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.
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.
We stand by our creative talent, and per Rafael’s request, DC Comics will not publish the Batgirl variant.
Threats of violence and harassment are wrong. But who made those threats and who engaged in harassment? DC Comics left it up to readers, assuming they had been following along and knew just who they meant to chide. Batgirl writer Cameron Stewart and Batgirl #41 variant artist Rafael Albuquerque had to explain: no no, not threats against their persons, but threats against critics, that vocal minority so catered to in the comics industry of 2015.
The indented statement above is a PR statement made by DC Entertainment (via CBR), explaining their decision not to publish Albuquerque’s bloody variant cover. Explanation: violence and threats are bad; it was Rafa’s decision not ours. Explanation: we stand by our creative talent’s decisions, but have made none of our own. This is a statement intended to dodge blame. Cameron Stewart decided the variant was at cross purposes with his comic. Rafael Albuquerque decided to pull the cover, it having caused such controversy and genuine pain. Where are DC’s decisions in all of this? Planning Joker month, commissioning artists, approving yet another Killing Joke homage, this time on a comic aimed at young girls, encouraging the artist to go darker, and finally, pulling it. But only after the creative talent themselves, who DC stands by, pointed out that the variant was inappropriate and a bad business decision.
The list of creators who expressed disapproval of the cover is long, G. Willow Wilson, Mark Waid, Joe Hill, and Kurt Busiek among them; the list of creators who expressed approval short. Censorship, cried Patrick Zircher. Blue Beetle too, cried Kevin McGuire, has feared for his life on comics covers. (And what about those sexy Tops Playing Cards, cried ComicGate?) Outside the comics world, it seems obvious: a cover is a marketing piece and this one does nothing to market the book, except perhaps, to the dwindling collectors market who will buy anything “rare” and “daring.” It’s a beautiful cover, but it’s violent, and on a book like Batgirl, cruel. Why why why on Batgirl? “What really happened here, from an editorial standpoint, is that DC is not only embracing its brighter Batgirl; the entertainment company is also celebrating the 75th anniversary since the late Jerry Robinson looked at a deck of cards and, according to lore, co-created the Clown Prince of Crime,” said Michael Cavna of the Washington Post. His takeaway was this: Albuquerque stands to benefit from the publicity, not just because his talent was on display, but because so was his professionalism; DC, meanwhile, stands only to be embarrassed.
DC is ride or die for its creative talent — who had no chance to communicate, regular team to variant artist; who had no chance to advocate for their book and their vision for it; who had to, finally, push the publisher to take action.
Meanwhile, they publish comic books about the greatest heroes in the world, and the most evil villains imaginable. (I hope you’re not offended.)
Meanwhile, threats of violence and harassment (by someone, somewhere) have no place in comics or society.
The Batgirl creative team, variant artist Albuquerque included, have faced serious criticism, now and in the past, but not threats, not harassment, not debasement or dismissals. It’s difficult to weather criticism, to take it in, learn from it, and move forward stronger. But for the most part, they’ve done just that. They’re great advocates for their work; their credibility only bolstered by their willingness to engage, admit fault, and change direction.
And at DC? “We will not publish the cover.” This time.