Comics Weekly 10-9-2014

Batgirl #35

What Happened to Barbara Gordon?

October 9, 2014
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Batgirl 35 coverI normally review at least two books with this feature, but I decided to only focus on one today. DC Comics has been receiving negative criticism for quite some time, ever since the New 52 began. Its biggest crime: the treatment of female characters and the lack of female writers and creators. If you go down through the New 52, there are quite a few female characters that were grotesquely changed in order to cater to the male ego (to put it politely). It’s the common pitfall of creating female characters through the mindset of a man. The biggest culprit was Starfire, arguably made popular by the show Teen Titans and now Teen Titans Go!. But characters like Wonder Woman and Batgirl remained prominently strong within their properties. Many people didn’t agree with Barbara Gordon donning the cowl once again after many years in a wheelchair as Oracle, but that’s what a reboot is. Outside of that, Gail Simone (one of the few female writers) did an astounding job with Barbara, establishing her as a strong female character both in and out of “work” clothes. So when it was announced that Batgirl was getting a new look and a new creative team, it gave me pause. It wasn’t because she was getting a new “trendier” look, but because a new creative team was going to take her in a new direction.

With all that, I still went in hopeful that this “new” Batgirl would be a good read. Within the first two pages, my first thought was “Who is this and where is Barbara Gordon?” Why is that you may ask? Barbara is woken up, late in the morning, after blacking out from drinking too much and partying the night before. Not only that, but Barbara is “all over” a random guy while completely drunk. There is so much wrong with this scene, but I will get back to that. In the midst of all this, Black Canary shows up because her place was completely burned down. Everything she had ever owned is gone.

Barbara’s van with all her Batgirl stuff was there, and now all that is gone too. She turns to her laptop to see if her auto download from her security parameters on her van can give them a hint as to what happened, and realizes it has been stolen, with all her college work and all her “other” work. Now she has to clear her hungover mind and piece together the party and find who’s out of place. Apparently, Barbara has a photographic memory. After figuring out the missing link, she tracks down the thief, only to find out he sold the laptop to a guy with an eye implant that downloads info onto the internet for all to see.

Basically, if this was real life, he would be the guy that hacked the iCloud and released all those celebrity photos on the internet. Barbara makes a new outfit, stops the bad guy, and in the end realizes that it was most likely her security measures that burned down Canary’s place because of her laptop being stolen (oh yeah, they had a previous falling out so the whole thing was awkward already). Thus begins the start of a new era in Batgirl.

So let’s get back to what is wrong with this issue and why the real Barbara Gordon was not present. The strong character that is Barbara, the one that would overcome so many trials and is more mature than any normal college kid, would not drink to the point of blacking out. Recently DC Comics came under fire because two licensed shirts portrayed females in a bad light. The most egregious was that one of their strongest, most independent female characters, Wonder Woman, was depicted on a T-Shirt in an embrace with Superman (because they are a couple right now in comics). Had it just been left like that, it would be fine, but it wasn’t. The T-Shirt read “Score” “Superman Does it Again” as if Wonder Woman was nothing more than a prized score by the male fraternity that is DC Comics.Batgirl page 3

So here is Batgirl, in college, in a brand new apartment. In a time where accusations of sexual assault on college campuses are getting a lot of attention (and most rightfully so), we have the strong-minded, not your normal college girl, Barbara, getting so drunk and wasted that she blacks out, making her vulnerable. The scene could have still shown the “typical” college party without taking it that far and it would have been OK. She could have made out with a guy and then fine, she lets loose a little. But no, it was taken to the very extreme.

Once again, DC in an attempt to appeal to female audiences, does it wrong. What this did is take down the strong morality of the character. She does not come across as a strong female character. The issue was forceful in putting out an anti-mysoginistic view, but still managed to burn the female character. As the father of a little girl, characters like Wonder Woman and Batgirl are top of my list to introduce her to. This way she can learn to be strong and independent and realize she can do anything she wants. I don’t see how getting blackout drunk really promotes that. It was really reckless and a false step from the the creators and editors at DC. You want the character to feel younger and trendier, fine. She’s in college so she should do “college” things, that is fine. But let us not take it to the extreme. It’s possible to keep the integrity of the character intact while still trying to make her “cool.”

I guess this speaks to moral decay in our society. It also speaks to a big disconnect between the male rationale and female rationale. I don’t expect mainstream comics to always follow a moral compass that lines up with mine. Nor do they have to. But when characters already have it, and are strong characters, minor details can go so far as to destroy all that the character stood for. Batigrl is a light in a dark place. Put that light out, and it is not the same. However, keep that light shining, no matter how much darkness covers it, it will still shine. I’m all for strong female-led book that tackles the issues of inequality between male and female, but lets not put qualities that would be bad in males into our female characters. It’s not morally right for a guy to get drunk and “hook up” with all kinds of random girls, so let’s not pretend it is OK for a female to do it.

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I am an aspiring writer and artist who loves comics. I've loved comic book characters for awhile, and have now gotten back into the genre to read up on my favorites. I am married to a beautiful woman and father to a beautiful little girl. I live in Orange County, CA

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