COMICS PORTAL: The ‘New’ Batgirl
As I’ve been mentioning recently, the Batman universe in DC Comics has been growing at a staggering pace. What with Gotham Academy, Arkham Manor and the like, Gotham City is going to be a much busier place!
One member of the Bat-family that’s getting a makeover is Barbara Gordon, the best-known Batgirl.
I’ve been reticent to talk about her changes because I often find this kind of thing to be only temporary. I ragged on Marvel for doing something somewhat similar not long ago when it comes to Avengers NOW!
Still, since she’s one of my favorite comics characters, I thought I should weigh in on what’s about to take place.
SOME BATGIRL HISTORY
Barbara Gordon entered the Batman universe in comics back in the 1960s, quickly becoming Batgirl, who was as mysterious to Batman as he was to Commissioner Gordon, her father. During the third season of Batman on ABC with Adam West and Burt Ward, Yvonne Craig joined the show as the character. She was restricted largely to kicking people – no fists allowed! (Like Diana Rigg, Mrs. Peel from The Avengers, she was an early TV crush of mine. Yes, again, I’m that old!)
After the show was cancelled, Barbara really wasn’t known for much over the next several decades except dating Robin, Dick Grayson.
When Batman: The Animated Series came on, we saw Batgirl’s origin there and saw her become one of Team Batman as the show went through various incarnations.
There was a fascinating shift in Batgirl when Batman Beyond hit the airwaves. Barbara was now Commissioner Gordon. And we learned that she and Bruce Wayne had, shall we say, developed a more intimate relationship around the time she hung up her cape and cowl. (In fact, if you read the weekly Batman Beyond 2.0 by Kyle Higgins, you’ve recently discovered that something else had caused fractures in the Batman/Nightwing/Batgirl triad. You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out just what that was!)
Let’s face it – Gail Simone has been flat-out terrific on the character for years now. However, nothing lasts forever, so she’s moving on to other projects. What’s an editor to do when that happens?
A NEW LOOK AND TAKE
Here’s how the issue is described: “Barbara Gordon is no stranger to dusting herself off when disaster strikes … so when a fire destroys everything she owned, she spots the opportunity for a new lease on life — and seizes it! Following the rest of Gotham’s young adults to the hip border district of Burnside, Barbara sets about building an all-new Batgirl… and discovers all-new threats preying on her peers!”
You can see the new costume from artist Babs Tarr to the left. I like it well enough although I’ll never get over the ultra-cool blue cape and cowl, the yellow insignia, belt, gloves and boots with the black cloth elsewhere. I still swoon when I see that!
ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO DRAW IN YOUNGER, FEMALE READERS
When I talked about the debut of Gotham Academy recently, I mentioned that the book would likely draw in a lot of female comic readers. It seems to me that this shift in Batgirl is intended to do the same, which is a great thing as far as the future of comics goes!
That’s not to say that the guys will avoid this comic. A lot of us like Batgirl and want to see her do well. But this kind of thing is what The New 52 has done and done well at times – revamping a character to appeal to a wider (notice I didn’t say “broader”) audience.
Barbara definitely seems younger than we’ve seen in Batgirl previously. And based on information that’s been released, the book will take a much lighter tone. That also is more likely to attract the ladies!
(With a new, more diverse Power Girl on this planet, maybe a younger, hipper Batgirl might make a good team-up?)
I’m also going to be watching how Barbara, as a female lead character, will grow as the issues come out. Will she be more maternal, as some ladies prefer? Or will she have many aspects to her personality, like I hope she will? After all, men can be scientists, scoundrels, heroes, wimps, etc. Why can’t women a book, TV show or movie are centered around be the same?
WILL THE ‘NEW’ BATGIRL CATCH ON?
Gail Simone is going to be a tough act for writers Cameron Stewart (Batman Inc., The Multiversity) and Brenden Fletcher (Wednesday Comics) to follow. It’s good that a woman will be providing the art and helping keep Barbara feminine as well as action-oriented. (Not that Stewart and Fletcher can’t handle women characters, mind you. It’s just good these days to have a female creator working on a heroine of the same persuasion!)
The tough thing is going to be sticking with this new creative team and what they offer if the new focus doesn’t catch on in a hurry. Batman is known for being dark and gritty, so a brighter, lighter Batgirl is certainly possible, but she’s going to need more new readers to make it a hit.
Devout Batman fans like me will be reading Batgirl, so they’ve got most of us, although some will not be drawn to the new take. I’m hoping the new female readers will make up for the ones who will abandon ship now that Ms. Simone is no longer scripting.
I still have that nagging feeling that this is only going to last until something bigger comes along, like a Batgirl appearance in a video game or a film. Still, given how likely that is to happen, the new heroine could be around for a long time!