This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
There are no incidental details in prose. Or rather, there are no specific incidental details in prose. You might get a sketchy description of someone’s home or office, with the understanding that you can more or less fill in the blanks on what kind of furniture might be there, but if a specific item of furniture matters, it has to be mentioned explicitly. This makes it very difficult to introduce elements casually; if a specific item of furniture is mentioned, we can’t help but assume it will have some significance to the story. For most stories, that’s not a problem — indeed, faith that the details matter to the narrative might be fundamental to our enjoyment of them — but that gets complicated when there’s a mystery to be solved. That is, prose has a hard time giving us clues that don’t immediately broadcast themselves as clues; the very fact that it’s being mentioned betrays its significance. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan M. and Spencer are discussing Batgirl 44, originally released September 23rd, 2015.
Ryan: When we’re children, it is clear to whom we owe obedience. We must do what our parents, teachers, coaches, pastors tell us. Part of growing up is learning to choose who deserves that kind of subservience. Certainly, in adult relationships a certain amount of respect is shown by listening and acting in accordance with someone else’s wants. But what about those in our adult lives who request blind and total acquiescence? Should we bend to their whims and deny our own? Also, what kind of person would expect us to? The Velvet Tiger and Batgirl don’t have much in common, but they both have an expectation of obedience. They are each in a leadership position and expect their employees to curb their own ambitions and curtail their own desires. The Velvet Tiger is looking for fealty and unwavering loyalty, while Batgirl’s exerts her authority in a paternalistic effort of protection. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Batgirl 41, originally released June 24th, 2015.
Spencer: One of the defining moments of my childhood was watching the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Over the Edge” in its initial broadcast. For any of you who aren’t familiar with the episode, it the one that ends its first act with Batgirl falling from a building to her death, proceeds to Jim Gordon, who feels betrayed that Batman never told him that Batgirl was his daughter Barbara, raiding the Batcave and capturing Alfred, and only gets more insane (and more violent — I never saw the episode reran) from there. The sheer spectacle of the episode captured my young heart, but it also garnered its fair share of detractors for its ending: the whole story was a nightmare of Barbara’s after being gassed by the Scarecrow.
The “it’s all a dream” ending never bothered me because, as exhilarating as the action was, the true heart of the story was Barbara’s fear of what would happen if she never told her father she was Batgirl. The conflict over Babs’ identity and Jim’s reaction to it is one I’ve seen rehashed in the comics numerous times since, but with diminishing returns. With Jim Gordon now taking the mantle of Batman, it seems inevitable that Batgirl 41 would again focus on this aspect of Jim and Barbara’s relationship, but I feel like I’ve seen this story a few too many times at this point. Continue reading →
Today, Mark and Michael are discussing Batgirl 40, originally released March 18th, 2015.
Mark: One of the seminal Batman stories, Alan Moore’s Batman:The Killing Joke, was released in March 1988, almost exactly 27 years ago. In that story, Barbara Gordon is shot by the Joker, paralyzing her and confining her to a wheelchair. The controversy spun out from Moore’s decision to use Barbara as a plot device has been defining her, for better and for worse, for almost three decades now.
I have sympathy for comic book writers. It has to be hard to balance respect for canon with the need to constantly create new stories. Too much disregard for history and you’ll alienate your audience, too much reverence and you risk stifling creativity. DC tried pretty valiantly with The New 52to split the difference between honoring the old and building towards the new, but their solutions were usually messy at best. When it comes to reinventing a well-regarded character, there’s no way to please everyone. But with Batgirl 40, writers Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart come pretty close. Continue reading →
Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Batgirl 39, originally released February 18th, 2015.
Michael: In most pieces of pop culture, the protagonist is the point of entry for the audience into the fictional world that we are experiencing. You’ll often see events or circumstances that the protagonist themselves isn’t immediately aware of, but for the most part you are riding shotgun with the main character. In comic books, that means you follow the story with the benefit of the main character’s narration/inner monologue. The tricky thing is that your hero may not always be a reliable narrator. Even if they aren’t intentionally misleading you, they are probably not giving you the full story. Such is the case of a one Barbara Gordon, the titular Batgirl. Continue reading →
Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing Batgirl 38, originally released January 14th, 2015.
Michael: Sometimes you just get sick of being yourself. What I mean by that is we all have a point where we say “Why me?” “Why do I have to suffer?” “Can’t things just be easy for once?” If life is a story, then we might not always like the role that we’re cast in. Being a “supporting character” gets old; everyone wants to be the star eventually. Batgirl 38 finds the creative team and Barbara herself asking these types of questions of identity. Can’t a Batgirl just fight crime and enjoy herself in the process? Not quite, it would seem. Continue reading →
Today, Suzanne Drew and Patrick are discussing Batgirl 37, originally released December 10th, 2014. Drew: I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that Barbara Gordon has one of the least memorable origin stories in the Bat-mythos. In fact, without the inciting incident of murdered/criminal parents, or simply figuring out Batman’s identity, it’s arguable that she doesn’t have an origin “story” — she just kind of became Batgirl in the same way someone becomes an adult. That means she doesn’t have the same motivations built into her character that Bruce, Dick, Jason, Tim, Cassandra, Steph, and Damian all have. That’s not to say she’s a lesser character — indeed, she’s been the center of several great stories — just that her “mission” isn’t as strongly defined or as personally motivated as those of her peers. With Batgirl 37, writers Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart turn that lack of definition into a huge asset, making Babs an infinitely more believable 20-something. Continue reading →
Today, Shane and Drew are discussing Batgirl 36, originally released November 12th, 2014.
Shane: When you’re working with some of fiction’s most iconic characters, there’s a lot of baggage to handle. Even DC’s New 52 initiative, designed to jettison most of that excess material, is several years old at this point: there’s history, and relationships, and these characters have already gone through a number of personal journeys. Continuity can be messy, so a fresh start can be appealing, but how does one attempt that without alienating the previous audience? And even if you manage to successfully jumpstart an ailing franchise with new energy, launching a first issue that exceeds expectations and captures interest, is it always so simple to maintain that momentum?Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Batgirl 35, originally released October 8th, 2014.
Drew: Referring to the setting of a story as a character has always irked me. Never mind that it’s a total cliche, but it’s almost invariably applied as a shorthand for a sense of place we all recognize that the story relies on as a crutch. In that way, I suppose settings are used as characters, but they’re stock characters, no more remarkable than, say, “high school jock” or “loose cannon cop.” The genericness of locations-as-characters only becomes more exaggerated in the fictional cities of comics, which have seen just as many interpretations over the years as the heroes that occupy them. When Gotham has been interpreted as everything from gothic to neo-gothic to art deco to just straight-up modern, and from post-apocalyptic to post-corruption, it’s impossible to generate any sense of setting without elaborating on this particular interpretation of the city. Fortunately, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher do just that as they take the helm of Batgirl, lending specificity to their Gotham by, of all things, co-opting the stock character of Brooklyn. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Batgirl 32, originally released June 11th, 2014.
Patrick: I was recently putting together a resume for a creative position, and I found myself completely unable to distill what’s special about me into a digestible collection of jobs and experiences. Just by virtue of being a human being for over thirty years, I’ve amassed a weird collection of skills and experiences, and the only reason I can believe that it’s all part of a single lifetime is because I was there to experience it all. I’ve got something of an obsessive mind, and a propensity to burn myself out, so my list of former passions is long. The point is, there’s a lot feeding into the person I am today, and while it’s easiest to say that I am the handful of things that have effected me most recently (i.e.: improviser, writer, comic enthusiast, administrator), that definition is woefully inadequate. The same is doubly true for superheroes, and Batgirl 32 revels in developments from the recent past while acknowledging a history (both real and invented) that demands to be honored.