The blog came out a day later because I intended to do a different blog. I was going to avoid doing a "Let's Talk About" blog for this particular issue for three reasons, despite my "Let's Talk About" series of blogs dealing with current events and coming out of promoting and stimulating healthy, geeky debate between fans and friends out of this medium we all love so much.
- Just like with the Milo Manara controversy with the Spider-Woman #1 variant cover and the "transphobic" scene in Batgirl #37, I had emitted my opinions on my Facebook, and afterwards participated in many debates about the topic that quite frankly I had nothing else to say, and I usually just move on from the topic to concentrate on more positive things.
- Like I have told my close friends and GF, so many great, well written, well thought out blogs are already out there and by people that expressed it likely better than I could, there is very little I could add to that. And-
- A fellow colleague already wrote a piece about this on the website, aside from last week's podcast and this upcoming podcast that will touch upon this topic, so I felt no need to do yet another blog about this, especially since I've written so much about it on Facebook.
This is just my own personal opinion and it does not necessarily represent those of everybody involved at Truthful Comics. I am not trying to convince you that you are wrong or "mansplaining" things, I think we are all adults here and we can express our opinions in a manner we can have a healthy discussion about this. So my point of view does not invalidate your unique point of view, it's not like a commenter in favor of the cover being removed wrote on Manuel's (top guy here at Truthful as well as frequent blogger here and co-host of the podcast) Facebook last week, saying that "all opinions being valid are a fallacy" in response to the aforementioned well written articles against the cover being removed. I value your opinion, it doesn't matter if it's agreeing or disagreeing with me. And lastly, this is the internet and EVERYBODY has an opinion on the internet, because it's so much easier to do it online than in real life, especially if you do it under a fake name/account to do things. Especially in this era where most sites are now trying to be TMZ and trying to clickbait to go viral, because going viral is somehow more important than actually having good content. Now, with all these pleasantries out of the way, let's talk about the cover. Batgirl is no stranger to controversy. From being shot and paralyzed in The Killing Joke, to becoming Bruce Wayne's lover in Batman Beyond, to being a mute assassin, to being Stephanie Brown, Batgirl as a franchise has had it's up and downs and turbulent times to say the least. And speaking of The Killing Joke...
The gun. The gun is being labeled as a sexual abuse trigger, representing the Joker's penis. This cover was an homage to the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, The Killing Joke, as mentioned before, she got shot and paralyzed by the Joker, who didn't even know she was Batgirl, he just did it to get at commissioner Gordon to get at Batman. It was never clear Joker sexually abused Barbara Gordon, with the general consensus being that he didn't, he wanted to torture her father James. She was a victim by circumstance in that instance. And one could say yes, a trope, a mechanism for Batman to get revenge, not even James Gordon who was nearly driven insane, rendering him a plot mechanism too. And this is a throwback to the history of Joker paralyzing Barbara. Why? Because that's how the Joker has always been portrayed, as a sadistic homicidal psychopath, and especially in recent times he has not had any real sexual tension aside from the underlying tones of him loving Batman and the occasional Harley Quinn reference.
And one more common topic that I keep reading when someone's opinion starts to falter a bit is "ok, it's an homage, BUT, it's disrespectful to the original creative team of Killing Joke that artist Rafael Albuquerque did this and gain monetary compensation because he did not do anything in The Killing Joke." If that were true, let's be honest, nearly 95% of the comic book industry would be crippled by lawsuits and copyright infringements for all the homage covers ever done from comics to movies to video games. Especially in variant covers, which leads me to my next point in this discussion, the curious cases of Skottie Young and Chris Giarrusso.
The huge debate is if this cover was appropriate for the more lighthearted tone Batgirl has had in it's current run. Stating the cover, though a variant, has no place because it misleads and creates confusion for younger female readers that may not understand the relation to Killing Joke. There is no doubt in my mind that artists Skottie Young and Chris Giarrusso are EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, artists. Usually they draw variant covers in a more lighthearted, juvenile tone to otherwise dark, sometimes even disturbing comic book series, like Wolverine, The Walking Dead, Chew, X-Men, that are clearly not all ages. Should we make them stop because it will confuse younger readers into buying a more adult comic? Or a parent buying it thinking it will be a good kiddie book because they saw movie posters of Wolverine so here's a cute cover? That they are artists have no right to make light of a situation like a character dying with such a cute little illustration of a naked man?
For better or worse, both stories came out in a very violent and dark time in comics with stories like V For Vendetta, Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Daredevil, Punisher, etc. I honestly think many of those comics would never be made now a days because of the sensibilities of this modern age. But out of the two somewhat similar stories, let's look at it this way.
Through the tragedy of Killing Joke, Barbara Gordon became an icon for paralyzed people who love comics. She proved she could be a hero and did not let the Joker take away her bravery and courage. She grew into a stronger character and a beloved character that inspired many despite of the circumstances that lead her to being paralyzed. She became a better hero, a better, stronger character as a result.
Through the tragedy of A Death In The Family, Jason Todd, who already was considered back then a character that was not entirely right in his head, to the point it was inferred he went as far as murdering a character that had killed a potential love interest for him, was brutally killed off because the fans voted for him to die. Eventually he is brought back by a lazarus pit, and in doing so, he came back even MORE crazy than he already was, more violent, more bitter, and as a character, in my opinion, came out as much weaker, especially compared to Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd has almost no redeeming quality.
Two characters that were scarred by the same villain, with the same motivation, with both stories being canon in the NU52 reboot of DC. But very, very, different endings and evolution.
Yes, there is such a thing as self-censorship as well, and when you get pressured to do so, then in many ways it is an oppressive form of censorship. There is nothing wrong in changing your mind about something, or even being the bigger person and apologizing for something that's not even wrong. It's admirable in a way. But this in my opinion, is just like some people that get offended by nudes in art or nude models in art class. To what point can somebody be pressured? I would like to bring up something interesting regarding writer/artist Cameron Stuart, main lead in the current Batgirl creative team.
He apologized over the Batgirl #37 "transfobic" scene when a villain thought be female was revealed to actually be a man. He and the rest of the creative team signed an apology, which wasn't entirely accepted, because most of the bloggers that went against the cover mention how the series seriously dropped the ball in Batgirl #37 and they should have learned their lesson. He defends the decision and publicly declared the creative team was not aware of the variant, inferring he wouldn't have accepted the cover as it was. He also defends it was not censorship and applauded the movement that led to the cover being changed and that editorial and creatirs have a right to changetheir minds if people made their voices heard.
When Sony announced an all male Ghostbusters to come out at a later date after controversial all female Ghostbusters movie, he bashed Sony and called it an attempt to undermine the franchise and that...well, the studio caved to the pressure of fanboys and they shouldn't have. I'll leave it up to you what to decide what to make of that statement after all the events that happened before and since on his own title. Because this is what happens when somebody tries to please everybody: you end up pleasing nobody. You end up losing integrity in your work.
At the end of the day, comics are the new mythology. A reflection of our times and culture. But it is also, in the end, a business. Something we should all enjoy, and it saddens me that after all those years that older geeks like me wanted to see a more mainstream acceptance and having this medium taken more seriously, that this civil war between fans are making everybody look bad when news outlets pick up on stories like these. When overly sensitive people eon both ends of the spectrum can not just chill out for a little and accept that diversity is NOT usurping not exchanging one thing for another. The least common thing in the world is common sense, and I wish this day and age people would have the common sense of simply not buying something you don't like, but not judge and take away the choice of others that would like to get that particular product. I myself probably wouldn't have bought the cover because I don't particularly like this current run of Batgirl, I prefer the Stephanie Brown version to be honest or the Gail Simone run, BUT, I would've liked to have had the choice to buy it if I wanted to. My girlfriend actually wanted to buy this cover after I showed her and explained all the controversy going around after she read the previous blog about this topic here on the site and was confused and offended until I explained to her the whole ordeal and showed her the different points of views out there, not just my own, so she could make her own decision because she is a grown-up fully capable of coming to her own thoughts, and was terribly disappointed that the cover was cancelled.
In way to an extent, everybody "won". The cover was cancelled, but it's also been seen and gotten way more press in the mainstream than it ever would have if it was just left as just another variant cover celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Joker. In my opinion, everybody also lost, because it brought out the worst in many fans on both sides of the fence.
That is all I have to write about this, again, I'm not claiming to be right, but I'm not claiming to be wrong, either. I'm just expressing my opinion as a fan, as a creator, as a man that has witnessed and know many PEOPLE that have suffered physical and emotional abuse. Again, you are welcome to your own opinion and hey, maybe you'll make me think of things I didn't before, and that's what healthy discussion is all about. Thank you for reading, and just enjoy, have fun, and just live.
-Alvaro Cortes Jr