So, June is Joker month in the DCU, with variant covers for all the books featuring the lovable scamp once portrayed by Cesar Romero.

And last Friday, the variant cover for Batgirl #41 was revealed, by artist Rafael Albuquerque.

BG-Cv41-Joker-variant-solicitation-68d7f-600x910.jpg
The image is a call-out to The Killing Joke, the story by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland where the Joker kidnaps Barbara Gordon, strips her, shoots her through the spine, paralyzing her, and send pictures to Batman and Jim Gordon to make them feel bad.

It’s a powerful story, but also very much of its time in that superhero comics were just proving how dark, grim, gritty and painful they could be. And Barbara Gordon paid the price.

batgirl35

Now, however, she’s the chipper star of a cheerful superhero book, written by Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher and dawn by Babs Tarr, and the book has become the flagship title for a new kind of DC. A new, more inclusive DC.

And on those ground alone, the cover was rather inappropriate. As an image of the star of the book being physically and psychologically assaulted, it was even more disturbing. It’s a tribute to Albuquerque’s talent that the image clearly captures Batgirl’s fear and terror at the hands of the Joker.

Over the weekend, there was great objection. I had already started a round-up post with this storify and DC Women Kicking Ass teeing off.

And things got even more out of hand today with the #changethecover hashtag going up against the #dontchangethecover and all manner of really inane insults, threats and misunderstandings going out. It was less amusing and more heated than the Spider-Woman cover, even, because at the end of the day, a woman being brutalized (possibly sexually) is way more disturbing than a sexy ass.

But in the evening, East Coast time, Albuquerque stepped up and said he had requested the cover be pulled in a statement to CBR:

My Batgirl variant cover artwork was designed to pay homage to a comic that I really admire, and I know is a favorite of many readers. ‘The Killing Joke’ is part of Batgirl’s canon and artistically, I couldn’t avoid portraying the traumatic relationship between Barbara Gordon and the Joker.

For me, it was just a creepy cover that brought up something from the character’s past that I was able to interpret artistically. But it has become clear, that for others, it touched a very important nerve. I respect these opinions and, despite whether the discussion is right or wrong, no opinion should be discredited.

My intention was never to hurt or upset anyone through my art. For that reason, I have recommended to DC that the variant cover be pulled. I’m incredibly pleased that DC Comics is listening to my concerns and will not be publishing the cover art in June as previously announced.

With all due respect,
Rafa

DC Entertainment also released a statement

We publish comic books about the greatest heroes in the world, and the most evil villains imaginable. The Joker variant covers for June are in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the Joker.

Regardless if fans like Rafael Albuquerque’s homage to Alan Moore’s THE KILLING JOKE graphic novel from 25 years ago, or find it inconsistent with the current tonality of the Batgirl books – threats of violence and harassment are wrong and have no place in comics or society.
We stand by our creative talent, and per Rafael’s request, DC Comics will not publish the Batgirl variant. – DC Entertainment

NOW, a few things about that. As laid out by Jude Terror, DC’s statement was incredibly badly worded and made it sound like Albuquerque had been threatened, when in fact PEOPLE OPPOSING THE COVER HAD BEEN THREATENED.

Series writer Cameron Stewart and Albuquerque made it clear on Twitter that Albuquerque had not received any threats.

https://twitter.com/cameronMstewart/status/577656291839119362

However, it also became VERY CLEAR, that the Batgirl creative team themselves had raised objections to the cover from the start. (Variant covers are produced outside the editorial department.) And Stewart was very clear about this on Twitter. There were a gazilliion tweets about this, the below is just a selection.

https://twitter.com/cameronMstewart/status/577640395980607488
https://twitter.com/macattack50/status/577640818292314112
https://twitter.com/cameronMstewart/status/577641042910011392
https://twitter.com/macattack50/status/577641503121489920
https://twitter.com/cameronMstewart/status/577641920412913664

https://twitter.com/cameronMstewart/status/577643245892726784
https://twitter.com/cameronMstewart/status/577650915966062592
https://twitter.com/cameronMstewart/status/577639515227078657


https://twitter.com/cameronMstewart/status/577647491912482817


https://twitter.com/cameronMstewart/status/577659851519705092

https://twitter.com/cameronMstewart/status/577658661083996162

https://twitter.com/cameronMstewart/status/577666801661788160

 

https://twitter.com/zdarsky/status/577677053769568257

https://twitter.com/fionastaples/status/577657596682747904

https://twitter.com/macattack50/status/577646949056192512


https://twitter.com/jeffparker/status/577687490313621504
https://twitter.com/andykhouri/status/577694801417498624
https://twitter.com/andykhouri/status/577695578009706496

I have a few observations about this:

• This isn’t censorship; it’s reversing a bad marketing decision that should never have been made. Why was it a bad marketing decision? Because Batgirl is the standard bearer for a new view of DC and its characters. I wasn’t kidding about Cesar Romero. Before there was all this psycho sadism, face removal, fear of a homosexual relationship between Batman and the Joker, Heath Ledger in a dress and so on, The Joker was a character who used joy buzzers and exploding cigars as weapons, and tried to take over Gotham with a flying saucer.

• The point is, when character run as long as Batman and the Joker and Batgirl have, their portrayal changes to reflect the times. The Killing Joke is a good old story from another era. I know we all like all backs and tributes and homages, but this one was not the right image for a new initiative at a publishing company.

• To the people saying they aren’t going to read DC Comics any more…pandering to the base hasn’t worked for comics for a long time.

• If you really love that cover, download a high res jpeg and make yourself a handy little print of it for you own use in your own home. No one will tell on you.

• The abusive nature of the internet is a blight on our society.

Meanwhile, this may be the truest thing that was said about the whole thing:

https://twitter.com/cameronMstewart/status/577663033134198784

31 COMMENTS

  1. Don’t we already have the wheel invented for a writer who disagrees with a publisher’s manipulation of their written story: Release it, but credit Stewart as “The Original Writer.”

    Better: if DC wanted to shine on the drama (which it won’t do of course), it ought to instead release the print in a line of Batgirl-related fan girl clothing, like a babydoll tee. Or a much much larger poster.

    Silly but True

  2. It’s also not censorship because I’m LOOKING AT THE COVER RIGHT NOW, and it will be around, basically forever. A company has the right to not sell you a product. I get why they don’t want this variant. Put it on an issue where she’s actually fighting the Joker, maybe? Somewhere where it makes more sense?

  3. So both the artist of the variant and the creative team for the book asked to not have the cover released, and some folks are still calling it censorship? Oy vey.

  4. I should clarify, I don’t think the gamergater types were pulling Batgirl anyway, or else they’d see how inappropriate the cover would’ve been on the book. It’s OK to not be the target market for a comic book. It really is!

  5. I don’t see what the big deal is. I liked the cover, but I wasn’t going to buy it because I don’t read the comic. I just downloaded the cover and use it as a wallpaper for my phone. Now I get to see it all the time.

  6. Is it just from what I’m seeing, or is the level of freak-out that this cover is not being used, far greater than the freak-out that this cover was going to be used? Do we need to start putting “trigger warnings” on the internet, to the effect that the empathy-impaired are at risk of being sent into a violent rage by ideas that are not focused on their personal satisfaction?

  7. Seems like it’s something every other week with this book. I predict the comics companies will eventually cut loose attempts to appeal to the tumblr audience much like Hollywood did the hardcore comic fanbase when it came to the films.

  8. If the idea behind objecting to the cover is that Batgirl is a light-hearted, “girl power” book, that makes sense. If Batgirl is supposed to be like the main Bat-books, I’m not sure I understand the objection.

    Mike

  9. One thing, though. If there ever going to be an apology for all the mockery and derision directed at fanboys who wailed over things being done to THEIR favorite characters? ‘Cause the only difference here is in whose ox is being gored.

    Mike

  10. “Is depicting Batgirl as a teenage airhead taking a selfie a more “positive” image than a shot of her as a victim?”

    Is taking a selfie the mark of an airhead?

  11. Yeah, where did pandering to the comic book fans ever get Hollywood?

    Hey, so any news on those next 12 Avengers movies?

    You’re making the classic mistake of assuming the hardcore fans are the mainstream. Hollywood made the same mistake for a long time. Pandering to the hardcore got wasted marketing money at Comic-con without a major increase in ticket sales to compensate and stuff like the 2003 Daredevil, 2004 Punisher, and (the God-awful) Superman Returns.

    Going mainstream and mass appeal allowed Marvel Studios to build billion dollar franchises. If it was up to the hardcore then Guardians of the Galaxy would have been a shot-for-panel version of one of their medium quality plot/low-medium quality dialogue comic stories rather than Comic Super-Hero Star Wars.

  12. I like KateS wants the opinions of the fans who agree with her respected, but says nothing about respecting the fans who don’t agree, since it seems in her mind, those opinions don’t seem to matter. Just always your own and those who agree with you.

  13. Talk about a storm in a teacup.
    It’s a fine cover that pays hommage to an influential comic, that despite being, arguably, one of Alan Moore’s lesser works still manages to be one the best Batman/Joker stories.
    Does it fit the tone of the current Batgirl comics? No. However it was a variant cover created for a variant cover theme celebrating the Joker, so in that aspect I think it fulfilled its purpose.
    Nevertheless DC made the editorial decision to drop the cover, which is absolutely their prerogative, a decision that was supported by the current creative team behind the book and Rafael Albuquerque.
    This is a non-controversial controversy, inflated by the call out rhetoric on social networks and the ensuing reactionary responses, both of which, as has come to be expected, reached embarrassing levels of silliness and virulence.

  14. 100% Cover was dropped and pulled as a publicity stunt. Any press is good press, and this book loves a controversy. There is no way anyone at WB is so tone deaf as to force this sort of thing on a fan base already riled up by trans controversy from previous issue unless it turned a profit. As a bonus, this sets up a David vs. Goliath narrative between the writers and WB, further insulating the artists from blame as they probe the new SJW demographic. These people don’t make mistakes like this, seriously, WB makes billions a year. BILLIONS. like more than one. Ya’ll got played … and I think you like it.

  15. So, Alan Moore has disavowed The Killing Joke and said it was never meant to be canon.
    Rafael asked the cover to be withdrawn.
    Fans of the book didn’t want it.
    The creative team on the book didn’t want it on the cover and lobbied behind the scenes to not have it solicited.

    So….who was this for? Who wanted it?

  16. I’ve never been more ashamed to be a DC Comics fan than I am at this time, after learning the original cover is being pulled. I had no idea my favorite publisher had become so completely gutless and squeamish whenever the overly sensitive type try to make a big deal out of a non-issue such as this. There is nothing that is too shocking or graphic about this cover. Instead of folding up like a cheap tent, how about you stand your ground next time instead?

  17. That’s why a masterpiece like Basic Instinct would never be produced nowadays, it’s too disturbing to nowadays audience. The bland Gone Girl? That’s fine. Some people see rape in the image but all I see is Joker as the ultimate bogeyman. Rafael’s cover is a great horror piece but according its haters Batgirl readers aren’t mature enough to absorb it.

  18. Anyone who thinks this industry is “HEALTHY” and “GROWING” is either crazy or doesn’t look at the sales figures. The midlist is getting hollowed out, there’s a huge dropoff past the top three of four titles, all these “diverse” books are dropping like stones and most of the top 300 are at levels that would have gotten them automatically cancelled when at a time when no one thought the industry was doing well. Look at Valiants’ entire line. DC is driving away paying customers in hopes that they’ll be replaced by new ones, but I don’t know that’s going to work.

  19. Back to this story- this is a simple tone issue. Batgirl is a humor title. That’s a horror cover. Not appropriate for the book. Not a political issue.

  20. the top digital books being sold is vastly different than the top in-direct store books being sold. and, as we see reported on this site over and over again, an entirely different crop of reader is buying comics in the book store market. the long game is your friend.

  21. Does your long game factor in piracy? If American comics do find an audience digitally they have already made the pirates job easier. Manga sales were over $200 million in the US just a few years ago, they’re around $70 million now. Ask any manga-oriented retailer who closed up shop they won’t give you any TechDirt BS. They’ll tell you straight they lost their business because of piracy. I like digital but comixology.com certainly is no iTunes in terms of sales. Digital is still a fraction of paper sales.

  22. As I get older, I have a hard time getting outraged (or caring at all) about what DC and Marvel do with their corporate-owned characters. I just can’t take this stuff that seriously.

    But if you want to get outraged over a variant cover, check out the one for Black Widow No. 16. Looks like Marvel is entering the fetish porn genre.

    http://www.comics.org/issue/1331071/cover/4/

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