07 September 2011

Brave & Blog Team Up: We Review Barbara Gordon and BATGIRL #1

Pop Vivant GCM of Firefrorefiddle and the lads here at When Batmobiles Fly decided to celebrate this week's relaunch of DC COMICS' Batgirl character by a brief trans-continental pub chat and look at the strange lives of Barbara Gordon.

WBF: I don’t think we’d have Batgirl today without Yvonne Craig.

Boy Wonder who?  The delightful Ms. Craig sold a
generation on girl power and lace motorcycles

In 1967, the tail wagged the dog and the Producers of the BATMAN TV show asked for a female companion to add to their mix of Adam West and Burt Ward.  DC COMICS sent Carmine Infantino off to his room et viola: The Million Dollar Debut of the Batman Family.

GCM: Though the tail wagged the dog, Batgirl had a unreleased pilot film, which also starred Tim Herbert (he occasionally played criminal ‘stooges’ in other episodes of Batman) as Killer Moth, which ties in with (The Million Dollar) Debut in the comics, where we see Batgirl take down the Killer Moth himself (and his many larvae and pupae.)

WBF: Man, I'd love to see that.  I thought Infantino's costume was great for comics.  Lots of black!
With apologies to Mr. Bruckner, Karen Palinko's
BATGIRL captures the essence of the comic art! 

It’s funny, with all the teeth gnashing and ironic pundits who characterize contemporary DC Comics and their beholden relationship to Hollywood, but I think it did them well in Batgirl’s case.  In the comics, Batman and Robin suck their teeth and rattle on about “ass kicking is no place for a girl” whilst in the show, the boys can’t scrape their chins off the pavement watching the purple-spandex high kicks.  Yvonne Craig and the show Producers made Batgirl a mystery to the Dynamic Duo and it worked: Clearly, the best moment of Season 3.

GCM: Yvonne Craig was a symbol to girls worldwide; she was cool and kept pace with Batman and Robin while involved in something that was really looked upon predominantly as a ‘boys’ game in the playground. Batman had the Batmobile, but Batgirl had her own answer with the Batcycle, which added that extra dash of dare and finess. One difference we did see: Barbara Gordon, the well-known redhead in the comix was actually dark haired in the show, and she would use a wig for the red locks when she was Batgirl.

WBF: After the fall of the show, did DC COMICS know what to do with the Dominoed Dare-Doll?  Isn’t that statement self evident enough?  Bronze Age writer Frank Robbins had Batgirl all but retire in the early Seventies, as she confronted her father with her identity and won a seat in the US Congress. 

With the exception of these Super-Fun Seventies
MEGO dolls, we prefer our Batgirls in black
GCM: Elliot S! Maggin and Bob Rozakis than spun some fun yarns with Barbara resuming her Bat career and flustering Robin The Teen Wonder.  Barbara Gordon in congress was all about social revelence; and it did put her in Washington for the battle with the spirit of Benedict Arnold in Batman Family #1 in 1975, which was a strike for the feminist movement (even though she was far too young to be a Congresswoman).

WBF:  I never liked the Bat Family out of Gotham, but the best moments of these stories are the interplay between Batgirl and Robin in a dozen issues of BATMAN FAMILY.  Barbara tolerated Robin's sexism with an appropriate degree of rolled eyes.  Vietnam Veteran-turned-Private Investigator Jason Bard was equally likely as a partner for her than the boy in a bright yellow cape.

GCM: BATMAN FAMILY is where she also got her own rogues gallery; even though most are forgettable, we do see the Earth-One Huntress and Sportsmaster.   As far as the bad guys go, The Power-Sower and Madame Zodiac weren’t too bad I suppose.  The best villain is certainly not Captain Aero,  although the story featuring that particular foe was narrated by Babs’ long-lost brother, the shadowy Tony Gordon. 

WBF: I liked that one!  Recently DETECTIVE COMICS had the return of Barbara's half-brother, in a super-creepy nod to THE KILLING JOKE.

And because of that AEROSMITH video, we shall never
speak of this again, Miss Silverstone...

WBF: The Eighties were unkind to Barbara Gordon, to say the least.  THE KILLING JOKE is treated like the end-all moment for Batgirl.  More and more, I see it as the story that Brian Bolland really wanted Alan Moore to write for him.  In retrospect, it has nothing to do with Barbara Gordon- she’s a prop.

GCM: For what KILLING JOKE was, it has some good touches; where the idea was that the sanest man possible is but one bad day away from being a lunatic, so the Clown Prince of Crime set out to give Commissioner James Gordon that bad day.

WBFJohn Higgins did a nice job on the colours, though.  So it wasn't that bad a day.

GCM: Things didn't start looking up for my girl until Kim Yale.

Bruce Timm et al made a brilliant
BAT FAMILY in a post-Alan Moore world
WBF: Right!  Kim Yale was really the second coming of Barbara Gordon.  DC COMICS had taken THE KILLING JOKE as the final say for the character and suddenly there’s this ubiquitous computer presence in the DC Universe.  It’s all knowing, like it’s Oracle Grecian namesake.  It’s street smart, taking on the Black Ops world of the SUICIDE SQUAD.  Of course, it’s Barbara Gordon.  Suddenly, the cripple in the wheelchair is now the smartest thing on the block, who just happens to be in a wheelchair.  And I think that’s even what it said on her new membership card to the Justice League of America, an auspicious event that never happened to Batgirl, to be sure.

GCM: We see Grant Morrison bring Barbara Gordon into the JLA, as Oracle; she was a positive role model to handicapped comic fans.  Within Birds Of Prey she became the brains behind the battlers, a la Professor X or the Doom Patrol’s the Chief.  First lady to do that.

Second time was the charm for an amazing
array of character designs
WBF: As for the all-new BATGIRL#1?  In a sentence, it appears Miss Gordon just “got better”.  She’s dialed back to post-college grad, a few years post-THE KILLING JOKE and just starting back out on the Batcycle.  

GCM: In this new book, we are introduced to new villain, The Mirror; and a new supporting cast as we see Barbara move out of her dad’s and get a new apartment. 

WBF: Smartly, Gail Simone is hard at work developing her own coterie of rogues.  Clearly Chapter One of a bigger story, so much for self-contained books.  

GCM: THE KILLING JOKE still plays a role in this story, which for a so-called “reboot” is a little confusing, as we take off touching upon the lasting effects of the shooting which paralysed her; which are obviously going to play a significant role within the storyline.

WBF: Right.  There's a moment where the trauma of what the Joker did to her has a huge impact.  Gail Simone is trying her best to make a lot out of this moment from 20 years ago, perhaps to appease die-hard fans entering this strange new world.  The book certainly looks pretty, even if the costume is a tad Bryan Hitch of 10 years ago.  I think Bruce Timm's redesign of her costume is still the best.

GCM: That's because yellow is one of the few colours you can see. 

WBF: I always admire your candor, Mrs. Peel.

GCM: And I adore your blower Bentley, Mr. Steed. 


Barbara Gordon: A Girl of TRUE GRIT


  1. This was fun! I think the prize for cool comix of the week goes to ACTION COMICS #1, but the Barbara "The Boot" Gordon wins on controversy.