If there’s one thing Barbara Gordon has, it’s that she’s going to persevere. From a symbol of the women’s liberation movement in the Silver Age of comics to its modern depictions, no one, fictional or not, has been able to stop Batgirl for a long time.
People have been in Babs’s way from the start. Not even Batman was interested in Batgirl joining her crusade, but she knew her city needed her and who was going to ignore that call?
1967 would be the year of Batgirl. Unlike most heroes, Barbara Gordon made her comic and screen debut just a few months apart. On paper, Babs would go on a decades-long journey that would be tweaked, rebooted, and relaunched multiple times. On screen, she would play the incomparable Yvonne Craig. Although it ended up being the highlight of Craig’s career, she would inspire countless young women to immerse themselves in comics for the first time. Some of those women would be crazy enough to dive headfirst into pop culture media. And one of them is writing this story.
I didn’t spend a lot of time with my dad growing up (Babs and I have that in common), but when I did, we spend much of that time watching reruns together. Among a storied list of shows was the Batman series that started it all. Craig’s Batgirl only appeared in one season of the show, but since we never saw her in order, I would sit every week waiting for Babs’ bike to appear in the intro. Every time I did, the episode got my full attention.
it’s a bad joke
I read The Killing Joke by Alan Moore when I was young (probably too young, if we’re counting), but it never sat well with me. It wasn’t that I had read that something terrible had happened to my favorite hero… no, terrible things happen to heroes all the time. Batman had already died four times by that point. It wasn’t until I got a little older and learned how to dissect the media a little better that I realized that the problem was not the result (getting shot and paralyzed is pretty common for a crime fighter in Gotham) but how we ended up getting to that destination.
Barbara Gordon is smart. The best detective in the world comes to her in search of information. She is also very capable as a hero. However, Moore’s Killing Joke reduces her to a token to be moved in her father’s and Batman’s stories. To add insult to injury (literally), an unwitting Barbara Gordon, Batgirl, already reduced to a housewife of sorts in this story, opens the door without checking who’s there first. In Gotham City.
Now, judging the art of the past by today’s cultural standards is a fool’s errand, but many smarter women than I had been ahead of me in academically deconstructing the shitty treatment of the Babs character shortly after the comic’s release. Among them was Kim Yale, who, along with her husband John Ostrander, would flesh out Barbara’s second but equally important alter-ego: Oracle.
The Killing Joke reduced Barbara Gordon to a pawn and left her a paraplegic, but that wasn’t enough to stop her. Yale and Ostrander saw to it that the heroine remained Oracle, and both would prove that her physical prowess wasn’t what made her a hero.
The Oracle in the Clock Tower
The idea that Barbara didn’t need her legs to save Gotham was something that grew and evolved over time. While there were some hiccups with able-bodied people trying to bring her to life, Yale and Ostrander did an admirable job with her character. Under her feathers, Babs would become a symbol of empowerment not only for the disabled. He would help the Suicide Squad, Batman, and the rest of the Batfamily, and even form his own team: Birds of Prey.
Oracle’s impact is different from other disabled characters in the comics, not because she’s more important, but because we embarked on that journey with her. Her paraplegia is part of her in a tangible way and is never used as a gimmick. We see her go through the stages of grief over her situation, and then we see her rise above that despair to save her broken city anyway. His story is not just a sign of perseverancebut one of the few to represent the disabled community in comics.
Where is Barbara Gordon?
Despite her remarkable permanence in comic book history, Batgirl isn’t seen much in live-action narrative beyond the 1960s Batman series. We see her in the short-lived Birds of Prey series, she has a step by Titans and we have little Babs in Gotham, but that’s all beyond Alicia Silverstone playing a version of her name in Batman & Robin. In fact, she is often erased from stories that she would be a part of.
Explain to me how we ended up with a Birds of Prey movie without founding member Barbara Gordon.
In Arrow, Felicity Smoak’s character is basically Barbara in all but name. He’s more quirky, sure, and he only wears a super suit in alternate timelines, but the paraplegia, the information agent… it’s all there at one point or another. Heck, when Felicity gets her codename from her (Overwatch), Oliver Queen makes a brave comment about “I was going to use Oracle, but it’s screwed.”
Then there is the matter of Birds of Prey. An extraordinary movie! I’m lovin ‘it. I would like someone to explain how we ended up with a Birds of Prey movie without its founding member, Barbara Gordonbut hey, we’ve got a very good movie (and soundtrack).
Lastly, we have the Batgirl movie. After years of anticipation (and a couple of iterations and failed attempts), we were finally going to see Barbara Gordon in her own movie. And she was going to be played by Leslie Grace. A whole new generation of women was going to be able to look like the heroine and something as stupid as corporate greed took it all, it seems.
Now, here we come across the new Gotham Knights game that stars Batgirl alongside her companions, but is said to be not very good…
Then, Where do i want to go with this?
Exactly what I said from the beginning. batgirl will persevere. Whether facing narrative objectification in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke or as a victim of corporate greed in David Zaslav’s Warner Bros. Discovery, Batgirl will continue.
The bad stories will still exist, the rich will still destroy things for money, and we’ll probably see her in character but not name a few more times if the DCEU continues its (ridiculous) aversion to using members of the Batfamily in all of its media. , but Barbara Gordon will still be there. The heroine will still be there saving Gotham as Oracle, Batgirl and sometimes even both. We will continue to have hundreds of issues of comics and loads of great animation to dive into to remind us to stand firm even when scared.
And yes, I will probably continue to spend 70 euros on the game because she is my girl and I will never miss the opportunity to play with her. (Shout out to Batgirl’s side quest in Arkham: Origins, the only good part of the whole damn game.)
In any case, Long live Barbara Gordon.