Each gatekeeper has to initial it on the little cover approvals sheet. Who approves these covers? Why is there not somebody of authority somewhere in this process who is in a position to receive this cover on his or her desk and say; “hey, I’m not signing off of this, this sucks”?

    Jenette Kahn used to be that person. She was very aware of the image DC was sending out into “the world.”

    I’m wondering about that more and more m’self. I wonder if the current DC chain of command is a “thou shalt rubber stamp any thing that crosses thy desk” culture.

    It certainly does explain:

    1) The constant eyesporkworthy pandering.
    2) Black Mask with Power Tools action figure.
    3) JLA #11
    4) ASBAR
    5) Endless “events”
    6) Covers like this

  26. I agree with Heidi on this. Just because the ditzy Batgirl cover might conceivably be defensible as historical, ironic, or backhandedly humorous in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way does not mean DC was required to go that direction for this book. The Detective 369 image is more dynamic and more iconic. Any number of original designs could have been inspired by the period goofyness without calling attention to sexist stereotypes. What possibly made the editor think this was not just a good idea, but the BEST idea?

    That said, I’ll probably skip this volume because it stops short of my favorite Batgirl stories – the ones drawn by Mike Grell in Batman Family!

  27. Tom: Surely you know the etymological roots of the word “patronizing.” It was a pun.

    I don’t object to these stories being republished. I don’t object to McCay’s racially charged work being reprinted, or even Tintin in the Congo. But covers more in keeping with the current times and mores are a better sales tool.

    And I can see if tis cover had been presented in some kind of ironic “retro” style. But it wasn’t.

    It’s just a bad marketing decision.

  28. I agree that the cover was a wrong decision.

    As an after-the-fact suggestion, I think one solution to being bugged by this cover in the future is to tear the cover off. Then stuff it in an envelope and mail it to Dan DiDio with a letter expressing your disdain for the decision to use it.

    This reprint will never be a collectible, so condition is not important.

  29. BS COLLECTION

    I suggest a collection be made to buy Beau Smith a clue that this is not only a new century, it is also a new millenium.
    =====

    I agree with Heidi that these stories are a product of their times, 40-ish years ago, and should not be changed. But this cover is a product of today.

  30. “No one is asking for Batgirl to be retconned into the kind of grim and gritty avenger — with giant boobs and torn costumes — that she is in the No-Fun era.”

    No, people are simply using their overly politicial correct mentality of today’s current popular political opinions, to cast a judgment on a piece of pop culture art from four decades ago, and using it to put forth their own dogmatic agenda. And that isn’t any better.

    You mentioned before about seeing the patterns in this. But if one can’t tell the difference between this Batgirl image and the recent H4H cover, then, like Scott Rowland suggests, I would have to recommend emotional counseling for a good number of people. If someone refuses to accept the context and intent of the image and simply wants to go with a knee-jerk reaction based on how things are today, over how they were 40 years ago, that is no one’s problem but their own. It’s not the fault of the comic publisher or anyone else. Period.

  31. “I agree with Heidi that these stories are a product of their times, 40-ish years ago, and should not be changed. But this cover is a product of today.”

    No, the cover is a product of art of the same time period as the stories. It is, in fact, taken for one of the stories within the volume. The art was not something NEW, which is why all this “outrage” is misplaced and ridiculous.

  32. I was really, really looking forward to my Showcase Batgirl edition. I’m a little sad that it will now be forever tainted. I want to focus on Batgirl actually getting her own Showcase edition (and that All Star Batgirl if it ever appears Geoff Johns).
    I wish the cover was less campy and more like the appearance cover art. It would have been a cool cover if she had just beat the tar out of the villians and then was girly enough to check her makeup in a sassy way. But since Batman and Robin are in the fight and she’s using her compact, that’s not so cool. As Oracle she’d be checking her iphone!

  33. If that shot of Batgirl fussing over her lipstick was typical of her behavior in the stories, then yes, that would be an appropriate cover. But it’s really not. That particular story, “Batgirl’s Costume Cut-Ups”, is unusally sexist — for the most part, even in those early years, Batgirl was shown to be just as smart, serious, and tough as her male counterparts. The Green Lantern Showcase cover doesn’t show him getting knocked out by a falling lamp. The Superman Showcase covers don’t show him being a dick. So why pick one of Batgirl’s more regrettable moments to feature on the cover? Her debut cover is a great, iconic shot — she’s front and center, charging into action, with Batman & Robin following behind. Would’ve been a much better, more representative choice.

    And really, that cover offends me more aesthetically than it does philosophically. DC puts out some sharp-looking product generally, so why do the Showcase covers all look like they were slapped together by an intern on their lunch hour?

  34. Yes, we all know the art is from an old story. But the decision to use it as the cover is a new decision, and they could just as easily have used a different piece of art. Therein lies the issue.

    The whole thing makes me think that DC views riling the female fandom as a marketing tactic, really.

  35. When I pulled our copies out of the box at my shop, I must admit I did a double take based on the shock of the original solicit being switched out for this one. I thought to myself, “Oh, this one’s gonna get us in trouble!” The last week has offered some surprises, however. We sold two copies, both to women. Both women were very excited to see a huge book of Batgirl tales and neither offered any worry about the cover. I don’t know what to make of it.

  36. “We sold two copies, both to women. Both women were very excited to see a huge book of Batgirl tales and neither offered any worry about the cover. I don’t know what to make of it.”

    That there is still SOME sanity left in the world.

    Oh, I’m sorry, that’s just what I make of your story. ;)

  37. What amuses me about this is that I basically have no knowledge of Barbara Gordon pre-Oracle, but her characterization as Oracle (read: at any given time, the smartest person in the room) just made me think “Oh, she’s just going to let Batman and Robin finish doing something stupid, then save their asses.”

  38. Heidi, hey… Umm… I’m not sure what the heck you are talking about? The subject of this post is not in it. Is there a flap about the new cover of the Batgirl Showcase book or something? Maybe the answer is in the previous 42 comments, but I did not read them for that. I would understand this much better if I knew what was under discussion.

  39. “What amuses me about this is that I basically have no knowledge of Barbara Gordon pre-Oracle, but her characterization as Oracle (read: at any given time, the smartest person in the room) just made me think “Oh, she’s just going to let Batman and Robin finish doing something stupid, then save their asses.””

    You win all my internets!

  40. “I don’t teach teenagers, and don’t find them to be … Each his own.”

    “Nor do many “old school” types. I consider it a prejudice that comes from people being set in a lifetime of ways. Please, don’t take that as a jab. It’s not meant as one …”

    No, I don’t need to interact with young people to “open my eyes.” And I don’t need to be talked down to. Although you might go back and reread your comments and apply them to that stereotypical “old school” line.

    And the Batman: Animated Series version is better.

  41. “No, I don’t need to interact with young people to “open my eyes.” And I don’t need to be talked down to. Although you might go back and reread your comments and apply them to that stereotypical “old school” line.”

    Rich, as I said before, “Please, don’t take that as a jab. It’s not meant as one.” I really meant that, but I’m sorry if I offended you. Also, I’m not saying anything bad about old school. I love the Animated Series. I know that it’s really good, but I also know that it’s a throwback to old school and that is what made it good. When I fallowed your link, I likewise saw the kind of art and comics you are into. I wasn’t talking down to you, any more then “Argh. Prepare the bamboo shoots, tie his wrists” was talking down to me, or at least I didn’t take it that way. All I was saying is that (I strongly feel) it’s wrong to dismiss young people.

  42. You know, I was thinking of picking this volume up until I saw the cover. I think I’ll wait until the second printing comes out with something on the cover that I won’t have to be embarassed to show the missus and kids.

  43. “Tom Stillwell Says:

    I’m just kind of bewildered there’s not one editor at DC that thought perhaps the cover might ruffle a few feathers.

    Or perhaps cared enough to not use the cover.

    Either way.”

    That’s what gets me, really. They have, what, a good 20-30 covers to choose from, and this is the one they pick? If it’s not active sexism, it’s certainly active stupidity.

  44. “I’m just kind of bewildered there’s not one editor at DC that thought perhaps the cover might ruffle a few feathers.”

    “If it’s not active sexism, it’s certainly active stupidity.”

    Or active press-grabbing.

    To be honest, I hadn’t even seen the cover until Heidi posted it. I thought the cover they were going with was the debut cover from Detective which, obviously, would have been the wiser move.

    I agree it is a completely bone-headed move to use this image as the cover, even considering the idea that it’s “representative” of the interior stories (which it really isn’t.)

  45. SHOWCASE PRESENTS: BATGIRL IS GENIUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ITS CAMP , JUST LIKE THE TV AND COMICS STORIES WERE! IT TOLD ME …S#IT ! DC GETS IT!!! ALL OF YOU THAT ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT IT ..DONT GET IT…BUT I UNDERSTAND YOUR PAIN…THATS WHY THERE SHOULD BE VARIANT COVERS SO EVERYONE WINS!