Why Grant Morrison Needs to Write a Barbara Gordon Series
Grant Morrison’s been doing inventive and exciting work for years, but lately he’s turned any character he touched into gold. So it makes sense that most people want him to annex their favorite characters, and I’m no different. I think that Morrison would do a fantastic job reworking Batgirl. No, not Stephanie Brown. Barbara Gordon, rather, is exactly the kind of character that Morrison could sink his teeth into.
As much as I love the character of Barbara Gordon, she has a few strikes against her. Her character is in an incredibly awkward position. As Batgirl, there’s no getting around the fact that her character is derived from another character. In a universe without Batman there isn’t a Batgirl. There is no way to make her a standalone character.When she was reinvented after the attack by the Joker that left her paralyzed as Oracle, she became a much stronger character, but she also lapsed into obscurity. The general public knows Barbara Gordon, Batgirl — she’s iconic. But few or no people outside comics continuity know Oracle. As a standalone character she’s anonymous. As Batgirl, she’s famous but derivative. It’s a no-win situation.
On the surface, Barbara Gordon doesn’t even seem like a good fit for Grant Morrison. He’s known for bringing in obscure, older characters, and Bette Kane precedes Barbara as Batgirl. What’s more, Barbara’s character is usually the one away from the action, taking off her glasses, rubbing her eyes, and bringing characters back to reality. Her whole existence is about the practical limits of superheroes. As Oracle, she’s reinvented herself as a force to be reckoned with. As Batgirl, though, she’s the one whose dreams of fun, fighting, and invulnerability were crushed in the most brutal way possible. While Bruce Wayne (many others) have recently come back from the dead at DC, Barbara Gordon cannot physically recover from her injuries.
Barbara Gordon’s brush with death happened courtesy of the Joker in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, and if there’s one character that Morrison has a great time playing with, it’s the Joker. In the four years of Morrison’s Batman storyline, The Joker has gone been a violent psychotic, a methodical killer of his past accomplices, a man legitimately wronged by Batman, and a grim black-clad crime fighter. There was an entire issue, Batman #663, devoted to charting The Joker’s deliberate and regular transformations. Barbara Gordon’s attack was the a part of one of those transformations — a transformation into a persona which has been shed during Morrison’s run. Having a character who is stuck with the fall-out of The Joker’s creative process guide a story might be fascinating.
What’s more, that fall-out has been officially stated as “fate” in the DCU. The Booster Gold series, a series in which a time-traveling character hops around continuity “setting things right” has an issue of him failing again and again to stop Barbara Gordon’s shooting and kidnapping. When he questions why he can’t stop it, he’s told that Barbara was “always meant” to become Oracle and this is how it had to happen. Grand heroic fates and deep dark metaphysics are another specialty of Morrison, who managed to weave All Star Superman continuity into what he wrote in JLA One Million — with a golden Superman coming out of the sun to resurrect a silver Lois Lane and live happily ever after in the future. Barbara Gordon’s fate is not so happy. After all, the use of her legs wouldn’t hamper her computer skills. “Destiny” sounds a little different when it means a bullet in the spine instead of a happily ever after. It would be interesting to see Morrison’s take on that.
Most of all, I’d like to see Morrison take her on as a legacy character. Barbara Gordon is part of a family as extensive as Bruce Wayne’s, and almost every member of that family needs their continuity tweaked. Stephanie Brown is Batgirl and having a good time at it, sure, but Barbara Gordon is skittering between three books when Bruce Wayne comfortably holds down twelve a month. Bette Kane made a brief appearance in Batwoman before getting her head shoved underwater for the foreseeable future. Cassandra Cain’s continuity looks like a bug that’s been on the business end of a shoe. And then there’s the “blink and you missed it” appearance of Charlotte Gage-Radcliffe, as a Batgirl of much hype but only three issues. If there’s any continuity that needs to be popularized and consolidated, it is that of the Batgirls. Morrison has gracefully turned Batman from a loner to a team player. Barbara Gordon’s life can’t be as hard to organize as his was.