Unsinkable Ship: Why Barbara Gordon And Jason Todd Are Stronger Together [Love & Sex Week]
When I first jumped into the Batbooks early into the New 52, I was disappointed to learn that Barbara Gordon, my favorite superheroine, hadn’t had many love interests, and even less showing up in the new canon. How did a character so awesome, who had been around for so long, have so few romances over the years? I had started brainstorming who I would pair her with, and around that time I checked out the event comic Death of the Family.
In the last issue, the Batfam had stopped the Joker, but they were all still coming down from the Joker toxin. While they were all sitting in a pool of water, grinning painfully against their wills, there was this one detail towards the back of the panel.
And immediately I thought, “Oh. That is interesting.”
It’s a small moment, but the shippy brain of mine warmed up to these two fast. There’s details that click, like both of them being very protective of kids, both of them being stubborn smart alecs, both of them having tempers.
But the big connection is their shared history of trauma caused by the same human being around the same time, in canon and in real time. They both reinvented themselves after that trauma, with not all of that reinvention healthy.
Red Hood is framed as the rebel against Batman, but Barbara as Oracle also pushed the boundaries of what Batman felt was ethically right. Even recently, Batgirl has had moments of rage where she contemplates going further. Babs and Jason understand what it’s like to be flat pissed off after coming out of the other side of tremendous violence. Even if their interactions don’t directly address it often, that unspoken connection is always there.
There is in-book evidence for this pairing. 2003’s Batman: Gotham Knights #43 is sweet, with a younger Jason good-naturedly flirting with the older Barbara as they go on a mission.
A great little foreshadowing moment connects them as the odd ones out in the Family at that point, and I love how easily they talk to each other here.
In the New 52, their most time together is 2014’s Batman Eternal, when Jason teams up with Babs to prove her dad’s innocence. There’s this big Jason speech to Kate Kane about how Babs is incredible and how he always wanted to be as good as she was. When Babs gets hypnotized, Jason pulls Babs out of mind control by sharing the memory of the day they met and his childhood crush is very clear.
Jason works Babs through intense anger during this arc, helping her recenter after almost going too far. Mid-miniseries, Barbara expresses interest in him, and he pushes away due to insecurity. Despite that, the miniseries’ finale has Barbara literally crashing through a wall to save his life. Jason’s response is perfect.
In the epilogue, Jason nearly leaves a voicemail confessing his feelings, but chickens out because he thinks he’s not good enough.
While Jason has been written very unevenly over the years, I’ve liked him best in recent Batfamily crossovers like Robin War and Batman & Robin Eternal. Since teaming up with Barbara, we’ve seen Jason work more with the rest of the Robins, and he's generally not pushing away from them, and plays by their rules when they work together. When he says that Babs makes him want to be better, I believe him.
Besides one page in a recent Red Hood & Arsenal issue, the Jaybabs shippers have been starved for more moments. I recognize Jason and Babs getting together together anytime soon is a long-shot, but I would adore more interaction, more friendship, and for them to acknowledge their history. Until then, there’s always Gotham Knights. And Batman Eternal. And fanworks.