The truth is I’m extremely interested in how heroines are being written/portrayed. I’m fascinated because the old formulas and models are no longer acceptable, and right now there is a void that needs to be filled. It is perhaps the most significant challenge for writers of our day, which is by no means limited to just comic books. It seems anything goes, which means more companies seem to be allowing more writers to take more risks.
I’ve been tinkering with a post or two on the topic, but none of them are ready. Not even for a blog that I don’t really take seriously.
Needless to say, not too many readers share my fascination. Or if they do, I haven’t found them. Which is entirely possible, since I haven’t really tried.
However, the portrayal of women in comic books is a topic that was extremely easy to arrive at without really trying via a random internet rabbit hole. One name was mentioned enough times on enough websites that I remembered it: Gail Simone, who is credited with some great work with DC Comics. Especially with female leads.
First off I like Gail Simone’s work and the artists who bring her stories to life. However there are a couple of detractions, most of which can be handled by simply skipping a few issues.
- Batgirl is perpetually drawn back into the Batman storyline. This isn’t the writer’s fault, but it interrupts the storylines of the less popular characters and I don’t find it adding substantial value to the Batman storyline. And I say this with mixed emotions, because DC’s Death of the Family entanglement (tie in or cross over or cobweb) looks like it was a pretty epic undertaking. But it was a distraction from the story I was invested in and it didn’t convert me to read any of the other stories for the other characters.
- Gail Simone had been building a good story and then she was fired… and as I learned this was epic. Gail Simone took a seriously injured Barbara Gordon and turned her into Oracle. That transformation was so powerful that when Barbara Gordon returned to her role as Batgirl there were readers who were upset, if not conflicted. The good news is that Gail Simone’s departure was only temporary. The bad news is there were two issues released before she took the reigns again, and those two issues attempted to resolve her story line. Whether it was intentional or not, I don’t know. But it felt disappointing.
So with that… Here’s what I’d skip:
- Batgirl #9 (Night of the Owls tie in)
- Pages 17 & 18 of Batgirl #13. (Note: those are “location” numbers from my Kindle and may not end up being the right page numbers).
- Batgirl #14 through #16… which concludes in Batman #17
- Batgirl #25 (I skipped this one myself)
- Batgirl #27 Gothtopia tie in which concludes in Detective Comics #28 (but I don’t know for sure, because I’ve given up when a storyline concludes in a different series. Essentially the story concludes for the main character and not for the supporting cast).
Admittedly, I was disturbed by the new take on the ventriloquist and pretty much raced through those issues as fast as I could.
I found the early Batgirl issues entertaining and will reread those issues before coming back to the series again.
I feel that there is a broader lesson here. Like when you devote one third of the issues to stories for another character, there is no margin of error for the remaining stories with the title character. So things like firing the writer (who happens to have a large, dedicated and vocal fan base) before the broader conflicts are resolved should be avoided.
As it turns out, Gail Simone is also the writer for stories outside of DC Comics. Namely: Red Sonja and Tomb Raider. Both of which have a history she can build on while not being interrupted by the stories of another characters.
Will I read this to my Kids?
In a word: No.
Batgirl is too violent for my six and three year old children. I am now adding the previous sentence to my long list of things I’d never thought I’d say as a parent.