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By 18 March 2015 | Categories: news

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Another variant cover has caused a stir in the international comic book scene. No, not another disproportionate Spider-Woman, rather a variant cover for June 2015’s Batgirl #41. DC Comics is using June to celebrate the seminal Joker, certainly one of the most terrifying villains ever created. As part of this, a number of variant covers were drawn for upcoming titles. Batgirl #41 depicts a clearly terrified Batgirl in the clutches of the Joker, a ‘Joker grin’ spread across her mouth and tears on her face.

After protest online from fans on Twitter using the hashtag #CHANGETHECOVER, the artist Rafael Albuquerque (known for his work on American Vampire) requested DC to pull the cover, which they have agreed to do. The depiction was a homage to Alan Moore’s disturbing The Killing Joke story, published in 1988, considered as one of the ten best Batman graphic novels ever. In it Batgirl, or rather Barbara Gordon, is shot in the spine by the Joker, and naked pictures of her displayed to her father, Commissioner Gordon.

According to comic book news site CBR, the cover was criticised since it’s “highlighting a dark period in the character's history,” which does not tie into the more recent “optimistic” direction of the comic. Many also complained about the way that Batgirl is depicted on the cover. 

In an official statement from DC Comics, they noted that “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.” It was clarified later by Albuquerque that he wasn’t threatened, while Batgirl" co-writer Cameron Stewart noted that it was people objecting to the cover who received threats.

In a statement from Albuquerque he noted that the relationship between Barbara Gordon and the Joker was critical to his portrayal on the cover, and that his intention was never to give offense. “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.

Even before DC’s decision, there was a lot of tension between the #CHANGETHECOVER and #DONTCHANGETHECOVER camps, while DC’s decision raised concerns of self-censorship. What is becoming clear is that the current comic book landscape is certainly not the same as the one 25 years ago. Recent research placed female comic book readership at a strong 46.67%, at least in the States. Series such as Marvel’s Ms. Marvel, Image’s Saga and DC’s new direction with Batgirl certainly contributes to this.

Below a few tweets highlighting concerns both for and against the cover. 

After DC's announcement there are those keen on the decision, and those that are certainly not. 

Alberqurque has also been cast into the maelstrom, with him being both critized and praised for his request to pull the cover. 

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