Comic Cover Controversy Strikes Again
If you follow the comics industry on social media, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the latest variant cover to raise the gorge of readers. Rafael Albuquerque’s variant cover to Batgirl #41 was supposed to be 1 of 25 variant covers celebrating the Joker as a fixture of DC’s canon for over 50 years. Thanks to a vocal minority, Albuquerque and DC withdrew the cover before the launch, caving to an Internet uproar that is becoming all too common these days.
Seems like only yesterday we we’re clutching our pearls over Spider-Woman’s posterior. Those were the days…
I’m not a big Batgirl fan, but I do love the Dark Knight and his arch nemesis, the Clown Prince of Crime. Albuquerque’s cover was a shout out to Alan Moore’s seminal 1988 graphic novel, The Killing Joke. In it, the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon and photographs her in sexually suggestive poses, in a bid to drive Commissioner Gordon mad, to prove to Batman that a good man is only one bad turn away from madness like the Joker’s. It was gritty. It was raw.
It was, admittedly, nothing like the Batgirl title of today.
Still, The Killing Joke is part of the Barbara Gordon/Batgirl canon. It gave us her coolest incarnation, Oracle, the guiding voice in the Batman’s ear. It’s a part of comics history.
The last time we had this public kerfuffle over comic cover, it was about overt sexualization of Spider-Woman (a point I disagree with, incidentally, since Spider-Man is “guilty” of the same posturing). This time, it’s about Batgirl’s victimization at the hands of Joker. This time, I kinda see the naysayers’ point. It’s a decidedly creepy cover, and it’s certainly not representative of Barbara’s latest incarnation. I certainly wouldn’t buy it. But I wouldn’t stop someone who would.
And that’s the crux of it. Just because it’s not for me, doesn’t mean it isn’t for someone. Who am I to let my squick influence the ability for other consumers to make decisions for themselves? And it’s not like the cover in question was to be the only one available, or even the most plentiful. It was gonna be a variant. Now, no one has a choice.
Of course, while I find the cover a little distasteful, others may find it downright offensive, or (dare I even utter it…) triggering. While I can sympathize, my answer remains the same–don’t buy that one. Unfortunately, it’s not enough for some to exercise their own choice-making. They feel obliged to make the choice for all of us.
Gaming and comics are better for the growing inclusivity of recent years. But even as their audiences expand, I don’t think it’s fair to expect long time fans to relinquish their history with a franchise, or their preferences, for the sake of new fans. Least of all when the new kids often seem all too inclined to steam roll the landscape before planting their flag. And, to be perfectly frank, censorship in any form–whether by extremist act, government decree, or cryhards on Twitter–is unacceptable in a free society. Art doesn’t come with bubble wrap on the corners, and life doesn’t come with trigger warnings on the side of the box. If you don’t want it, don’t buy it.
DC, you’re in the wrong.