Earlier this week, DC Comics (who dominates the mainstream comics market along with Marvel) made a real douche move when they announced a "reboot" of their leading characters. This means they'll be ending a large portion of their storylines in August and release 52 first-issues of characters like Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Justice League. They'll be "publishing innovative storylines featuring our most iconic characters" with the assumption that they'll be not just "compelling for existing readers, it'll give new readers a precise entry point into our titles." This has some pretty radical implications for many superhero narratives, but one of the most significant changes is that of Barbara Gordon--aka Oracle.
Since those early days of running around doing Batman-themed dressup, Batgirl has been my favorite superheroine.
She's less cutesy than the Sailor Scouts, nerdier than Nightshade, wears more clothing than Wonder Woman, and has a greater variety of super abilities than my second-favorite superheroine, Storm (but it's really close, so don't hate on me, X-Men fans).
While the decision to paralyze Barbara Gordon was certainly a misogynistic one, the way that her character develops after the shooting speaks to the transformative power of information and technology...and librarians! Last week we looked at Barbara Gordon's character prior to The Killing Joke. She was a librarian by day and Batgirl by night. Her role as a librarian disguised her alter ego as Batgirl; reasserting the stereotype of librarians as meek and the opposite of badass. But this all changes after The Killing Joke. Thanks to a few writers who decided to make the best of what had happened to Gordon, Gordon's character decides to embrace her identity as a skilled librarian. She becomes Oracle, a computer hacker who discovers that access to information is a pretty phenomenal superpower.
Meet Barbara Gordon, librarian at the Gotham City Public Library by day, and crime-fightin' wonder Batgirl by night. Gordon was first introduced to the Batman comics and TV show in 1966, as an attempt to bring in female readers and viewers. While previous female characters (Batwoman and Bat-girl) were introduced in an attempt to dodge accusations of homosexuality between Batman and Robin, Batgirl wasn't there for romance as much as she was for ass-kicking. And did I mention that she was a librarian?
Bad news in the superhero world over the past few months: the downturn
in the economy is impacting comic book publishers, and both Marvel and
DC Comics are canceling a whole of bunch of their midlist superheroes.
Unfortunately, the midlist is where a lot of titles featuring women and
superheroes of color live in the comic book world. As a result, comic
book diversity seems to be the biggest casuality of all these