Overall, I think Gail Simone's handling of Batgirl has been fairly good. It started off a little rough with the yawn inspiring and convoluted villain Mirror, and it took some time to build up steam, but I enjoyed Barbara's showdown with Knightfall and the Joker story has thus far been riveting. In consequence, I was a little disappointed when it was reveled that Gail had been fired since it felt like Batgirl was just starting to hit its stride. Of course, it was soon revealed that Simone was rehired in a move that left everybody dazed, confused, and unsure whether to feel irritated or victorious.
Whatever the madness that must have happened behind the scenes between DC and Gail, Simone's removal from the series started me thinking on how the series could improve, so I've come up with three pieces of advice for Barbara and whoever ends up writing her.
1. Get a Job, Hippie!
What is Barbara even doing for money right now? It is actually extremely bizarre that readers do not know the answer to this question. I know how every other member of the Bat Family pays the bills, but Babs seems to be free from all responsibility and care except when she wears the suit. What's up with that? Does Commissioner Gordon have enough to pay for Barbara to have a separate apartment? Does Batman finance her so she can spend more time fighting crime? Is she going back to college or working a low income job? It's a mystery.
It's also a shame because having a job would make Barbara much more relatable to readers. Many of the people who read comics are at the stage in their lives where they are either getting their first job or establishing themselves in a career. How great would it be to see a heroine endure those same sort of everyday struggles. A job would give Barbara some much needed depth because right now she has little going for her. Her supporting cast consists of an estranged mother, a loyal but absent (from most issues) father, one roommate, (who also gets little screen time) and her sociopathic little brother. It's time for Barbara to rejoin society.
2. Act Your Age!
I get it. There was a reboot, and now, Barbara Gordon is much less experienced and therefore less mature, but can't we see Barbara act a little more grown up? Oracle was cool, calm, and analytical, yet she was not emotionally stunted. She could definitely express her feelings if the need arrived. She was confident and bold. Can any of these things really be said about current Barbara?
I would describe DCNU Barbara as more flat than cool. I have very little sense of who she is as a person. She is not particularly calm nearly having a panic attack several times since the DCNU began. Is she analytical? Yes, she still has some of that going for her, but she has rarely displayed the same level of situational analysis that Oracle so readily displayed. Is she confident and bold? Absolutely not! This is highlighted most clearly when Barbara allowed one of the thugs who attacked her to go free. What was even the point of that? The only thing I can figure is that Barbara has so little confidence in herself that she did not feel she could trust her own decision making in regards to dealing with the punk. In general, Batgirl feels like a character who doubts her every action, and I, for one, find it difficult to respect such a character.
DCNU Batgirl has less experience in the suit than DCU Batgirl, and it appears Oracle is out of the picture altogether, but Babs is still in her twenties and not much younger than she was before the reboot. It is time for her to put on her big girl tights, stop monologuing like a teenager on Twitter, and show some maturity.
3. Tear Up Your Victim Card
If I see one more victim in a Batgirl comic, I am going to scream. Obviously, Batgirl herself was the victim of a brutal attack at the hands of Joker, and I do like, for the most part, the way that Simone handled Batgirl's struggle to overcome this challenge. However, I am really tired of every plot revolving around victimhood. Mirror was the victim of a car crash who watched his family die in the ensuing inferno. Mirror snapped and decided to target other victims who had survived tragic circumstances and kill them. Gretel was a journalist who became a victim who was shot in the head three times with a .38 caliber pistol. In response to her tragedy, she became a villain who could control the minds of men, and her victimhood was so important to her character that she could only activate her powers by continually spouting the number .338 which represented the three times she was shot with a .38. What did Gretel do with her power? She used it to victimize men. During the Night of the Owls crossover, you might think you would get a soulless assassin for Batgirl to battle, but no, we get another victim who was orphaned at a young age by war aggression and indoctrinated to be an assassin for the Court of Owls . Yet another villain, Knightfall, is a victim of her evil boyfriend and horrible circumstance who was locked in Arkham for years.
Victim, victim, victim.
I get that Simone wanted to explore the theme of victimization in Batgirl, but guess what? There is nothing heroic about being a victim. Victims are passive. Heroes are the anti-victim. That is not to say that bad things cannot happen to good, heroic people both in and out of the comic book universes, but both in and out of the comic book universes, heroes are defined by their drive to push on and overcome rather than to wallow in their tragedy. Heroes might become victims, but they do not remain victims. At times, Babs manages to transcend her old pains and doubts, but her entire series thus far has been very much two steps forward, one step back, and it is painful to see how much this character has regressed emotionally through the DCNU despite the great leap in her physical ability.
Right now, Barbara is battling Joker, and she will soon come face to face with James Jr. Neither one of these characters are victims; they are both predators. James Jr. especially is a character who had everything going for him yet still chose to be evil. After Babs saves her mom and kicks James Jr.'s teeth in, she needs to have a revelation that we all choose who we will be, and she needs to choose no longer to play the victim.
Despite a bad start, Batgirl has been very good recently, but it is time for this hero to grow up.