Reported on CBR while I was driving home from work, DC Comics has decided to cancel the Batgirl #41 Joker variant that many felt was contradictory to the lighthearted tone of the book by calling back to scenes of implied sexual violence in the classic graphic novel, The Killing Joke. The decision to cancel the book was apparently made by artist Rafael Albuquerque, who issued the following 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,
Seems like a perfectly reasonable conclusion to me, and a commendable statement from Albuquerque. Unfortunately, that wasn't all. DC issued the following statement as well:
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
There were no specific examples of these threats of violence provided, which led many to believe that the threats were against Albuquerque or DC. Of course, this provoked a momentary sense of self-righteousness amongst the usual gang of people who think comics should have its own movement about ethics in gaming journalism, if you know what I mean. It also disgusted any reasonable people with opinions somewhere in the middle. Threatening violence only serves to discredit your argument, after all.
So I was in the process of writing up a condemnation of the threats, preparing to suck it up and eat crow with all the smug comments from the sorts of people who call me an "SJW" on a regular basis, when Batgirl writer Cameron Stewart spoke up to clarify the vague DC statement:
That's right, it wasn't the people who criticized the cover making threats. It was those people BEING THREATENED.
So there you go. Not only was the cover pulled, with a very reasonable statement from Albuquerque, but it was pulled at least in part BECAUSE of idiots who sent death threats to critics of the comic (and, let's face it, probably the women critics. I didn't get any death threats.)
Just for the record, Albuquerque also confirmed via Twitter that he wasn't threatened, and retweeted Stewart's comment as well:
And Stewart also went on to say that he and the creative team objected to the cover before it was even released, while at the same time not blaming Rafael Albuquerque at all. They felt it was not the right fit for their book (which, as we pointed out, it wasn't).
And now, to the people sending threats (who were, surprise, the same people who usually send threats):
That you would disagree with people's opinions on a cover is one thing. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. That you would be so angry at people criticizing a piece of art that you would threaten them with violence makes you the worst kind of human scum, no better than the terrorists who attacked the Charlie Hebdo headquarters or anyone else who tries to stifle speech or art with violence. You have the nerve to call people complaining about the cover "censors?" Get the fuck out of here.
Free speech of any kind should never be countered with physical force or violence. There is no idea out there so vile that it cannot be countered with opposing thoughts and ideas. If you threatened people because they didn't like a Batgirl cover, you should be ashamed of yourself.
And yes, that's basically what I would have said to the other side if they had been making the threats. I had to rework it a bit, obviously.
And now, to DC Comics:
For turning a popular series that was pushing comics forward into a lightning rod that will probably cause some people to drop it in protest of "censorship" because you were too tone deaf to see that cover was a bad idea in the first place, and for putting out a press release that's going to get erroneously cited until the end of time by misogynists looking to discredit arguments in favor of social justice, it has been 0 days since you did something stupid.
Even after making the CORRECT decision on the cover, you still managed to fuck things up.