Today the Comic Bastards Toolbox is taking a break, I’ve put the tools away and instead of trying to “fix” a character I’m going to talk about a missed opportunity that a publisher had with a character that would have saved it from the toolbox. What got me thinking about this was the character reveal for Batman: Arkham Origins that shows a plunky young Babs full of piss and vinegar. That one picture captured her personality and made me realize that I haven’t liked New 52 Babs half as much as that character in the picture. I think back to when DC was pumping out cover image after cover image of reveals for what would become the New 52; no one really knew what to expect because so much had been changed with just a picture or a character design. Then came the day that Batgirl was reveal and to everyone’s surprise Barbara Gordon was once again wearing the tights. At first this was awesome because it’s the original Batgirl and who didn’t want that… but then something dawned on me, isn’t she a bit old to be Batgirl? Isn’t she more of a Batwoman?
With the first issue it was revealed that Babs was a college student and we’re not talking a freshman, but an experienced college kid that had moved off campus and was living in an apartment with a roommate and shit. It was very “Peter Parker the college days” and I mean that comparison in more than one way. I never took to this version of Babs.
The character Oracle that I had enjoyed for many years was suddenly nowhere to be found, but the plucky young kid that I was looking forward to seeing again was also gone. All that I was left with was the female equivalent of Nightwing. That is to say that you want to like the character, but there’s never really any place for either of them in the Bat universe. They’re niche books that manage to limp around from month to month and avoid cancellation, but they never really pick up new readers or excite current readers.
Looking back at that reboot DC missed a huge opportunity with Babs and the sad part was that the character outline was right in front of them already. Look no further than All-Star Batman and Robin for the answer to what Babs could have been. Now was Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s version perfect? No and that’s the point. Babs was a kid detective that idolized and probably crushed on the worst possible role-model… Batman. She was also smart as shit as she figured out how to keep up with Bats on a budget of nothing. The great thing about her was that she understood danger, but was nothing like Robin. She was 100% her own character.
The point is that while everyone was initially happy about Babs return to the Batgirl tights, the character that actually returned was a shell of Oracle and more “Woman” than “Girl.” The problem was that there couldn’t be two Batwomans, but that’s actually what we got. Unfortunately there’s nothing that can be done about it now without another major reboot which isn’t likely to happen.
What’s your thoughts on Barbara Gordon and trust me I know that I’m in the minority of Batgirl fans that aren’t enjoying the current version of the character, but feel free to tell me why I’m wrong. Otherwise thanks for reading the first “Missed Opportunities” and if you have a suggestion then let us know in the comments.