Monday, March 30, 2009

Yey for Legs!

I appear to be a minority of one.

Shelly says:

All of which are why I've never wanted her to regain the use of her legs. It's
so important for there to be disabled characters to be role models for disabled
readers. Babs, as Oracle, shows you can succeed despite being unable to walk.

Platinum Comics Site offers:

As O­racl­e an­d as a perso­n­ in­ a
w­h­eel­ ch­air sh­e h­as b­een­ a real­
in­spiratio­n­ an­d a gu­idin­g l­igh­t
sh­o­w­in­g th­at n­o­ o­n­e is
def­in­ed b­y th­eir disab­il­ity.

Those are only two examples of the common theme. And I don't actually agree with the sentiment. I only disagree as it applies to Barbara Gordon. You see, I've got three girls, who all love comic books. And, just like your boys will dress up like Superman and Batman, my girls dress up like Supergirl and Batgirl (and Wonder Woman) for Halloween. (See pic, approximately three posts down.)

So, yeah, Clark Kent died for an arc and then came back. Bruce Wayne broke his back fighting Bane, but was walking again soon enough.

Linda Lee Supergirl died in the Crisis, and stayed dead for 20 years. Barbara Gordon got put in a wheelchair and stayed there.

So, here's the thing. I haven't actually told MY little Batgirl that Barbara Gordon had her spine shot through by the Joker and can't be Batgirl anymore. I mean, what the hell? Why is it that the "girls" don't just get better like the boys do?

Barbara Grodon can walk around and do her Batgirl things in Tiny Titans, and in the various Batman TV shows. But I don't really want to show her "current" Barbara Gordon, because for a long time it just felt like she -- unlike every other superhero in history -- had been damaged in a way that she couldn't recover from. And that wasn't fair.

My daughter loves comics because she loves and identifies with Batgirl. I wouldn't be shocked if over half of every little girl who has ever seen or heard of a comic book character identifies with either Supergirl, Batgirl, or Wonder Woman. So, please, let them go out and be Supergirl, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman! (Wonder Woman, by the way, is on that higher tier, where her deaths and injuries are always easily reversable, which is why I push her as a character.)

And please, feel free to build up your next wheelchair-bound Oracle #2 into the greatest freakin' superhero of all time. But make it some character who just doesn't seem to be working out in their current incarnation (Spoiler, Ryan Choi, that teleporty-girl from Birds of Prey), or even better someone not currently in the the Superhero community -- like Robin's ex-girlfriend after Stephanie (Zoe?) or that scientist guy who got killed by an OMAC in Outsiders. Just give him or her a debilitating genetic spine injury (no more bullets through the spine, please), and move on.

Voila. Oracle II could keep being a great role model, and Barbara Gordon can keep doing what she has always done as Batgirl -- inspire little girls.


Blogger ShellyS said...

If Babs had died, I'd want her brought back, same as Kara Supergirl (and yes, we did get her back, albeit in a new form) and Ollie and Hal. I'm not thrilled about Barry Allen coming back. I'm a Wally fan. But Babs wasn't killed. And I think if I had children, I'd want them to see characters with disabilities succeeding. Being disabled is the one minority anyone can join at any time. All it takes is a nasty fall, a nasty germ, an accident that can't be undone. Babs is a role model for everyone, abled or disabled.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Ragtime said...

See, I don't see it that way. Batman had his back broken by Bane, and came back just fine. I put Batgirl in the same category as "iconic" to the extent that she shouldn't be changed so substantially.

Actually, Flashes tend to end up in wheelchairs for a few issues at a time pretty regularly, maybe one of them can become the new Oracle?

8:16 AM  
Blogger ShellyS said...

While I wasn't reading comics during the Bane breaks Bats' back era, I understand that Bruce was not going to be written off at that time as Batman. Same as Superman wasn't going to stay dead. And many people do walk after suffering broken backs. I didn't read those issues to know if his comeback was realistic or not. If not, I'd be rather annoyed with them.

But Babs was the second Batgirl. She wasn't the institution Bruce as Batman is and has been, even when you throw in the Earth 1 vs Earth 2 versions.

It's not about Babs becoming Batgirl again. That's a different issue. That's a step backward for her. She should be Batwoman in that case, but they have another of those already. But Babs regaining the use of her legs? I'd be sad to see it. There are too few disabled characters for kids to look up to, and they've mostly handled Babs' disability realistically and with respect.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Ragtime said...

I think you may be underestimating how much the kids identity with Barbara Gordon. She's the Batgirl in Tiny Titans. She's the Batgirl in the 1960s Batman show show my kids love. She's the Batgirl in Batman: The Animated Series.

People who don't follow DC continuity from week to week identify "Batgirl" as "Barbara Gordon." They have never heard of Cassandra Cain/ Betty Kane.

So, from the perspective of a DC Comics editor, Barbara Gordon is as expendable as Donna Troy, but to many many girls, she's the "real" Batgirl, and always will -- even if she hasn't been for 20 years.

12:14 PM  
Blogger ShellyS said...

I'm not estimating or underestimating Babs as Batgirl. I was writing strictly from the standpoint of how DC clearly views the character of Batgirl. She's interchangeable. That we've had 3 different females in that costume, with that name, is the evidence.

Whereas, when the dust settles, be it this year or in another year or so, I would be very very surprised if Bruce Wayne isn't Batman once more.

I work with disabled people, including kids. With so few disabled characters, nevermind well written ones, I'd hate to lose one of the best. The same sort of controversy existed over curing Geordie's blindness in Star Trek Next Gen. My feeling is, when we can cure paralysis and blindness for all or most in reality, then we won't need disabled characters in fiction.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Ragtime said...

Obviously, we are not going to agree on this, but I think that a lot of the difference lies in that I see Barbara a lot different from Geordie. Geordie was PRESENTED as a blind character, and was a great one. I can certainly understand not wanting him cured. (I had the same reaction when "Nurse Chapel" was promoted to "Dr. Chapel" in the movies. I imagine that it was seen as some sort of feminist promotion, but no nurse I know is a "failed doctor," or would ever want to be a doctor -- it's a completely different skill set/ mind set/ character set. By all means have an equal number of men and women be doctors and nurses in the future, but don't make them interchangeable!)

In any event, Geordie was presented as the "blind engineer," and was a good one. Barbara Gordon was presented as "Batgirl," though, and to some of us, that is as much who she "really is" as Hal Jordan was "really was" Green Lantern during the whole Parallax thingie.

So, name her "Bat Queen" or "Batricle" or "The Bat" if you feel she's outgrown "Batgirl." Heck, give her a "Bat Helmet" that let's her walk only when she's wearing it, so she can still be paralyzed Barbara Gordon by day, and high-flying Batgirl by night, but to all of us who think that Barbara Gordon IS Batgirl, we've waiting for her return as long as anyone except for Barry Allen fans.

And then, feel free to give someone else a turn as a disabled superhero. Like I said, my vote is for Barry. There can always be a wheel-chaired Oracle, but it just need not be Babs forever.

2:10 PM  
Blogger ShellyS said...

Yes, Geordie started as disabled, but that makes my preference for Babs staying in that chair stronger, because disability can happen to anyone at any time. It happened to Babs, and she dealt with it admirably. That makes her special IMO, a mirror of reality even more than Geordie was.

We might disagree, but it's a worthy topic of discussion.

3:25 PM  
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