The World At Noonan - Batgirl, In And Out Of The Chair
Lucy Noonan writes for Bleeding Cool;
Like many people I have spoken to, I have been incredibly disappointed with the storylines that have come out of DC Universe?s latest reboot, dropping many of my usual comics from my reading list and being forced to pick new ones. One of the comics I have started reading in the New 52 is Batgirl, a comic I was sure I wasn?t going to like. When I heard that they would be bringing Barbara Gordon back to the Batgirl role I was incredibly disappointed, I loved her as Oracle and wanted her to remain in the role for many reasons. However, when I learned that DC had appointed Gail Simone to write her I decided to give it a shot and like with everything Gail writes I have not been disappointed.
Simone has a well-earned reputation for developing well rounded, strong women that are easily relatable. She is most well known for her work on Birds of Prey ? a team of kickass superheroines led by Oracle. Even though these are characters that have been around for decades, in Birds of Prey, with Simone?s writing, it seemed as though we were seeing these characters fully for the first time. We don?t just see the superheroes getting the baddies, we see the girlfriends hanging out, the family squabbles and everything in between. Simone genuinely loves these girls, she knows them inside out and you can see it in her work. When I want something to read that I know I?ll always enjoy I pick up one of my Birds of Prey graphic novels because there is always a thrilling storyline with characters you love.
It?s interesting to read Batgirl after having read Oracle in Birds of Prey because though they are both Barbara Gordon we see very different Barbara?s. Simone doesn?t ignore the history of characters, she knows that a character?s history shapes and changes them into who they are now. So our current Batgirl Barbara is not somebody who has just stood up after three years and put her costume back on ? which would have been very easy to do. Barbara is a superhero eager to get back out fighting crime but she also a woman who (in this timeline) was shot only 3 years ago and was left paralyzed for that time without the hope of ever being able to walk again. She has flashbacks to her shooting, even dealing with one of the Joker?s accomplices and she has survivor?s guilt (knocked out of her in true Simone style by Dinah). Unlike with many other character?s we haven?t been taken all the way back to the beginning of Barbara?s story this is the same strong inspirational woman we saw in Oracle but we are also seeing flashes of the young, often immature Batgirl trying to prove herself all under new circumstances.
Though I agree with many of the arguments I heard for keeping Barbara in the wheelchair there are some I do not, one of them being that she is no longer inspirational. I have not seen a truer depiction of a strong woman in comics than Barbara and that includes her as the current Batgirl. Anybody who can say that a woman who faces that kind of trauma and when cured, can still bring herself to not only live a relatively normal life by day but also nearly die fighting for justice every single night, isn?t inspirational doesn?t understand the meaning of the word. I understand how important and inspiring Oracle was for many people but Batgirl as we see her now is definitely still an inspiration. In the matter of Barbara?s restoration I think Simone said it best herself last year when speaking to Jill Pantozzi (who has Muscular Dystrophy and wrote a very moving article ?ORACLE Is Stronger Than BATGIRL Will Ever Be?) - ?Arms and legs get ripped off, and they grow back, somehow. Graves don't stay filled. But the one constant is that Barbara stays in that chair. Role model or not, that is problematic and uncomfortable, and the excuses to not cure her, in a world of purple rays and magic and super-science, are often unconvincing or wholly meta-textual. And the longer it goes on, the more it has stretched credibility.?
I loved Barbara as Oracle, she was strong and intelligent - even more so than before ?The Killing Joke? because she never let anyone define her or put her in a box so why would she let the wheelchair? But I think it is interesting to see a Barbara Gordon that isn?t so sure of herself, that is struggling in new ways because isn?t that what we are always looking for in comic books? I have no doubt that we can expect a lot out of Batgirl while we have Gail Simone writing it and I hope to see her writing many more female characters.
Having read Simone's Birds of Prey from her first arc, it was hard for me to adjust to Barbara back to being Batgirl (and Birds as I knew it no longer existing). I will admit that I have been critical of this book at times. The first year of this series seemed slow and formulaic and Babs herself felt amateurish and clumsy. However, the last couple issues have given me hope that it was worth sticking with. Gail really does seem to have a plan for Barbara and has actually done a nice job of depicting the character's journey and growth. She's beginning to feel authentic and whole.
I have loved Gail Simone's writing in the past, but Batgirl did not work for me and I gave up after a dozen issues. The continued hints at how she got out of the wheelchair without giving a real explanation got tiresome after a while, and often the art was not up to professional standards.
Really? I WANTED to like the book because, like Ms. Simone, I was a little annoyed that folks like Jason Todd came back from the dead, and Barbara was not given the same permission to return to her original pursuit as a Bat. Furthermore, Barbara had been created at the wrong time in terms of how female characters were handled and the subsequent advances in technology which would have fit with both her civilian and costumed careers. Her possible advancement into being 'Batwoman' was also superceded by the introduction of Kate Kane, but, still, here we were with a 'fresh' universe and Barbara as Batgirl, given a second opportunity. However, the product hasn't worked for me. Barbara may not have been Oracle, but she still should be the woman who WOULD have become Oracle. We see none of that in the character as presented. No real planning, no computer skills beyond those of the average layperson. Yet while we don't get Oracle, we're still stuck with 'The Killing Joke', which informs much of the run thus far, but doesn't have the effect of making Barbara a more cautious individual, at least in her personal life. She takes an apartment with a roommate who is a stranger, randomly opens her front door, and seemingly takes not even the precautions a normal person who has never experienced a personal attack might take. Barbara does this because we are led to believe that it's cheaper to have a roommate, while, 13 issues in, we have no idea what she's living off of, or whether she's even employed. I understand that Ms. Simone probably was not the one who decided that 'The Killing Joke' must remain canon, but the other choices seem to be entirely hers. I hope things get better.
Last edited by Ganymede; 11-04-2012 at 10:05 AM.
Reason: I cannot tipe.