Movies & TV / Columns

411 Comics Showcase – Batgirl

March 31, 2017 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard

Well, last week was… interesting. For the most part, I enjoyed reading all of your comments, whether you agreed with me or disagreed with me. Iron Fist certainly generates discussion, and while I doubt I’ll ever love the show, I’ll probably rewatch the series after diving headfirst into some comics and see if it holds up better on a second viewing.

There’s been some big comic book movie news recently. The second trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming has the film wall-crawling near the top of my most anticipated list for 2017. We also got a great Justice League trailer, and while that has me more “cautiously optimistic”, I really dug it. Just, maybe touch up that CGI on Cyborg a bit guys; I got flashbacks to the Green Lantern movie and none of us deserve that kind of trauma.

But for me, the most exciting news of the week is that Joss Whedon will be directing a Batgirl movie. I love this announcement. Batgirl is near the top of my favorite superheroes. If she’s not top ten, she’s top twenty, and there’s so much you can do with her. I’d love to see her tackle the Mad Hatter and his Alice-napping schemes, or solve the Riddler’s crimes with her eidetic memory. I’d love to see her form the Birds of Prey with Black Canary and the Huntress. Hell, since Margot Robbie wants to make more Harley Quinn films, how about a Birds of Prey vs. Gotham City Sirens movie? Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

My introduction to Batgirl was, unfortunately, Batman and Robin, which had a character that was decidedly not Batgirl. Well, maybe the original Batwoman’s sidekick Batgirl, if you squint enough. Fortunately, Batman: The Animated Series exists, and I was introduced to Barbara Gordon on a more proper basis. I was instantly hooked, and I won’t lie; ten-year old me had a huge crush on Babs, and I’m still hoping to run into a real life Barbara who finds my self-deprecating humor and transparent bluntness charming rather than off-putting…

What was I talking about?

Why the immediate love for Barbara? If I had to boil it down, it comes down to her guts and her brains. Barbara’s first story involves her solving a criminal case and dressing up as a female batman to save her father/uncle/whatever Commissioner Gordon. What’s not to love about that? She didn’t have Batman’s size, experience or money, but she still wanted to be a crimefighter. She’s good at her job and she enjoys doing it. She’s funny and awkward and smart, and she’s just a delightful counterpoint to Batman and even Robin.

While Babs was a creation of the Silver Age and her role decreased into the late seventies and eighties, good ideas have a way of finding their way back into comics. Ironically, what should have been the end of Batgirl probed to be an opportunity for rebirth. Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s seminal Joker story The Killing Joke had Joker shoot, paralyze and sexually abuse Barbara for pure shock value. (Yes, folks, even if he didn’t have sex with her, stripping her naked and taking photos is sexually abusive.) While plenty took issue with this, it brought Barbara back into everyday comic discussion and the renewed interest allowed her to return as Oracle.

Rather than letting the accident ruin her life forever, Barbara rededicated herself to fighting crime. Using her eidetic memory, computer expertise and superhero connections, she worked as a valuable source of information for Batman and the extended family. More than that, she formed a partnership with Black Canary and later the Huntress, leading to the fantastic Birds of Prey comics. Fans loved her perseverance, her ability to motivate others, and the fact that she was such high profile character even with her disability.

Unsurprisingly, when DC decided to get Barbara out of her chair and back into the Batgirl suit, there was a bit of a backlash. From several sides, really; some were mad that The Killing Joke was erased from continuity (it wasn’t), some were upset at the loss of a character with disability, and some were just upset that Cassandra Cain’s Batgirl was taking a back seat. Me? I just like Barbara. I don’t care if she’s Oracle or Batgirl, as long as the story is good. And while Gail Simone’s long run on the New 52 with the character sometimes suffered from a lack of good villains, her characterization and voice for Barbara made the comic one of my favorite reads.

Recently, Batgirl has tended to skew a little younger in terms of the demographic that DC is targeting her at. I don’t love the current costume or the more recent comics with her at school, but I don’t hate them. I also think that Barbara’s intelligence, empathy, perseverance and self-confidence makes her a great role model for younger readers, so I’m all for it. I’ll always have the Batgirl stuff that I loved.

Barbara Gordon, for me, is one of the best characters in the extended Batman universe. I think she works great as a solo act and as a slightly more mature sidekick for Batman. I love how she adds dimension to Jim Gordon, I like her on-again, off-again romance with Nightwing, I love her friendship with Black Canary. I’m curious to see what direction Joss Whedon takes her movie in, and look forward to seeing her as part of DC’d cinematic universe.

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Check me out here to see my star ratings for almost 800 films. I have reviewed every movie I’ve watched since mid-August, and recent additions include Akira, Sophie’s Choice, and The Apartment. Not a ton of movies lately, as I’ve been catching up on superhero TV instead.

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Michael Ornelas and I write weekly on 411, taking turns introducing each other to films the other hasn’t seen. Last week, Michael had me laughing non-stop at Rick and Morty. This week, we continue to travel in time and space with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Are you excited for Joss Whedon to helm Batgirl? Do you prefer Barbara as Batgirl or Oracle?