Contains SPOILERS for New 52 Batgirl!
Farewell Gail Simone: Thanks For the Memories
Yesterday, Gail Simone’s final issue of the New 52 Batgirl, published by DC Comics, came out. She’s been on my favorite New 52 title (since 2011) in the post-Flashpoint DC Comics Universe. Typing this is difficult, through the tears in my eyes.
I’ve positively adored Simone’s run on New 52 Batgirl. Gail made the transition of losing Oracle, one of my top comic book characters of all-time, a lot more bearable. A feat I didn’t think was possible, in the slightest.
I felt after Gordon was shot in the back in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke and became Oracle (courtesy of John Ostrander and Kim Yale!) that she was able to separate herself from the Bat Family label, metamorphosing into a prominent and universal role within the DC Universe instead. Her strength came from her intelligence, not any physical prowess. Although, she could thrash bad guys from her wheelchair, if necessary, still. Furthermore, Barbara being confined to a wheelchair provided an iconic character for the disabled community: an honest rarity in the world of comics.
So, why is New 52 Batgirl on “my must have as soon as I can list” precisely?
Because Gail has a firm grasp on the character of Barbara Gordon: she loves her and it shows. I truly believe if anyone else had dared to tackle the transformation of Barbara into Batgirl again, it wouldn’t of been as smooth nor splendid as Simone orchestrated it. Years of penning the comic book series The Birds of Prey which heavily featured Oracle significantly helped, I’m sure.
In New 52 Batgirl, Simone has had Barbara realistically struggle with just being a reborn vigilante (PTSD, doubting herself), created a cast of new memorable characters (Shauna Belzer a.k.a. The Ventriloquist, Knightfall/Charise Carnes plus Barbara’s transgender roommate/activist of Singaporean descent Alysia Yeoh), reincorporated a Secret Six fan-favorite member back into the DC Comics continuity (Ragdoll), and took some already existing characters in directions I’ve never seen before (Poison Ivy in Batgirl Annual #2)!
Also, with the New 52 unfortunately came this “everything needs to be darker” mentality. Appreciate y'all wrecking Wonder Woman! Thanks again Brian Azzarello…
Simone’s narratives were in a similar vein. This grittier tone DC Comics has insisted on having, for some idiotic reason. Like editor Brian Cunningham firing Simone until the irate outcry on Twitter from other comic book writers and fans made him reverse his egregious blunder.
Ray Fawkes, creator of One Soul, wrote in her place for two issues. He regrettably continued a storyline I had been anticipating for Gail to complete. Alas I struggled to read through them. They made me considerably angry. Thankfully, Simone returned with Batgirl #19.
Additionally, Marguerite Bennett, one of the newest women working in the comic book industry and the writer behind Batman Annual #2, stepped in for Simone to scribe Batgirl #25: Zero Year and Batgirl #30. In fact, in an August 2013 interview with Newsrama, Bennett apologized to readers for not being Simone, “I suppose I’d like to tell you this: I know I’m young and I know I’m new, but so is Barbara in Zero Year. Forgive me for not being Gail Simone or Chuck Dixon or Kelley Puckett or Scott Beatty or Bryan Miller. Forgive me for not being Alan Moore, even. But I could only be a pale and trembling imitation of them, if I tried. They taught me to love the characters who wore the mask of Batgirl. What I offer is different, but for my little part, and this one issue, I hope it moves you.
I drew off of my and my family’s experiences, between a childhood of floods and hurricanes in Virginia and an adulthood of post-Sandy crises in New York. (As a bonus, come November, I’ll tell you which panels of #25 actually happened to my friends and me.)
Also, there will be zeppelins.”
Mark my words right now, Marguerite Bennett is a talent to follow closely.
Even though I enjoyed every issue of Batgirl Gail penned, sometimes I’d say aloud, “Jeez, does it ever actually get better for Barbara/Batgirl?” Due to the post-Flashpoint tone, the answer is “No, not really.” *Sighs* That can be a bit grating after awhile. No offense Simone. It isn’t your fault. The entire DC Universe reeks of it, ugh. While I understand that a certain degree of dark is expected with Bat Family titles, in some cases, it became overbearing.
So, naturally, I’d explore other less dour comics, namely non-DC ones. I needed a counter, essentially. Which is I why I checked out titles such as Lumberjanes, Adventure Time, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Saga, Princess Ugg, Shutter, Bravest Warriors, Captain Marvel, and Ms. Marvel (2014). Fantastic decisions. I recommend you read those comics.
I’m sold on the artwork by Babs Tarr for this new sleeker design of Batgirl. I’m especially digging the usage of a leather jacket instead of spandex. The idea of the cape being snapped to her shoulders is groovy as well (hopefully Barbara doesn’t need to remove it during combat easily or anything like that, lol).
However, I’m not familiar with the writing of Cameron Stewart nor Brenden Fletcher since they’ve never done it prior to now. Despite that, I’ll be picking up #35 the day it hits (October 8th) the shelves. It seriously sucks to watch Gail Simone depart because she can indeed write less gritty stuff. Read from All-New Atom, The Simpsons, Welcome to Tranquility, current Red Sonja, and her brief run on Deadpool for the proof. Still, I sincerely appreciate what DC Comics is attempting to do at the same time: Finally brighten up their dark New 52 Universe which will make their comics overall less depressing, ideally. Not to mention more accessible to the original target demographic as well. Versus how they are at the moment, yeeeesh. Kids shouldn’t be reading them nowadays, that’s for damn sure.
In a nutshell, I’ve devoured Batgirl comics under Simone’s deft hand. Thank you Gail! I’m so looking forward to your next project(s)! :’D
But, seeing this preview of a new creative team and Barbara, smiling, fills me with hope. Maybe, just maybe, the New 52 doesn’t have to be solely gloomy. The cover art for #35 seems to confirm this. Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr, let’s see what you’ve got.