So the Batgirl Joker Variant controversy has gone global. The story about DC Comics pulling the Batgirl #41 Joker variant at the request of its artist Rafael Albuquerque has been reported by The Guardian, Paste Magazine, Inquistr, Mary Sue, HitFix, and Daily Caller giving us the least accurate headline “Social Justice Puritans Convince Artist To Pull Batgirl Comic Book Cover”. There is no sign of this stopping, expect this on CNN, @Midnight, Fox News and more.
So I would like to reiterate what I thought was the problem with the cover, as Bleeding Cool was an early reporter on the issue over the weekend.
It is not that it showed Batgirl in peril, or even in distress.
It is not that the cover is not representative of the insides, that is common with variant cover programs.
It is not that it showed The Joker being a very bad man indeed.
It is not that The Killing Joke is a bad comic. Its authors may no longer agree, but I believe The Killing Joke is a fine comic book.
It is not that it’s one rule for men and one rule for women.
It is not a puritanical drive to rid comics of either the salacious or the disturbing.
It is not that it is in any way a bad piece of artwork. It may have emotional triggers for some, but that is not a reason not to use it as the cover of a comic book.
It is, that of all the comics for it to appear on, Batgirl right now, is the wrong one. A year ago, it would have been a lot more acceptable, given the darker tone of that book, and there may have been a reaction against it, but not to this extent.
But Batgirl was reinvented and relaunched as a light’n’brighty, female positive, progressive fun comic book. It found an audience that wasn’t being served by mainstream superhero comic books and brought them into the fold. It represented something new, and became totemic for that approach. It was a rejection of The Killing Joke, it was a rejection of the tone of the New 52 Batgirl, it was an attempt to forge a new identity and, in turn, has seen DC remodel much of their line in June, not as a copycat, but to find other new audiences that might be out there. And internally nicknamed in DC Comics as “Batgirling”. It is as appropriate to put that cover on the new Batgirl comic book, as it would be to put this cover on something as much loved and revered as The Killing Joke.
This cover seemed a slap in the face to all that. It represented all that the current Batgirl title was trying to get away from. And for those with an emotional connection to the new direction of Batgirl, it was felt very hard indeed.
The decision to change the cover was made internally this weekend at DC Comics, after concern was expressed by the creative and editorial team. The cover had been commissioned by DC’s marketing team and the first time the creative team saw it was when it hit solicitations.
DC Comics have chosen to spin this, by releasing statements that the artist Rafael Albuquerque had asked for the cover not to be used after threats of violence – though it took the comic’s writer Cameron Stewart to point out that these threats were those made against people who objected to the cover having their lives threatened on social media. And while that did indeed happen, the release was also a little disingenuous on DC Comics’ part.
Just as when the PR side of the company countered Joshua Hale Fialkov‘s decision to walk off Green Lantern Corps after being told to kill off DC’s most prominent black superhero John Stewart, only for DC PR to state that there were no plans to kill of the character, without adding the word “anymore” to the end.
So the decision here was made far earlier, for different reasons, and had little to do with the social media backlash, and backlash to the backlash that followed. So for people condemning Rafael for “giving in” to social media, that’s not what happened at all.
When Rafael expressed his concerns, the decision had already been made. Internal concern at DC Comics had been expressed, the argument had been made and the change had gone down. But by announcing it to the world in this way, we can encouraged to see DC following the wishes of the artist who drew the piece in question, and not exposing the rift in decision making within DC Comics.
And with so many titles being “Batgirled” in June and July, they may need new procedures for the next time there is such a clash. Or possibly to avoid one in the first place.
But for those, like Adam Baldwin, who want to “save the cover”…
— Adam Baldwin (@AdamBaldwin) March 17, 2015
May I recommend you pick up next week’s Diamond Previews catalogue? It may well be the only place the cover ever appears in print.
Now, @mundanematt the censored cover is far more visible than it would have been had they just ran with it.
— Adam Baldwin (@AdamBaldwin) March 17, 2015
That’s probably okay, Adam. It’s being on the cover of the new Batgirl comic that caused the problem. Being on a website being seen by millions is perfectly fine…