Tough Ladies #2-On BatGirl(s)

Welcome back, everyone. Today, I want to accompany my Batman work over at Sourcerer by laying down a few of my thoughts on the character of Batgirl and her history . I know that there have been several Batgirls over the years, but I want to focus on the original (and current), Barbara Gordon, and my personal favorite, Stephanie Brown.

Stephanie Brown as Batgirl, courtesy of Batman Wikia
Stephanie Brown as Batgirl, courtesy of Batman Wikia

Believe it or not, the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl (technically not the first, but pretty much the original in current continuity), came about first in the 1966 Batman television series before being introduced into the comic books themselves. Barbara has seen it all since her creation; she is one of those characters who has watched the DC Universe grow and evolve from the Silver Age (which began in 1956 with the introduction of the Flash most people are familiar with, Barry Allen) into our own era of the New 52. Currently enjoying a wonderful run on her own title under Gail Simone (who you can follow on Twitter), Barbara was not always so lucky.

In 1988, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland (whose blog you can follow on Blogger) produced what is considered the definitive take on the Joker—The Killing Joke. In it, the Joker seeks to break Batman and his closest allies, going so far as to shoot Barbara Gordon in the spine, paralyzing her from the waist down. In the years that followed, Barbara settled into a new role, that of Oracle. As Oracle, she was no longer out bashing in skulls, but instead gave her considerable intellect over to the vigilante causes of such heroes as Batman and the Birds of Prey. Barbara was suddenly an information hub and master hacker on-call for superheroes, a resource sadly absent from the DC Universe as it exists now with Barbara’s near-miraculous rehabilitation of her injuries. You can read more about this change and its fallout here.

During Barbara Gordon’s time as Oracle, many more characters were introduced to the Bat-mythos, among them the rather complicated Stephanie Brown. The daughter of C-list Batman villain Cluemaster, Stephanie briefly acted as the villain Spoiler and then (even more briefly) as Robin (this part of continuity gets a little convoluted). Some time later, she became affiliated with Oracle and the Birds of Prey and served as a new Batgirl.

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a fanboy for Stephanie Brown. Her pre-New 52 title, written by Bryan Q. Miller (who you can also follow on Twitter), was smart, funny, and completely devoid of the creepiness and cheesecake factor you sometimes get with male writers working on young female characters. Sadly, Stephanie pretty much disappeared at the beginning of the New 52, with her last appearance occurring in Grant Morrison’s Batman, Incorporated, with Miller relegated to writing the comic-form continuation of the Smallville television series, which is a rough and obscure fate for a writer of his ability. It bears noting that there was nothing wrong with this version of the Batgirl title; it was simply brushed under the rug to make room for the changes established in the New 52.

Thankfully, it has been officially revealed that Stephanie Brown will be returning in the weekly Batman Eternal comic series that begins in April, though there is no word if Miller will be given another chance at writing her. We can continue hoping.

You can find a lot of single issues and collected editions* featuring these characters at your local comic shops. Go exploring! Let me know your thoughts below, and help me build my list of topics for this column. Tweet me @quaintjeremy.

*This week’s comics jargon lesson: trade paperback, or TPB. The industry standard terms for collected editions of comic books can vary based upon size and binding: trade paperback, hardcover, compendium, even library. To paraphrase Neil Gaiman, there is no appreciable difference between the terms comic book and graphic novel.

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3 Comments

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  1. Oracle was so great, not only as an awesome character with a disability but also in terms of DC’s superheroes really needing an information hub. Kind of brings up the old question of whether or not superheroes are really doing the most good possible by going out and punching muggers.

    Liked by 1 person

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