Batgirl Part 1: Barbara Gordon

Well as I’m sure our dedicated reader(s) has already read, Emily is going to die.

She also left me the keys to the blog while she’s gone.  I’ve got your attention for three straight Friday’s so sit down and shut up.

Lets talk about Batgirl.

Wait, wait, wait… first we’re going to talk about Barbara Gordon as a character.  And then Gail Simone’s New 52 series.  And then we’ll end on Batgirl of Burnside where I’ll be angry for 900 something words.

So.  Barbara Gordon.

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Barbara Gordon is a strong, charming, and human character.  She is a centerpiece in the Bat family, and for a while was literally the core of their team.  Barbara is the daughter of a cop, and because of this she has a strong sense of justice.  She has an eidetic memory and is incredibly intelligent.  Barbara cares deeply about the people she’s helping and feels tremendous guilt for her failures: professional and personal.  She doesn’t fight to solve murders or avenge them.  Its not simply about solving crimes.  Batgirl embodies the idea that life is worth preserving and people are worth saving.  Her duty is to protect the people who need it, to help the ones who are hurt, and to be the guiding moral beacon for many of those around her.

In The Killing Joke she is shot in the spine by the Joker and she becomes paralyzed.  He uses her to try and corrupt Commissioner Gordon.  After the fact she has to retire from being Batgirl.  She is upset that so much was taken from her, but she also hates to see those around her so distraught.  With the help of her friends and family she makes it through a nightmarish time, and as a hero moving forward she does everything she can to do the same for others.

She reminisces later that even though she was in pain and her life had changed forever, she was worried about what Batman would do and say.  She reflects fondly that Batman doesn’t yell or get angry, he stands over her, holding her hand quietly.

That’s the kind of person she is, more worried about how things effect others than herself.  She is more concerned about others, even in her darkest moments.

Can you imagine?  Being that strong and talented and having a chaotic villain show up at your door and take it all away from you?

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Barbara deals with this frequently.  It’s a reoccurring nightmare to her, thinking that one day the Joker might come back again.  Or worse: that he’ll come for someone else. It’s this nightmare that makes her focused and strong.  She fights harder for her friends and family because she doesn’t want any of them to lose what she has lost.  Barbara is vigilant and relentless.

There is a bit in Batman Eternal where Jason Todd says that she was better than all of the Robin’s.  Stronger than him, and stronger than Dick Grayson.  They all see her as the bright and shining hero she still is, and she uses their belief to become something stronger.

Finding strength in her weakness, she became Oracle.  Oracle was the digital and informational center for all of her superhero allies.

Oracle was one of the central characters in Birds of Prey.  With her ability to fight and move limited, she uses her mind as her most dangerous weapon.  She uses her eidetic memory and technological finesse to work over even the most dangerous of villains without leaving her computer.  This is what makes her such a strong part of the Bat-family.  She is a genius, she’s clever, and she’s ruthless..  All of the heroes call upon her, and even Batman depends on her more than he’d probably like.

All I’d do if I became paralyzed would be make excuses like, “My fucking legs don’t work.”

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As Oracle, she rarely went into the field.  Instead, she worked with her team through earpieces and computers.  She often feels frustrated because she can’t be beside them, but she makes the best of it by using her strengths against her opponents weaknesses.  Barbara understands herself and her team members, and is able to maximize their abilities by being the strategist in the background.

We see this quite a bit while she’s the mentor to Stephanie Brown.  Stephanie was originally Spoiler, a girl who was bent on justice but unable to truly manage the role.  Barbara tries to talk her out of it because she’s likely to get hurt.  When she realizes that Stephanie won’t stop, Barbara steps in to help her as Oracle because she doesn’t want to see her get hurt or worse.

But to me what really makes characters interesting is their human side.  She is still vulnerable inside all of that badass.  She has an on again off again interest in Dick Grayson.  I’ve never read an arc where it gets serious, but there are definitely points where she gets hurt because Dick is into another woman.  There are moments where he approaches her, but their lives as heroes interfere too much to have a relationship.  As much as she is strong, she belies a girl who yearns to be normal.  Its a struggle to be Batgirl, to be Oracle, to be a daughter, and to be herself.

This gets especially hard because her dad is Commissioner Gordon.  The hero cop himself.  There are many times when she has to work with him as Batgirl, but to be Batgirl she must inherently undermine and work against her father.  One time she actually attempts to take her mask off, but he stops her because he doesn’t want to think about a young girl on the streets risking her life.

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Its a complicated situation being a superhero.  Many superheroes have a reason to work or be alone, but Barbara chooses to be close with people.  Barbara works to support the people and support her friends.  She is strong because she has people to be strong for, and she worries that her failures will take them away from her.  What makes her the one of the greatest heroes is that her greatest superhero power is that she is a human.  She is flawed, she is vulnerable, and she is brittle.  Even after surgery cures her paralysis, she is still paralyzed for a long time trying to re-find herself.  Its a careful balance to be everything she wants to be while balancing the expectations of others on top of it.  Her story is one of overcoming; of perseverance and duty.  She can’t let things get in her way.  Barbara can’t be a normal girl trying to find herself.  Shes a hero, a daughter, and a friend.  To be all of this and still find strength within she must be more than a woman, she had to find herself as Batgirl.

In the next post I’ll discuss Gail Simone as the writer for Batgirl.  I’m going to re-read the comics I own so I can be extra pumped to write it!

-DTM

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2 thoughts on “Batgirl Part 1: Barbara Gordon

  1. Pingback: Batgirl Part 2: Gail Simone and the New 52 | Seven Degrees of Smudde

  2. Pingback: Batgirl Part 3: Batgirl of Burnside | Seven Degrees of Smudde

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