Here is a short postscript to my discussion of Batman: The Killing Joke. Getting back to what prompted my reconsideration of Alan Moore’s story in the first place, I am going to take a look at that Rafael Albuquerque variant cover that was originally going to be used by DC Comics for Batgirl #41. Albuquerque’s piece, seen below, is certainly well illustrated. However, it is also very disturbing, especially that expression on Batgirl’s face. Albuquerque is obviously taking direct inspiration from The Killing Joke. This cover is clearly meant to evoke memories of that story’s events in the audience’s mind, specifically the Joker’s brutalization of Barbara Gordon. If we do regard what the Joker did to Barbara in The Killing Joke as sexual assault, then this would be the equivalent of a scene depicting a rapist returning to torment his victim anew. So, yes, I can definitely understand why a number of readers were very unhappy with the idea of this being published. Should DC have cancelled Albuquerque’s cover? I don’t know. As I have commented before, people do not have the right to not be offended. However, it seems that other people got offended at people getting offended by the cover, and things went pear-shaped. Batgirl writer Cameron Stewart tweeted:
“Something to clarify, because DCs statement was a little unclear. @rafaalbuquerque did not get threats. People OBJECTING to the cover did.”
Yes, that’s right. Albuquerque requested that DC not publish the cover because people who were protesting it were receiving death threats from certain individuals who wanted the cover to be published. This is exactly like that Gamergate bullshit where you have a group of assholes hiding behind the cause of “journalistic integrity” in order to peddle their hateful misogyny. You could argue that people were overreacting to Albuquerque’s cover. If they were, well, the sane and responsible manner in which to respond to them is to calmly articulate your own perspective. What you should not be doing is tossing around death threats. Next time maybe just agree to disagree. Stop acting like someone whose castle is under siege by an invading army. Albuquerque himself had this to say:
“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.”
Albuquerque is an incredibly talented artist. Perhaps this Batgirl variant was a misstep on his part. However, according to Bleeding Cool he originally drew a less-extreme version but DC requested that he make it more creepy, resulting in the final piece. I definitely must give Albuquerque credit for recognizing that it had become toxically divisive, that certain people were behaving reprehensibly, and requesting that DC pull the plug on it. Anyway, moving along, Albuquerque and writer Mike Johnson currently have a new sci-fi miniseries entitled Ei8ht coming out from Dark Horse. Go pick it up. It looks good.