Batgirl Variant Cover Controversy

Batgirl Variant Cover Controversy

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Updated Jun 15, 2015 at 04:38PM EDT by Don.

Added Mar 18, 2015 at 02:13AM EDT by Mistress Fortune.

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The Batgirl Variant Cover Controversy refers to an online debate regarding a variant cover art for the comic Batgirl, in which the female superhero is shown crying while the villain Joker smears a red smile across her face. Critics argued that the cover victimized the superhero and removed her agency, with some arguing it was not appropriate for the audience, and others arguing that it showcased a social issue. This led to the creation of the hashtag "#ChangeTheCover" in March 2015.


In March 2015, DC Comics released a sneak peek at a Joker-themed variant cover drawn by artist Rafael Albuquerque for issue 41 of the comic Batgirl, created as an homage to Alan Moore's iconic 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke (shown below). Albuquerque had originally submitted a more tame cover, but was asked to redraw it by marketing. [12]

Notable Developments


Controversy over the artwork soon appeared on Twitter on March 13th, leading to the creation of the hashtag campaign "#ChangeTheCover"[6] urging DC Comics to pull the cover art. Some people, such as Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson, claimed that the cover was victimizing a hero that was supposed to be optimistic for young adults (shown below, left). Others claimed the artwork could be upsetting for victims of sexual assault and that the depiction of Batgirl as a helpless victim removed her agency.

Follow G. Willow Wilson @GWillowWilson Batgirl is not a hero on that cover. She's a victim. She's terrified. She's being physically restrained. It looks like a snuff film. 2:37 PM-17 Mar 2015 127 RETWEETS 200 FAVORITES Follow Hannah @ophelipry #changethecover DC Comics, glamorizing sexual assault is disgusting shame on you 6:11 PM-14 Mar 2015 RETWEET 3 FAVORITES

The hashtag had been tweeted by thirty-nine accounts before criticism of the hashtag appeared.

Cover Cancellation and Confusion

On March 16th, Albuquerque announced that he recommended DC Comics pull the cover after discovering that many found it upsetting:

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.

DC issued the following statement alongside Albuquerque's:

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.

This led to confusion as to what persons or groups had received harassment, with some thinking Albuquerque had received threats, and numerous people were upset with DC's unclear statement.[13] The DC stupidity clock was reset in response.[14]

Cameron Stewart and Rafael Albuquerque later clarified the statement on twitter (shown below).

Rafael Abuquerque @rafaalbuquerque Follow Ill talk more about it tomorrow but I was never threatened. just to make it clear. Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul わt3 RETWEETS FAVORITES 64 61 7:00 PM-16 Mar 2015 Cameron Stewart @cameronMstewart Follow Something to clarify, because DCs statement was a little unclear. @rafaalbuquerque did not get threats. People OBJECTING to the cover did わt3 RETWEETS FAVORITES 138 7:22 PM-16 Mar 2015 71


After it was announced that the cover would be pulled, the hashtag #SaveTheCover[5] was launched in retaliation by those who disagreed with the decision, arguing that social justice warriors were overreaching by using social media campaigns to censor artwork (shown below).

Follow Daddy Warpig @Daddy_Warpig So, what did DC Comics say yesterday? "Hoy SJWW, if you'r offeniexi, claim or fake death ithreais and we'll censor anything!" #SaveTheCover 1:31 AM-17 Mar 2015 29 RETWEETS 32 FAVORITES Follow Kukuruyo @kukuruyo As a comic artist i feel ashamed that an artist has to auto- censor his own work for fear, this is why we need #GamerGate #SaveTheCover 7:04 AM - 17 Mar 2015

On March 18th, Redditor Slipper Thong posted examples of Batman comic art in which the male superhero was victimized in what some considered similar to the controversial Batgirl cover on the /r/TumblrinAction[4] subreddit (shown below). Within 24 hours, the post gained over 4,700 votes (95% upvoted) and 1,000 comments.


Artist Response

Cameron Stewart, a writer and artist for Batgirl, responded to the hashtags by issuing a statement agreeing that the cover was too dark for the tone of the comic, and was at odds with the new Batgirl mythos (below, left). He also tweeted that the cover had not been censored, and that the entire team was in agreement with pulling the cover (below, right).

Cameron Stewart @cameronMstewart Following The cover was not seen or approved by anyone on Team Batgirl and was completely at odds with what we are doing with the comic. t3 Cameron Stewart @cameronMstewart Following So, we have the creators of the book and the artist himself all agreeing that the cover was inappropriate. There's no "censorship" 13 here. わt

Albuquerque, in an interview with the Brazilian website UOL, said that the decision to pull the cover was his. He said that he had not been censored, and that choosing not to go ahead with the cover was part of his freedom of expression. He asserted that both the criticism of the cover being too dark and the criticism of it reflecting on gender issues were both completely valid.[12]

I do not think a comic that aims to raise women's self-esteem should have an image that may suggest otherwise. In another comic, maybe that image made sense. Not for the current Batgirl comic. Freedom of expression also means not saying what you do not want to say, and it was exactly the right that I exercised here.

On March 19th, Cameron Stewart tweeted a link to a Multiversity Comics "HOOQ" that discusses the controversy in the second half. On the issue of sexual violence against women, Will Brooker stated that few people are likely to get hit with a crowbar or have their backs broken in real life, but many will be sexually abused. Sam LeBas agreed, saying that she, as a rape survivor, found Batgirl – in her new costume – put back into that situation to be discouraging. She also stated, before Will Brooker's comment, that referring to the people critical of the cover as "not comic readers" is an assumption she can not agree with.[15]

Cameron Stewart @cameronMstewart Mar 19 And I would urge everyone to read this courageous piece by@comi @willbrooker) /annotations/th csonice (with 55 ★ 60

News Media Coverage

In the coming days, several news sites published articles about the online controversy, including Paste Magazine,[7] Vox,[8] The Independent,[9] The Guardian[10] and Mashable.[11]

Search Interest

External References

[12] Bleeding Cool – Albuquerque Was Asked To Make Batgirl Cover More Extreme

[13] The Outhousers – DC Cancels Controversial Batgirl Variant, Cites Threats of Violence

[14] Has DC done something stupid today?

[15] Multiversity Comics – The Burnside HOOQ-Up: “Batgirl” #40 and Response to Joker Variant

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Top Comments

Kung Fu Cthulhu
Kung Fu Cthulhu

in reply to Kung Fu Cthulhu

Barbara Gordon wasn't actually raped in The Killing Joke. That's just an interpretation of Alan Moore's comic that he said he did not mean to convey. I don't blame people for seeing it that way (the way the photos of her writhing in pain do look suggestive), but it's retarded that people are crying "rape" here when it's just a simple "the villain holds a hero's loved one hostage" picture. This is a dumber cause for controversy than that Spider-Woman cover that a few idiots complained about.


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