Batgirl: Where It All Started

I owe the idea of Sphynx entirely to Batgirl.  If I had not picked up Batgirl Vol. 1: The of Burnside, I never would have created this character that has become so important to me so quickly.  I touched on Batgirl briefly in my first blog post, but I want to really delve into why she is such an important character to me here.

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Art by Babs Tarr

For starters, when I talk about Batgirl, I am talking about Barbara Gordon.  For those who don’t know, there have been four main characters that have donned the female Bat Cowl, which some others also having worn it occasionally.  Barbara Gordon is the second Batgirl, most famous, and current.  I have not had the opportunity yet to really read the other Batgirls’ run, but until I do, Barbara is my favorite.

Barbara Gordon, daughter of Police Commissioner James Gordon, was introduced in comics in Detective Comics #359 in January 1967.  Her creation came from the development of the character for the 1966 TV show Batman, who premiered there in September 1967.  For 21 years, Barbara was Batgirl, working as a librarian by day.  Unlike many members of the Batman family, she was mostly self-trained because, early on, Batman was against her being a crime fighter.  She also has a long and complicated romantic history with the original Robin, Dick Grayson.

In 1988’s The Killing Joke, arguably one of the best graphic novels of all time, the Joker shoots Barbara through her spine while kidnapping her father, leaving her paralyzed and unable to walk.  During the next 22 years, she continued to fight crime from her wheelchair as Oracle.  Barbara was always highly-skilled with computer science and hacking, and puts those skills to use, feeding information to the heroes in the field.

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In 2011, during DC’s New 52 relaunch, Barbara was returned to the role of Batgirl, under the writing direction of the brilliant Gail Simone, with a rotating roster of artists, like Ardian Syaf and Ed Benes.  In this new continuity, Barbara was still shot by the Joker, but after being wheelchair bound for three years, receives an experimental surgery that allows her to walk again.  Simone’s run on Batgirl focuses a lot on Barbara’s inner struggles as she returns to the streets to confront Gotham’s worst.  She suffers from severe PTSD and often has to fight that battle as she fights criminals, especially with a gun.

I know many people were upset when Barbara regained the ability to walk, because she was one of the only and most prolific disabled characters in comics.  However, she is now a character with mental illness.  I have a lot of important people in my life who struggle with mental illness.  Even if you don’t have mental illness, everyone has their personal demons.  Here is a young superhero, with no powers, both literally and figuratively fighting demons on a regular basis.  Even when she doesn’t win, she gets right back out there and fights for her health and the greater good.  I find that to be incredibly inspiring.

After 34 issues, Simone left Batgirl and Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher took over the writing with art by Babs Tarr (click here to read about her).  The first 34 issues written by Simone have a very different tone then the later issues written by Fletcher and Stewart, but I love the characterization of Barbara so much in both.  In Stewart, Fletcher, Tarr’s run Barbara isn’t nearly as emotionally tortured, but still deals with her past.  Barbara has a large and very diverse group of friends now, with a range of races, religions, sexualities, gender identities. and disabilities.

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Art by Babs Tarr

Barbara Gordon is an important character to me because I see her as a role model. Throughout all of her history, she’s always standing up for what she believes in and never lets obstacles hold her back from her goals.  I want Sphynx to be a character that reader can look up to and relate to, the way I have to Barbara.

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