Alright, so I know that this is technically a Birds of Prey blog, but I just had to comment on what’s going on with the Batman family as a whole right now. If you don’t care what I have to say or you’re trying to avoid spoilers (although, if anybody’s paying attention, I don’t see how), just skip it. Also, if for some reason you’re naive enough to view DC as a shining paragon of beauty, keep in mind I’ll probably shatter every one of your inane assumptions.
This city preys on the innocent. I know—that’s why I fight. Why the hunted is now the Huntress. Batman and his crowd think I play a little rough. I think I don’t play rough enough. Mobsters like the Falcones, crime-lords like Penguin, psychopaths like the Joker. They redefine street crime. And now, with all this new muscle—it doesn’t take the world’s greatest detective to figure out this isn’t just a battle. It’s a war.
“Remember, no secrets pass a severed throat.”
“What are you afraid of, Bruce? Are you afraid that if Cassandra gets a taste of normal life — school, a job, falling in love — then maybe she’ll find out what she’s been missing…
…and you’ll lose her?”
From Batgirl #42
“A secret is like poison. Left in a man’s heart, it will grow heavy and dark, spreading through his body and mind, corrupting his soul. So when one of our people has a secret he cannot tell, he plants it in the earth, like this…”
From Batgirl #44
“You broke her jaw?
…well, hit her harder next time.”
From Batgirl #27
So, for various reasons, I was up very early this morning attempting to get some work done, cleaning and doing other little odds and ends. I sat down at about 6 AM to relax and have some coffee and pulled out my Kindle. Imagine my surprise when the second chapter of the comic, Injustice Gods Among Us, was already in the comics section on my Kindle Fire.
For those who are not aware, for over a year now, the gaming industry in conjunction with Mortal Combat and DC Comics has been advertising a hotly anticipated new game that will be released this spring. I’m not a huge gamer myself and I’m particularly disinterested in this kind of brutal fighting style game; however, I know several people who are very interested in this game and have been waiting for it’s release the entire year. I should also make it clear (just in case it was assumed otherwise) that several of these people that I am positive are really, really anticipating this game are WOMEN.
Recently, it was revealed that DC Comics was putting out a Digital First Comic in order to provide the backstory and premise for the game before it’s release. There was effort put into trying to create a world in which it could be explained why Superman and Batman, for example, were fighting to the death. It’s also been noted by many that several of the preview images for the game showed a Superman with violent, angry red eyes. People familiar with Superman lore probably knew that was a bad sign….
Now, I think it’s understandable and expected that the world created for this game was going to be expectedly dark. It is, after all, Mortal Combat. We all know that the heroes we know wouldn’t be brutally fighting each other unless we were dealing with dark circumstances. That premise, in and of itself, is fine. That said, the way in which it appears that DC Comics has yet again CHOSEN to create this darkness is disturbing and upsetting because it appears, once again, that this darkness is going to hinge on the violence, torture and pain of a female character. Additionally, it appears it’s going to hinge on the torture and violence of a female in comics that has been raped, beaten, tortured and killed arguably more times than any other female in comics when one takes into account all the various elseworlds that exist and inform our perspective.
I also want to make it clear that I’m not trying to condemn the writer of the comic in question, Tom Taylor. Tom has been gracious and kind to every fan who has reached out to him and, as with all things, there is only so much of this that he has control over. It’s my understanding that the violent backdrop for this game was put into motion long before Tom was brought in to actually write the story and there is only so much of this that he actually has control over. Also, unlike many other writers, Tom has been understanding of fans’ concerns over this and has not brushed anyone off nor dismissed anyone’s concerns. Given the current climate at DC in which many male writers have been known to openly taunt, bate and dismiss the concerns of female fans…this is refreshing. He has described himself as a huge fan of Superman and specifically as a huge fan of Lois and Clark together. He has stated in interviews that this story was one of the most devastating and tragic things he has ever had to put to page and that it disturbed him to do it. I think Tom is a genuinely nice man and I don’t think he’s to blame for this as much as a writer in an industry that consistently relies on violence against women in order to drive plot. Tom is a good man.
All that said, we have to talk about this bc it’s hard to believe that we are about to have another conversation about the damaging effects of basing an entire video game—-one that has been promoted over and over again for a year—on the violence and torture of a female character as a starting point. But that’s where we are.
Some disturbing spoilers for Injustice Gods Among us #2 below—-Read at your own risk.
Seriously, take the time to read this. I was absolutely hyped about Injustice: GaU until I begun to comprehend the plot points behind it. Absolutely depressing time for the wonderful Lois Lane in comics!
I moved my toes, Dinah. I moved my toes.
This was inspired by Christopher Reeve.
I know many pwd have a problem with some of how Reeve talked about his paralysis, as something that could be ‘beaten,’ and that’s all perfectly valid. For many, that is never an option. And he had access to treatment most people would never be able to afford.
But I found some of his story very inspirational. After years of therapy, Reeve became able to move his wrist and a little bit of one hand, and he regained sensation in his legs. Now, this can’t happen to everyone in his situation. But he did work at it every agonizing day, and eventually, he could feel his family touching his legs, he could feel water in the therapy pool, and he could move his hand at least a bit. That sounds like not much, maybe.
But it must have felt like moving mountains to him.
I had been talking quite a bit with people at Reeve’s institute, which was doing research and rehab of this kind. And I felt we should reflect that a little bit in the book. We got tons of mail about it from pwd, almost all positive, I think they knew the story was intended to be hopeful, not castigating or condescending.
Again, it reminds me what an Oracle-shaped whole we have in comics right now. :(
my problem with oracle getting “cured” or however you wanna phrase it i don’t know is that it ALWAYS happens like that
disabled people in media never stay disabled AND actual people, they’re either evil or jokes, or they’re fixed before they can become one of those things
things like this encourages nondisabled people to think of disabled people as less than “normal” people, or just temporarily stuck in some awful place
fixing oracle was bullshit because it took away the one goddamned person in comics who looked like me
there are MILLIONS of fucking people in comics who can walk, did you really need to add another one
it was just nice to have one person who was in a wheelchair, and i could look at her and smile because she is like me
the thing is, yes, technically i can move my legs and walk, except for the part where i really can’t because it completely destroys and exhausts me
it’s so frustrating to see the one person like you “cured” when you will most likely never ever get that opportunity
it feels like a slight against me and against people like me
maybe it wasn’t meant that way
but it doesn’t stop it from feeling that way anyway
It’s totally understandable, and it sucks that ONE character had all that on her shoulders, when there should be LOTS of pwd characters people can look up to.
If there were a ton of PWDs in comics, it might be slightly less offensive to cure one. But there’s not. Don’t try to shift the blame, Gail.
“Shift the blame?”
I’ve talked about this ENDLESSLY. I have said repeatedly that taking Oracle out left a huge hole in PWD representation of comics.
It was going to happen with or without me. I wanted it to be done as respectfully as possible. People can blame me for taking the assignment, certainly. But I have never denied that losing Oracle is a big deal. I’ve never tried to talk anyone out of being mad about it.
I said what I said here because it’s true, and irritating. It IS screwed up that one character in comics seemed to be holding the mantle of pwd representation on her shoulders. Saying that doesn’t discount anyone’s feelings about Oracle’s disappearance in the new universe, including my own, which I have stated so often people are sick of hearing me talk about it.
If I were trying to shift the blame, I wouldn’t be here talking about it constantly.
… can I… maybe… interject here?
Gail, you know the endless respect I have for you and your writing, but…
I really, really don’t think you should have taken the Batgirl assignment.
Like. Yes, it was going to happen with or without you, but your name being attached to it was a huge factor in the book’s success. Oracle fans trust you. People trusted you to handle that story properly. You saw the huge outcry when you were dismissed from the book, and all the people talking about how you were the reason they continued to buy the book.
And what’s more… there is no way to make removing Babs’s disabled status nonproblematic.
Everything you have done, the respectful way you have treated the narrative, the questions you have dealt with, that has all made the story less gross, but in the end, it’s still gross. And more than that… by choosing to have Babs be “cured” via surgery rather than deaging her to before the Joker and his gun, I feel like you’ve made it almost impossible for Babs to be Oracle again without some other huge continuity shakeup.
Like, say the current climate changes and we do want to return Babs’s disabled status. What happens? Does she spontaneously revert to her old injuries? Does she get in another accident? It’s a plot very difficult to do without it feeling contrived or gross. The thing with the other adaptations of Babs as Batgirl, such as in Young Justice, is that you always get the feeling that Oracle is in her future. It’s always possible somewhere down the road. But now, it feels like Oracle is gone. Not just absent the possibility from the future, but absent apparently from the past, as there is no indication of her as Oracle in the DCnU.
And what’s more, it’s a huge downgrade for Babs. She used to be the (wo)man behind the curtain, the shadowy figure whose name the most powerful feared. She had a wide network of operatives, a huge circle of friends and allies, nearly all of whom are now absent from the DCnU, while Babs herself runs around Gotham kicking criminals in the head. She was a powerful woman and an icon for people with mobility issues. I admittedly don’t know much about what has been happening in your Batgirl run, because I have been purposefully avoiding it due to my qualms with both the decision to remove Babs’s disability and with the DCnU in general, but I really don’t know in what way the DCnU Babs is anything but a downgrade in terms of competency, power, and, most importantly, media representation.
Yes, it would have happened with or without you. But you still chose to help make it happen. You chose to write this when your refusal would have spoken volumes, to cheerlead for the DCnU rather than condemn it, and the fact that you have openly criticized it doesn’t negate that.
Daggerpen’s commentary sums up my feelings pretty well. It’s not our place to say whether Gail “should” have taken the job, as others have pointed out. But I think that having taken the job, and having written, endorsed, promoted and benefited from Barbara’s magical cure*, she’s not in a position to say, “it wasn’t my choice”. Maybe it wasn’t her choice to cure Barbara, but it was her choice to put her name and reputation behind the decision.
(*The cure may not have been literal magic, but having spent the last year going through a number of incredibly miserable attempts at treating my chronic illness while my former role model bounced all over Gotham, I don’t really care about the technicalities.)
Here’s the thing: I don’t blame Gail one inch for taking the job. She has always done her best with Babs, and it has always been amazing to follow. While the change from Oracle to Batgirl has frustrated me beyond belief, I would rather have her behind the helm as a writer. She chose to write the book because she wants Babs to be treated with respect, no matter the circumstances, because it’s what the lovely Ms. Gordon deserves!
Imagine if you had a character you had written for years. I don’t know if you write much at all, but the characters truly become a part of you; hours and hours of work goes into creating this person. Imagine loving that character and wanting the best for them. Then, imagine having them ripped away, altered in a manner outside your control. What doyou do? Dump them without another word? Turn your back on the person you love writing so much? Or, because you want to do the best you can - which is only so much, since we are all human! - , do you make sure the moments that character has are as positive as they can be?
This is her job and a character she loves. I think that she makes a statement by continuing to work, to continue fighting so that Babs can be the best she can be. Abandoning her during this saddening time, I think, would actually have made me lose a little respect for Gail. She might have made some degree of a statement, yes, but that issue was happening with our without her. Instead, we have somebody we trust working in her own way to bring all that she can back to this character we love.
Please, the past cannot be change. Why do we have to spend so much time criticzing the past? It can’t be changed! Last I checked, none of us have a TARDIS! Why can’t we work towards a better future?!