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On Pulling That “Killing Joke” ‘Batgirl’ Cover

I don’t want to run the risk of contributing to an already crowded room with the controversy surrounding DC Comics decision to pull Rafael Albuquerque’s variant cover for June’s issue of ‘Batgirl’ #41.

As you may or may not know, “Batgirl” has gone through a youthful transition as of late. The title has a renewed sense of optimism akin to what it was like when Mark Waid took over Daredevil. “Batgirl” has never been a title where the main character has gone through a long slog through a depressing hell, but there was a time. Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, took the character and pushed her to the limit. It was an attempt to make Commissioner Gordon go insane, but saw his daughter permanently disabled at the hands of The Joker.  It often is cited as one of the best Batman stories of all time, but here today, when violence against women is no longer a narrative device in comics, it’s not cool.

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I mean, a cover is something NOBODY can opt out of. It’s something on display on the shelves, and it’s something that you can’t control your gut reaction to. And the image is haunting. It has a vague tone of sexual violence that can’t be denied amidst a slew of other covers featuring the clown prince of crime that are comparatively happy in their own right. The reality of comics, and mainstream superhero books is that the scales have been out of balance for a very long time.

Luckily DC Comics has been making a valiant effort to restore some semblance of gender equality in their titles. Batgirl doesn’t have a boob-window, and her costume is more practical than sexy… finally. But releasing this cover shouldn’t be considered a misstep on their path to righteousness. It’s an oversight at best. Variant covers are not for everybody, they’re for the avid fans, the ones who get the reference, the ones who know how “Batgirl” overcame this bad history.

But, here’s the kicker with being a huge company, they have to be treated like they’re for everybody. You can’t have some 14 year old girl who loves “Batgirl” with all her heart see this cover and send her down the horrible path to Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke it’s not what this book is about. It’s not what comics are about either, comics are about community, and being included. Taking this cover off the shelves wasn’t just a good decision, it was the only one, because you can’t opt out of a cover, but you can opt out of whatever is inside.

Whether or not the image was made in good taste is beside the point. I for one love it, but I get why it doesn’t work. It’s scary, it’s tonally inconsistent with the book, and it’s not very empowering. The correct way to do this cover, reverse the roles. Have Batgirl overcome this black dot on her history by showcasing her ability to overcome The Joker with a smile.

In DC’s official statement on the situation, it’s indicated that “threats of violence and harassment” were made following the release of the image. Both Albuquerque and DC Entertainment’s full statements on the cancellation of the cover follow in full.

Rafael Albuquerque:

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:

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



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