Earlier this week, DC Comics (who dominates the mainstream comics market along with Marvel) made a real douche move when they announced a "reboot" of their leading characters. This means they'll be ending a large portion of their storylines in August and release 52 first-issues of characters like Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Justice League. They'll be "publishing innovative storylines featuring our most iconic characters" with the assumption that they'll be not just "compelling for existing readers, it'll give new readers a precise entry point into our titles." This has some pretty radical implications for many superhero narratives, but one of the most significant changes is that of Barbara Gordon--aka Oracle.
For non-comics readers, Barbara Gordon joined the Bat Squad in the 1960s, but was shot in the spine by the Joker in the 1988 comic The Killing Joke by Alan Moore (check out Ashley's From the Library post for more). Many comics readers believe that Gordon's true badassery only began after she became the IT genius and hacker Oracle, who led the DC Superhero team from behind her computer and in her wheelchair, and headed up her own superhero squad in the Birds of Prey series. So when Gail Simone confirmed the news that Oracle (who I guess is not considered as "iconic" to DC as she is to their readers) would be canned for a "leaping, fighting, and swinging" Batgirl, the outcry was huge. "To say I'm disheartened and disappointed by DC Comics' decision would be an understatement and only part of my feelings on the matter. To be honest, I'm furious," wrote Jill Pantozzi in an op-ed. While DC and Simone may believe they're "presenting something thrilling that a generation of comics readers will be experiencing for the first time," Gordon's retro-active transformation is really denying this same generation an incredibly kick-ass, visibly-disabled female superhero. (For more on disability and comics, check out these posts by Ouyang Dan and Anna Palindrome from the Transcontinental Disability Choir series.)
Wait...wha? An image of the revamped Barbara Gordon
This whole re-boot thing does another number too. By re-positing characters to their most "iconic" status, you can bet that superheroes of color who have risen to prominence over the years like John Stewart (Green Lantern) and Cassandra Cain (Batgirl) are not going to be returning anytime soon. Others have already pointed out that DC's assumption that "revamping famous characters such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and others from its 76-year history for a more modern and diverse 21st century" is a bit...let's say, head-desky.
Comics readers have been more than vocal in their disappointment. Browsing When Fangirls Attack, fans decry the shrinking representation of characters with disabilities (that is, where disability is not code for EVIL VILLAIN) and express their overall disappointment with the complete destruction of one of DC's strongest characters for more than two decades. This isn't the first time DC has considered canning Oracle, as DC Women Kicking Ass has noted. The fact that Oracle has not regained her ability to walk in a universe where people come back from the dead all the time has only made her symbolism more powerful, and this new decision more cheapening. But already there's been a letter-writing campaign started as well as Oracle-Create-A-Thon, a site devoted to fan art. Even if DC chooses not to honor Oracle's legacy, it's clear her fans certainly will. To close, here's an image one fan posted regarding the matter:
More reading: When Fangirls Attack DC Reboots Entire Universe in Bid to Win Modern Readers [Supergirl]
OP/ED: ORACLE Is Stronger Than BATGIRL Will Ever Be [Newsarama]
Thanks to Adam for your help!
Previously: Sarah Palin's Selective History Tour