The End of Oracle

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.

More thoughts on this subject from Andy Khouri and especially Jill Pantozzi, who brings an important perspective to all this.

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