DC Entertainment have cancelled an upcoming "Joker variant" to Batgirl #41 following a social media storm that erupted from its reveal last week, Comic Book Resources reports.
The cover, by artist Rafael Albuquerque, depicted a traumatized Batgirl standing beside The Joker, who was dressed as he was in Alan Moore's acclaimed The Killing Joke.
Alan Moore’s essential Killing Jokestory, was the story where the Joker shot Gordon and paralyzed her. The scenario was used to drive a tied-down police commissioner Jim Gordon insane when the Joker showed off images of a nude, tortured Barbara. And as Batgirl writer Cameron Stewart states, that’s not the current direction for Barbara’s character.
The Killing Joke has been strongly criticized for normalizing or glamorizing sexual assault. It's also been criticized because Barbara Gordon hardly appears in the story, so the attack on her only exists in the context of what it means for Batman and Gordon.
It was one of the early cited examples of "women in refrigerators," a phrase coined by then-blogger, now comic book writer Gail Simone to describe the poor treatment of female superheroes and supporting characters in comics.
"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," Albuquerque said in a statement.
"For me, it was just a creepy cover that brought up something from the character’s past that I was able to interpret artistically," the artist wrote.
"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."
DC also issued a statement, saying that they supported Albuquerque and would cancel the variant at his request. You can read DC’s statement below:
"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. – DC Entertainment"
Batgirl #41 is set to hit stands this June.