Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Batgirl/Oracle Debacle...

In light of all the tiresome debates about DC’s Issue #1 revamps, I thought I’d chime in like an impatient child so I can whine about Superman’s pants...oh wait, I don’t care. Actually, it’s not that I don’t care it’s just I’m fed up with hoards of fan-boys and fan-girls filling up every forum on the internet with their “opinions” - so, (hypocritically and a tad late, I might add) here’s mine: DC can do whatever the hell they want. With so much hype around Marvel and its recent film successes, who can really blame DC for changing it up? Other than the Dark Knight films; DC haven’t really been able to compete.
So, changes...let’s take Batgirl for instance; it appears that Barbara Gordon as Oracle is no more; Babs has her legs again, huh? It’s been a HUGE debate so far on all geek forums and in comic shops everywhere; yet, I don’t give a damn because ultimately it’s all irrelevant. While I’m not condoning the removal of her disability, y’all need to calm down and remember this isn’t the first time a comic publishing house has retcon’d their work, only to change their minds a few months later. She might get shot by Joker again...she might not. The unfamiliarity and new prospects for the character makes it exciting. Well, for me anyway.

Saying that, what happened to poor Babs was pretty horrifying so maybe something less harrowing would be good (just saying). This revamp opens up a whole new realm of possibility and means any number of developments for DC’s core characters and also provides exposure and new prospects for their underrated B-listers.
It’s a new division in comics. Like the Golden and Silver ages, except this time its pre and post 2011; at least, that’s what DC would have us believe and what I would ultimately hope for. Sadly, I’m not that optimistic, but who knows what’s ahead? Stranger things have and will happen. Continuity changes all the time in the industry; look at the big events and standalones – not to mention bloody Superboy punching his way into existence. We still buy the titles we love and follow our favourite writers/illustrators regardless. Also, it’s not like we’re afraid of change...the industry thrives on it.
I’m pleased DC is doing this and if they decide to keep Barbara on two feet then good for them. It makes me think of the “screw you, we’re doing what we want to do” attitude of their younger, yet darker sister, Vertigo and for that I commend them.
The Batgirl/Oracle debacle has got me thinking about another subject however, representative disability in the DC ‘verse is...where? With so few disabled superheroes/role models around, it makes me wonder if ditching Oracle was really a wise choice to make.
I’m not defending the close-minded view that there ought to be a “token” handicapped hero but she has become such an institution that if you type “disabled superhero” or another variant of, into Google practically all of the results are Barbara Gordon. Stop and think for a second, who else in the DCU is there? I was discussing this with a friend who doesn’t read comics and she suggested that Superman came to mind for her...of course I had to politely explain that Christopher Reeve was just an actor and not actually the Man of Steel. But, I’ve got to give her some credit as many people thought of Reeve as the embodiment of Superman - so in a way, she’s kind of right - the ‘character’ of Superman could be considered a role model...sort of.
Although, that makes the count one and half DC heroes that come to mind; still thin on the ground. Marvel have a few but not that many more, other than wheelchair bound Professor Xavier and Daredevil’s blindness there don’t seem to be any others. Except...I started thinking about it too much. So much so, that I’ve been having a neurotic breakdown of late – I started thinking that perhaps Iron Man could be considered disabled. Technically, he has a heart defect – it’s not everyday you have to live with shards of metal in your chest, after all. After days of over-thinking it, I raised the debate on Twitter and had some pretty good discussions. One of my followers raised the point that alcoholism is a disease too and we all know Stark is no stranger to that. Another suggested that Cyclops has to wear corrective lenses – which, again...totally true. Other disabled characters from all universes were mentioned and I started remembering the likes of Thor (as Dr Blake), Dr Mid-Nite, Captain Marvel Jr., The Chief from Doom Patrol, Silver Scorpion...although each disability is different there is one defining characteristic of all of them...
No Superhero finds their ‘disability’ or ‘handicap’ de-habilitating, Oracle is incredibly intelligent, leads Birds of Prey and is skilled in martial arts – in fact, I preferred her as Oracle. Daredevil’s other senses are all heightened to the point that he doesn’t even need his eyes and Professor X is still able to utilise his power and lead the X-Men. Each hero finds a way to use their disability to make them even more badass.
That is, except...Tony Stark. He manages to cope with the heart defect but still screw his life up with alcohol and before I get berated – yes, I know Stark as Iron Man is technically the hero and Tony Stark the man is just a spoilt billionaire with expensive toys to play with but his alcoholism has at times effected his ability to be Iron Man, even when he isn’t drinking he still has the potential to lapse and other heroes, especially The Avengers, they have been times when one or all of the group doubt he is telling the truth about whether or not he has been drinking - making him a weak leader.
Maybe I’ve been going about this the wrong way, focusing on disabilities as weaknesses makes me an awful person and while I feel DC need a disabled hero I’m still happy to defend DC for revamping the Batgirl story. If I was a superhero, my weakness would definitely be hypocrisy.
Thanks to: @OnlyRad @TheRedBobcat @Trivia_Lad


  1. Good post. Whoever raised the subject of Stark's alcoholism must be an incisive and intelligent type of chap.

  2. Oh, and I agree about Babs as Oracle being a far more interesting character than Babs as Batgirl. Wasn't too sure about the wheelchair cheesecake stuff on the mini-series covers though.