About That "Batgirl" Variant...


Friday, DC Comics debuted a variant cover for "Batgirl" from their upcoming Joker month. It's shocking how wrong a match the cover is for the title. I know that these alternate covers for these themed months often have nothing to do with the current comics, but "Batgirl" is something of a special title these days. It's the model that DC wants to favor in developing comics for the future -- interesting, modern, diverse characters in stories that aren't rehashes of the last 50 years and that attract new audiences. "Batgirl" is a book that's meant to bringing more women into comics, featuring a hopeful, youthful and upbeat cast of characters and stories.

So, of course, they'd put Joker with his arm around the current Batgirl, his red lipstick smeared on her face, and a gun pointing down her chest, as she stands there crying, looking frightened and helpless.

It is completely tone deaf.

Forget for a moment the sociopolitical issues here. Just look at what the series is set up to be and to do, and then look at the cover. Who in their right minds would think that this cover was a good idea at this time in this situation?

This being the Internet, an ugly social media battle began. Someday, humanity will learn to behave online. That day is has not yet arrived.

On Monday night, it seemed like saner minds had prevailed. DC pulled the cover.

But, wait! Let's read what happened here.

Rafael Albuquerque, the artist on the cover, wrote an open letter. He presents his reasoning for the cover image, citing the impact the Joker had on Batgirl and how important that moment was and how much he admired that original comic. All well and good. He goes on to explain how he read that the cover "touched a nerve" in others. He didn't like making people "hurt" or "upset" with his art and so asked DC to pull the cover.

Albuquerque comes off OK in his letter. It's short and to the point. He sounds contrite. He doesn't exactly apologize, but he makes it known that he respects others' opinions and listens to them. He makes a direct action to rectify the situation by asking DC to pull the cover, which they do.

All's well and good, right?

DC also issued an open letter, and here's where the wheels fall completely off the wagon, and the wagon veers wildly off the Oregon Trail:

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.

So far, so good. OK, it's a bit self-congratulatory and slightly commercial for a statement that's meant to sound contrite and apologetic, but -- wait, it's not going to be apologetic or contrite, is it? Nope:

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.

They're right about the violence part. Nobody on either side of this issue or any other contentious one in the world of comics should have an issue there.

Well, except:

Not surprising, but still sad.

It also sends the open letter off course by the second paragraph. Suddenly, they're more interested in talking about the bad reactions of idiotic fans more than their own mistake. Oh, wait, the fans they're castigating are the ones who are actually defending them. OK, so I'll give them a point there.

It does start to make you think they're leading up to saying that due to death threats, they're not going to publish the cover. That's not where this is going, though.

Here's where we end up:

We stand by our creative talent, and per Rafael's request, DC Comics will not publish the Batgirl variant. - DC Entertainment

This is where my jaw dropped. DC is neither apologetic nor contrite. As far as it's concerned, it did absolutely nothing wrong. It's just a champion of creators, and is agreeing to honor one of their creator's requests.

Nowhere do they admit any wrong-doing. Nowhere do they admit to making a mistake with soliciting this cover. Nowhere do they say, "You know what? We appreciate what Rafael said, but we should never have let it get this far. Our editorial team should have stopped this cover before it got past the sketch stage. Our marketing team should be in sync enough with editorial to know what they're selling, and that this wasn't a match."

DC Comics just threw Rafael Albuquerque under the bus.

"We didn't do anything wrong. Nothing to see here. We are abiding by Rafa's request. Everyone move along now. [Whistle a happy tune]"

Am I the only one who finds this unbelievable?

DC should simply admit that it made a mistake. Even if it's cloaked in "stupid red tape and bureaucratic mistakes in a large multinational corporation in the middle of a cross-country move" -- admit to a mistake. There's no need to hide behind the usual Internet overreaction as a smokescreen to turn the tide of the debate away from them.

The letter also came out at the same time as Albuquerque's. Obviously, this is not a coincidence. There is coordination here. At the end of the day, DC has chosen to step to the side, let its freelancer suffer the slings and arrows, and attempt to make itself look noble and valiant.

It'll happen again, folks. Just wait and see...


I tend to write longer reviews here, usually of completed stories. There's much that I read from month to month, though, that gets overlooked with that format. So, this week, I present some shorter thoughts on a bunch of books I've recently read. They're all from Image:


  • The hat The Smurfs wear is called a Phrygian cap, and it has some history behind it.
  • Sometimes, things just come together in odd ways. Last week, a random animator I follow recommended the book "Invisible Ink" by Brian McDonald for tips on storytelling. Then, a day or so later, I read "Shutter" artist Leila Del Duca recommend it in the back pages of "Shutter" #10. That's when I realized that I had a two-part interview with McDonald sitting in my podcast queue from late 2014. He appeared on Chris Oatley's Paper Wings podcast (episode #28, #29). Listening to him discuss story structure, theme, character, the journey into hell, etc. opened my eyes to new ways of looking at stories in a way that they haven't opened since probably the first time I read Robert McKee's "Story" a decade ago. In the podcast, he uses a lot of movies you'd all know as his examples -- "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Jaws," "Aliens," "Terminator," etc. Made me want to go back and watch all of those movies again with fresh eyes.

    I need to pick up McDonald's book -- or listen to the audiobook edition of it -- sometime soon. I'm interested in hearing more of what he thinks.

  • Listened to a mid-2014 interview with Daniel Corsetto on Two Geeks Talking. In light of the "Girls With Slingshots" strip ending last week and her planned adventure into finer arts, it's fascinating to listen to what her announced plans were just about a year ago.
  • It's official: Marvel has another #1 movie, sorta. "Big Hero 6" is now the top grossing animated film released in 2014.
  • Related: The Man of Action folks discuss their credits on Guardians of the Galaxy here at CBR.

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