Less killing, more jokes (some thoughts on the Batgirl cover and other recent DC moves)
|Um, no thanks.|
In case you missed it, the latest thing (in what seems like a long, long chain of events) was a solicited cover for Batgirl featuring the Joker with his arm around the title character, looking terrified, crying, and severely traumatized. The cover (which I won't post here) was one of many to be released as part of a line of variant covers celebrating the anniversary of the Joker's creation and harkened back to Alan Moore & Brian Bolland's Batman: The Killing Joke. This is a famous one-shot story from the 80s examining the Batman and Joker's relationship, and also features a scene where Joker shoots Barbara Gordon in the gut (ending her Batgirl career and causing her to be paralyzed, strips her, takes pictures of her crying and naked, and maybe rapes her. Both Moore and DC editorial have always insisted that he didn't, but it sure as hell reads like he did and even if he didn't it's still a crime of sexual assault.
So yeah. A cover harkening back to that. On a book that has rather famously rebranded itself as an upbeat, fun superhero series. Poor taste AND out of place... they really hit the Daily Double there.
The cover has since been pulled - by its artist, Rafael Albuquerque, no less, not by DC editorial decision - due to threats of violence caused in the wake of the online discussion about it. Not threats against Albuquerque or anyone involved in its creation, mind you, but against people online who said they didn't like it, because internet people have this habit lately of being among history's greatest monsters. Gah.
I'm of two minds on this. For one thing, it was a variant, not the main cover, and therefore the sort of thing that people could easily opt not to by and that retailers could outright refuse to stock. It was just as much DC's right to publish it as it was someone's right to not buy it.
That being said, I'm pleased it's being pulled. Albuquerque is an incredible artist and if his intention was to provoke an uneasy reaction he succeeded. But as I said above, I thought it was in poor taste, and in the interest of full disclosure, I hate The Killing Joke and what it tried to do to the character of Barbara Gordon. That other writers were able to come along, recreate her as Oracle, and build such a strong character from the ashes of the slash & burn technique applied to her is amazing. I find it unfortunate and downright distasteful that in her current continuity the Joker's attack remains but her time as Oracle has been retconned away, but that's a rant for another day I'm sure.
Finally, it's awful that anyone on any level got threatened because of a damn comic book cover. Get your act together, comics internet. That's Gamergate-level bullshittery there.
All this comes on the heels of last week's announcements of the changes coming down the pike to Wonder Woman (armored), Batman (also armored, and kind of a bunny?), and Superman (Springsteen album cover), which also had people all kinds of worked up and resulted in a lot of threats and bruised feelings on the Twitters, particular in regards to Wonder Woman. To weigh in on those (which is required under Comics Internet Law): Wonder Woman's armor makes a sort of sense though it's too busy and I actually prefer her initial DCnU look; Superman's look was slightly easier to take once I realized the red on his hands was wrapped up cape and not blood, but I still thing superheroes in street clothes is dumb (though I totally dig the Fleischer cartoon-styled S shield); and Bionic Bunny is just silly.
Maybe there are story-driven reasons for all of these, and maybe they'll even be really good. But if you're trying to promote Big New Changes and just present more of the same stuff that people found off-putting in the first place, that's not going to inspire many people to give it a chance.
Of course, compared to this latest flap, merely having my aesthetic senses offended seems almost quaint, and much easier to take. Were I of the tinfoil hat conspiracy theory bent, I'd wonder if maybe that was the plan all along.
Regardless, we're all talking about them now, and that was definitely the plan all along. Button-pushing to this degree may not be a good thing, but that they are good at it cannot be denied.