After celebrating Batman’s 75th anniversary last year, it’s now time to celebrate the Dark Knight’s greatest foe. 2015 belongs to the Clown Prince of Crime as DC Comics celebrates 75 years of The Joker this June. As part of the festivities, the publisher will release a series of 25 variant covers to honor one of the most popular villains in all of entertainment. However, controversy arose thanks to one cover in particular and now it’s no longer being released.
When the variant covers were first announced, there was an outcry over the image intended for ‘Batgirl.’ Created by Rafael Albuquerque, this variant cover for issue forty-one paid tribute to Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s iconic 1988 story ‘Batman: The Killing Joke,’ which marked the beginning of a very dark period for Barbra Gordon as the Joker shot and paralyzed her. But some fans quickly spoke out against the cover for not lining up with the current direction of ‘Batgirl’ under the direction of co-writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher. This sparked the social media campaign #ChangeTheCover (or #SaveTheCover depending on which side of the argument you were on). But after a few days, DC announced that they would be pulling the cover at the request of the artist. Here are the official statements from DC Entertainment and Rafael Albuquerque from Comics Book Resources:
My Batgirl variant cover artwork was designed to pay homage to a comic that I really admire, and I know is a favorite of many readers. ‘The Killing Joke’ is part of Batgirl’s canon and artistically, I couldn’t avoid portraying the traumatic relationship between Barbara Gordon and the Joker.
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.
My intention was never to hurt or upset anyone through my art. For that reason, I have recommended to DC that the variant cover be pulled. I’m incredibly pleased that DC Comics is listening to my concerns and will not be publishing the cover art in June as previously announced.
With all due respect,
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. – DC Entertainment
Albuquerque and Stewart both took to Twitter to clarify that the threats of violence and harassment that DC referred to were not directed at the acclaimed artist, but rather towards people objecting to the cover:
First of all, it needs to be said that it’s ridiculous that people feel the need to tear people down and even go as far as threaten them for sharing their opinion on a comic book cover. Secondly, while I completely support the decision of Albuquerque, the ‘Batgirl’ creative team, and DC Entertainment to cancel the cover, I can’t help but be a little disappointed in the decision. This is a beautiful cover that pays homage to a classic Joker story and an important part of Batgirl’s history. It would have been a fitting tribute for the villain’s 75th anniversary because it shows the range of emotions that the character makes his audience feel, including fear and dread. Yes, this image doesn’t fit with what Stewart, Fletcher, and artist Babs Tarr are doing with their amazing run with Batgirl that sheds the darker image of the character and presents a more light and optimistic approach, but the cover was a variant. It wasn’t the regular cover that you’d see on every comic book store shelf come that Wednesday in June. It would have been a special edition collector’s item, likely purchased by long-time fans of the Joker, Batgirl, and/or ‘The Killing Joke.’
But with that being said, it’s not like the image is being censored. You can still look at it. It’s even here in this article. At the end of the day, it comes down to the marketing of a book properly to its wider audience, which that variant didn’t really do at all. I respect the course of action that was taken because it was done by the creative team and the artist of the cover to retain the integrity of this incredible series. With or without this cover, I would still continue to pick up ‘Batgirl’ no matter what because that book is that damn good.
What do you think about DC Comics cancelling the Joker variant for ‘Batgirl’ #41? Are you disappointed that you won’t be able to own this awesome piece by Rafael Albuquerque? Or are you glad that it was pulled for not jiving with the current depiction of Barbra Gordon? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments below.