I have been way too affected by a comic cover this week. Not the cover itself, though still striking, but the back lash/controversy of #Changethecover, #Savethecover. I am always down for comics starting real conversation, especially by the big two (Marvel & DC), that blossoms beyond "who could win in a fight".
The X-men had us talking about civil rights issues that are still relevant. The New 52 line up had us talking about proper representation of women and minorities in their issues. Variant cover controversy is still a good starting point, albeit a lame one (like that whole uproar about Spider Woman's ass). The content within an issue has always had more relevance.
This brings me to the recent uproar over the Batgirl Joker variant.
I got a text at 8 am yesterday, asking for my opinion on the cover and , truth be told, I didn't have one. I didn't know what the fuck anyone was talking about.
Rafael Albuquerque's art showcased a disturbing memory of Batgirl's most infamous encounter with the Joker.
The Joker, being the subject of the DCU's upcoming variant line-up, wears attire from Alan Moore's Killing Joke. Batgirl is not physically restrained but psychologically frozen as the villain appears from the shadows. Casually, the Joker dangles the gun which rendered her helpless from around her shoulder. His gloved finger traces a wet crimson smile across her terrorized face.
Regardless of whether or not the Joker raped Barbara in the 1988 classic graphic novel, she had experienced a paralyzing bullet wound through the pelvis before being stripped naked and posed for the Jokers camera lens.
This happened to Barbara Gordon. This happened to Batgirl.
This also happens in the real world. Maybe they're not gunned down by psychopathic clowns but across the globe women are in situations where they are helpless to the whims of those who have little regard or respect for their well-being. It happens to eight year old girls, It happens to 85 year old women. It happens and it's real.
In the few moments of discomfort you feel right now, know that there are women (1 in 5 statistically) that have to live with this for the rest of their lives.
The struggle to regain a life, maintain healthy relationships, learn to trust and generally heal is a journey that is not talked about. It certainly isn't being talked about Batgirl.
Since 1988, we have watched Barbara work from the wheel chair, fight, get back on her feet and is now having a fun, dangerous, exciting bubbly life. She is still Batgirl and is as strong as ever.
So when i read comments saying "The cover is inconstant with her current tone" or that "Batgirl is not a hero on that cover" It hurts. Then it pisses me off.
I never thought in a million years that I would attribute victim shaming to superheroes but here we go.
Since when has seeing vulnerability in a hero make them any less of a hero? If Batgirl has post traumatic stress or freezes up at the thought of a horrific memory, guess what? SHE'S STILL BATGIRL. She is still capable and she's stronger than you could even know.
So when I see the original cover art "fixed" to make her look more defiant...
I can't help but think...
This suggests that a victims response isn't appropriate/proper/good enough/strong enough. Maybe she didn't fight hard enough?
Let me be perfectly clear: Being victimized sucks- it sucks a hell of a lot more when your reactions post-trauma is deemed too humiliating for onlookers to bear. You know what's even more humiliating? Assault.
That tear- that terror, it's not pretty. It wasn't pretty in 1988 either. There is so much to be said about survival. To live with that ugliness and continue to thrive is the most beautiful example of the human spirit. That beauty is painted over millions of women's faces. There is pure adrenalin in the tears they shed, pure hope in any sleepless night, true determination and grace in every moment they breathe in another day.