I will admit, when I first heard of all the uproar concerning the variant cover to Batgirl #41 and the end result of DC pulling the cover; my first thoughts were outraged cries of censorship! Another example of a vocal self righteous minority running amok with the power of political correctness. I am not saying I’ve changed my mind on this stand on the issue, but I also see too clearly why the cover is inappropriate to begin with. To explain myself we need to take a step back March of 1988 and one of the most horrific acts of violence perpetrated on a woman in any medium. It happened that the medium was a graphic novel and the book was, The Killing Joke.
The Killing Joke, like many of Alan Moore’s work is a work of utter brilliance. The book easily elevated the Joker from clown to nightmare. It was dark and violent and menacing. It also shredded the boundaries of what a comic book, especially what a superhero genre comic book, could be. The Killing Joke retold the origin of the Joker as a failed comic and family man who in the despair of a single day, becomes a maniacal criminal. While this origin of the Joker is not held to in the comic book world, what happens to Barbara Gordon becomes legend.
The Killing Joke centers around the Joker determined to destroy and drive James Gordon insane. To prove that there is little difference between the do-gooders like Batman and Gordon and himself. That one tragic day and act can drive anyone insane. This is a theme that would be repeated in the Dark Knight movies where the Joker strives to prove that all men are mad and insane on some level. To do this the Joker visits Gordon at home and when Barbara opens the door, he shoots her, paralyzing her. But the evil doesn’t stop there. The Joker kidnaps Gordon and holds him captive in a amusement park where pictures of what he does next to Barbara are shown to Gordon over and over again. As Barbara Gordon, Batgirl, lies there bleeding and paralyzed; the Joker removes her clothing and shoots picture after picture of her naked bleeding body to show to her father. It is sick. It is depraved.
It is the Joker.
It would be later in 1988-1989, in Batman 426-429, A Death in the Family; that the Joker would kill Jason Todd, Robin, by beating him with a crowbar and the blowing up the building he is in. But that is a story for another time.
No longer able to be Batgirl, Barbara Gordon becomes Oracle. The eyes and ears behind Gotham. Bound to a wheelchair, she alerts Batman, Robin and the current Batgirl to where they are needed and often gathers information to help them. Often, saving their lives. Not only in Batman and Nightwing comic runs but in her own series with Black Canary, Birds of Prey.
And it is here in Birds of Prey #124, that the Joker/Barbara Gordon story comes around again. With the city under siege by a criminal uprising, the Birds of Prey are stretched thin and far, leaving the wheelchair bound Oracle alone. Who come calling? But who else. The Joker posed as a policeman. In the climatic scene, the Joker tells Barbara he has come to finish the job. Pulling a gun he fires. She deflects the bullet with a billy club and he fires again. She draws the Joker in and once he is close enough, Barbara smashes the club into the one thing the Joker prizes most.
His smile. Oracle takes away the Joker’s smile.
So we return now to variant cover #41 of the current Batgirl storyline. The artist Rafael Albuquerque released this statement concerning the cover and the backlash both he and DC received.
“For me, it was just a creepy cover that brought up something from the character’s past that I was able to interpret artistically,” Albuquerque wrote. “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.”
It was Albuquerque himself, so I understand who requested that the cover be pulled.
Why such an outcry that shows the current batgirl, in the arms of the Joker, crying and looking terrified? You would have to have read the last few issues of Batgirl since the team of Stewart, Fletcher and new artist Babs Tarr rebooted her. She is a college age Barbara Gordon who is quirky, nerdy, uber cute and freaking adorable. She’s Taylor Swift…only not quite so annoying and actually likable. She is a runaway hit with rabid fans and this Barbara Gordon hasn’t met the Joker yet. She hasn’t been shot and victimized. She is a young woman, without a skin tight uniform and super big boobs, she is a role model for today’s young girl.
So seriously DC, how could you fuck this up so bad? Unless…you meant to. If you did, well that’s too bad and shows how little you respect your fanbase to think you would need this type of publicity to push a title. Especially this title.
So do I think this is censorship? Yes I do. But DC, you dumbassess, it should have never gotten this far. Somewhere, someone should have looked at this cover and said, “No, this won’t go with this comic run. This is not the direction we want this comic line to go in.” See, how freaking hard was that? But instead, the cover is leaked ahead of its release date and now we have all this controversy.
All this publicity for the Joker’s 75th anniversary. Not liked you plan it huh?
Well, let me end with this. Barbara Gordon. Babs. Batgirl. Oracle.