Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Rant: The Joker Variant Cover

This is a rant about someone’s opinion on the Batgirl Joker Variant cover. If you don't care that's cool, just figured I'd warn you.

I hate DC comics in a general sense. I feel like they are weaker than Marvel's overall universe in story structure, characters and in a general entertainment sense. That said I do have a few favorite characters from the DC universe. I love the Flash, Green Arrow and occult characters in the DC extended universe (Vertigo, etc.) But overall all I have to say I love DC villains! DC villains seem to range from pure evil to just kind of what the hell is that guy doing (The Penny Plunderer)? But none stand out as much as the Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker.

Recently there has been a big hullabaloo about a variant cover for the on-going series Batgirl. A cover made by Rafael Albuquerque was pulled when fan outcry over the cover, convinced Rafael to request DC not to run the cover.

I respect Rafael's right to ask not to have the cover run due to fan outcry. I understand he is an artist and making a move that alienates fans is no exactly a wise choice. So he cows down to his audience and we miss out on in my opinion a really striking piece of art. However it never ends with just that we need people to explain why I'm wrong in my opinion of art. This brings me to io9.

The article start with a question from a fan for the "postman" whom is not a fan of the variant asking, what is acceptable to put female heroes through and where is the line we can't cross? Postman replies with "There's no line." Which I whole heartedly agree with! If there is a line we can't cross in a work of fiction then what is the point of fiction?

He continues making the point that even being a superhero means these women are in constant danger, as is anyone who puts on a mask and cape. However he then says that his problem with the Variant cover is that...

"So that's not a problem. But there are several problems with the Batgirl #41 cover, including at its most basic, it's a picture of the Joker looking like he's going to sexually assault Batgirl. You may not see it — maybe artist Rafael Albuquerque and DC didn't see it when he drew and they decided to run it — but it's a direct homage to Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, where the Joker takes naked photos of paralyzed Barbara Gordon to torment her father. That's clearly sexual assault even if the Joker did nothing else, and the comic leaves this unanswered."

Ok... There is a lot wrong with this sentiment. Since I haven't shown it yet here is the Variant cover.

Let's break this down.

1. The Joker's posture and body language suggest familiarity, as in old friends meeting and posing for a picture (referencing to the original killing joke and The Jokers outfit from it). His arm around Barbra's shoulder leads down to a loaded gun; it is The Joker the gun is loaded. The Joker himself is partially obscured due to shadows with his face being covered except for his grin as he "signals" for Barbra to smile drawing his signature joker grin on her. Nothing about his posture or placement of his hands denotes sexuality, power maybe but no sex.

2. Barbra is crying, as any regular person would be. "But" I hear you remark "Batgirl isn't just a regular person. She is Batgirl, a strong confident superhero with a storied history and many achievements in her past." Which is right but she also has one really big loss in her past that took place outside of her costume. When the Joker rolled up to her home and shot her at point blank range crippling her and effectively ending her career as Batgirl.

Side note: One of the best things about the Bat Family is that they are all just people. Not one a monolith, save for Batman. Each is just a person rising to new heights with the help and training from Bruce and the knowledge they are fighting for what's right and to help people. Each one is a person and has shown cape or not they can accomplish great things. When Barbra was crippled she fought through her disability and proved to herself and others that even without a batarang she can just as helpful if not more so as Oracle.

Postman continues
"The image also suggests this by its very content — Batgirl, crying, powerless, and at the Joker's complete physical mastery, evidenced by the way he's touching her. Regardless of what it's an homage to, the tone could not be less appropriate for the current "Batgirl of Burnside" comic, which is fun and not dark and has many female readers, especially young ones. Moreover, it's incredibly sexist — I would hope even the most bitter of woman-hating male comic fans surely have to agree that a male superhero, unless he was a child, would never be drawn crying while held hostage by a super villain."

Apart from the actual cover having no sexual connotation as well as the artist who made the piece saying her only made it as a creepy image to help draw people in postman insists that not only is the image sexual but also it is far too dark for the current or evidently previous storylines of the New 52 Batgirl. You may have noticed that whenever I refer to the cover I say it is a Variant cover, because it is. If you don't know about comics, a variant cover is one of multiple cover produced to help spur readership from the avid fans to casual passersby. This is one of my bigger points while having nothing to do with the Batgirl story line it does help promote one of the tie-in books of Batman. Currently there is a large Joker based story line going on in the Batman books, Endgame. Not to mention the fact that the cover was made to help promote the Jokers 75th anniversary as a character. I shouldn't have to say anything else but I will. Using a popular character like The Joker to help spur readers, or casuals, into buying or at least looking into a series they may not read is a practical business tactic. As a variant cover if you don't like the darker Joker one you can buy one without it! He then claims that the cover is not only inappropriate for the readers.

"...many female readers, especially young ones."

But that is also sexist. Because it depicts a female superhero crying where as any male character in the same situation wouldn't cry, I should also note he states "...unless he was a child...” Ok, probably not. However this isn't just any hero and just any super villain. This is Barbara Gordon and The Joker. These are characters with a serious and dramatic history. The Joker has taken more from and caused more traumas to the Gordon family than probably any other villain has from anyone in DC's history. Secondly this isn't a story image this is just a one off interaction inspired by events from the past. This is Barbra Gordon with her own personal boogeyman dressed exactly as he was the day he took a huge portion of her life away just on a whim. Thirdly he is absolutely right about the sexist nature of male superheroes not being allowed to show emotion of any kind. There is nothing wrong with crying during an emotional or even stressful situation but you will never see a male character just break down because it is a weak from a societal point of view for men to cry and I'm glad he brought that up so we can all look deeper into ourselves and learn that lesson that it is ok to be emotional at point but we have to pick ourselves back up and do what we have to do get over the low points much like how Barbra didn't let her disability stop her from helping her city. Except he brushed over that point to say that anyone in a position of power has to then go with the male stereotype of emotionless.

It's not sexist if we force females to adhere to male stereotypes of power. That's just being a strong female character however if they show any emotion outside of Batman levels of dedication then chastise them for showing emotion, god forbid we admit that these characters are only human. Jim Gordon broke down sobbing at the thought of his daughter suffering in the Killing Joke; I mean come on what a pussy.

Postman then goes on to applaud DC's "decision" to pull the cover, basically blowing off the fact the only reason they did that was at the request of the artist. Followed by him bringing up his rape speculations again and chastising those who might allow young girls to see an image they might dislike, because girl and women are fragile and need protecting unless they wear a cape in which case they much be emotionless untouchable gods.

This next part is just too funny. Postman then claims that Barbra is being defined only by her trauma and that no other male character goes through this, bringing up the time Bane broke Batman's back as an example. Which is true Bruce doesn't have to deal with the trauma of his back being broken in every storyline afterwards. So much so I concede that to my knowledge Batman has no reoccurring trauma in his life that drives him and defines him as a person or as a hero...I dare you to think of a single trauma a male hero has ever had to deal with as a defining character trait.

He follow up with saying that celebrating Barbra being shot isn't good for a Batgirl cover, except for the fact it isn’t celebrating her it is celebrating him, literally for his 75th anniversary! It's a huge moment where The Joker Impacted the Batman cannon! He then says that while The Killing Joke is a good story it is not a good Batgirl story, and considering it is a Batman/Joker story that makes perfect sense and is the dumbest claim he's made in the last few sentences. He also says that young girls shouldn't read anything even possibly traumatic, because women are weak. While not outright stating that as his position I feel like that is the underlining message behind his article.

Postman bullet pointed this last list of complaints so read along with me on his “last point”(s).

  • They have every right to say no to the cover and he has every right to ask them not to use it. That is true. However I retort, go fuck yourself! I have every right to have a cover of The Joker outright raping anyone I want. Freedom of expression is covered under freedom of speech and I can go find a cover of The Joker balls deep in whomever I want on the internet. You are wrong and stupid.
  • If they don't print it, it is not censorship that is true, but if they don't print it due to public outcry that is censorship. A group said no they said ok and now we don't get a piece of art.
  • I don't see you making a point here except what appears to me as you back pedaling by saying that now you don't see implications of The Joker raping Batgirl in the original comic that you pointed out.

  • Finding the cover gross doesn't mean you think woman are fragile, but the rest of your claims make you seem like you think women are fragile. Also the image made me want to read a Batgirl comic, so goal accomplished! But now I have no interest.

  • It's a business decision and I agree, but I still think you are an asshole for claiming it has sexual overtones when it doesn’t. You see a man and a woman in a pose that denotes power to one of them. I see the Joker a villainous monster who took a girl’s mother from her and put her in a wheel chair, tortured her father and effectively attempted to try and destroy her life at every possible moment taunting her.

Postman wraps up his "Article" by saying that the cover was removed not because of the people who complained about the variant cover being offensive but was removed by the people who complained about the people who complained first. To which I say you are retarded and sexist.

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