• DC Comics gives in to politically correct censorship

    After a politically correct tantrum, DC Comics pulled this cover-tribute to the most popular story of how Joker was born:

    The tantrum was made because the image is supposedly sexist and the story it pays tribute to ends up with Barbara Gordon / Batgirl crippled at the hands of the villain (also probably raped).

    So this is how things are now: Everything will end up being so offensive that nothing will be published, lest you offend anyone… because, somehow, now one is responsible for the feelings of other people (?) who also happen to believe that being offended is carte blanche to start virtual bullying campaigns. (And, of course, they will not be responsible for the feelings of their victims (??).)

    Go figure.

    Category: PhilosophySkepticism


    Article by: Ðavid A. Osorio S

    Skeptic | Blogger | Fact-checker

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    • No. Complaints are not censorship. One doesn’t “give in” to censorship, it is imposed by authority. This was not censorship. You can argue about whether they should or shouldn’t have given in, but in the end it was a business decision.

      • Hi @MrRess:disqus; beg to differ: I consider self-censorship to be a kind of censorship.

    • mumd0g

      Yeah, I agree with MrRess here. This is a heck of a lot more complex than the way this post portrays it. I’m not saying I agree or that DC was ‘right’ because frankly the brain trust at DC is composed neither of brains nor people I trust, but the person who drew the cover asked that it not go to print. Given the tone of the new Batgirl book, I think the cover makes no sense at all and I still think Killing Joke is one of the most important books DC ever printed. There is a great discussion at io9 about it now.


      • Hi @mumd0g:disqus, thanks for your comment.

        I stand by the point I made: Albquerque asked for the cover to be pulled because of the Twitter campaign. One does not simply draw a homage-cover just to say “Well, don’t run it!”.

        This has nothing to do with the new tone of the comic since it was a tribute to The Killing Joke.

        • mumd0g

          No I mean the tone of the NEW comic. The new Batgirl is revamped as a more teen-friendly book. Again, I’m not even saying I agree per se. The problem is though, DC is literally SO bad at these things that they open themselves up for this kind of backlash. The whole ‘Harley Quinn committing suicide’ thing was another. Hell, there is a website about it.


        • Vandy Beth Glenn

          It has everything to do with the new tone of the comic, inasmuch as the cover would have been part of the comic.

          • It was a tribute to the 75 years since the inception of the Joker.

            So you tell me:

            a) They waited until the whole controversy blew up, and *coincidentally*, Abulquerque recalled his cover (he didn’t like his work the minute he was done with it, right?), and in an equally *convenient* fashion the cover (that was made public somehow) “hadn’t been approved”.

            b) It was an approved cover, but when controversy blew up, knowing how SJWs ruin lives and careers they chose to pull it and pretend it hadn’t been approved and Albuquerque really didn’t like this time-consuming cover.

            • Vandy Beth Glenn

              a) I’m sure he liked his work fine, he just recognized it was a bad fit for the new look and feel of the series.

              You’re changing the facts to support your faulty case. The cover hadn’t been approved by the book’s writer and artist, and probably wasn’t subject to their approval. It had been approved by DC, and was probably made public by their marketing people. Nothing coincidental or convenient going on, so I don’t get what your scare quotes are about.

              b) No one’s pretending the cover hadn’t been approved by the people who approve such things, and Albuquerque has never said he didn’t like his work (which is excellent work, and he was still paid for it; it just didn’t belong on an issue of Batgirl).

              The SJWs have nothing to do with this matter.

            • I’m not changing facts. This was an *alternate* cover, so you could buy the issue with the regular cover or, if you wanted it, you could take home this cover. It was only for the fans who would take it. If you felt it wasn’t in the actual tone, you didn’t buy it and that was it.

              Actually, my hypothesis fits just fine with the known facts. And I’m sorry but I tend to be skeptical so I won’t take DC’s word at face value.

              (BTW, it’s not scare quotes, it’s the way I stress something out when there’s not an Italic button.)

            • Vandy Beth Glenn

              But there’s no “word” from DC to take at face or any other value. The company never claimed the cover hadn’t been approved, and it wasn’t leaked in any surreptitious way. Nobody said anything about the cover before the controversy because nobody thought anything needed to be said until there was a controversy.

    • Vandy Beth Glenn

      This wasn’t censorship and it had nothing to do with “political correctness;” I can’t even conceive of how you bring that term into this story. This was a company responding to its customers.

      Imagine the Coca-Cola Company announcing it would stop producing Coke and would henceforth fill its Coke cans with pineapple juice, which it would distribute and sell as “Coca-Cola.”

      Now imagine Coke drinkers complaining about this change in its product, loudly and in sufficient numbers that the company realized it had made a bad decision, and canceled the Coke-to-pineapple-juice plan.

      Would you call that censorship? Would you say the company was being “politically correct”?

      I doubt very much that you would. And this is exactly the same kind of situation.

      • So… a hero being in a dangerous situation, for a cover that was supposed to pay homage to the Joker character no less is changing the product?

        I don’t see how your metaphor applies.

        • mumd0g

          It isn’t a metaphor at all. Look, DC’s largest problem IMHO is with tone. Their books were about super heroes being super, about how heroes are bigger, better, smarter than us. They were icons. Then Frank Miller came along and did The Dark Knight Returns. It is unquestionably (again, IMHO) the best Batman story ever written, because it introduced some ideas that DC had never really engaged with before, IE this actual human ‘darker’ element to the heroes. Suddenly ZAP! BANG! POW! Batman is a brooding psychopath meant to kill Superman. Fans freaked out THEN also. Imagine putting the cover from The Dark Knight (Batman on a field of lightning) onto the lighthearted ‘Gee Wiz Batman! Is this cake a clue from the Riddler?’ type books.

          Ramp that up 100% in this case. In the Killing Joke, it is implied that the Joker sexually assaulted Barbara Gordon. In the original page, linked here, its more than implied. You’ve now just put a rape reference on the front page of a book meant for young audiences. I don’t buy that ‘non fans/SJWs’ complained because it is a rather obscure reference. They may have amplified it (as they are wont to do) but it started from people who ‘got’ the book.

          Also, look at the larger context: DC did EXACTLY THE SAME THING with Teen Titans. They had grown a property towards teens with a TV show, then relaunched the book with a 14 year old girl in a revamped, highly sexualized costume on the cover. Hell even I, Vampire suffered from this. The covers of that book were obviously some dumb ass marketing exec saying ‘Can we make it more Twilight-y??’ but you open the book and it looked like 30 Days of Night. I seriously never even picked one up because of how bad the covers were, then a friend gave me a trade and I was blown away. Look at the difference, attached.

          Finally, like I said: the art is amazing and on a different book I could see it. But it is patently clear that DC has their heads up their asses on all of these things. I’m not glad that the discussion entered SJW territory, but it doesn’t mean that they were wrong.


          • Vandy Beth Glenn

            Yeah, it’s a guilt-by-association argument. If SJWs said the sky were blue, and provide nonsensical reasons for believing the sky is blue…

            …it still won’t mean the sky is another color.

      • Alex Fiorentini

        I highly doubt that it was their customers who complained. Their customers are Batman comic fans, and they understand what’s going on and why; they understand that the Joker is a maniacal psychopath, which is what this variant cover is meant to show (and it does so very effectively, not just by the hostage superhero, but also by the fact that he drew a smile on her face and he is making a gun gesture instead of pointing with the gun itself). Fans get it. The people who complained clearly do not.

        • Vandy Beth Glenn

          No, their customers are Batgirl fans (like me), not Batman fans. I do understand the Joker is a psychopath, and that that’s what the cover shows.

          It’s a great cover; it’s just out of tone and inappropriate with the present Batgirl comic book (of which I own every issue).

          • Alex Fiorentini

            Oh, in that case, what is the present Batgirl situation that makes this inappropriate and out of tone? I can completely understand outrage over inconsistent stories and overall bad cannon.

            • Vandy Beth Glenn

              The style of the current Batgirl comic is an attempt to attract adolescent girls into reading it. She’s now more youthful and carefree than before, as are her friends, and the book has a lighter, less serious tone, especially compared to the other Bat books. They’re giving Batgirl more agency, making her more confident and un charge.

              This cover, counter to all that, depicts her as crying, captive, terrified, helpless, and threatened by a man with a gun. It is as incongruent with the style of the book as if an issue of Archie Comics depicted Jughead on his ass in an alley, tying off a vein, about to shoot smack.

            • Joseph Kelross

              Not a man with a gun a monster with a pistol who is known as the smartest of all villains and has in almost every version outsmarted the hero look what he does to superman in injustice

            • Joker’s not “the smartest of all villains.” That’s Lex Luthor.

          • I have other Batgirl fans and they’re outraged at the decision to pull the cover. They don’t think the tone argument holds water.

            • Vandy Beth Glenn

              They’re welcome to disagree, and I’d love to read their argument.

    • guerillasurgeon

      Free speech simply means the government will not prosecute you for what you say. It does not mean that private organisations or individual people cannot complain, or vote with their pocket books if they think something is inappropriate. So it’s nothing to do with censorship. Speech does not free you from consequences, whether you like them or not.

      • What shall we call it, then, when people (or corporations) self-censor art out of fear of a non-governmental public backlash, in the modern age of viral outrage?

        • guerillasurgeon

          We call it consequences. Because you can’t stop people expressing opinions, and you can’t stop people spending their money the way they want to. That is communism. It seems many people, including you misunderstand the nature of freedom of speech in the US. It has nothing to do with private organisations and you as an individual can put as much pressure on people as you want to or rather as you can afford. That doesn’t say that they have to respond to this pressure. But if it’s economic pressure they probably will, and restricting people’s rights to spend their money wherever they choose is probably worse than restricting their right to pressure someone with said money.

          • Did I invoke “freedom of speech in the US” at some point, or are you making a number of unwarranted leaps?

            • guerillasurgeon

              Markets are always imperfect. And if the perception is that outraged moral crusaders will buy more than contented consumers, and of course they will be prioritised. But nobody is going to prioritise a couple of “disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” letters. And presumably DC comics makes a rational judgement about how much money they are about to lose – or not – when they make the decision about the cover. But I’d hardly call a comic book cover/poster design to sell the damn things as artistic expression. It’s DC comics job to sell comic books, and that’s what the cover or whatever it is is all about. That’s all. If they are not capable of making a rational decision they shouldn’t be in business :-).

            • Two things.

              1) Vandy Beth Glenn has made a compelling case elsewhere in this comment thread that this was a smart move for DC, given the nature of the fan base for this particular publication. Fair enough, maybe this is a genuinely rational decision.

              2) Companies are generally risk averse, and may not have any good way to measure if the outrage they are receiving is coming from their actual consumers or a well-rallied base of keyboard outrage artists. It may well be that this was the rare exception to the general rule that internet outbursts should be weathered rather than accommodated.

            • guerillasurgeon

              Well, the BBC has managed to weather something which might be a case of keyboard outrage, which also comes from fans. They probably kept in mind that although fans often threaten they don’t always follow through. Mind you, they have been risk averse until now. I see your point, but I don’t have much sympathy for businesses who make irrational decisions. After all classical economics is based on perfect knowledge :-).

            • I’m not a comics buyer, but I do have comics fans friends who didn’t like the turn of things a bit. They don’t buy the tone argument and *they’re DC consumers*.

              Yes, there are some Batgirl fans who didn’t like the cover. But there were also Batgirl fans who did, and given it was an alternate cover, the ones who didn’t like this cover could’ve bought the regular one and be done with it.

              But the ones who liked this one were stripped out of the decision.

            • Well, they definitely shouldn’t be in heros’ business since it’s obvious they can’t take a stand.

            • mumd0g

              You are half right. They shouldn’t be in the business because, as the link I posted above shows, the people who make editorial decisions at DC are a bunch of bone headed morons. In your other comment above, you mention that you aren’t a comics buyer, so I can forgive you for not seeing the larger context here, but just to be clear: DC is in the business of catering (actually, pandering is a better word) to a vocal minority. They’ve gone on record saying ‘comic book fans are 45 year old men’ and as a group, the most shrill, idiotic and ultimately self defeating group of people I’ve ever seen are the tiny, vocal minority of comics fans that claim to be the True Fans. They complain when something is awesome, they complain when something sucks. They complain that comics aren’t what they used to be, but complain when things are getting stale. And the worst part is, no matter what they keep buying a book even if it is terrible. So when you say ‘they can’t take a stand,’ you couldn’t be more wrong. They take ferocious and ridiculous stances all the time to ensure their sales don’t dip. They’ve declared creators persona non grata for daring to question editorial interference. They’ve churned out dozens of awful books for years because they know a small group of people will buy a title no matter what. They are unwilling to think long term about their brand, they license their material to people with no vision, they openly bribe bloggers to give good reviews, they recycle old, tired tropes again and again, they seem incapable of creating a story that isn’t one part of a labyrinthine, ‘for the TRUE fans’ book. I think the worst part is they have literally no shame whatsoever in milking a corpse for cash. I stopped buying DC books a long time back, but I decided that I’d never give that company another dime in any format, be it a comic book, t-shirt, or film after the Before Watchmen mess. An utterly tone deaf cash-in that was appalling in places and was all but ignored by any comic media outlet since they are in DC’s pockets.

              As for the actual situation, here is a petition I’ve seen linked at a couple of articles about the cover controversy to keep it.


              360 signatures. I’m not saying this is completely indicative of the level of outrage, but a petition for GM to start making El Caminos again has over 2700 signatures. Ultimately, I’m glad the core group of fanboys got mad about this. Their comments have proved that not only do they not understand what the problem is, they can’t even articulate why they believe it shouldn’t be a problem. They all come off as shills for a corporation that cares nothing about them. It’s great.

          • So Charlie Hebdo had it coming. Consequences, right?

      • No, it doesn’t. The definition of censorship is broader.

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