Mar 30, 2009

The Cure

No, this isn't about the band. Nor is it about the $110,000 we raised yesterday to help find a cure for Muscular Dystrophy at the Stride & Ride. This is about Barbara Gordon.

Let's play a little word association. When you hear her name, what's the next thing that comes to mind? Batgirl? Oracle? How about Commissioner Gordon or even the Joker? For me, it's Oracle and that's not the only reason why the new miniseries "Oracle: The Cure" holds special meaning for me.

You may have expected I'd be writing about this, after all I am a redhead in a wheelchair, but I almost didn't. After reading some other fans opinions of the first issue online I felt I needed to speak my exact feelings on Oracle's possible cure, even if it was a bit personal.

First off, do I think they're going to actually do it? Will DC make Barbara Gordon walk again or will the cure be for someone else, namely Calculator's daughter Wendy? Honestly, I have no idea and that makes me truly nervous. At Wizard World Philly last year a fan asked Dan Didio if she would ever walk again. He answered simply, "No. Never." On the other hand, Didio regularly talks about how he's been working to bring the most recognizable characters back to their iconic roles; i.e. Hal Jordan and Barry Allen. Bearing that in mind, it would make sense if that's where the series was headed but, is it the right move?

Even though I don't have the same type of disability as Babs I've obviously always related to her. So no, I hope she never walks again. I think it was bold of DC to show her taking a shower in the first issue. Not for the skin factor but because it shows the struggle she must go through each and every day during the simplest of tasks. 

I understand the argument that these are comics - where people come back to life regularly - so it's unbelievable that in this fictional world she hasn't been healed already. I also understand the character's drive to find a cure, hell I know I'm doing the same thing, but once you take the disability away from Barbara she loses rather than gains. 

Right now, no matter how many modifications Barbara makes to her shower it's still going to be a struggle. Every hero has something they must overcome or a defining moment that makes them who they are. Bruce Wayne's parents are never going to be there for him again, so why would you take away Barbara's driving force? See, it's not just the fact that we're both disabled and I want to keep her that way so I have someone to relate to, I'd have to argue she's more interesting as Oracle than she ever was as Batgirl. She's always had a good heart but Barbara started fighting crime without a dynamic cause. As Oracle she'll always have a larger purpose and mission.

Putting everything else aside, you can't honestly see her taking on the role of Batgirl again can you? She's all grown up now and Batwoman is already taken. If she's cured but remains as Oracle, can you believe for one second she'd sit out all the fights to work solely from behind the scenes? No way! Babs is a fighter through and through but she's worth way more to the DCU than her ability to execute a perfect roundhouse kick.

23 comments:

Luke said...

Curing Babs would be as bad as bringing Uncle Ben back to life. Her misfortune at opening the door for the Joker is what makes her character, the same way Uncle Ben dying made Peter Parker the Spider-Man we all know and love. I can't believe DC would bring her back to her pre-Killing Joke form not only since the fan backlash would be out of control, but also, believe it or not, because there are some pretty smart people over there who know just how important a character like Oracle is.

Eric N. Boyd said...

Your review regarding this was well written, as always. I also think Oracle should remain as she is. I actually think she's a better and stronger character as Oracle than as Batgirl. Granted, I wouldn't be upset if they were to ret-con her back into being Batgirl, but showcasing a hero who is "disabled" as part of the regular fighting force of the JLA and the Batman family is something DC should be proud about. While I can remember Babs as Batgirl, I'm more familiar with her as Oracle. I know you were self-concious of what people thought you'd say, if anything, regarding this topic, and you still shined through despite your hesitation to tackle it. *applause* Also, even more applause towards the money you raised for the Stride and Ride. I hope you had fun.

Andy said...

Your analysis is spot on and well written.
Barbara Gordon's maiming at the hands of the Joker are absolutely this characters defining moment, just like Bruce Wayne losing his parents and Peter Parker losing Uncle Ben was for those characters. It is the adversity that she had to rise against to become the hero she is today. Returning her to life outside of a wheelchair does a HUGE diservice to her character. She's stronger in the chair than out of it.

GeekBoy said...

Agreed. It is odd, in a universe where people have superpowers and come back to life, but it's necessary for the character's identity.

But having said that, there's probably an interesting story to be told that could illustrate that. Maybe let her walk, but take it away again -- perhaps even by her own choice -- and let her/us see how much more valuable and "whole" she is as a hero without that ability to walk.

Because what we're talking about here is how the lack of something -- parents, an uncle, legs -- contributes to somebody being a better superhero. For a "normal" person, the natural drive should of course be to strive to fix one's self. But for a superhero, it's important to hold onto the thing that drives you to put your life at risk every day. So ultimately, it's conscious choice these characters make: Fix myself, or fix the world for others. You can't have both.

Rich said...

Glad that you blogged about this!

I much prefer that Barbara remain Oracle but I can understand from a marketing point of view of having her as Batgirl, I guess.

Someone suggested over at my blog that maybe it'll be Wendy who ends up as Batgirl while Barbara remains Oracle and (presumably) Cass slips off to limbo. I could live with that.

D0nnaTr0y said...

I can't agree more with you, Jill, or any of the commenters. I was introduced to Oracle before Batgirl. I remember it was in a JLA and she was at the command tower. I was immediately impressed and in awe that the super smart computer hacker telling the superheros where to go next and supplying them with intel was not some dude, but some chick- a red head at that! (my mom has red hair and I've always been envious of those with it!). After learning Babs's back story, she immediately became one of my favorite characters, right up there with Wondy and Donna Troy.

I loved what Gail Simone did with her in Birds of Prey and my favorite panels where the ones where Babs would kick ass, all from her chair. That was bad ass!

For me, comic book characters and stories are simply fantastical caricatures of real life. They provide exaggerated examples of what we mere mortals strive to be. I see superhero A beating down villain X and am inspired not to go fight crime, but to stand up for myself when my own personal criminals attack.

As its been stated, each superhero has their obstacle to overcome, as we in real life do. I think its easier for many of us in our vanity to relate to Barbara, who was shot and paralyzed, than to Superman, who lost his alien home, or even Bruce who lost his parents.

And on the issue of relating, I don't think there is anything wrong at all if Jill, or anyone else in a chair or with a similar disability wanted Oracle to stay in her chair simply because they are too. I think its great that DC Comics tries to represent all people, and those it most directly relates to shouldn't feel bad for wanting to keep it that way.

Oracle is one of the best examples of overcoming one's shitty luck as well as brains over brawn and while if this were real life, I would hope Babs, (as well as anyone with her misfortune)would "find a cure", as a literary device and I daresay role model, she serves a stronger function in her chair.

Also, let me second Eric in saying congratulations on raising so much money at the Stride and Ride! Hooray for you and all that participated!

Darius Whiteplume said...

I always loved Batgirl, but she really is Yvonne Craig. IIRC, there was no Batgirl prior to season 3 of the tv show. So Batgirl is kinda just a Batman groupie? Oracle has more character, I guess.

Randy said...

I want to state upfront that I too am all for Babs remaining as Oracle. However, unlike a lot of you who have been commenting, I actually do remember the days when she was Batgirl.

A lot of her stories that appeared in the back-pages of Detective, Batman Family and others were...shall we say...kinda awful.

Pick up the Batgirl Showcase if you don't believe me. Scrounge the 4 for $1 bins at any convention and you'll find stories not where Batgirl fights Penguin or Catwoman or even Killer Moth or Kite Man.

Sure there are some stories where she teams with Robin or Superman or Batman but these usually serve more to spotlight her co-star than her.

She's much more interesting and serves a better role as Oracle. And I think DC knows that.

GeekBoy said...

On a loosely connected topic, Jill what did you think of the ending of last week's Smallville? Namely, Chloe becoming "Watchtower" for the Young JLA, which for some reason immediately made me think of Oracle ... minus the Birds of Prey or the wheelchair.

Eric Lindberg said...

I agree as well. Barbara is a stronger, more independent character as Oracle. She's a positive role model for people with disabilities and it would be a risky move to change that. But I think the idea of her as Batgirl again would bother me even more.

If the story were well done and proved Babs' ingenuity at overcoming all obstacles, I might be able to (grudgingly) accept her out of the chair. But I wouldn't care for her returning to being just Batman's sidekick, no matter how iconic or marketable that would make her. She's her own woman now and has a unique role in the DCU that goes beyond being one of Batman's "good soldiers."

I was first introduced to her as Batgirl on the animated series. But I found her much more interesting as Oracle and was more drawn to Cassandra as Batgirl. I like what Cass brings to the role and the sisterly mentor/protege relationship they have. It would make me sad to see this change or to have Babs backslide into the sidekick role again.

Amber Love said...

You've already got a pile o' comments but I'm sure one more wouldn't hurt. I 100% agree with you. It would be like allowing Xavier to walk in anything other than a virtual manner. It's right for that character.

Pat said...

I hated the whole original idea, but it's kind of the same thing as Jason Todd; now that they did it, it should be permanent.

To those of us old enough, Betty Kane will always be Batgirl. And yes, for the most part the Babs Gordon Batgirl stories of the late 1960s and early 1970s are terrible.

Shelly said...

Well put. I work with disabled people and I've always felt that Babs is a terrific role model. I agree that the shower scene was significant in showing her daily struggle in a very graphic, in-your-face way. Most people have no idea what people with physical limitations must go through.

Your point about the disability being her defining moment is a good one. I can't see her regaining her ability to walk and giving that up. She once gave up the chance to try the Lazarus Pit and in that story, it made sense. I can't see how anything like that could fit, but I'm willing to be convinced. But I do not want her back as Batgirl. I was there for her first BG adventure and that's so been there, done that. That was her youth. Now, Oracle is her present, her adulthood.

The Nerdy Bird said...

Wow. Thank you so much to everyone that commented. I had no idea it would get this kind of reaction.

@Geekboy, I enjoyed last weeks Smallville for Zatanna and that's pretty much it. I don't follow the show regularly at all but I do know I thought they were trying to make Chloe "Oracle" for a while now. I don't really like that they gave her that role but I guess it makes sense in the show. They've gotta have *something* for her to do now that Lois overshadows her as a reporter I guess.

@ Everyone. Hearing what you guys had to say gave me an idea. Having a team book called Batgirls or Batwomen would be very interesting. Oracle, Batwoman, Batgirl and possibly Misfit since she's fond of the bat insignia on her costume.

Hannah said...

I agree with you. Batgirl was always kind of lame to me. Like she didn't have her own identity, but now she has come completely into her own, as an independent, strong female hero. Plus, the more diversity we see in comics-Male and female, black and white, gay and straight, disabled and not-the better.:)

John said...

I think you're right. I work with adults with disabilities and some who are in wheelchairs as well. The wheelchair is an extension of that person, their body. And to take that away and do everything for them takes away from who they are. One of the gentlemen I work with likes to do as much for himself as possible. I can empathize with that. He deserves his dignity like anyone else. Even if that means he doesn't like me so much. But it adds to his personality, just like Barbara. I never read comics pre-Oracle and I like her as the brains and as the information broker. It makes her more intense and more meaningful than just being a costume.

Laid Off said...

As far as what story they could do, Prof X has been in and out of wheelchairs for decades. It wouldn't at all surprise me if they take her out of the chair and then put her back again. Or if they give her the option of healing herself...an option that's cruelly snatched away.

Logically, her confinement doesn't make much sense. I mean, if Steel could make a skin-tight suit of armor that allows him to pick up an airplane, the technology should be there to allow Spinal Cord Injury patients to walk.

Having said that, I agree 100% how the obstacles she faces on a daily basis, and the impact of Joker's casual cruelty, are integral to her character. Particularly when you talk about her differentiating herself from the Bat people.

Anonymous said...

To me Barbara is Batgirl...I dislike Cass as Batgirl or anyone else being Batgirl.
I am a still am a Bab's Batgirl fan & I really hope one day soon they will let her walk again or if they want Oracle stil laround then fine leave Bab's in her wheel chair but then give us an entire new comic title with Bab's as Batgirl b4 she was shot by Joker or think of something like that.

There r so many different comic titles out there where in one Batman will be teaming up with Superman & then next title is a whole entire story line & whole entire back story.

I just dont understand why they cant keep in some comic titles Bab's as Oracle but then in her own comic book title give us Bab's as Batgirl & it doesn't have to tie in2 any other comic.

I'm just really annoyed how characters die & come back to life & stuff like that but Bab's cant ever walk again.

Bab's as Batgirl was & is a strong character & I just really miss her & would love to see her return.

The Nerdy Bird said...

Actually Anonymous, there was a Batman Confidential story arc recently that had Babs as Batgirl.

further said...

Just this year, a number of bizarre health issues have culminated for me and only three weeks ago, my doctor sat me down to explain that I am going to lose the ability to walk unaided. Though there's a chance of surgical options, I'm just not in the right age range for prosthetic knees, so the best I can do for now is taking measures to slow down the rate of degeneration.

Batgirl has been a hero of mine since I was a little kid thanks to the 1960's TV show and to me she will always be Barbara Gordon. The changes DC made when Babs became Oracle didn't alter my devotion. If anything, it just made her seem more of a bad-ass role model.

Now that I am starting to make a transition to this next chapter of my life, my joy for this character has only been supercharged. That's the magic of comics- here I am all grown up and I can still feel like a hero because if Batgirl can do it, so can I.

The Nerdy Bird said...

Further, thank you so much for sharing your story.

B said...

I imagine ten years or more from now and she'll be walking.

I disagree with you about the joker shooting her being a defining moment. A pivotal moment sure but not defining. She was already fighting crime. Being in a wheel chaiir has never gotten her to say "i'll fight crime harder so they won't be in wheelchairs". It just has no baring on her motivation whether she walks or not.

That aside, all the love for barbara has blinded people to how immoral the character often is, stealing, willing to blackmail, potentially revealing heroes' secret identities instead of talking things out. Not to mention, birds of prey after it became a series started portraying her as way too powerful. That didn't stop till like the issues in the mid 70s.

There's too much love and not enough critic. And definitely not enough comeuppance.

But no one could have imagined a batgirl that was handicapped. And look what that did to the character. Some one of you just lack imagination.

With how immoral the character has become, she'd come out of it a lot more like batman, and a lot more capable then she was before.

Also, you can't bash old batgirl stories. Writing in old stories won't match your typical today, and that's always been true when the character doesn't have their own book or isn't in a team book. Almost all her appearances were guest spots at a time when DC writing was stuck between the old DC style and the new Marvel style.

Anonymous said...

I respect yours opinions...
...but in my opinion, Barbara should be healed.

It is not just a matter of possibility. As we all know the possibility to heal her is all around the DCU. By the way it is even incoherent that she is still in the wheelchair(considering DCU settings).

More than that you people are talking about a character that was created after TKJ(Oracle). Read TKJ. And see if any of you like the way the writer and editorial handled the character.

I am a fan of Barbara. Before TKJ and After it. So, I have a more abroad concept than... the girl in the wheelchair.

Another important thing is that Barbara portrayal by DC is an never-ending "you will not overcome the disability".
"The Cure" is an example of that.
Again the character is in depressive mood because she is paraplegic.
That happened already in Suicide Squad, and again many times on BOP, and again in The Cure, and again in O&O... and will going in circles... etc...
That is not character development. That is circular logic.

The character became locked in a post-traumatic repetition of TKJ for 20 years. In my opinion, that is lame. And definitely, not a model to be followed.

To read the character repeating over and over again... that "she will never be happy", "that she will never have a family"... and etc... really, is disgusting.