Excellent point. You’d think it be either the child abduction or the murder of family as her origin but not both. It seemed to me though, particularly in issue 6, that it was the abduction that took precedent in her big hero moment. I imagine it was just because of “You will be mine” bit. That being said I don’t think I will miss it when its forgotten.
Birds of Prey | Book Club: Weeks 1-2 | ORIGINS | Batgirl Special / Huntress (1989) / Black Canary (1991)
So the Batgirl Special…
In the past, I’ve heard people say The Killing Joke is a book that disrespects the legacy of the character Barbara Gordon and uses her in a cheap way to add to the drama of the book. Between the portrayal and certain behind the scenes anecdotes we’ve read in the past, it’s certainly an understandable way to look at it.
However, I think for all TKJ’s flaws in terms of how they handle Batgirl, the Batgirl Special is far more disrespectful to the character of Batgirl.
So here’s the thing: Barbara’s role in The Killing Joke is a hard one to watch, but I don’t think the act itself says anything bad about the character. She makes a split-second decision to just open up her door without looking, something that could happen to just about anyone, let alone someone who had apparently been out of the vigilante game for some amount of time.
But this story, instead of her making a split second decision, this Batgirl Special show explicitly that Barbara Gordon needs to retire, not because of her work life balance or anything, but because she is incompetent and incapable of being a hero. In this story she doesn’t accomplish anything other than beating one guy up at the end, she actively screws things up, she is constantly hounded by this random friend I never heard of about how stupid it is that she’s doing this, and there are multiple sequences of Batgirl trying to do regular superhero stuff, only for the other Gotham heroes to swoop in right in front of her without even acknowledging her existence.
I think this story is less of a story and more of an editorial statement. I get the vibe from this story that this is the editorial group is saying at this time that since Barbara has her roots in the '66 show, who’s camp and comedy was something they were actively avoiding, that they needed to bury her in order to move the Batman stories forward. They were saying something profoundly stupid, and it radiates through the core of everything in this story – because I hardly have time or space to even go over the blandness of the villains Slash and whatever that other guy was, Misogyny Boy or whatever, and how the plot makes no freaking sense whatsoever.
So because of that, I think this is easily the worst Barbara Gordon story I’ve ever read, and it’s honestly probably on the list of worst Batman universe comics I’ve ever read. It feels more like a fanboy whine than an actual story.
…Or I’m just being overdramatic and it was kind of just a “meh” story. It honestly could go either way.
Plus in the end I think it ended up being a bigger moment for what’s-his-face, the guy who’s been training her for…however long she’s been training.
Yeah! You’re right! Did that guy even have a name? I don’t think I caught it.
Are you talking about the guy that watched over her that was hired by her father? If so, his name is Tony Angelo. In Huntress: Cry for Blood that role was her cousin and not a random guy her father hired.
I can appreciate where you’re coming from on the Batgirl Special, @Jay_Kay. I did not read into it like that, but you may be onto something. I definitely agree that it was more of an editorial statement than anything else, and they were definitely trying to bury Batgirl in the grim and gritty world of 1988.
When I was reading, though, my assumption was that they were trying to make the retirement of Batgirl Barbara’s decision rather than something that was forced onto her by the events of The Story That Shall Go Unnamed (since the Special came out a few months later). In that way, it may have been a sloppy attempt to try to “empower” Barbara before burying her. They also sort of show you the origins of Oracle in this story as she uses her computer to track Cormorant down. That sets up the early Oracle “appearances” in Suicide Squad.
But, yeah, there was not a lot to like about the story itself. Batgirl does not come off looking very competent. She spends so much time (incorrectly) focusing on Cormorant that she doesn’t investigate the other murders until 2 or 3 killings in. The story-telling also isn’t very clean. The introduction of Barbara’s “best friend,” Marcy, and the plot point that they created Batgirl together as kids was not smooth or entirely clear (or entirely necessary). I’m still not 100% sure what role Cormorant’s wife played in the entire thing (did she frame her husband in the beginning by leaving his hat at the crime scene…?)… Basically, not the send off I think Batgirl deserved. Thankfully, she came back and moved to Burnside, so no worries!
I enjoyed The Huntress issues a bit more. I would agree with everyone else that her childhood abduction was overkill. What? The death of her entire family wasn’t enough…? Also, it was suuuuuuper creepy when that Mandragora dude was trying to convince Helena to be his wife.
Not too long ago, though, I read the early Earth-Two Huntress stories with the JSA Book Club. No offense to Helena Wayne, but Bertinelli is my favorite crossbow killer, and I got to see the roots of her personality begin to grow in these issues. I did see a subtle progression from reckless, amateur vigilante to the fierce, ruthless woman who dropped Mandragora to his death. You also get to see how her rocky relationship with the authorities begins, and why she has every reason in the world to mistrust father figures (take that, Batriarchy). Basically, I got to see her become the Helena I know and love. I enjoyed that journey.
As for the Black Canary issues, let me start by saying: Maaaaaaan is Ollie the worst boyfriend. Great hero. Probably a guy I’d get along with in real life (the comic book version, anyway), but definitely the world’s worst boyfriend.
I think Gan would make a better match, Dinah, just saying… But, really, I liked Gan. He was principled and wouldn’t back down no matter the consequences. I also just really love watching Canary beat dudes up and it’s a definite plus when those dudes are Neo-Nazis. The charm in this series was Dinah and Gan teaming up to thwart racists. Like the Batgirl Special, though, there were definite issues with plot clarity in the story. Still a fun read, overall.
To sum it all up, I think these were good stories to gear us up for Birds of Prey. We do get to see the faintest roots of Oracle in the Batgirl Special, and we were able to watch Helena and Dinah take on the kind of villains they’d run into quite a bit during Birds of Prey. I feel ready for the Birds!
@DC89, the And 1 Mixtape of Joker getting thrashed!!!
So I have read all of these issues previously and re-read them for our book club this week. I must say, that while I somewhat understand the criticism for the Batgirl Special, I don’t really see any issues. I thought it was a good little story and it did showcase a bit of Barbara’s computer skills that we will come to see more of as Oracle. It’s not the best Batgirl story, sure, but I think as a pre-Oracle setup kind of story it works. And I actually liked the artwork, too. I have a weird appreciation for the simpler '80s style of artwork. Slash was an interesting character and the final showdown with her and Cormorant was cool, I thought.
The Huntress series is actually one of my favorite books. I honestly don’t know what it is about it, but I really felt that story deeply. I enjoyed the weird art style, it seemed to me like it fit the tone of this dark story really well. Yes, the story is extremely dark and violent, but it illustrates Helena’s growth as a character in just these initial issues. The flashbacks are done really well, you really feel like you’re there. My “favorite” scene in these early issues is when she gets home after being adducted and just silently goes to her room… That just hurt my heart so much
I’ll be back with some more thoughts and thoughts on Black Canary later!
Happy B-Day @Mae! Yay!
Aw thank you, lovely @DC89!
Happy Birthday @Mae!
The scene where Helena just goes to her room is heartbreaking! I like what you said about the flashbacks as well. They are so well done.
Gonna join in the chorus to say Happy Birthday @Mae!
Thank you all very much! Y’all are too sweet!
Happy belated birthday, @Mae. Are you a Capricorn like me?
Indeed! Moth, The World’s Most Perceptive Detective solves another case!
When’s your BDay?? Did we miss it?!
, @Mae. Us Capricorns are the best, and the world should listen to us, is all…
@Razzzcat, it was on 1/14, but no worries. I don’t celebrate it.