Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rebooting Batgirl -- Literally -- Leaves Oracle Fans Scratching Heads and Drawing Protest Pics [UPDATED]

DC's upcoming line-wide relaunch of new #1s -- The DCnuniverse -- has certainly got the comic community talking. The controversial move by one half of the Big 2 will certainly lead to a sales spike when the market is flooded with 52 first issues of rebooted or brand new series, ranging from half-a-dozen Bat books to a new line of horror-tinged titles billed as "DC Dark." I only read one DC superhero comic regularly at the moment -- Green Lantern -- so the publisher is sure to make a few extra bucks off of me as I check out the new offerings. They'll also tap into potential new and return readership by offering every title in their catalog online, day and date of print release.

But despite the fresh start for bored or continuity-fatigued readers, and new opportunities for the company to make money, the DCnuniverse has also upset a portion of the DC devoted. I don't mean the long-time readers worried that all of their beloved continuity is getting flushed, nor do I mean the comic retailers bracing for lost revenue when a segment of clientelle happily retire their bag-and-board longbox lifestyle and migrate to 100% digital collecting. The loudest contingent of DCnu naysayers are the fanboys and fangirls of Barbara Gordon -- the wheelchaired watcher known as Oracle, who once-upon-a-time wore the cape and cowl of Batgirl. DCnu is rebooting Babs right back into prime crimefighting form in her own Batgirl #1.

Journogeek Andy Khouri of ComicsAlliance covers the controversy in detail here, with assorted links and a quote on the matter from Batgirl #1 writer Gail Simone.

THAGOMIZER Debi Linton deconstructs the badness of the bad idea here.

Wheelchair-familiar redheaded ubergeek Jill Pantozzi offers more than two cents on her frustration over the de-iconizing of Oracle here.

Current top-blog on the Comic Blog Elite toplist, DC Women Kicking Ass, had something to say about this kick in the ass of Oracle fans here.

And, of course, the redditors are on the case.

My favorite reaction to the Batgirl reboot is the Oracle Fans Unite tumblr (covered in some detail by ComicsAlliance here), where fans of current continuity Barbara Gordon are asked to show their displeasure over the DCnu change by celebrating the paralyzed heroine in pictures. Comics Cure usually asks you to give money to a cause, but I encourage you to simply give your own take -- pen to paper, or whatever -- on Oracle for the OFU movement.

It is unfortunate that DC appears to be taking away an important piece of pop culture -- the former Batgirl paralyzed by a bullet written from the Joker's gun by Alan Moore in The Killing Joke, and pulling herself up like a true hero, and in the most human way, to become a major behind-the-scenes player in the fight against crime in Gotham and beyond. Batgirl is fun and cute and peppy, and looks great on lunchboxes and in cartoons...but it was Oracle who showed people with (and without) disabilities that, despite any odds, they too can make a difference. They can be superheroes.

To be fair, it would be worse if Simone and DC just killed Oracle, and you can't rightly judge any comic story on prerelease hype alone. For all we know, issue 2 of the DCnu Batgirl will reveal that the person in the costume is an android, and wheelchair-bound Babs is still in her tower working a remote control.

But for now, it just doesn't feel right. Simone famously coined the term "Women in Refrigerators," a specific reference to the literal shoving of a generic girlfriend character into a refrigerator in order to help push the new-at-the-time character of Kyle Rayner to embrace his destiny as a Green Lantern, which became the catch-all term for the perceived abuse, degridation, and general disregard for female characters in mainstream comics. So I guess when the fridge is all filled up and there's no place to put the disabled, you just have to hit the reset button. :(

UPDATE: Possibly the last word on this matter until Batgirl #1 actually comes out, Pantozzi cuts through the noise with Simone about the controversy on Newsarama here.

No comments: