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Bad, Charlie, and Community: <p><a href="http://christopherjonesart.tumblr.com/post/113911033413/so-about-that-joker-variant-cover-for-batgirl-41" class="tumblr_blog">christopherjonesart</a>:</p> <blockquote><p><b>So about that Joker variant cover for Batgirl #41…</b><br/></p><p>When I first saw “the cover that set the internet on fire,” my first thought was that it was a poor fit for the book, but that it was an otherwise fine cover. It’s a really well-drawn piece by artist <b>Rafael Albuquerque</b>, and it’s just one of a series of Joker-themed variant covers for many <b>DC Comics</b> titles. The cover visually references <b><i>The Killing Joke</i></b>, easily the most famous Joker story in Batgirl’s history (a <i>different</i> Batgirl, but <i>still</i>…) so I absolutely could see the logic.</p><p>Like I said, the dark, creepy tone of the cover seemed a poor fit for the new Batgirl series featuring a young hero clearly meant to appeal to young female readers, but my first response honestly was to be forgiving. After all, It’s just a variant cover. And villains threatening heroes is part of the genre, right? And it’s <i>The Joker</i>. He’s <i><b>supposed</b></i> to be creepy and scary. </p><p>But what bothers me about this piece more and more as I’ve thought about it is that <b>Batgirl isn’t shown as defiant, angry, or ready to go down fighting.</b> Instead she’s shown as a helpless, crying victim, with the villain’s gun-wielding arm wrapped around her. It doesn’t feel like The Joker is being presented as a threat for our hero to overcome; it feels like <b>a celebration of the defeat and degradation of the hero.</b> That would be disturbing and incongruous enough if this were an adult hero like Superman, or even an adult female hero like Wonder Woman. The fact that it appears to be a <b>teenage girl</b> just makes it feel icky.<br/></p><p>Artist <b>Ray Dillon</b> said it better than I could with this piece of art.</p><figure data-orig-width="465" data-orig-height="720"><img src="https://78.media.tumblr.com/846013d1ca56a7941e65e6f31119c43c/tumblr_inline_nldkuj8WEd1qdejyi_500.jpg" alt="image" data-orig-width="465" data-orig-height="720"/></figure><p>Would you expect to see this cover on a <b>Superman</b> comic in place of a dynamic shot of Doomsday and Superman launching themselves at each other in battle? Probably not. This just seems like a mix of creepy and odd, heavy on the creepy. And how much creepier is it when instead of an inhuman monster threatening an adult man, it was a <b>creepy grown man with a gun menacing what appears to be a teenage girl</b>? </p><p>The backlash against the <i>Batgirl #41</i> Joker variant shouldn’t have surprised anyone. People found it inappropriate and even offensive. They saw it as tone deaf or insensitive and read things into it that I don’t think were ever intended by the artist or by DC Comics. And now I’m reading the backlash against the backlash, with many fans of the artwork <b>dismissing the concerns</b> of anyone who was bothered by it. That backlash against the backlash only <b>intensified </b>with DC announced that they were pulling cover <b>at the request of artist Rafael Albuquerque</b>, motivated in part by threats of violence that had been received. Understandably, many assumed that the threats had been against Rafael Albuquerque. <br/><br/>Now let me be clear. I don’t care HOW offended someone is by someone else’s words, deeds, or artwork. You can complain all you want. That’s free speech. <b>The moment you threaten violence, you are escalating the issue in a way that makes YOU the bad guy.</b> That’s Charlie Hebdo territory.<br/><br/>But the assumption that it was critics of the cover threatening Raphael Albuquerque was wrong. It was Batgirl cowriter <b>Cameron Stewart</b> who pointed out that the threats hadn’t been made against the artist. <b>The threats of violance had been made against THOSE CRITICIZING THE COVER.</b></p><figure data-orig-width="657" data-orig-height="393"><img src="https://78.media.tumblr.com/d2e3f543e0f1a716258a510ca6ca8a17/tumblr_inline_nldlluW1sc1qdejyi_500.png" alt="image" data-orig-width="657" data-orig-height="393"/></figure><p>Raphael Albuquerque confirmed this himself.</p><figure data-orig-width="666" data-orig-height="352"><img src="https://78.media.tumblr.com/9f342d878d8466e5c99f39b8f0df6d8b/tumblr_inline_nldln2V74I1qdejyi_500.png" alt="image" data-orig-width="666" data-orig-height="352"/></figure><p>You can read more about that side of things <a href="http://www.theouthousers.com/index.php/news/130951-dc-cancels-controversial-batgirl-variant-cites-threats-of-violence-against-people-who-criticized-cover.html?utm_content=buffer49e9a&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=facebook.com&amp;utm_campaign=buffer"><b>HERE</b></a>.</p><p>So, do I think Raphael Albuquerque or anyone at DC Comics was trying to be offensive? No. Let me just say that again. <b>No.</b> I do not think that. (And I honestly believe DC may well have stepped up and decided to pull the cover without the reported threats of violence, given the concern and outrage over its content.)<br/><br/>The fact that the cover was approved in the first place, I think, is a symptom of an industry with a <b>decades-old culture dominated by males</b>, where female characters were there more often than not to be the girlfriend or the damsel-in-distress, and where audiences were predominantly male and perfectly happy with that as the status quo. Speaking as a lifelong male and a nearly-lifelong member of the comics community in one way or another, I totally understand what <b>a bubble that has created</b> and how the very nature of that bubble can lead to usually innocuous <b>lapses in perspective</b>. (This is not an excuse for it happening; merely a rationale.)<br/><br/>All that said, I do think things are changing and they’ll only get better from here. But you still have an industry dominated by white men (a demographic of which I am a part) trying to attract a more diverse readership because they are beginning to truly understand <b>how essential this wider audience is</b> to growing the medium and the industry of comics. And as long as the those in the industry know there’s <b>money to be made</b>, they’ll continue to pursue that wider audience. <br/><br/>The more diversity we can bring into comics at the <b>creator, editorial, and management levels</b>, the more that diversity will be reflected in the comics that are created and how they are marketed to the world - not just in the form of the characters whose stories get told, but in the <b>choices that are made</b>. Basically, eventually, that bubble that allows things like “the cover that set the internet on fire” to have happened will pop. <br/><br/>And here I am, this 45-year-old white guy who has been reading comics his whole life and drawing them professionally for over 20 years, still learning more every day, doing my best to listen, and trying my best to walk the line between not wanting anyone to feel like I’m attacking them but also feeling compelled to speak about something I think is important. And more and more I notice my contemporaries doing the same. I hope you notice it too.<br/><br/>I constantly find myself marveling at all these awesome things that are happening as the comics industry is changing for the better.</p></blockquote>

christopherjonesart: So about that Joker variant cover for Batgirl #41…When I first saw “the cover that set the internet on fire,” my first...