Batgirl goes clubbingPosted: 06/27/2012
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.