The Meaning Behind Bat-cow

I ain’t joking.  Also major spoilers inbound.

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That is a canon event that took place in Batman Incorporated written by Grant Morrison.  It documents the return of Batman after he returned from his temporal journey.

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This happened.

The events of Batman Incorporated follow the Bat family and Bruce Wayne’s announcement that Wayne Enterprises will formally be funding Batman.  This will allow Batman to “franchise” heroes around the globe for a crime fighting initiative.

Read the comic if you want the full story.  What I want to focus on is Damian Wayne and Bat-cow.

Damian Wayne is Bruce Wayne’s son.  His conception depends heavily on what comic you are reading: a non-canon appearance takes place in Batman: Son of the Demon, while Damian’s official unveiling was in the Batman and Son arc.  Bruce did not know about Damian until Damian was approximately 10 years old.  He was raised by the League of Assassins and trained to kill people in the name of justice.

Damian’s biological mother is Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s al Ghul.  She brings Damian to Bruce for what was the pairs first meeting.  Damian famously quips to Bruce (who is in full Batman getup no less), “I imagined you taller.”

An interesting duality has always existed between Batman and the League of Assassins.  They both want justice in the world.  They identify what is and is not just in similar manners.  The main difference is: Batman believes in the criminal justice system, while the League of Assassins believes in killing criminals.

The events of Batman and Son have Damian dawning a makeshift Robin outfit and fleeing into the city to fight crime.  This was the birth of the 5th canon Robin.  A Robin that kills villains.

Shortly thereafter, Batman dies during the events of Final Crisis when he solo-tanks Darkseid’s Omega Beams and is thrown backwards in time.  Damian Wayne becomes Robin to Dick Graysons Batman during the events of Battle for the Cowl.  

When Bruce Wayne returns we finally see Batman and Robin as father and son.  We also see that grinding of philosophies.  Bruce Wayne not only has to be Batman, but he also has to be a father.  Controlling Damian is difficult because Damian is very skilled at what he does and he is impulsive in the beginning.  He is too arrogant to admit he is wrong about anything, but his eternal struggle will always be to reject what he was trained to do.

During the events of Batman Incorporated, while on the trail of a group called Leviathan they end up having a conflict in a slaughterhouse.  Coincidentally, they save the life of a cow.  They go to leave but Damian declares they will save this cow instead.  They deliver Bat-cow to the Batcave, and to a bemused Alfred.

Many fans that I’ve talked to play Bat-cow off as a joke.  But when you think about it- writing a comic isn’t something you frequently improvise on the fly.  Grant Morrison wrote this beast into the story for a reason, even if it is amusing.

When Damian saved Bat-cow in that slaughterhouse, he didn’t surreptitiously pluck the cow from the jaws of death.  He saw himself in that cow and rejected its life’s purpose as preordained.  Damian wants to believe that he more than how he was raised.

Damian was raised in a laboratory; in a false womb.  He was birthed in a cold, calculated environment.  He was carefully bred from what Talia considered the highest pedigree.  His life’s purpose was selected for him.  Damian was trained to become a bloodthirsty assassin.

Then he met his father.  A paragon of justice the world over.  He loves his father and wants his father to be proud of him.  So how do you reconcile your life up to that point?  How do you just change who you are?  How do you reject what your life’s entire purpose was?

Damian saved Bat-cow because he wanted, no, he needed to believe that things can be different.  This cow was raised on a farm, for a purpose it had no choice in.  Its entire life was preordained from birth and Damian needed to know that these threads could be cut.

The events of Batman Incorporated end in Gotham City.  It is revealed that Damian’s mother was the one behind Leviathan.  Her great warrior Heretic, who had been hounding the heroes throughout the volume, was revealed to be another clone of Damian.  A genetically modified one.

We see it one more time, that duality between the Bat-family and the League of Assassins.  Damian Wayne goes to fight Heretic.  Heretic was another child that was bred to kill in the name of justice, and Damian- who has realized the good there is in believing in justice.  Damian faces the monster he could have become had he not met his father.

At the end we see what Damian believes in, and he dies for it.

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Damian rejected his upbringing.  He rejected his mother.  Talia al Ghul saw him as useless at that moment.  A son that had been raised with a purpose, refusing to become what he was raised to become.

So she had him slaughtered.  Slaughtered like cattle.

Damian Wayne is my favorite Robin, and he is high on the list of my favorite comic book characters.  His arc is a complex and subtle one.  Over the course of the comics we learn so much about who he is and who he wants to be.  Damian talks a big game about being the next Batman, but inside he is a scared child.  Scared of disappointing his father, and scared of failing in his role.

There are a ton of poignant moments in the New 52 run of Batman and Robin.  We see him balancing being a hero, being a son, and being a kid.  He is young.  And for his age he has to deal with some hard shit.  Rejecting who he was before Batman is a continuous thing Damian deals with.  Throughout volumes of comics.  Is he doing the right thing?  Will he ever live up to the Bat-families standards?

Or was he just cattle?

He chose not to be.

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DC Cinematic Universe

I really want Wonderwoman to be good.  And I don’t mean that the other DC movies have been necessarily bad.  I loved Suicide Squad and I Batman v. Superman has its moments.  There is a lot I’d change, but overall I liked ’em.

What I mean for Wonderwoman is I hope they find a groove with their directors and writers.  A strong, well liked commercial success.  The DC Cinematic Universe (DCU henceforth) isn’t going so well.  Man of Steel was mixed overall, Batman v. Superman wasn’t liked, and Suicide Squad was hated by most critics (although I can’t find a single person who didn’t like it).

What I think troubles most writers and directors is that the DC universe has stronger, more memorable characters while the Marvel Universe has better, easier events.

Civil War was an amazing Marvel Universe event that effected super-heroes the world over.  Secret Invasion was an amazing surprise event.  The Infinity Gauntlet that linked an entire universe worth of heroes.  House of M shook up the X-men in an awesome way.  World War Hulk was just complete bananas.

Those events translate better because they were meant to involve a handful of characters with a massive supporting cast.

In my opinion its harder for the the DCU to do the same.  Big universe spanning events are tough because they’re events deal with the abstract, parallel universes, keeping track of different teams, and knowing your superheroes all the way back from the Silver Age.


This’ll translate well to a 2 hour movie.

I love a lot of those DCU events, but reading the comic volumes takes longer than watching a movie. So what hope do they have of condensing it?  They usually revert to taking the themes from famous comic books and trying to convert that to the big screen.

That sounds great in theory.  We get some really cool bits like this:


Wait… wait… yup I peed myself.

The image on the left is the cover from the Dark Knight Returns.  And Batman v. Superman took a lot of ideas and scenes from it.  But its too much to pump into a live action movie so they adapted ideas.  But if you want to adapt these ideas to the screen just make the movie as laid out by the source.  You want to have some cool Dark Knight Returns scenes?  Just make that a movie!  Why adapt it to something else?  Especially when you are writing a different story and are hamfisting these tropes into it?

The directors and writers have this idea that comic book movies need to be crazy action thrillers.  But as I said before- Marvel has great events while DC has great characters.

So you need to play into those characters.  Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy was well panned because he took inspiration from famous comics instead of borrowing tropes and scenes.  He wasn’t adapting a comic as much as he was respecting the source materials.

The writers and directors for Batman v. Superman did this instead:


When people think of Batman, most people know a couple of his rules.  He doesn’t kill and he doesn’t use guns.

Lets re-evaluate:



Batman is not meant to be an action hero.  He’s not meant to always just go in guns blazing.  Batman is slow, methodical, cunning, and quiet.  Yes, he does beat the shit out of people in the comics but usually in a rescue or an interrogation.  His martial prowess is a product of his need to find evidence.

So how do we fix it?  Lets make a formula for a great Batman movie.

When writing a Batman story you need to start with a mystery.  He’s a detective.  Batman solves crimes when no one else can.  Don’t even worry about picking a villain.  Pick the one that fits the crime.  He has such varied cast of villains to pull from.

Equally important- it doesn’t need to be some world ending challenge.  Batman defends Gotham.  He doesn’t always jump out to defend the world.  He’s part of the justice league but Batman focuses on the city that birthed his identities.

The city is a character in itself, and without proper dues to that you aren’t writing a Batman story.  Batman knows the city like he might know a child.  The trends, the people, the criminals, and the mysteries.

Would you people believe me if I already told you we already have a perfect Batman movie?  That isn’t The Dark Knight?


Did I blow your mind?

Guy Ritchie took a famous crime fighter, wrote an amazing mystery he has to solve, and had the movie revolve around the act of solving it.  The action makes sense when its needed, the visuals are focused more on the characters, and everything feels justified.  The action isn’t about Sherlock being the strongest man alive- he evaluates his situations.  He doesn’t come to epiphanies, he has to figure it out with his supporting cast.

And don’t even tell me that Irene Adler isn’t the Catwoman.

You could literally change the characters to Batman and Robin and the Penguin and it would be a dead ringer for a Batman movie.  Instead most people think about the broad strokes of what it means to be a super hero movie and they apply those tropes in their minds eye.

The DCU needs the writers and directors to be passionate about the stories and characters.  The characters need more respect long before they write a plot.

So please.  Ben Affleck.  Do it for he crowd.  Do it for Batman.  But most of all, do it for me.

Batgirl Part 3: Batgirl of Burnside

Day 14 Since the Disappearance:

Leaked photos of the mission made it back to HQ.  Massive spiders, blood-thirsty sharks, and ferocious kangaroos were scene with the team.  We fear the worst.

It is time to begin training my other sister to take up the mantle of the Successful Child.  The training will be long and hard, but hopefully with time we will heal.

Batgirl of Burnside.

To get properly mad be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Batgirl of Burnside picks up after Gail Simone’s ends.  In the end, she fights off the group Knightfall from blah-blah-blah destruction of Gotham.  At the end, Batgirl bursts out with how she is going to leave.  She needs to get away.  It felt so out of character and out of nowhere that I already began to worry.  Then I saw the cover art:


We’re fine.  It’s fine.  EVERYTHINGS FINE, GODDAMNIT.

To give it credit, the art style is really good.   I like the bright colors, the style, and the heavier line weights.  I love to encounter new art.  Batman Detective Comics have a new artist every single panel (or so it seems).

It finally came out and I rushed to it like someone rushes to see a catastrophe.  I was still hoping.

First fucking panel we see Batgirl and her friend Alysia seeing her off in her new apartment.  Her one friend who was her rock in many situations.  She’s smart, attentive, charming, and she’s transsexual.  While she does appear from time to time in the Burnside comic, its alarming that the cast of Batgirl characters essentially gets thrown out.  I’d be less mad but neither her dad, her mom, Batman, or any of the other Bat family show up in the entire first volume.

More on that on that later.

Second fucking page we see Barbara wake up hungover.  She tromps out into the living room in naught but a t-shirt and panties to find out she passed out after having made out with a stranger.

Think I’m kidding?


I’m glad to see she so recovers so quickly after her dad shoots her previous love interest.

Yes, please tell me more.  Strong, responsible, and smart Barbara Gordon gets totally blackout hammered and makes out with strangers.  It’s like watching my little girl grow up and date terrible people.  I’m not crying.  Fuck you.

When she wakes up she notices her laptop is missing.  How are we going to find out who took it?

Instagram you fucking idiots, duh, how else do young hip people learn about people who may have stolen their laptops?  They call it Pixtagraph but its fucking instagram.  She lives with a girl who is a programmer for Hooq, the newest and hottest dating app that apparently everyone is swooning over.  According to the writer its impossible for young hip characters to interact correctly unless its over some level of an electronic device.

As a note, I’ll mention that I haven’t memorized the writers name like Gail.  You earn the right, and this one fucking did not.

I’ll mention now that much later she mentions that the app is still in beta and won’t be ready for a big Hooq party.  Its not really important to my point, but it shows the level of writing that the app is simultaneously in beta and used enough that they want to throw a huge Hooq concert?

The reason she is so worried about her laptop is that her thesis was on it.  Her thesis is using a scan of her brain to create pattern recognizing algorithms.  She scanned her own brain to do this, which is apparently a lot of data.

Talking with various people she meets up with she finds out that some guy named Riot Black is likely in possession of it.  He has people steal electronics and then he scraps them for their secrets and uploads them to his website for likes or something.

This seems so very clearly against several laws.  So with everyone knowing he does this, surely they have called the police right?



Also- he’s a DJ.


He speaks only in his native language: hashtag.

Turns out he has cybernetic implants in his eye that he can use to directly connect with electronics and upload them immediately to his site.  Pretty cool villain concept.  Wanna know how she defeats him?



She finds out during the fight about his implants.  So she makes him a deal, she’ll reveal her identity if he deletes all the stolen data he’s been compiling.  He agrees and instructs her her to send her pic via Snapgab.

She sends the picture to the right.

Batgirl loaded a worm onto another phone that he uploaded into his brain.  When he sees that photo, it activates the worm and it deletes everything which leaves him…

They never actually say what happens to him.  Smash-cut back to the apartment?

Turns out her laptop was wiped and everything is mostly lost, and now she’s without her thesis.  How can you re-create it?  If only she had an eidetic memory!  Or maybe if she was super tech-savvy like Oracle?

Don’t be alarmed.  It might sound like pleading, but it’s only a despair sandwich.

With something so important and secret as her brain scan that- ya know, contains the identities of the Bat-family members- why didn’t she lock it up somewhere important?  Wouldn’t it be cool if she could store these things on something with like Turbo-Bat-Encryption?  Like in a cave or something?

Being seen at the Riot Black concert gives Batgirl a celebrity status.  People all throughout Burnside are excited about her!  It gets so bad that we actually see a couple people impersonating Batgirl.  So Barbara Gordon’s crime fighting role comes down to hunting down catfishes.  This is what I wanted to see.  The iconic Batgirl!  Fighting…crime?

Barbara Gordon ends up at an art show.  The topic of the art show?  Batgirl.  The artist Dagger Type did an entire show on our intrepid hero.  Barbara is furious!  Dagger is going to ruin her reputation!  Barbara will see an end to this.

Turns out that Dagger Type is a cross-dresser or transsexual; its never really clarified.  Dagger is attempting to become Batgirl by luring the real one out and killing her.  Dagger Type then throws a finale show where its revealed that Dagger is Batgirl!  No one buys it, a gun is drawn, blah-blah-blah arrested.

After this she realizes she needs to take control of her persona and her reputation!  What scheme will she come up with to show the public that she’s not a twit!?

Pixtagram.  Instagraph.  Facegab.  I don’t know anymore.  Fuck it.


I’d like to note she hasn’t fought any non-personal crime yet.

On a side note, why does a vigilante, a person who’s inherently breaking the law, care about reputation?

Also- where is Batman?

In any of these situations he would’ve intervened.  It has nothing to do with how capable Batgirl is.  Batman does not tolerate impersonators, and even when they are actually trying to be crime-fighters he tries to shut that down.  His crusade is his own and he rarely lets people join him.



Batman values and prioritizes his Bat-families safety and their identities.  Under no circumstances would he allow Batgirl to be so prevalent on the web.  As readers, we can sort of gloss over the fact that the mask and voice aren’t going to trick anybody who knows them.  We know this, and we ignore it.  We cannot ignore that when she’s posing for photos that someone is going to figure it out who she is.

With her media presence, by now Batman would’ve noticed she’s not wearing a Bat-approved suit.  Her old comrade in capes Dinah Lance (Black Canary) comes to visit because her gym burned down.  Turns out that even though they weren’t really talking, or even currently friends, Batgirl was storing her stuff in that gym.  Her suit and all of her crime-fighting equipment went up in flames.  After that fact, she makes her own Batgirl suit.  While very charming and resourceful, Batman would not tolerate this.  He acknowledges that crime-fighting is dangerous and helps fund new fighting suits.  Batman wants you to be safe and up-to-date.

The other reason he would get himself involved is that the the missing scan of Barbara’s brain isn’t exactly a private matter.  His entire legacy and the lives of everyone he cares about is stored in that scan.  He would’ve seen the pictures of her at the Riot Black concert, figured out what Riot Black does, and would probably be curious as to why Batgirl is there.  Put two and two together and he’ll probably figure out that something important is at risk of being exposed.

Black Canary actually points this out to her, and she goes full 16-year old.  Waaaaah Batman can’t tell me what to do.

Bitch.  He’s Batman.  When he says anything, God listens.

Batgirl and Black Canary have a falling out after that.  Would you be so flippant about one of your closest friends just leaving you?  Nah man, Batgirl actually explains how with her celebrity status she has friends and a real life.  Those are her words.  I can’t find the panel on the web but she says that.  Being a celebrity as Batgirl gives her a life and friends.  She doesn’t need a superhero ally.

She’s not too upset about Canary ditching her because she has a new cop boyfriend!  The cop often goes on rants about how being a vigilante is disrespectful and damaging, which Barbara coyly tries to refute.

During his rant the cop talks about a dude who’s totally not Justin Bieber.  Barbara asks why the cops don’t take him down for his illegal racing and driving under the influence.  Barbara takes this upon herself to prove a point to her boyfriend.

She goes to a bar to take down Not-Bieber, but he’s having none of it and gets in his car.  I’m not sure how he made it all the way to the car when Batgirl could have restrained him, but uhhhhh…

So she’s chasing him through the streets.  They almost hit several people and it ends with him crashing his car into an old Burnside diner called Cuppa Joes.  This pisses everyone one off because he wouldn’t have been provoked to drive like an idiot, and Batgirl caused him to crash.  She actually says to the police when they arrive that she did it for the safety of the people and the city.

Somehow the bright Barbara Gordon doesn’t realize how stupid this was.  Thank got Instabook was there to give her clarity.


There would be at least one billion “Kill yourself” tweets.

So we’re at the low point of the arc.  There is a Hooq concert happening and everyone’s going because the app is… coming out of beta or something.  When it comes out of beta it’ll be huge.  I dunno.  This is what hipsters and startup companies do right?

Barbara’s scan is still missing, she’s losing her real friends, and she’s no longer popular.  There is sort of an interesting subplot where Barbara is worried that something is going on behind everything else.  She receives a phone call from herself and many of her recent friends and villains have weird tidbits of information she doesn’t recall passing along.

The day before the concert, her roommate who works for Hooq is missing.  No one can find her and she isn’t responding to texts?  Did you try and call her?  Barbara tries (she’s the smart one) when she finds out.  It turns out her roommates’s phone was vibrating like 10 feet away from the people texting her because YOUNG PEOPLE DON’T KNOW HOW TO INTERACT WITH OTHER PEOPLE EVEN IN AN EMERGENCY.  FUCK WE ARE SO GODDAMN HIP.

Sorry.  Ahem.

She befriends Black Canary again because consequences are for pussy-ass bitches and they go to the Hooq headquarters where the concert is being held.  Batgirl goes to the top of the tower and finds her roommate going through some files that reveals her to be Batgirl.  Then, from the shadows the real villain appears.  The person that’s been orchestrating all the other events to lead to this mome-

It’s the fucking dating app.  Her glorious first overarching villain from the shadows is a dating app.

A dating app.


So last year, swipe left.

Turns out her brain scan was… put into the app somehow?  My guess is that Riot Black loaded it up and it got into Hooq servers.  And because of the power of sexting it became… sentient?

I mean- it is sort of a cool concept, but why the dating app?  Why not anything more serious?

Turns out the app used itself to determine which people are at risk of committing crimes.  Since everyone ever ever ever is on Hooq, it set up this concert to attract all of the potential criminals into one spot so it can use space lasers.  Not sure why not one person from Hooq Headquarters had a problem with this.  Setting up a huge concert must be fucking cake and also cost no money.

Sooooo… they defeat it with the power of friendship and the volume ends.


I wanted something to salvage.  The stories are forgettable and the villains are caricatures of what someone who heard about hipsters second hand.  Dagger Type was supposed to be a transsexual or a cross-dresser, but was portrayed so poorly that there was public backlash.

The dialogue is shit.  It’s written in a way that no one actually talks like.  No one has ever in total seriousness ever ended a sentence with “Whaaaaat!”  No one has ever had a group photo and told everyone to say “Kawaii!”  No one thinks being 32 years old is ancient.  People don’t seem to be able to exist outside social media.  All of Batgirl’s equipment is essentially stolen from the local college.

She fucking forgets how to be Batgirl.


No seriously, she’s fighting two girls on two motorcycles who are supposed to be cosplays of villains from an anime she watched when she was seven.  How can she possibly defeat them!?Why she’ll flashback to when she was a kid and remember how the anime protagonist beat them… then do the same thing.

You are fucking Batgirl.  You are smart, resourceful, and strong.  Or at least you used to be.

She isn’t fighting crime or solving mysteries.  This is a series of events involving her life as Barbara and her status as Batgirl.  I’m not saying she shouldn’t fight crime that directly involves herself, but the only one that really threatened human life was the Hooq app and its plan to maximum-over-swipe with space lasers.

To give credit where credit is due there is a varied cast of characters that cover different ethnicities, sexualities, and genders.  Especially since they don’t try and throw it out there too far.  The cop that Barbara dates brings some nice tension to the situation and humanizes Barbara a little more.  The art style is fucking delightful.

After you find out the Hooq app is swiping left on all of Gotham there is a nice little bit where you see the events of the brain scan becoming sentient.  You see it remembering her past, her trauma, and her efforts to overcome herself and her obstacles.  And then it sees the current Batgirl essentially devolving into a tween-y mess and it becomes enraged seeing her body go to waste.

Man, how fucking redeemed would this comic be if the Hooq app actually defeated her and returned to her body to become Gail Simone’s Batgirl again?  Like- switch back to the old art style and everything.  Holy shit.

Well there you have it.  My three part arc about Batgirl and why I love her, and hate how she changed.  Change isn’t a bad thing, they were trying something new and its just not jiving with me.  That’s my problem, not theirs.

At the very least I still have Batman.  He’s tried and true.  They wouldn’t try something-


Note: I will kill myself if the villain turns out to be Spotify.


Batgirl Part 2: Gail Simone and the New 52

Day 7 Since the Disappearance:

It has been an entire week since Emily’s infiltration mission to Australia vacation began.  Still no word of her return.  I fear the worst.

I’ll continue my writing in this blog.  Messages in bottles until the ink in my heart has long dried up.

Before we go too much further, you might want to read Batgirl Part 1!

We continue our three post trend with one of my favorite comic book authors: Gail Simone.  I fucking love Gail Simone.  If it was up to me, she’d write all comics forever. Well, her and Scott Snyder.

If Gail and Scott co-wrote anything I’d probably just get so excited I might just possibly vibrate apart into a fine particulate blob of fan-girl.

Gail writes an emotional and complex story for Batgirl: the difficulties that come with resuming a role you long since wrote off for a dream.


At this point I will give the customary spoiler warning.  This one is specific to the New 52.  I’m going to cover some of the arcs to help drive my point home about the power and subtlety that Gail Simone brought to Barbara Gordon.

Gail Simone simultaneously makes Batgirl fierce and strong while making her vulnerable.  The very first arc in the series we see Batgirl come face to face with the villain Mirror.  He is killing people for reasons unknown and Batgirls endeavor to stop him.  During all of this Gail breaks it up early with events in her personal life.  She moves out of her fathers place, meets her new interesting roommate, and deals with the rises and falls that come with having experienced a miracle.

We learn that Barbara Gordon is on Mirror’s list.  He believes he is righting some wrongs in the universe by killing people who experience miracles.

While she is looking for Mirror we see Barbara doubting whether she was worthy of getting her legs back.  She had made peace with the fact that she was paralyzed, and now she has them back and wonders why she was saved instead of someone else.  Barbara is battling her own survivor’s guiIt.

It turns out Mirror was the only survivor in a tragic accident.  One in which he was saved and had to watch his wife and twins burn to death.  He rejects his miracle.  Mirror believes that he shouldn’t have survived and he begs to die with his family.

Both of our characters are here because of a miracle, but they respond in different ways.  Batgirl doubts that she can be worthy of her miracle, and she must combat this self doubt.  Mirror was saved when he didn’t want to be, and now he seeks to right some universal wrong by ending others who have survived when they shouldn’t.  It’s these miracles that have brought them head to head.

This becomes more clear for Batgirl when Nightwing finds her.  He asks about Mirror and how she’s doing, but she deflects by playing a game of city spanning tag.  It’s a poignant scene.

She remembers doing the same as younger prodigies.

She remembers her feelings for Dick before the accident.

She remembers being shot.  Her once proud confidence is now frail and brittle in the face of what’s happened.

When Dick finally catches her, she lashes out at him.  Batgirl resents him, saying that she’s tired of people trying to look out for her.  To defeat her enemy, she must do it alone.  Dick acquiesces and leaves her.

When she finally defeats Mirror she does so by making him reflect upon what he is alive for.  He suffered tragedy, but he needs not continue wasting his life doubting whether he should have died or not.  By defeating Mirror, she defeats herself.  She lets go of her self doubt.

Gail Simone, in a few short pages and a few short encounters, gives us a deeper look at how Barbara feels about her life changing surgery.  And it wasn’t a cheesy, expositional battle.  Gail tells a story more gently than that.  We have parallels to observe and we get to see how others might have responded to similar events.  We experience self doubt alongside Batgirl, and see her relationships developing in response.  Her interpersonal relationships punctuate the feelings inside her.  Her dad cares for her and only wants the best, and even her roommate becomes a staple in her life that she learns to love.

Nothing is cut and dry, and there is plenty to keep us reading.  This level of writing is something much higher than I originally expected out of comic books, and was one of the hooks that gave me cause to try new series.



After Mirror she meets a woman who calls herself Gretel.  Gretel has the power to mind control people, and she uses this power to lash out against Bruce Wayne for trying to gentrify an old neighborhood.

This is the first arc where we see her being Batgirl and coming face to face with Batman.  It throws her back to before she was paralyzed.  Batgirl took inspiration from Batman.  She worked apart from him.  When she became paralyzed she feared what he would say to her.  The cruel words of how he was right to try and stop her.

In her memory, we get two heart wrenching panels of him standing quietly with her, holding her hands in sympathy.

Before the showdown, she learns that Gretel was a woman who was gunned down dismissively by a mob boss.  She had no one to turn to in the hospital; no one visited her.  She learned to use people instead of trust them.

Now she needs to perform as Batgirl for Bruce Wayne.  A man she felt as though she let down.  When she succeeds in saving him from some mind controlled thugs, he whispers to her, “You were always meant to be Batgirl.”

This fills her with strength and determination.  She confronts Gretel with Batman’s assistance.  He lets her take the lead, which he almost never does.  Fighting and defeated Gretel taught Barbara that even when she feels alone and scared that she has people who love and care about her.

I’d like to point at this time that the dialogue and exposition aren’t super in your face. Gail Simone trusts us to understand, and she feels no need to guide us by the hand.  Her writing has depth, and it comes out in her characters.  All of them.  Her dad is trying to be a cop and a dad without being overbearing and protective.  Her roommates is concerned about her, but trusts her enough to give her space when she needs it and support when she wants it.

This post is already becoming too long for what is supposed to be a delicious Smudde nugget.  Fuck you I’m not stopping.


During these events, Barbara’s mother comes back out of the wood work.  She tries to pry herself back into Barbara’s life, which adds to the drama of it all.  So in between her internal struggles she now must try and cope with being a daughter to who is essentially an estranged mother.

The last villain that I’ll discuss is Grotesque.  A man who likes the finer things in life, and discards that which doesn’t meet those standards.  This includes henchman and innocents.  Barbara hunts him down, but while on the trail she realizes that one of the henchman she took down was one of the men who showed up with the Joker.  Batgirl must now face someone directly from her tragedy, and man who left her to die.

Batgirl tracks down Grotsque and confronts him.  She finds him with his henchman.  During the battle Grotesque gains the upper hand, but before he can land the killing blow the henchman intervenes.  Grotesque deals the former Joker thug a fatal blow.  Seeing such a waste of human life sends Batgirl into a rage and she defeats Grotesque while proclaiming, “I reject you.”

Batgirl holds the henchman in her arms as he dies.  He confesses that he called the police to go back for the then dying Barbara Gordon.  Seeing this criminals human side gives her resolve to never become something so grotesque because of her tragedy.  She needs to continue to be a great person and never let rage or revenge guide her.

I’m writing this mostly to try and give you a flavor of what Gail’s writing is like.  She did an amazing job with Batgirl, and it only gets better.  I can’t cover it all here, otherwise you’ll never go get all the comics!  Don’t lie, I know you are on your way right now.  But some even deeper and darker stories surface.  The return of the Joker in Death of the Family, and the resurfacing of her serial killer brother.


The checklist I want you to remember:

  • Batgirl is a strong, complex, intelligent woman.
  • The villains are dripping with deeper meanings for Batgirl.
  • The characters, setting, and world are all believable and well written.

I hope I impressed upon you how great Gail’s writing it.  In next weeks post we’ll cover Batgirl of Burnside when they changed writers.


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.


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?


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.”


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.


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!


Jared Leto is going to be a great Joker

A significant problem with anything that translates from written form to a video type format is that it can’t possibly be right for everyone.  Period.

I wish that more people could simply be excited to see a new portrayal of a character they love.  To borrow from John Green, you must try and understand people complexly.  This includes writers and the character they’re writing.  Maybe someone else’s idea of a character will make you appreciate the character more.

While I mostly hear about how lots of people aren’t excited about these sorts of things, I’m not going to say I’m alone.  I’m sure there are lots of people who are mad pumped about Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman.

When I hear someone saying they don’t like the character, usually it sounds to me like the director or writer interpreted their character in a way they didn’t.  They nitpick it, like their interpretation is the only relevant and correct one.


Cesar Romero.  The goofy Joker.

The original Batman series was written and directed in a manner that was very tongue in cheek.  I don’t need to support it that much; you’ve all seen gifs and clips of the show.  It was delightfully lighthearted and played to the playful side of comics.  I’m not going to lie, I haven’t seen this show a ton and I definitely haven’t read many comics from that era, but it seems very clear to me that the director, the actor, and the writer all knew what kind of Joker they were playing.  It says Batmania for fuck sake in that picture.


Jack Nicholson.  The charming Joker.

Jack Nicholson’s Joker was a more threatening, more charming, and more dangerous Joker.  He had the jokes, he had the character, and he had the giant gun.  He was a much closer portrayal to the comic book Joker at the time.  In fact, he was probably drawing inspiration from The Killing Joke.  It was the famous comic in which Barbara Gordon is shot and paralyzed.  Jack knew that he had to be the clown, but he know that he also needed to be terrifying.


Heath Ledger.  The anarchist Joker.

Heath Ledger revitalized this character with such gusto that I would credit him and his performance to the string on comic book gritty reboot movies we have.  We were all blown away.  More than being goofy, more than getting us to laugh, he had genuine terror behind his role.  He was the other side of the dark mirror, looking at Batman and making him shiver.  Ledger and Nolan wanted to do away with some of the tricks and gimmicks behind the Joker and instead focus on his intensity and his insanity.

Jared Leto & Margot Robbie in "Suicide Squad"

Jared Leto.  The _______ Joker.

I ain’t got shit to say about Jared Leto because the movie isn’t out yet.  When I saw the trailer I was fucking pumped!  His laugh was amazing.  His voice was rough and smooth all at once.  The intensity and insanity behind those eyes felt genuine!  I’m super pumped.


My Joker.  Unwavering Terror.

For Batman comic book nerds here, my main reading focus has been The New 52 on (2011 and forward). I read the classics like Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale, Frank Miller, and Grant Morrison.  I’m actually attempting to read backward with the comics.  I’m slowly collecting volumes that connect backwards so I can read more from different writers.

The point I’m making is that the Joker I’ve come to understand and love was written by Scott Snyder.  His Joker portrayal has been one of intensity, dedication, and atmosphere.  When he shows up in the comics the entire Bat-Family is alerted.  He is no joke.  The Joker always has a plan and he will not falter from it, and its a race to figure out his game before he manages to fulfill his plans.  In the New 52 series the Joker is very fixated on isolating Batman so that their eternal game of Batman and Joker can go on uninterrupted.  He tells Batman’s sidekicks and old friends that they need to abandon him because they weaken Batman.  The Joker traps them in elaborate scenarios where they have to make impossible decisions.  He doesn’t want to kill them.  He wants them to push themselves away.  He wants a pure and focused Batman to combat his pure and focused insanity.  He’s always asking them if they “get the joke yet.”

Other people were familiar with other Jokers at the time.  I cannot say that I’m intimately familiar with the Joker’s from previous writers like Grant Morrison or Bob Kane/Bill Finger.  Jeph Loeb’s Joker had a vicious smile and almost perpetually had over the top plans.

But the Joker viewers read about is the one they wanted to see in those movies/shows.

When we read a character we develop our own portrayal in our minds, and when we read about that same character we simply place our own interpretation.  In comics, they shift writers frequently and we don’t blink.  Because we are able to just copy/paste our mental image of that Joker back in.  But there is no room to do this when you are watching a TV series or a movie.  The character is cut and defined, you cannot change how they are portrayed.

And this pisses people off.  I’m not saying you need to like or appreciate their portrayal but being pissed seems short sighted to me.  People envisioning things differently is an inherent part of …being human.

Here is why you shouldn’t be pissed.

Heather Ledger is everyone’s favorite Joker.

But really, as a Joker he wasn’t accurate.  The Joker is about spectacle; he is about presence.  He has chemically altered skin and hair.  He wants to play a big game!  He’s not concerned with undoing the mob and besting the police.  His intensity and drive were there, but as Cracked has pointed out, he seems more concerned with anti-establishment than he does about furthering personal goals.

But we all fucking loved him anyway.  His portrayal was so cool, so scary, and so convincing.  He was nothing that we expected and we fucking loved it.  We had no idea before we saw the damn movie!

So how do people know that Jared is going to be bad?!




How to Fix The Dark Knight Rises

I loved this movie.

Don’t get me wrong, it was flawed, but I enjoyed it.  I mostly wanted to state this so that people don’t think I’m just hating to hate.

The Dark Knight Rises wasn’t really a bad movie.  People shit on it for being weird and different than Christopher Nolan’s first two.  I don’t think it was a bad ending, but to me, it seemed clumsy.  And in some places, it seems like an opportunity was missed, or at least tripped on.

If you found this post and you haven’t seen the movie, here is your official spoiler warning.  In fact, the post won’t make a lot of sense unless you read this synopsis.

The fight between Bane and Batman was pretty epic.  It was a man struggling to redeem the cowl, and himself, by pitting himself against the terrifying force that is Bane.  He loses and we are heartbroken.

It always stuck out at me that Batman stands and fights when he is so clearly losing.  The thing is, Batman is not about being a big, strong, tough guy.  Batman is calculating, cunning, and intelligent.  He has faced more dangerous situations and knows when he needs to pull back.  Batman’s only real super power is the power to be prepared for things.  Essentially, my inner comic book fan is sitting there wondering why he doesn’t run and bide his time.

The spine fixing technique.  Its super fucking dumb.  In The Dark Knight Rises, its fixed when a dude punches Batmans vertebrae back into place.

I know we needed a speedy way to fix Batman, but even people with a complete lack of medical knowledge like me were sitting there going, “You can’t actually do that, Mr. Christopher Nolan.”  It was bad and almost any other way would’ve been better.

My last several complaints are all wrapped up nicely into one argument.

Lets talk about Bane.

Christopher Nolan had a monumental task of trying to write another villain like the Joker.  What better villain could they use than Bane?  The one comic book villain that famously broke Batman.


But Bane felt really out of place.  At least to me.  He was weirdly subdued actually.  I know they can’t have a hulking behemoth of a man realistically fit into all of this gritty rebooted-ness, but even his character felt a little off.

You find out near the end that Bane is actually working for Talia al Ghul.  He knew her as a child, and cares deeply about her.  But even with that twist, you cannot make the argument that she was the villain all along.  She appears in the last fourth of the movie, and Batman has spent all movie training to defeat Bane and reclaim his city.

In the comics (at least the ones I’ve read), Bane is a lone wolf sort.  He hires muscle to help him with the bigger jobs, but much of his work and motivation is about being the best and the strongest above others.  He is self centered and intelligent, and doesn’t need anyone else’s help.  Even in the comics, he only teams up with other villains when the benefit to him is great.

Bane was mostly picked for his role because he was the one that defeated Batman in the comics, and it would make the most sense to have him defeat Batman in the movies.  He fit though.  He has previous connections to the League of Shadows and Talia

What if I told you there is a better villain.


In this movie, Bane’s only connection to comic book Bane is the mask.  He didn’t really feel like he had presence as a villain.

I nominate Deathstroke.  He should’ve been the villain in The Dark Knight Rises.

Think about it.  Bane was the villain mostly by circumstance.  There was nothing implicitly about Bane that made it so he had to be the villain.  Anyone could have fit into that slot and it wouldn’t have changed much.  In fact, I’d argue Deathstroke is better.

Bane is set up to be in Gotham city by businessman attempting to bankrupt Bruce Wayne.  Bane then uses this situation to take over Gotham.  It all feels so happenstance.

For Deathstroke it would’ve made much more sense since he is routinely hired as a mercenary or assassin, and we could have a mysterious subplot about who hired Deathstroke to double cross his original client, the businessman.

The defeat of Batman in the sewers?  Sure, Deathstroke can’t lift and break Batman, but if Batman suffered a serious sword or gunshot wound instead, the audience would be more inclined to believe he would recover in the prison.  Puncture wounds heal naturally.  You don’t have to punch them into submission to heal it.

The relationship between a mercenary and a client would’ve made things more believable as well.

Bane is eventually defeated when Catwoman shows up on the Bat-bike and blows him out of frame.  Whatever happens to him next is off screen, and therefor boring.

He died, since he wouldn’t have run because he cared about little Talia so much.  A boring end to his character.

Deathstroke would not sacrifice his life for the cause of a zealot.  Money or no, there would have been more drama or action involving Deathstroke.  He’d probably try to take his money and flee, and Batman would have to stop him from escaping.  So instead of Catwoman ex machina, we’d get an awesome showdown between hero and villain.


The fact that he’s a well known mercenary in the Batman universe makes it much easier to believe that hes simply a front.  The story of the the prison, escapee, Talia, and Bane all felt really threadbare.  I didn’t feel any connection because Talia was a twist in the end.  There was no character or relationship development.  So why not just cut out this weird subtext by having the villain be a straight up assassin for hire?  You could make the argument that the story is important to build up the legend behind Bane, but if you’ve watched the movie, you know there isn’t a huge legend present in it.  No one goes around talking about Bane in a hushed tone.  Once he releases the prisoners, he’s just a figurehead, not a legend.

Also, he should be played by Stephan Lang.