Parting is such sweet sorrow. The pivotal voice of Barbra Gordon for over ten years, Gail Simone, will be off Batgirl, beginning with issue # 35, out in October.
Last time Gail was taken off Batgirl, a massive outcry (Tumblr.) called for her swift return. Since then, Batgirl has been through the ringer. Her more recent issues were signature Simone, with the inclusion of Black Canary, Huntress, Ragdoll, and a bigger role for Babs’ roommate, Alysia Yeoh- who made news last year for revealing she was transgender. The story also teased involvement from Gail’s other fan favorite (and cancelled) team The Movement. Meanwhile, Batgirl seemingly assisted in her psychopathic brother’s death, estranged from her father-who is currently in prison, and dealt with the hospitalization of a boy she is dating- and the “death” of an old flame, Dick Grayson/Nightwing. Batgirl was the Dark…Dame?
Too dark, some say. Nothing says “aimed to females” as a makeover…and the new blood, co-writers Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and final art by Babs Tarr will provide just that. First, Barbara Gordon will say goodbye to her apartment (and roommate) and move to “the trendy neighborhood” of Gotham. While Alysia is not being erased from continuity (cough, Renee Montoya, cough), Fletcher announced over twitter :the series will have “MORE LGBT characters than ever before”. This worries me. With fashion and trendy comes a horde of gay characters? We might be taking back Yeoh, but look, new gay characters! Maybe I trust Gail, more. Speaking with her at Special Edition Con, I really got the sense that she knew what she was doing. To me this says replacement more than progression.
"She’s leaving it all behind her. We really wanted to make this a book with a light tone, of fun and adventure and mystery, and let the rest of the Bat-family deal with the darkness. She’s got problems, and conflict, and enemies to fight, but our priority was to make this a really fun, rollicking read," says Stewart. “The new [costume] is something she’s able to make herself, shopping at the various boutique and vintage stores in Burnside.” They are turning Gordon more into an Every(wo)man and less into the girl who grew up training with Jim Gordon and Batman, wheelchairs be damned.
But, again, it is all in the story. While trendy boutiques do not scream female empowerment and superheroes to me, I have been weary (and wrong) about other titles before that do have a strong sense of fashion and design. I do hope Batgirl gets a breather; she has been on the path to burning out since the new 52 started. I just hope the creative team won’t leave her roots. or her cast of characters behind. Fans DO seem to be behind this change, younger girls especially. And that is a great thing- bringing new and lapsed readers back into the stores. The costume, less Batgirl and more realistic, is the subject of countless fanart. This could be the DC’s next big comic…
Gail did give the series her blessing. She left this time on her own regard, citing “creative differences”. She shot down the Birds of Prey rumors but did mention:
“Guys, I can’t tell what my new book is, because it’s secret. It’s a secret project full of secrets, and it’s secret. So secret!”
...If she said secret once more that would make it six secrets, or Secret Six.
For the record: my Batgirl will always be Steph Brown.