Thanks to a Youtuber known as Mundane Matt, I have become aware of a Twitter campaign called #ChangeTheCover (follow up). The aforementioned cover refers to the variant cover of Batgirl #41 which featured the following image:
For any savvy comic book fan, they'd immediately recognize the iconography of the image above and the tumultuous history these two characters share. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 70s years, you should be familiar with the character of The Joker, rather he was Caesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamil or (more recently) Heath Ledger, and if you've heard of Supergirl, chances are you've heard of Batgirl. What you may not know is that Batgirl didn't stay Batgirl, she eventually became Oracle, a highly intelligent computer & support operative for not only The Batman Family but for The Justice League and The Birds Of Prey. This transition came when The Joker entered Barbara Gordon's home and shot her point blank range, thus paralyzing her in an iconic comic book known as "The Killing Joke".
The paralyzing of Barbara Gordon was one of the most iconic moments in comic book history and one of the defining aspects of Barbara Gordon. I don't mean defining in terms of her being paralyzed, I mean defining in terms of how she dealt with it. She couldn't engage in combat anymore but rather than sit on the sidelines and become useless, Barbara exercised a different muscle, her mind, and since then she's managed to match wits with Calculator, The Riddler and many of the other Brainiacs in the DC Universe...including Brainiac. The cover of Batgirl #41 pays homage to the horrible relationship The Joker & Barbara have, the fact that The Joker has crippled her (of course, all of that is undone because of The New 52...but whatever).
Now as a comic book fan, you'd be aware of all of that history and the iconography the variant cover of Batgirl #41 has. Unfortunately, a group of Social Justice Warriors got their pannies in a bunch and called for the cover to be changed. Unfortunately, DC caved and under the artist's request, he asked DC to change the cover, saying this:
"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,
Rafa" -Citation: Comicbookresources.com
I'd like to highlight a few words from this beginning with this passage: "But it has become clear, that for others, it touched a very important nerve.". My reason for highlighting this passage is to ask what very important nerve, for whom and how have you touched it? Well apparently, someone cared enough to raise a stink about the cover, but why? For what reason? Well, it's believed that after The Joker shot Barbara Gordon, she was sexual assaulted (ie, raped) by one of The Joker's cronies. That's never been hinted at or explicitly stated in "The Killing Joke" or anywhere else. Even going on Barbara Gordon's wikipedia page and searching for the word "rape", "sexual assault" or any variant thereof yield NO RESULTS! So we have ample evidence to believe that Barbara was only paralyzed by The Joker and that's it.
But apparently, the mere suggestion of a female character helpless in the hands of their enemy is enough to rustle some people's jimmies, and of course, a female character in the hands of the enemy means undeniably that she will be raped. I'm reminded of something Dexter once said when he was preparing to kill a female cop who had murdered her family, she kept assuming that Dexter was going to rape then murder her and a frustrated Dexter humorously replied "What is it with you and rape? No one's raping anyone!", and that's how I feel The Social Justice Warriors see this cover. They can't conceive of an instance where a female DOESN'T get raped while still being victimized. In their minds, victimized female character means she was raped.
So right off the bat, Social Justice Warriors believe Barbara was raped even though NO citation can be found to support this claim. Don't believe me? In the article linked above it features the following sentence: "It has been commonly interpreted, though not definitively established within the story, that the character was also sexually assaulted.". So right off the bat, some people believe Batgirl was raped, no evidence to support that but because they believe so, it's enough to get some people angry. Couple that with the fact that some people felt it was a sudden change in tone from how The Batgirl books were going up until now...but even still, comic books change in tone! They change in tone when they change writers, artists, editorial staff, whatever, for better or worse, comic books change.
But now I'm going to say something VERY controversial: even if Barbara Gordon was raped, so what? No evidence suggests that she was, but even still, so what. The Joker is a BAD guy, okay he's not just a villain, The Joker is a BAD GUY! This is a guy who once killed all of China and ate Chinese people with chopsticks ("Emperor Joker"), this is a guy who bashed a child's brains in (gleefully, I might add) with a steel pipe, this is a guy melted the face of another villain because he wasn't allowed to be apart of the scheme, this is a guy who once stole a straight A report card from a child JUST SO HE COULD SEE him sad, this is a guy who mutilated his own face for sh*ts and giggles and you mean to tell me that THIS guy is above rape? Bad guys do BAD stuff, last I checked, rape was right up there on the scale from one to bad, so if The Joker did rape Barbara (he didn't) wouldn't that be within the scope of things bad guys do? Not excusing it just asking a legitimate question here.
Hypothetical over with. The thing is Social Justice Warriors feel that seeing Batgirl crying is a sign of weakness, and The Joker, with his arm over her is a sign of control...ergo, he's a man controlling a woman...PATRIARCHY! You see, Female Character can't be victimized by male characters, EVER, AT ALL otherwise it's oppression. Some might argue that this will alienate female readership and that argument is out and out bullsh*t and here's why: If something like this keep you from reading a comic, you were never interested in comics to begin with!. This isn't an issue over continuity and respecting the character's history (like all my other issues are with The DC Universe) this a cover that is iconically representing The Joker and celebrating his 75th anniversary. Sadly, the suits over at DC cowtowed and changed the cover, for reasons that are just plain stupid and compromise artistic integrity.
Comic books and any story for that matter are showcases of exaggerated conflicts between good and evil, so the good are REALLY good and the bad are REALLY bad. How can we showcase those opposing forces and the varying effects of their actions without putting these good characters in harms way? Batman got his back broken, Superman was beaten to death, Green Lantern was killed, countless comic books characters have suffered at the hands of their enemies and have come back stronger and Barbara Gordon shouldn't be treated any differently and sadly, she was. This freakin' sucks and now that DC has set this dangerous precedent, it'll only get worse from here. More will be discussed in the next article, not about this topic, but about Marvel's indiscretion, until then, I'll catch you guys later.