The latest news on the DC Reboot is that the new Batgirl is going to be — not Stephanie Brown, not Cassandra Cain — but Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl, who has spent the past 20+ years as the wheelchair-bound super-hacker Oracle.
I can’t say I’m happy with this. I liked Barbara Gordon more as Oracle than I ever did as Batgirl. I thought she was a stronger character as Oracle. Barbara Gordon as Batgirl was just another Bat-character, as stuck in the Silver Age as Barry Allen ever was. Barbara Gordon as Oracle was a paralyzed former acrobat who overcame adversity to become a greater crimefighter than she ever had before. Could she have done that as Batgirl? I don’t think so — without her handicap, she never would’ve been written as anything but a former sidekick.
In fact, this feels to me like we’re actually losing a lot of what made Barbara Gordon important as a character. Can you see Babs-as-Batgirl serving as the Justice League’s secret information broker? Can you see Babs-as-Batgirl founding and leading the Birds of Prey? I can’t. It doesn’t make any sense.
By the same token, can you imagine Babs-as-Oracle swinging through Gotham’s night sky? Well, no, but can you imagine her kicking ass against non-paralyzed opponents? We didn’t have to imagine it — it happened pretty often in “Birds of Prey.” She even made a decent stand against Prometheus, the anti-Batman, in an issue of Grant Morrison’s “JLA.”
Bringing Babs-as-Batgirl back means we’re losing Babs-as-Oracle forever. But we’re also going to lose any possibility of Cassandra Cain as Batgirl or Stephanie Brown as Batgirl. Heck, Babs-as-Batgirl essentially holds the exact same niche as Steph-as-Batgirl — chipper, upbeat, fun crimefighter. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Steph Brown gets killed off again six months to a year after the reboot, just to make sure people stop comparing the two characters. And we won’t see Barbara returning to her role as Oracle — that would probably require re-paralyzing her, and I doubt even DC is cruel enough to do that a second time.
There was this picture that showed up earlier today on the DeviantArt website by Jamie Noguchi — it was linked in an article on ComicsAlliance. It’s generally been portrayed as a happy picture, showing Babs in her moment of triumph, finally escaping the wheelchair to return as Batgirl. Here ’tis:
It doesn’t look happy to me. I keep focusing on the wheelchair and on the invisible character — the adult woman, serious-minded, smart as a whip, capable of running the Birds of Prey, organizing the JLA, keeping every superhero on the planet connected to each other, still able to whup the tar out of bad guys — who is now going to fade away and be forgotten in favor of the jaunty, optimistic, acrobatic schoolgirl. It doesn’t look like a triumph to me. It looks like the final tragedy in Oracle’s life.