Friday Four: 3/14 – 3/20

This week’s post is pretty heavy on the social justice even though it’s also about comic books and video games. A lot happened in comics and in social justice and I started paying attention to more of the things being passed around my dash. Especially pieces on harassment and accessibility in comic book culture.

So here’s what’s stuck in my thoughts this week.

Trigger Warning for: abuse, online harassment, references to The Killing Joke under the cut


1. Arkham Knight

I’m not much of a gamer.

In fact, I’m terrible at video games and boardgames and roleplaying games. If it’s got the word “game” in it, I’ll gladly admit that I’m probably terrible at it. But despite that, the one series I love and buy all the time without a care for how long it’ll take me is the Batman game series put out by Rocksteady Studios.

When I say I love this game I mean… I really love this game. The only entry in the series I don’t have so far (aside from AK since it’s not out yet) is Arkham Asylym and that’s only because my college roommate’s boyfriend had it when it came out so I did my thing and struggled through the game as best as I could.

Hell, I still haven’t finished playing my copy of Arkham City (that my best friend got me in 2012!!) but I bought Arkham Origins last year and I’m probably going to buy Arkham Knight when it comes out in June.

Why?

Because I’ve just seen the utterly gorgeous cinematic trailer for the game. Everything about it looks perfect and super realistic. Bruce’s face — geez, Bruce’s face — The footage in the trailer actually looks like an actor instead of 3D modeling/rendering from the game. And Harvey Dent, my second favorite villain in the DCU, was there shooting up the joint and I loved it.

In all seriousness: this trailer got me even more excited for a game that I was already excited to buy and I think that everyone should at least watch the trailer once (because it’s good).

2.  #ChangetheCover & Batgirl #41

I won’t be linking to Rafael Albuquerque’s now-scrapped variant cover for Batgirl #41 or putting the picture in the post. I thought about it because it’s an eye-catching picture but really, it’s already all over the internet. I don’t need to put it out there on my blog.

From early in the week we’ve seen the comic fandom going in on the artwork that was poised to be the variant for Batgirl come June. Some people liked that it was paying homage to The Killing Joke. Others… really didn’t like it.

I was one of those people.

I’ve never liked the Joker outside of the 60s Batman show or the Batman animated series. I don’t like that he’s seen as Jerry Robinson’s most important contribution to Batman nor do I like the way that he’s seen as the be-all and end-all of DC’s really amazing cast of villains. And I really don’t like The Killing Joke.

But I get that he’s a big sell for DC and a lot of people love him as their problematic fave, so I definitely got why he was getting a set of variant covers in June. It’s his year kind of and I got it.

What I didn’t get was why they were putting that variant on Batgirl of all the books. This run of Batgirl is cuter, more lighthearted than what we’ve had for a hot minute. It’s all about new beginnings and independence and it’s super accessible for a lot of girls and young women. That’s not the kind of book you’d expect to see a rather horrific Joker variant packaged with because it doesn’t match the tone.

Well, a ton of people felt that way. I think the hashtag #ChangetheCover even trended for a while. I know my timeline on twitter was basically full of people talking about what was going on and retweeting posts/tweets/articles about it. It was everywhere!

TheMarySue had a piece on what the cover means to young readers and new readers that straight up rocked my world . My friend Yamini wrote an intense post about the cover. In it she kind of touches on how the cover attempts to rebrand Barbara as the Joker’s victim while also pointing out how the other artists’ variants were handled much differently.

You couldn’t go on social media without seeing something about the cover case, either people who wanted it changed or people who didn’t. Everyone threw in on it and for the most part, it was interesting. (At least until the GG dudes got in on it and started threatening

And eventually, the cover was dropped.

Not only that, but both DC and Rafael Albuquerque delivered an apology to fans for the choice of art. (While I’m not all together pleased by how unclear DC’s statement was especially with regard to who was getting all the threats and harassment that they mentioned, I wasn’t expecting it in the first place, you know?)

And I think that’s important because it shows that the people in charge are listening to readers, that the artists and creators are looking out for people, and that they understand what really sells and that they’re starting to really figure out who they should be looking towards as the future of comic book culture and fandom.

3. Some Joker variants that I actually liked

Out of the Joker Month variants that we got for June, there were several from the early looks that I actually really enjoyed. And as you can tell from the entry just before this one, me enjoying anything with the Joker on it that came out after 1970 is a pretty big deal.

Joker-Variant-WWOne cover that got me was the Wonder Woman Joker variant by Brian Bolland. I can’t get over how much I like this cover but it’s so good and says so much that I can’t help myself.

It’s got great notes.The Joker is barely visible in the picture and blends into the background of the cover so your eyes go to Diana. You’re looking at Wonder Woman dealing with a major creep trying to hold her hostage with a bomb pressed against her back and you wind up with questions.

You wind up looking for a story.

How did this come to be? How did Diana end up dancing with the Joker like this? When I first saw this, I was thinking about how Diana is damn near invulnerable (if not totally invulnerable, but then I haven’t read WW in a hot minute so I’m not sure). If she’s so powerful and so strong, what’s keeping her from knocking the Joker out?

I think good covers have to do certain things to get that status.

They have to entertain, make you ask questions, or make you want to pick up the book to answer questions. That’s not all, but those are definitely three of the things that I look for in a cover and this cover kind of hits all of those buttons for me.

Joker-Variant-GAAnother cover I liked (and that my nieces LOVED) was the variant for Gotham Academy. It’s just so… so darn reminiscent of Scooby Doo that I knew I was going to love it even though the Joker is in the darn thing. Scooby Doo is my thing. It’s the show I watched religiously as a child and so anything that can kind of throw me back to the show is a good thing.

It’s a cute cover for a cute series (that has a huge amount of depth to it on top of the cute character designs and feel-good girl friendships). The cover fits the series to a T. The characters of Gotham Academy because while the Joker is there, he isn’t really. This is more about teenage girls solving mysteries together and realizing that the creepy guy in the greasepaint doesn’t actually have power over you.

I’m a bit behind with Gotham Academy, but trust me, I’ll definitely be getting this cover come June.

(An honorary mention for really great covers, btw, is Javier Pulido’s cover for Catwoman because really, I’m here for anything that ends with the Joker getting a punch and the cover does that while being super stylish.)

4. Online Harassment in general along with in fandom/geek culture spaces

This deserves a longer post.

It will probably get one someday, but right now I’m just still focused on thinking about other people and what they’ve gone through. I caught up with various blogs and stuff yesterday and one of the things I kept seeing was talk about harassment from dudebros.

I wanted to share some links and talk about harassment.

I’ve been lucky so far. I have yet to experience harassment from male fans in fandom spaces. I’ve had harassment from other fans of other genders (mostly mild stuff like anonymous messages, people sharing and misrepresenting my tweets or posts, low-level rumor spreading) but it’s never been a huge deal and it’s never been on a scale that has threatened my real life, only my fandom life.

None of it is as bad as what other women in fandom have gone through.

I watched Anita Sarkeesian’s speech at the “What I Couldn’t Say” Panel at the All About Women Festival in dead silence. Normally, I try to multitask when watching videos because my attention span is crap but I couldn’t do it here. I felt compelled to turn everything off and focus because this is probably one of the most important speeches ever made on harassment and she deserves my respect because she’s been going through so much shit for so long. It was hard to listen to and a bit hard to watch because she’s gone through so much, but she is so amazing. I’m probably going to make everyone I know watch the speech because it’s that important.

There’s only a short clip of Monica Lewinsky’s speech on online harassment up so far, but the article on the TMS is really good and has tweets about it. It may also update with links to the full speech when the footage from #TED2015 goes up on their website. If it does, please watch it because she talks about some serious stuff and even just that 20-second clip is illuminating.

Lastly, many comic fans were left stunned when writer Valerie D’Orazio posted “Are You Going To Cry, Little Girl?“, a post that spoke about her years of cyberbullying at the hands of Comics Alliance contributor and future X-Men writer Chris Sims. She writes about how he treated her, how Marvel treated her, how her whole world was shaken and what she still has to deal with due to the trauma caused by relentless cyber bullying between 2007-2010.

The post on her website is another tough read but I think that it is also incredibly important to read if you can go through it without being triggered yourself because we need to know this sort of thing. We need to know about the people writing our comics that aren’t as good or just as the characters they’re writing and the sort of horrid treatment that other women experience at their hands. We need to be talking about the fact that this specific thing happened and that there are people who we know are abusers and harassers working in comics and it’s swept under the rug or ignored.

If you do nothing else after making it to the bottom of this post, click the links in this section. Click the hell out of them because they’re so important and everyone needs to be seeing/reading those links and thinking about what they mean and what they say about geek culture, comic culture, and online harassment.

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About Zina

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
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