Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Batgirl Annual 2, originally released April 30th, 2014.
Shelby: A couple years ago I saw Melancholia in the theater, I believe with the esteemed Retcon Puncher Taylor. Spoiler alert: it’s probably the most depressing move I’ve ever seen. Beautiful, but calling it a downer would be an understatement. In it, Kirsten Dunst plays an extremely depressed woman; at one point, she is physically incapable of getting out of bed, relying completely on her sister’s aid. For me, it raised the question of how much leeway should we give people suffering from mental illnesses such as depression. While I was watching the movie, I was distracted by how seemingly mean the rest of the characters were to this severely ill woman, but you have to step back and think about the impact her illness has had on their lives. At what point do those closest to someone with this sort of disease finally snap from dealing with it, and can we really blame them for doing so? And finally, what happens when that mental illness manifests itself as super-powered criminal activity? (Okay, that last question is more about the Batgirl annual than Melancholia, but you get the idea.)
Today, Drew and guest writer Chuck Maa are discussing Batgirl 23, originally released August 14th, 2013.
Drew: Superheroes lead miserable lives. The demands of serialized storytelling require that they are regularly beset by life-altering tragedies, are perpetually unlucky in love, and maybe die once or twice in their career. Month-to-month, it’s exciting, but when you total it all up, the life of your average superhero is unspeakably depressing. Take, for example, Barbara Gordon. Her mother abandoned her when she was a child because of her psychotic brother; her fledgling vigilante career was violently ended when she was shot in the spine; after regaining the ability to walk, she suffered from rather severe PTSD. Oh, and remember her psychotic brother? He grows up to be a serial killer who she now feels guilty of killing. Also, her dad also holds her responsible for killing her brother. Things seemed to be finally looking up for her last month, as she forgot her troubles and went on her first date with a new squeeze, but we all knew it couldn’t last. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batgirl 22, originally released July 10th, 2013.
Drew: Gail Simone gets Barbara Gordon. I mean that both in that Simone understands Babs’ motivations and has a clear sense of her voice AND that she understands what makes her an interesting character. Early issues of Batgirl featured a fresh balance of uncertainty both under the cape (pertaining to PTSD and survivor’s guilt) and out of it (pertaining to the more pedestrian trappings of being an unemployed twenty-something looking for an apartment). More recent developments in this title (and Batman) have piled on a few more issues, from questioning the trust of Bruce Wayne to guilt over killing her own brother, which threatened to crowd out those elements I loved so much. Issue 22 finds both Simone and Babs taking a step back, separating the bat from the girl, and refocusing the story on Babs. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Batgirl 20, originally released May 15th, 2013.
Spencer: We expect our heroes to be there for us when we need them, but who’s there for our heroes when they need help? Batman turns to Alfred, Superman turns to Lois Lane, and Batgirl turns to…her psychiatrist? While Barbara isn’t the first superhero to see a shrink, it’s rare for one with a secret identity to do so. Babs is putting herself at risk, yet where else can she turn? The failure of Barbara’s support system couldn’t have come at a worse time; not only is she weighed down by guilt, she’s also facing the most frightening new villain to show her face in Gotham in years. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Batgirl 19, originally released April 10th, 2013.
Shelby: I’m the oldest kid of three. My brother, sister, and I get on famously now, but that certainly wasn’t always the case. As a kid, I knew that Lindsey and Ben would always be compared to me; I came first, chronologically speaking, and that made me the yardstick. It’s not a fair system: not fair to the sibling forced to be the standard and DEFINITELY not fair to the siblings forced to be compared to someone else instead of being free to forge their own path. Happily, though, the Peterson kids weren’t raised in Gotham, where sibling rivalry is enough to turn a kid with an overachiever sister into a sociopath. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batgirl 16 originally released January 16th, 2013. This issue is part of the Death of the Family crossover event. Click here for complete DotF coverage.
Drew: Themes are tricky. As a semi-abstracted element of storytelling, they require an attention to detail that simply isn’t always there, but our perennial favorites never seem to struggle. Gail Simone has proven herself particularly adept at weaving notions of fear and independence into Batgirl, creating individual issues that satisfy emotionally even when the narrative doesn’t conclude. Leave it to the Joker to throw a wrench in those gears, thwarting any sense of thematic unity — essentially generating a meta-theme of chaos. It’s a brilliant and unexpected choice that manages to make the reading experience subtly unsettling beyond the issue’s own gruesome imagery. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Batgirl 15 originally released December 12th, 2012. This issue is part of the Death of the Family crossover event. Click here for complete DotF coverage.
Drew: Much of being an adult is about suppressing our impulses. Taking that huge slice of cake, telling that inappropriate joke at work, or throttling the annoying guy on the train may cross our minds, but usually our understanding of the consequences wins out. As a crime-fighter with a secret identity, Barbara Gordon is particularly adept at keeping her impulses in check — she keeps it together when a case is frustrating her, or when a loved one is in mortal peril. Still, even she has her limits, and getting married to the man who paralyzed her AND JUST MUTILATED HER MOTHER is pretty clearly over the line. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Batgirl 14 originally released November 14th, 2012. This issue is part of the Death of the Family crossover event. Click here for complete DotF coverage.
Shelby: There are two stories I’m most looking forward to with Death of the Family: Jason Todd’s, and Barbara Gordon’s. Their connection to the Joker is the most violent, both physically and psychologically. Obviously, the Joker is in Gotham to destroy the entire Bat-family, physically and psychologically, but those two have a little more heart invested in the situation. We have spent the last year watching Babs grow and recover; she’s back to her strong, confident, compassionate self. With the Joker’s return, she’s changing again, but instead of reverting to frightened and powerless, she’s becoming a creature of rage: an even greater victory for the Joker. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Batgirl 13 originally released October 10th, 2012. This issue is part of the Death of the Family crossover event. Click here for complete DotF coverage.
Shelby: What was the last really difficult thing you had to do? It could be something physical, mental, whatever. About a year ago, I ran a 10K, the longest race I’ve run yet, and it was hard. I had trained for it, but not enough that it was a walk in the park. Not only was it hard on my body, it was also hard on my brain. I had to spend a lot of time reminding myself that I could in fact do it, that the little voice telling me I couldn’t was wrong. After it was over, you know what I did? I immediately went home and ran a half marathon. No, no, I’m totally kidding; I had brunch and took a nap. I rested, I rewarded myself for accomplishing this difficult task. Batgirl is concluding her fight with Knightfall just as Death of the Family is ramping up; instead of resting her broken body, things are just going to get much, much harder for Barbara. Continue reading →