Batgirl goes clubbing

The Batman family’s crowded.  The Dark Knight has fought alongside a half dozen Robins, Batgirls, and other vigilantes like Huntress, Manhunter, and Azrael.  Even Bruce Wayne shared the Batman costume with at least two others.  So Gotham has a few dozen superheroes running around at all times, yet it’s still the most dangerous city in the country.  To be fair, Superman protects Metropolis while moving at the speed of light with the strength to lift the moon, whereas Huntress patrols Gotham with a motorcycle and a crossbow.  Maybe Batman’s hometown needs a few more superheroes than other major DC cities.  Luckily, the need for a gigantic quantity of Bat people gave us Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl.

Barbara’s the daughter of Commissioner Jim Gordon, the chain-smoking mustachioed policeman that Batman trust over all other civilian.  She first appeared in 1967, with the goal of using her as a tool to attract more female fans.  Over time, Barbara became a technological genius, a high-skilled martial artist, and Dick Grayson’s (the first Robin) main love interest.  But because she’s a Bat, she suffers from the Batcurse – an inability to have a good time.  Fortunately in The Brave and the Bold #33 written by the genius J. Michael Straczynski, superheroes Zatanna and the Wonder Woman have a plan to fix that.

I covered Wonder Woman at the beginning of the week, but I should probably do a brief paragraph on Zatanna in case you don’t know about her.

It’s not easy to fight crime in fishnets and a top hat, but to be fair to her, she makes her living as a stage magician.  Also, she sort of cheats, because she’s an actual magician.  Her superpower lets her cast spells by reciting them backwards.  And because she uses comic book magic, her spells can do whatever she wants to whoever she wants whenever she wants it.  Plus, that’s her actual name, not hiding behind silly secret identities.  Oh, and Zatanna likes dancing.

Now anyone who’s ever taken a business class must be a little suspicious at this point.  Comics are expensive and readers aren’t going to shell down $2.99 to watch their superheroes crunk the night away.  Trust me, storytelling sometimes takes a while to pay off, much like the first eight episodes of every season of Breaking Bad.  Buckle up and just enjoy the ladies’ letting loose for an evening.

No supervillains crashing the party?  No robberies across the street?  No random fires at the club? Nope, simply three crimefighters having a night on the town.  But the article’s about Batgirl.  And before the partying started, this issue began with a nightmare from Zatanna.

Followed by this strange scene with Zatanna and Wonder Woman weeping in each other’s arms.

Let Wonder Woman explain a little better than I can.

It’s common knowledge at this point, so I hope I’m not really spoiling anything, but in the mega-famous 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke written by Alan Moore, the Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara, which ultimately changes her character for over 20 years.  And as you’ve figured out from the above panels, Zatanna knows what’s about to happen.  As nicely as I can put it, there’s nothing she can do to stop this and it sucks.  What do you do in this situation?  Well, the best you can.

And with a single panel, Batgirl’s permanently confined to a wheelchair.  Worse yet, the Joker doesn’t even know Barbara is Batgirl, making her just a cog in his cruel scheme against her father.  For the next two decades, Barbara works as Oracle, the information broker and tech support for the Bat family, the Justice League, and even leader of the Birds of Prey, an all-female superhero team. Barbara even got briefly engaged to Grayson.  But the sadness, regret, and frustration never truly faded as the character evolved throughout the 1990s and 2000s.  Which makes this flashback issue wonderfully bittersweet.

When DC rebooted all their comics in September 2011, Barbara’s paralysis mysteriously healed and she regained her title of Batgirl.  Honestly, with the amount of magic, technology, and deus ex machina roaming around the DC universe, she probably could have been cured earlier.  Still, as a reader, I’m absolutely delighted to see her once more kicking bad guys.

6 Comments on “Batgirl goes clubbing”

  1. wwayne says:

    I usually don’t like prequels (if we know how the story ended, who cares what happened before?), but I really, really loved this issue. One of the most beautiful stand alone stories I’ve ever read.

  2. Dee says:

    I actually don’t really like the fact that Barbara can walk now. What happened to her is horrifically tragic, but I think that for her to make a name for herself even after she became paralyzed sent a really good message to people. It’s kind of inspiring to see a character who was once Batgirl still remain a hero regardless of the tragedy that struck her. She became the Oracle, was a genius hacker for Batman and the Justice League, and could still kick-ass even confined to a wheelchair. It sort of depletes her character a bit now that they made her able to walk again. But then…that’s just my opinion and I still love her so…whatevs…

  3. Js says:

    I was never really a fan of Batgirl, but I loved Barbara Gordon/Oracle. Between her leadership of the Birds of Prey under Simone, and her role in the JLA under Morrison, she was probably the single strongest, determined, and influential characters DC comics had… and yet she was completely ignored. She fed information to Batman, making him look good. She guided the BoP against super-villains, assassins, and X-Files style shady government branches. She provided information to the god-like Justice League, without which the world or even the galaxy would have been lost.From her wheelchair, using her mind, her wits, and a determination that few others could match, she made a real difference. She was the most pivotal character in the entire DC Universe…

    …then New52 happened.

    I was angry at the change. Barbara Gordon was gone. Oracle was no more. Batgirl was back. We have had bat-girls, plenty of them, and some were fantastic characters in their own right. But we had only one Oracle.

    I gave it a shot anyway, Barbara was back in the hands of Gail Simone, so there had to be something good to read. I am so glad I did. The tragedy that cost her her legs was still part of the story, but even though she had the use of all her limbs, she was damaged in other ways. Barbara had a lot of mental and emotional trauma to overcome, her injury had left her in a chair, and now that she was out of it, she was still left with a sever case of post-traumatic stress. As the title went on, she grew, she improved. She met new challenges and found ways to over come them. By the end of Simone’s run on Batgirl, two things were clear to me,1) Batgirl is a gimmick, a mask, a logo to be worn to make sales, Barbara Gordon is the hero. She is the one who saves the day, makes the choices, faces the consequences. She picked herself up and made herself a superhero, then overcame her fears, and by the end of it all, it was plain to see that she was still the old Oracle, but now she could beat the odds physically as well as cerebrally. The computer expert supreme was back. The detective was back. The daring adventurer with the never say die attitude was back, and that lead me to 2) Batgirl was the single best book in the Bat -Family of books by far, and maybe all of DC, too (although Aquaman is right on her heels). She was a hero who lived up to the reputation. She did what was right, and was someone for young fans, especially young girls, to look up to. I was madly in love with the idea that Batgirl could become the next big thing, that she could inspire a generation of fans, and be the bright light that could give hope to young girls in the future.

    Then DC rebooted the book again, de-aging Barbara in an effort to make her more appealing to the current “trend chasing” crowd. I tried to read it, I didn’t get far. The things that made Barbara distinctly Barbara weren’t there. A friend suffers a tragedy and she cares more about how it effects her than the actual victim. The stories are weak. The villains are watered down. I just can’t be made to feel anything for the current version of the character.

    I don’t care how “cool” or trendy Batgirl is at the moment, because Batgirl doesn’t matter, Barbara Gordon matters, and DC seems to have forgotten that.

    Thanks for giving me a place to rant.

  4. Whiplasherman says:

    It’s been mentioned in more than one comic that Barbara has been offered a cure — Jonn Jon’zz floated it by her in one issue of JLA, for instance — but she refused because she’s waiting for a cure that’s more universally available. Whether that’s because it would compromise her secret identity or just the writers not wanting to upset the status quo or resort to deus machina too easily, I prefer to believe she’s selfless enough to want a cure that would benefit EVERYONE, not just her. Because that’s the type of hero Barbara Gordon used to be.

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