Batgirl #41 Joker Cover Controversy Roils DC and the Comics World
Once again, DC Comics, as a corporate entity, has put its foot into it again. Similar to the 2014 controversy over the over-sexualization of a teen-aged female superhero in the Teen Titans series, we now are seeing the fallout over a variant cover for the upcoming Batgirl #41.
Variant covers are a trick used by the comic book companies (and other magazine publishers) to get fans and comic book collectors to purchase multiple copies of a title in order to collect all the various versions of the cover art. In many cases, this gives fans a nice choice, as a favorite artist who is not a regular on a title may be commissioned to create a variant cover. Other times, however, a variant cover may have little or nothing to do with what is actually going on inside the book.
And then there are those special times when a company, in the throes of ogling their profit margins, goes over the line and actually offends the very audience they have built up for a particular title. That is what is happening with the covers commissioned for Batgirl #41.
While DC's New 52 continuity and universe rolled out with quite a few problems and controversies, they actually did a great job on the new Batgirl series. She had a talented creative team, including female writer Gail Simone, and, more recently, a great artist in Babs Tarr. Batgirl appealed to female fans, and DC had a genuine hit.
Batgirl #41 Original Cover That DC Announced Will Now Be The ONLY Cover. Notice There Is NO Joker Here
Then came along "Joker Month." To celebrate the Clown Prince of Crime, DC planned on having Joker show up on covers all over the DC Universe, not just in the Bat-Books. Ok, nothing wrong with that...after all, Joker is considered by many to be the #1 super villain in all of comic-dom
. But the variant cover for the Batgirl book reflected a bit of misogynistic Joker history. To be clear, Joker IS a misogynist; that is, a hater and abuser of women. Just see how he treats his girlfriend Harley Quinn!
The variant cover by artist Rafael Albuquerque
shows Joker, who, by the way, is wearing a purple fedora, threatening and terrorizing a clearly frightened Batgirl. She is held at both knife and gun-point. To anyone with historical knowledge of Batman, Batgirl, and/or Joker, this is a clear reference to "The Killing Joke," one of the most iconic, yet also one of the most disturbing Joker tales in the long Bat-Pantheon. In this story, published in 1988, Joker tries to literally break Commissioner Gordon. In the process, Joker shoots and paralyzes the Commissioner's daughter, Barbara Gordon, paralyzing her. It is implied in the story, though not shown, that Joker may have sexually assaulted her as well, though that point is kept unclear in the story. While considered one of the best pieces of Batman literature, it is also deeply disturbing. In the New 52, Barbara Gordon (AKA Batgirl), still has psychological scars left over from that attack.
Batgirl #41 Variant Cover-Batgirl with Joker
, who also wrote about the Teen Titans sexualization controversy
, lends her voice to the latest DC-insults-women controversy. In an op-ed piece for Comicsalliance.com, Asselin defends those who rightfully, and successfully, lobbied DC to cancel the Joker variant cover. Once again, Asselin is correct, and points out that DC is marginalizing the demographic most drawn to the new Batgirl series.
DC has announced the Joker variant is being cancelled, and the only cover offered that month for Batgirl #41 is the original, regular cover. DC's critics have won this battle, but the war over the propensity of the comics publishers (and Marvel is guilty of doing this sort of thing as well), to over-sexualize, victimize, and overly damage and kill female characters is far from won.