I mean, a Batgirl Cover got people steaming, people got mad at the idea of Sam Wilson sleeping with an underage girl (which was bogus), and so on, how would the internet have acted with things like the School bus explosion in New X-Men, or Wallflower getting sniped in the head and then her body being transformed into a robot, and the many other really over the top grim stuff that happened during that time? This wasn’t even a decade ago!
Would that have flown at all these days?
People would’ve reacted just about the same way today as they did back then to all of the scenarios you presented.
Many people were pissed about M-Day, and they’re still pissed today, for good reason. Perhaps even moreso now than back then, because Marvel is trying to slowly and methodically undermine the entire X-Men franchise and replace it with the Inhumans franchise all because of a film rights spat with Fox.
The school bus explosion was a single story moment that killed off a bunch of incredibly obscure characters. No characters considered significant in pop culture died from the explosion.
I have no idea who Wallflower is, so I can’t comment.
People criticized the Batgirl cover, and got threatened by assholes on the internet for making that criticism (which was the most important reason the artist asked for the cover to be pulled), because of the implications of that cover. And understanding those implications can’t be properly conveyed in a 1-2 sentence summary.
If the Batgirl cover was a piece of fan work, we would be in entirely different territory. Fan work can present all kinds of interpretations. But this was an officially licensed product sanctioned by DC. For many fans out there, DC putting out this cover is essentially DC saying to the world that this is what defines Batgirl.
Why is that a problem? Because unlike more obscure characters, Batgirl represents something more and much greater than simply being a character.
As Batgirl, her determination, wits, and courage inspire a lot of people. There are young girls who look up to Batgirl as an idol. And I mean that to include past decades, women that are adults today who were shaped by Batgirl in their youth.
As Joker’s victim from The Killing Joke, the events of that comic became one of the most important elements of the character’s whole history. The story of how she suffered, adapted, coped and eventually triumphed over that trauma is an especially important story arc. It took decades to develop as such.
And I’m not even talking about differences in tone between victimized women and victimized men in fiction as a whole. That’s a whole other ball game.
After decades of development, we have in Batgirl an intensely important character from pop culture who serves as an example of overcoming past trauma to realize one’s potential. Batgirl surpassed the victim identity and showed she deserves to be considered a hero.
… And then the Batgirl variant cover says the exact opposite. The Batgirl variant cover people asked DC to drop presented Batgirl not as the tough, smart young woman she struggled to show herself to be, but as a helpless, trembling victim.
The message it sends is this: “Deep down, Batgirl is no hero. She’s only a pretender. Deep down, she’s a sobbing wreck of a victim that can’t even save herself, and that’s what really defines who she is as a character.”
There were ways to make that cover work just fine with minor changes. Instead of Batgirl horrified and crying, show her glaring angrily at the Joker, as many have mocked up. Instead of Batgirl passively standing there, show her sneakily reaching for her belt, or cutting her bonds.
In other words, present Batgirl with some resistance and agency in the face of the psychopath’s threats. Joker is no less threatening for it; he managed to tie Batgirl up and smear makeup on her face to rub it in, after all, implying he could’ve killed or tortured her up to that point if he wanted.
Would people have still complained? Certainly. I can guarantee people would’ve complained anyway. But the complaints would have been fewer and far less justified. Case in point, I would’ve been fine with the cover I just described, but I’m not fine with the one DC presented.
Artistic freedom is great, it’s how we form new ideas. But artistic freedom does not mean freedom from criticism, regardless of which of the two a person is doing, nobody deserves to be threatened for it.
I’m not saying you condone the threats in any way, for clarification. This is simply a final statement.