Originally published at FORTRESS OF BAILEYTUDE. You can comment here or there.
Bat-Month continues today with Day 4 of the Partners and Allies series. Today’s partner and/or ally…Barbara Gordon a.k.a. Batgirl.
The first time I was introduced to Miss Gordon was in re-runs of the sixties Batman television series. After realizing that there were episodes with Batgirl and episodes without her (at the age of 4 or 5 I was not aware of the fact that there were different seasons of the show with Batgirl showing up in the third) every viewing of the show began with a little…anticipation may not be the right word but there was kind of a waiting game to see if Batgirl would swing down and kick a bad guy after Robin got done punching the guy he was fighting. I never minded Batgirl. In fact I kind of liked her because she was another super-hero helping out Batman and to me it was more the merrier when it came to people in costumes.
Oddly enough I never knew Batgirl in the comics beyond reading Batman: From the ’30s to the ’70s and in that book there were two young ladies dressing up in a bat themed costume. There was Betty Kane, the Bat-Girl to Kathy Kane’s Batwoman (more on her tomorrow) and then later in the book after it moved into the sixties adventures of the Dark Knight there was the Barbara Gordon Batgirl. To my mind both characters were equally as valid. In fact I had actually read more of Bat-Girl’s adventures than Batgirl’s because Bat-Girl (Confused yet?) got more exposure in the book. Barbara Gordon’s origin was the only Batgirl story to appear but oddly enough the two characters were balanced in my head because I had seen so many episodes of the sixties series.
I remember reading this entry in 1987 and thinking that it was kind of odd that they changed Barbara from Commissioner Gordon’s daughter to his niece. It seemed weird but I rolled with it because I was eleven and had no emotional investment into the comic book version of the character. The entry said she was mostly retired and for me that was that.
I read The Killing Joke when I was 13. It was the summer of 1989 and Batman was freaking everywhere. Killing Joke was cited as an influence on the Tim Burton film and thus I felt I needed to read it. At some point I will go into all of my feelings on that story though oddly enough most of those feelings have nothing to do with Barbara Gordon getting shot by the Joker. I think that a lot of comic readers have latched on to that scene and made it the center piece of Killing Joke which it isn’t. It was certainly a game changer for the character. That can’t be denied but that story was about the Joker and his supposed origin and his conflict with Batman and I think that part of the story gets lost because so many people want to cite it as the moment where Barbara Gordon was either ruined or improved as a character.
To me Barbara works great as Batgirl and as Oracle. I am not an all or nothing type of guy when it comes to the character. I have read stories of Barbara as Batgirl and thought they were awesome. At the same time I got to know the character as Oracle so it is hard for me to shake the feeling that she works better in that role. At the end of the day, at least for me, Barbara is a character that evolved and overcame great tragedy to become a major force in the DCU. It would have been easy to write her off as the former hero in the wheelchair but writers like John Ostrander and Chuck Dixon and Greg Rucka took Barbara and made her into something more. More importantly they made her a character that I cared about.
Tomorrow: The focus will be on a trio of heroes that have assisted the Dark Knight in his battle against crime and corruption. If it seems like I am lumping all of these characters together because I didn’t think they were strong enough to support their own post well…you’re right. They’re cool, though and you even get to see some early ’90s Joe Quesada DC art.
More to follow…