Harley Quinn by Eric Canete #DCWomen
Harley Quinn by Eric Canete #DCWomen
Here’s an interesting thought exercise, on the matter of the Batgirl variant cover that got pulled.
Batman had his back broken by Bane in the comics. Most people know this.
Let’s say the whole emphasis of Batman getting has back broken was to establish how much of a threat Bane is before he goes to fight Batgirl.
Let’s say the act of Batman having his back broken lasted for 20 years.
Let’s say that while there were no initial plans to use Bruce Wayne anymore, writers found a way to keep him around… so long as he stops being Batman, gets a completely different identity, and remains in a wheelchair.
For 20 years, Batman no longer exists. Every depiction in the comics of the character formerly known as Batman is now with the new identity.
How many Batman fans would scream bloody murder and demand DC Comics change everything back?
Social comic experiment:
If you believe Barbara Gordon was raped by the Joker on The Killing Joke, reblog this post.
If you don’t believe she was raped, then reblog this one: [click]
Important caveat: I don’t think she was raped. I think much, much worse was done to her.
Joker took countless pictures of her to use against Commissioner Gordon. All of those pictures were taken with deliberately pornography-inspired angles and poses. The implication is that Joker treated not her body, but her pain and suffering and the added psychological trauma she expressed as something pleasurable and erotic. Barbara didn’t have to know how the pictures would turn out to know that’s what he was doing.
I’m reblogging this one because even though what he did isn’t really rape, if forced to assign it one or the other, it fits best here.
When a dad walks into a comic bookshop with his middle school daughter, when a college age woman wants to check out what’s available or when a long time female reader wants to see what this new Batgirl run is all about, having this art on the cover would not do it justice. The targeted young female audience, interested in the fun, young, single Babs in the trendy city vibe of the new run, don’t need, and more honestly, don’t want a callback to her violent alternate story arc past. Those that want a trip to the darker Babs stories, can seek out the Killing Joke or Birds of Prey, but having such an abrupt bait-and-switch is not warranted. Nor does it fit any of the objectives that the DC or the new creative team having been trying to accomplish with Barbara’s current title.
Batgirl gets back up. Like Rubens’ Sabines, like Proserpina, she fights back. She inspires others to do the same. This cover? She’s not fighting. She’s not resisting. The Joker drapes himself over her like a blanket of fear, and she allows it. The cover removes her power, and leaves only her tears, her terror. There is all the hearkening back to her watershed moment, with none of the action or resistance of our similarly-structured classics. When I look at this image, I don’t only see Babs powerless. I see myself. Powerless.
Batgirl 41 – Joker Variant
On March 13th, DC Comics released a preview of 25 Joker-themed variant covers for their June books to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the character. Included in those covers was a variant cover for Batgirl #41 by artist Rafael Albuquerque.
Within hours of the Batgirl cover being released, critics were rallying around the hashtag #ChangeTheCover. As the pressure to…
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.
I don’t know who made this or why they’re so amazing, but this should be spread across the interwebs for all to see. The fan-edit on the right perfectly illustrates what’s “wrong” with the original cover better than anyone’s outrage.
This’ll be a quick and dirty post.
Everyone knows about the cover. It’s an homage to Killing Joke, with Joker threatening a bound and victimized Batgirl.
If you had asked me just three years ago about the cover, I would’ve said “DC should keep it, it’s just a variant cover.” I’ve grown up, broadened my perspective and learned more since then. Here is why the cover needed to be removed or changed.
This is an official product. It’s not a piece of fan work. Fan work, by the nature of it being fan work, simply asks questions and pushes boundaries. You can do a lot of things with fan work because at the end of the day, it can be ignored.
An official product cannot be ignored. An official product doesn’t just send a message that the company accepts certain content. The real problem is that what a company accepts and publishes can be considered canon.
In this case, DC putting out a cover where Batgirl is bound, weak and crying at Joker’s mercy, is what really defines who Batgirl is as a character. It says this is who Batgirl is, a traumatized victim of a psychopath, the same sort of psychopath she “stupidly” thought she could handle when she put on the cape and cowl.
Some people will cite cases of other characters getting victimized, like Jason Todd. I can’t begin to say how people would feel about a cover where Joker threatens to bash Jason Todd’s face in with a crowbar while he looks on in horror with tears streaming down his face.
What I can say is that it’s nowhere near comparable. Female characters have a history of getting treated like victims and damsels in need of rescue, something to view as dainty and fragile for strong, tough male heroes to save (or fail to save) from vicious, evil male villains.
When you play up Batgirl’s victimhood to promote Joker, you are in effect saying that deep down, any strong, tough female character is just a gooey fragile creature in over her head and waiting to be broken by the first psychopath she’s foolish enough to underestimate. She represents women as a whole, something Jason Todd does not do for men. There isn’t a history of making men into passive victims just to make women look more threatening. The same cannot be said for this cover.
So what’s the answer? Frankly, the cover could have been kept IF it had crucial changes. What the variant cover shows is a passive victim unable to save herself, unable to stand up for herself, her life and emotions held captive in Joker’s hands.
What the cover needed to make this scenario fine was an expression of resistance and a sign of her agency. Give Batgirl an angry glare toward Joker as I have seen in several mock-ups, and give her a tiny cue such as reaching for her belt or cutting away some ropes to show she’s actually doing something to save herself, and you’re fine. You’re golden. Joker can look threatening, Batgirl can look like the tenacious and capable young woman she is, the homage is kept and all’s fine.
If all you’re doing is demanding to have the cover kept intact exactly as is, then you’re not really looking at the cover. You’re only acting out to “stick it” to people that want it changed for reasons you’re too stubborn and egotistical to even take five seconds to try to understand.