Earlier this week, at the request of artist Rafael Albuquerque, DC Comics canceled the Batgirl #41 Joker variant that many people found to be, to put it mildly, a very poor fit for the book. When DC made the announcement, they referenced threats of violence, leading many to believe that Albuquerque or DC were threatened. Albuquerque and Batgirl writer Cameron Stewart clarified on Twitter that it was not people against the cover that were making threats, but rather, they were the ones being threatened. Read about that here.
Albuquerque took to Brazilian website UOL Entertainment today to talk more about his decision. The interview is in Portuguese, and despite my Portuguese heritage, I don't speak a word of it.
So we're going to have to rely on Google Translate here. My apologies for the awkwardness of that translation method (and if you speak Portuguese and want to offer a better translation, please feel free to send it to me and I'll update the article).
UPDATE: a Portuguese reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, was kind enough to translate the interview for us, so I've replaced the Google translated versions below with better ones.
First up, Albuquerque explains that the cover itself was not the problem, but the pairing with the lighthearted Batgirl book:
I think that the cover brought up many interpretations. The problem isn’t the cover itself, but the comic it would be published in. A comic book that targets the teenage female audience shouldn’t have a cover so heavy as this. Regardless of who is wrong or right, the cover I made doesn’t serve the purpose it should have.
He also said that it wasn't pressure that caused him to ask the cover to be removed, but realization that the cover was a mismatch for the book's audience and tone, and that freedom of speech was not misused in criticizing the cover:
I see a lot of people commenting on freedom of expression and that I yielded to pressure. I have always stood up for minorities. I believe that it’s the right thing to do. I don’t think that a comic book that has the intention to raise the self-esteem of women and girls should have a cover that suggests otherwise. In another comic, maybe it made sense. But not for the actual Batgirl comic. Freedom of expression also means not saying what you don’t want to say, and that was exactly what I did here.
On sexism in comics:
The industry in general has always been sexist. We are used to it and we are living a moment of openness in this industry. It is important to review our opinions and values. I believe that, regardless of each other’s position, dialogue and respect are fundamental so that the industry won’t end up divided. Respect is my main flag here.
On internet discourse:
I believe that, regardless of your position about the cover, for feminism or freedom of speech, it is important to learn to listen. To empathize with whoever has a different opinion from yourself. To put yourself in the other person's shoes and consider. Discussion on the internet tends to turn into childish tantrums, from one side or the other. I think criticism is always welcome. But the respect for the artist, the publisher and for the ones that disagree is always what validates the criticism. Freedom of speech can’t only be about what you like or what you want. Freedom has to come with responsibility.
Can't say we disagree with anything he said. Rafael Albuquerque is a class act, and he made the right decision. Check out the interview in full here if you speak Portuguese.
(Image at top of article from Albuquerque and Scott Snyder's American Vampire, a great book you should check out if you like horror.)