Monday, March 16, 2015

DC Pulls Controversial Batgirl Joker Variant at Artist Request

For the 75th Anniversary of the Joker, DC Comics has been releasing a series of variant covers for many of their books, depicting the Joker invading the different stories of the DC Universe. It's a tried and true tactic, but one that backfired in their face when they revealed the variant for Batgirl #41, as drawn by Raphael Abuquerque. Now, after an outcry from fans, the artist has requested that DC pull the cover entirely.

The cover, which hearkens back to the Alan Moore story "The Killing Joke," was found to be disturbing by many in the community. We have the picture below the jump break, but please be warned it can be pretty triggering.

In the story, "The Killing Joke," the Joker shows up at Barbara Gordon's house and puts a bullet in her spine as she answers the door. It's been interpreted by many after the fact (with some solid evidence) that the Joker also sexually assaulted the character, making this cover inappropriate both to fans and to the character.

Days after the cover was revealed, the #changethecover campaign picked up on Twitter, and today, Abuquerque released a statement explaining that he had requested DC not run the cover. Here it is:

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,

That's a classy response, and I respect him for it. He made clear that it was not his intention to create the reaction he did, but still took responsibility for it. More artists could learn from this.

Then DC released their own 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 

In other words, "You shouldn't have been offended, you suck, we know best." Great work, DC, clearly you're still very much in touch with your fandom.

What do you guys think? Should the cover have been removed?

UPDATE: DC's stance has been clarified - not by DC, of course. Batgirl writer Cameron Stewart tweeted out this today:

That makes DC's response make a little more sense...but perhaps they need to get one of their writers (or, based on Rafael's statement above, one of their artists) to draft up their responses in the future.

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