At the request of the artist, DC Comics have pulled a cover for a forthcoming issue of the Batgirl comic after a storm of protest from fans. The cover, by Rafael Albuquerque, was a “variant” cover to the forthcoming issue 41 of the fan-favourite comic, and depicted the heroine with tears in her eyes and with Batman villain The Joker dangling a gun over her shoulder and drawing a blood-red grin across her face with his finger. It was meant as a homage to 1988’s seminal Batman standalone story The Killing Joke, written by Alan Moore, in which the Joker attacked, and probably sexually assaulted or raped, Batgirl aka Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon, leaving her in a wheelchair.
Angry fans took to Twitter with the hashtag #ChangeTheCover exhorting DC comics to pull the Batgirl variant, which the series’ regular artist Cameron Stewart later revealed had not been run past the creative team of writer Brenden Fletcher and artists Babs Tarr and Stewart. Batgirl has been one of DC’s biggest hits in recent months, thanks to its light and fun tone. Batgirl has been highlighted as one of the titles responsible for getting more women reading comics.
However, a counter-movement sprang up, with others calling on DC with a hashtag #SaveTheCover, among them American actor Adam Baldwin, and saying that pulling the cover would amount to censorship.
On March 16, DC Comics released a statement saying that the Albuquerque cover was now not going to run, at the artist’s request, and said that there had been “threats of violence and harassment” over the cover:
“We publish comic books about the greatest heroes in the world, and the most evil villains imaginable. The Joker variant covers for June are in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the Joker. Regardless if fans like Rafael Albuquerque’s homage to Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke graphic novel from 25 years ago, or find it inconsistent with the current tonality of the Batgirl books – threats of violence and harassment are wrong and have no place in comics or society. We stand by our creative talent, and per Rafael’s request, DC Comics will not publish the Batgirl variant.”