Posted by : Wendy B Tuesday, 7 June 2011

DC has announced that Barbara Gordon's Oracle will be no more in their revamp. Instead, Barbara Gordon, who was confined to a wheelchair by the Joker in Batman: The Killing Joke, will revert to her former incarnation as Batgirl, written by Gail Simone.

Fans are not happy:

ORACLE Is Stronger Than BATGIRL Will Ever Be

Who’s your symbol for strength in the DC universe? I’m sure a lot of you are thinking Superman or Batman right now. They’ve certainly got the physical strength and fortitude to make them the perfect candidates. While Batman is my all-time favorite character in comics, he’s not the first person I look to when I need to be reminded to keep fighting in this world. For that I look to Oracle.

Writes my friend, Michael Blizman, in a Buzz comment:

I'll admit that I never actually thought of this -- and I use a wheelchair myself -- but then, I've always had Professor X in my comics and Ironside on my TV. And Oracle is kickass, just in terms of her evolution from her debut as little more than vapid banality steeped in Batman emulation to Oracle, not merely a Batman replacement but a character having endured her own trauma and pathos in her own right... and being stronger for it.

Having said this, I have thought often about strong female characters -- in my comics and on my TV. I have had many discussions with @Paul Was to this end. And while I lament -- and so should you -- the fact that "strong female character" can apparently only translate into, what, our fifth incarnation of La Femme Nikita? -- I sometimes feel like women in comics are one note at best.

Wonder Woman? Storm? Emma Frost? Jean Grey? Whatever the power they might have, whatever they try to stand for, they are -- more often than not quite literally -- bodies. Bodies the female comic reader wished for? to strive for? Sometimes, it seems as though they are objects... objects for me to objectify. Objects that serve as a token effort in diversity.

Growing up, I had my pick of Underoos. (I preferred Green Lantern, but the point is, I could be ANYONE) Girls could be Wonder Woman. Maybe Princess Leia, I dunno.

There's diversity.

And then, irrespective of power or mutation, it seems that even the mightiest of female character lucky enough to not be a kid sidekick or offspring of a main tier hero. often just seems to be waiting for the right man to come along.

Look at all the shipping that goes on. Who's doing Storm? Let's get Jean and Wolvie together. Just a couple weeks ago, I became friends with @Wendy B. -- after a similar discussion about this phenomena. Scott was with Jean because she was the only chick in that era. The Professor fell in love with Jean (though he never mentioned it again, LOL) after working closely. SHE WAS THERE! If she settled for Scott -- and she may have -- it was a way of holding herself back, to maintain control. But, we ALL settled for what Jean Grey ultimately represented to female readers.

Black Cat? Canary? Catwoman? Batgirl? Slutty costumes at Halloween!

And if you want REAL diversity, make your character a lesbian! But all that does is tap into a new demographic for shipping, or lusting after at home.


What am I saying, then? What has this all been about? It seems like the only way to remove the element of being a glorified body is to destroy that body!

And that was when Barbara Gordon became a true hero. Not in that way that people call handicapped people courageous or special in that "blow smoke up your ass" kind of way, but in a way that said, people are more than the sum of their parts, there's a mind and intellect and a soul.

To me, that's a strong disabled character, a strong female character and a strong character, PERIOD. It's an asset to its stable that DC is missing out on by returning her to square one with a retcon/revamp.

NOTE: I suspect though, that we should give DC a chance on this and be patient. The Killing Joke story is, from what I understand, to be retold as part of the DC revamp. Since all the characters are 'starting over' and we will still be seeing the iconic story lines, just in new forms, there's reason to believe that we may well see Oracle again....

3 Responses so far.

  1. A damned strong piece of commentary on the state of female heroes in comic books! Bravo!
    And you didn't even mention two of the most powerful ones like Supergirl in the miniskirt and Power Girl showing off her boobs more and more.
    As for the Barbara Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle debate...I feel that something will be done with the Oracle name. DC has that trademarked. They won't show all their cards immediately and should not.
    I feel a wait-and-see attitude should work well in this instance.
    And again, great post!

  2. Not my words :) Credit goes to those listed in the post. I just compiled it and added pretty pictures.

  3. http://nightxade.livejournal.com/590580.html

    https://profiles.google.com/102543948831967474502/posts/CEAsRqTZ4gP#102543948831967474502/posts/CEAsRqTZ4gP

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I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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