Although it’s one of the most revered Batman stories ever told, Batman: The Killing Joke still has its critics. Primarily, The Killing Joke is an example of “woman in the fridge,” even before the term came into popular use in the 90s. Basically, Barbara Gordon/Batgirl is shot and paralyzed by the Joker as a means to torture her father Commissioner Gordon, and although the comics eventually built Barbara back up as the powerful information broker Oracle before she got the use of her legs back, many still read a misogynistic turn in the book by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. So when the artist on the current Batgirl series decided to pay homage to The Killing Joke for a special variant cover, let’s just say it reopened old wounds.
The controversial cover, which was one of over two-dozen Joker themed covers meant to be offered on certain DC Comics books in June, were released Friday. The image shows the Joker as he appeared in Killing Joke, painting a red smile on the face of an obviously terrified Batgirl with one hand, while holding a gun that’s pointed below her chest with the other.
Many websites started posting critical editorial of the art work, and the hashtag #changethecover started being passed around on social media. The critics cited the cover for being in bad taste, pointing to the “women in fridge” trope and the implicit reference that Barbara was also sexually assaulted as reasons why the cover was offensive. Even though the story maybe considered a classic, the art work didn’t have to rub the faces of fans in its most disturbing detail as the image infers. Rafael Albuquerque, the artist of the cover, eventually asked DC to pull the cover.
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,
DC Comics would later concede to Albuquerque’s request.
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
DC later added that the “threats of violence and harassment” were directed at people online who objected to the cover and not to the creative team behind the comic book, or Albuquerque himself. This cover controversy comes after Marvel Comics released cover art for Spider-Woman by Milo Manara featuring the titular heroine in an overtly sexual position while climbing a building.
Although the two covers are different stylistically, it should give publishers renewed appreciation about the delicacies of their readership. What do you Bastards think of the cover, can you see the offensiveness, or is this much ado about nothing? Sound off with your thoughts below.
There’s been some new takes on the cover popping up on the Internet:
Source: Comic Book Resources