Judging A Book By Its Cover : The Killing Joke Inspired Variant Cover Pulled
Edgy. Edgy is a word that perfectly describes all forms of media that push the envelope just enough. Throughout the years, you see that line being pushed further and further; unfortunately we also see it being pushed back. DC Comic’s latest variant cover for Batgirl #41, designed by Rafael Albuquerque, is the latest piece of art that has produced outcry over its content. The cover, which pays homage to one of the most seminole graphic novels by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, Batman: The Killing Joke, was pulled by DC after recommendation from Rafael Albuquerque. You can read Albuquerque’s and DC’s statements below as first released by Comic Book Resources.
Rafael Albuquerque’s Statement:
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,
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
The Killing Joke is nearly unanimously agreed upon as the best Joker origin story out there. It’s the comic that people will tell you is a must read, no matter what you like. I just began reading comics a month ago, and it was my second comic purchase ever. It is really that good. The gritty ruthlessness of what we know as The Joker today has clear ties to The Killing Joke of 1988. The whole mantra that “one bad day” can turn anyone into a psychopath was established in this origin story. Be forewarned that the following will contain spoilers so if you want to avoid those as best you can, buy The Killing Joke and/or skip through this next paragraph.
In one of the more iconic scenes in The Killing Joke, Joker shoots Barbara Gordon in the stomach, and the bullet damages her spine thus rendering her disabled. (If you want more back story check out Liz Fennegans take on the variant cover). He proceeds to take photographs of her in a manner of undress and, while not definitively shown, some may interpret that a sexual assault could have occured. This is all to further torment Jim Gordon by forcing him to look at the images. Brutal? Yes. But should a variant cover paying homage to such an impactful scene be pulled because it is tasteless to some? Most definitely not.
It’s obvious to note that as individuals, we all have different tastes. Some of us enjoy romance novels, others sci-fi and others just don’t enjoy reading at all and so on. And that is perfectly okay. It’s these tastes that allow us to pursue our individuality. I generally don’t care for romance novels; therefore, I don’t seek them out. It’s plain and simple. The same goes for movies, art and any other form of media. Since it’s so prevalent within the media at the moment, 50 Shades of Grey is the perfect talking point. From what I’ve heard about those that have both liked and disliked the novel, it clearly is not for my tastes. But, just because it may be tasteless to me doesn’t mean it should be inaccessible to others. And we have to remember, it is fiction after all. Should women be depicted more than they are? Definitely. Are women constantly having to fight for more exposure and more even exposure to men? Just about every day. But, that doesn’t mean that because you view art in a different way than I, that you should be able to make said art inaccessible to me. And I don’t feel an homage, while edgy, should be pulled due to it being tasteless to certain individuals.
It could easily be argued that those people that created an uproar and made both the artist and DC second-guess their artistic choices are not avid comic books fan and simply heard about why comic fans were clamoring over the great cover. And maybe some comic book fans didn’t like it either. But, whether you have a pitch fork in your hand or not, it’s clear to see that a person’s creative expression was severely hindered here. Bravo to you for perpetuating that your opinion on an artist’s intentions were, in some way, demeaning towards women. High-five for forcing the hands of creatives to bow to your pedantic arguments on something of which you probably don’t have any knowledge, just simply fabricating assumptions of the content via the cover, which is quite off-base considering it’s a variant cover anyway.
If you’re concerned about artistic integrity and creative vision – that’s what we’re doing. Keeping the integrity of our book intact.
— Cameron Stewart (@cameronMstewart) March 17, 2015
So, we have the creators of the book and the artist himself all agreeing that the cover was inappropriate. There’s no “censorship” here.
— Cameron Stewart (@cameronMstewart) March 17, 2015
Interestingly enough, Cameron Stewart, Co-writer/artist of BATGIRL claims that there was no censorship, but it is hard to see that point considering I’m sure he saw the cover before it went public. If it was due to the team agreeing that it didn’t fit the new story and target audience Batgirl is trying to reach, I highly doubt it would have ever seen the light of day. Alas, the decision was made, and the pulling of the cover was mutually agreed upon by the artists/writers and DC, for whatever reason.
It’s time that we allow creatives to express themselves and not have to second-guess every decision, considering it is indeed fiction. That scene shapes Barbara and is an integral part of her transformation; seriously read Liz Fennegans article about Barbara’s transformation from side-kick to superhero. She says it far better than I can. Hopefully this doesn’t continue to happen because, what appears to be censorship is a long and dark road to go down, and in the end, no one gets the last laugh.