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Wednesday, March 18, 2015 

Creepy-looking Batgirl variant cover cancelled

The artist Rafael Albequerque asked for his own variant cover for Batgirl #41 to be cancelled because he decided it conflicted with the brighter tone now employed by the current writers. I think I can understand why - the cover looks like the Joker's cutting a "happy face" on Barbara Gordon, like some drug dealers and loan sharks would do to buyers who didn't pay back their debts.

The artist's said it was as a tribute to the Killing Joke from 1988, but while the idea of giving Barbara a different career was fine in itself, the way the Killing Joke was told is something we could honestly have done without, seeing what it led to by the turn of the century.

Interestingly, the book's writer, Cameron Stewart, says that there were threats written against people who criticized the cover. That sounds a lot like what happened to some pro-Gamergate campaigners, and it probably happened to some people who took offense at Identity Crisis back in 2004. Speaking of which, DC and all involved still haven't apologized for that atrocity that still taints their image.

National Review's weighed in on this topic as well. They have a few notes to address. First:
The cover, which features the villain holding a gun to Batgirl and drawing his blood-grin across her face, was supposed to be released as a “variant” cover in June as part of DC’s “Joker Month.”
I'm going to be quite honest here, but a month celebrating villains isn't my idea of a good time when it's done more at the heroes' expense today. Why not a month dedicated to 3rd-tier superheroes and co-stars? Answer: because it wouldn't fit with Dan DiDio's cynical vision that severely limits creativity.
It goes without saying that it’s not okay to promote assaulting women, but this cover wasn’t doing that. After all — spoiler alert! — the Joker is a villain. Villains do things that are “not okay,” including some that may be (gasp!) misogynistic. They do things that are horrible and despicable because that’s what makes them villains. Without evil behavior, they’re no longer villains; without villains, there’s no conflict; and without conflict, there’s no story. This is so clearly logical that most children understand it, and it’s mind-blowing that we’ve reached a point in political-correctness indoctrination that adults cannot.

I mean really, what do they want? Only covers attacking male protagonists? Wouldn’t that be sexist against Batgirl? I thought feminists wanted more female characters featured in comics! Or maybe they want covers of the Joker attacking male protagonists combined with a split screen of him participating in a protest for affirmative-consent legislation? I’m obviously kidding, but things have gotten so insane that I’m half-worried these people might think it’s a great suggestion.
Well in fairness, the Joker is the kind of villain who's been long established as a violence-fetishist and murderer, so the sight of him maiming Batgirl is nothing new.

But if writer Katherine Timph knew what's been going down in comicdom all these years, with villains like Doctor Light - whose MO is less nasty than the Clown Prince of Crime - being turned into perverts as offensive - and easily worse - than the the Joker, I think she'd be foolish not to admit there's a limit to how far you should go with some costumed villains. If Doctor Doom were turned into a literal child molestor and sexual abuser (something which may in fact have happened a decade ago), that would only reduce him from an honorable despot who draws the line at certain forms of violence into a revolting pervert whom nobody could stand to read about. The same goes for Darth Vader - would anyone be thrilled if he'd sodomized Princess Leia in Star Wars? No self-respecting parent who saw that happen would want their children anywhere near the franchise if that took place in the original 1977 movie. Things have gotten a lot more insane in superhero comics now than Timph thinks, right down to making light of serious issues. That's probably why the outrage at the Batgirl variant cover rose up.

Most importantly though, what we may be used to seeing in a Batman comic is not something we want to see in Superman and the Flash. And that brings us to the leading point: what we've been accustomed to seeing in Batman's world has perverted a lot of other DC comics in so many ways, there's little difference anymore, and it's become so unpleasant. At worst, it's tiresome. Geoff Johns was a leading factor in dumbing down many DC superhero comics regardless of the tone they were known for, and since then, he's had quite a few writers following his bleak examples.

There's also the serious problem with shock value tactics in today's output, and that, along with the sleazy, boastful way it's being promoted, makes it all the more difficult to credit the story. That's why, so long as DC keeps upholding their worst works of the mid-2000s and won't reverse them, they'll never fully convince they want to make improvements.

Lost in this whole controversy is the question about whether variant covers are something the industry should keep on with, since it's surely expensive to draw up so many for just one issue, and then rely on speculators to lap it all up.

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I do understand the point that the National Review writer was trying to make. (Well, I think so, anyway.) Villains are just that: villains. They do bad stuff. And the audience is supposed to be glad when the heroes thwart their evil schemes.

At least, that's how it used to be. And I suspect Ms. Timph's comments are based on the assumption that comics are still like they were in the Silver and Bronze Ages, when the Comics Code was in effect. Back then, there were rules. Of course, bad guys were shown doing bad things (sometimes including menacing women), but criminals were not portrayed in such a way as to make you want to emulate them, and their criminal plots always failed.

Today, comics often glamorize and glorify villains. "Joker month"? And Scott Snyder writing a story that is a "love letter" to "everything I love about" the villain?

Can you imagine a "Hitler month" (or a "Red Skull month") in Timely (i.e., Marvel) comics in 1944? Or Gardner Fox or Robert Kanigher writing a "love letter" to the Joker or Riddler in 1967?

So, I agree with Ms. Timph that political correctness is out of hand, and that a lot of crybaby SJW's don't recognize the distinction between protagonists and antagonists in fiction. (And a lot of professional SJW's don't want to make the distinction; they want something that they can use as an issue.)

But then, the distinctions are becoming blurred, anyway, with violent criminals portrayed as protagonists, and with heroes who are often as brutal and amoral as the villains.

And, yes, variant covers are just a gimmick to artificially inflate sales. In the 1960's, if a comic sold 100,000 copies, that meant that 100,000 customers bought it. Today, it means that 20,000 collectors and speculators each bought five copies.

G. Willow Wilson thinks the cover referencing the Killing Joke on an all-ages comic is problematic, yet she is promoting Islam in an all-ages comic which is much more problematic.

Was the Killing Joke a good story, even discounting the Batgirl parts?

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