Batgirl #41

Judging A Book By It's Cover

By: Dave Clark

We live in a world where we must be very careful of what we say and who we say it towards. We have to be exceedingly careful of offending every single person who may read our work, see our images, or watch our films. We must be sensitive to everything and everyone. So I’m not surprised to hear that the cover of a comic book has struck a nerve with so many people. The upcoming variant cover to Batgirl issue forty-one shows an image many Batfans will recognize. It’s a callback to the extremely seminal and important book, Alan Moore's The Killing Joke. It’s in this book that The Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon in front of her father, Commissioner James Gordon. For a very long time after this incident Barbara was confined to a wheelchair and operated as a hero under the name Oracle.

Photo: DC Comics

This new cover, a variant cover mind you, shows the new Batgirl in her new costume being held by The Joker in his stylish summer garb complete with sun hat and Hawaiian shirt, very much the look he had in The Killing Joke. He’s holding her with his left hand holding a pistol and his right hand pointing to her face which has a blood smeared smile drawn on it. One of the issues people seem to have with this cover is that Barbara is crying.

Photo: DC Comics

The argument is that a male hero character would not be caught crying on the cover of his book. I can understand this argument. I get it entirely. We want our women heroes depicted as strongly as we show our male heroes. That makes sense to me. We want all of our heroes to be people we can look up to, or respect equally. We deserve strong female characters. Now my question is…replace the character in the cover. So not Batgirl but Wonder Woman. Would Wonder Woman cry? Not likely. Would Hawkgirl? Probably not. Let’s cross brands and put a Marvel female in the role. Would Storm cry on the cover? Doubtful…unless she was also in a confined space (she has severe claustrophobia). So why would Batgirl be crying on the cover of her own book?

(Photo: DC Comics) In contrast, here's the Wonder Woman Joker #41 Variant Cover

The answer is pretty simple, she’s terrified. And she has every right to be. Do I feel like she’s less of a hero or character because of this? Not even a little. I love the Batgirl character and I think she’s a great role model for the young female audience that this book is meant for. I believe, if written properly this story of the Joker attacking her could be a powerful story of Barbara battling her demons and fears and make her even stronger…again this is all because of a variant cover which may have NOTHING to do with the story inside.

Another issue with the cover is that it highlights a particularly dark story. The Joker paralyzes Barbara and there is a connotation that a possible sexual assault may or may not have taken place within the story as well. This has never been confirmed, however. It can also be interpreted that Batman kills Joker at the end of the book. Something the Batman character is known to never do to his villains and again, there's no confirmation on this either.

The cover was drawn by Rafael Albuquerque and has since been pulled by DC Comics (at Albuquerque's request) due to the high number of people asking for it to be pulled amidst a huge argument on the internet. I understand both sides of the fight and I feel like it was mishandled. There were threats to those asking for it to be pulled by those who did not want it pulled and that is never acceptable. We as a Geek Community need to learn that we may disagree on a LOT of things that we’re very passionate about (Marvel vs DC being chief among them), but there’s a way to discuss these arguments. Be passionate but be respectful. Be strong in your opinion but also be intellectual. NEVER attack someone because they feel differently than you do. Stand for something, but do not belittle someone for disagreeing with you.

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,

— Albuquerque
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

This is a very dark cover. It's meant to be dark and its understandable why it would offend a few people. I feel this cover was great. I would’ve bought it simply for the cover and not even the story as I’m not a fan of the current direction of the Batgirl title. Now I won’t get to add it to my collection. And that’s okay too. Not having this cover is not the end of the world. But it is a sad statement on our reactions and our behavior as fans of the genre. 

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