Comics / Spotlight

Batgirl vs Oracle

By J. Skyler
May 6, 2003 - 12:02

This article is a thoughtful essay on Barbara Gordon and her distinct incarnation has Batgirl and later the Oracle by true fan and expert J.Skyler. It is an authorized republication from a message board posting. The Comic Book Bin hopes you enjoy it as much as we did.
By J.Skyler

Now the all knowing Goddess of information; once the Dark Knight Damsel, the woman known as Barbara Gordon has become one of the most popular characters in the history of DC comics. Likewise, she has also become one of the most controversial.

One bullet was all it took to take a young lady with a promising life and morph her into a reclusive shell of her former self. When the clown prince of crime known as the Joker decided to gun down Commissioner James Gordon, he decided to execute his plan with the utmost cruelty. He murdered James' wife and then went after his daughter, Barbara. In one moment, her spinal cord was shattered, paralyzing her from the waist down. Lying naked in a pool of her own blood, Barbara was stripped of the use of her legs and her dignity as the Joker took photographs of the crime scene. Barbara's self confidence was completely shattered that night.

Over the next several months our heroine remained in bitter seclusion, thinking herself to be utterly useless. Of course, this would be a normal reaction for anyone in her situation, Ms. Gordon however, is not a woman who can be kept down. Being an intellectual genius and a master of computer science, Barbara Gordon once again found purpose in life as the cyber crime-fighter known as Oracle. Mentally, the Oracle is an unstoppable force of nature. Since there is no system on earth she can't hack into Barbara consistently downloads information on world events, heroes and criminals on a daily basis. She even goes as far as hacking into classified government files…leaving no trace of her presence whatsoever. Through cyberspace, Oracle is connected to virtually every hero on the planet; she is the one true source of information that all heroes have come to rely upon one way or another. Despite her paralysis, Barbara is not only the world's greatest hacker, but also a master at Escrima stick fighting. Anyone who faces off with Barbara Gordon had better be packing serious heat.

Undoubtedly, the concept of "Oracle" is quite possible one of the most unique characters DC comics has come up with…but could they has possibly made a mistake? While I can appreciate Oracle in every aspect, I disagree with the way she came about. Barbara Gordon had a crime-fighting identity long before she was ever Oracle. The flaming redhead originally wore a cape and cowl and made her first public appearance as Batgirl: the Dark Knight Damsel. Her arrival in both the comics and the original Batman television series was ground breaking. Sadly, few people today know of her former existence. When the term "Batgirl" is mentioned, a woman with red hair and a bat suit comes to mind, and then vanishes as quickly as it had appeared. What I find even more disturbing is the fact that almost everyone wrote her off as (and I quote) a "female knock-off of Batman" and nothing more. I find it enraging actually. Nothing could be father from the truth. Yes, Barbara's first costume and title were a female version of the Dark Knight, but she brought with it a charm, grace and spirit that made Batgirl as unique as Batman himself.

Each similarity between Batman and Batgirl also expose key differences that no one can argue with. While Batman was created by the murder of his parents and a dark obsession with vengeance, Barbara Gordon became Batgirl out of her own raw instinct to fight crime and the dream of one day becoming a superhero. After her first encounter with Killer moth, she knew she had found her calling and she would not let anyone or anything stand in the way of her destiny. Not her father, not Robin, and especially not Batman.

Unlike Batman, who separated Bruce Wayne from his "true" self, Barbara merged her civilian identity with that of the Dark Knight Damsel. Her feminine beauty, grace, and gymnastic skill (along with the aggressive fighting spirit of an amazon) created a rather colorful persona as a crime fighter. Color being something Batman has always lacked. In addition, Batgirl (again, unlike Batman) always made her presence known when confronting a villain. Wither it be with her commanding voice, or her combination of flaming red hair and bright yellow gloves and high heel boots, Batgirl was easily recognizable. Batman has always made it a point only to exist in shadow, silence and rumor.

While Batman has mastered over 100 martial arts techniques, earned the title of the world's greatest Detective and escape artist, Batgirl had a little less to work with. It was intellect, a brown belt in Judo, and a background in gymnastics and dance, in addition to an animal instinct that made the original Batgirl a formidable opponent. She fought along side heroes like Superman and Supergirl and faced off with villains such as the Joker, Killer Moth and Catwoman. When Barbara Gordon took the name of Batgirl, she was much more than a knock-off of Batman. To say such a thing I believe is insulting.

While comics are indeed supposed to simulate real life, both joy and pain, I think DC should have left Barbara Gordon the way she was originally created. If DC wanted to create an "Oracle" why not start off with someone completely new? I believe she could have even taken on a third identity as Oracle in addition to being Batgirl. A lot of people argue having three identities is outrageous, not to mention impossible. However, if you take a moment to consider who and what the Oracle is and does, I highly doubt anyone (least of all Barbara) would find it challenging. Unfortunately for me (and fans like me), Barbara Gordon's history and future are set in stone. Her role as Oracle is here to stay and she has honorably past down her mantle to the young Cassandra Cain, the third Dark Knight Damsel (who I believe is an exact, not to mention obvious copy of Batman in every way. She's the true knock-off).

In the battle between Batgirl and Oracle, my loyalties will always lie with Batgirl. Furthermore, I will always stand firm in the belief that the "death" of Batgirl is one of the worst mistakes that DC has ever made.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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