Barbara Gordon has had several identities and numerous costumes over the years and, now, her latest costume makes its debut in Batgirl #27, out this Wednesday, as Babs shifts her base of operations from Burnside to back home in Gotham out of necessity, as hinted at in the preview.
New ongoing writer Mairghread Scott, said the changes are part of putting Babs in a “darker, more dangerous” world but not one without hope.
Scott is a comic and animation writer. Her credits include the Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors animated film and the current season of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. She’s written Green Arrow, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Transformers: Til All Are One in her comic work, as well as her creator-owned series, Toil and Trouble.
I interviewed Scott last week about how she views Barbara Gordon, her plans for Batgirl, her history with the character, and Babs’s relationship with her father, Police Commissioner Jim Gordon.
The good news? She loves and respects the character. The bad news for Babs? She’s about to be put through the wringer (all in the service of a good story, of course).
GeekMom: Barbara Gordon has had many identities over the years: Batgirl, Oracle, a younger Batgirl struggling with PTSD, then the Batgirl of Burnside. Who is Barbara Gordon to you, at her core? What makes you excited about writing her?
Mairghread Scott: I really wanted to take the Burnside Batgirl and put her in a darker, more dangerous world.
I like the hopeful energy [of the Burnside run] and I think Batgirl works well as a hopeful, determined character, but I wanted to put her in more danger. Especially the first arc we have, it’s going to be a real struggle to keep that hopeful attitude. When despair comes back, it’s hard to make the decision to continue to be a hero and I wanted to explore that.
Babs is unusual among Gotham heroes in that she becomes Batgirl from essentially a place of wanting to help people and create something better for them, instead of her decision being a reaction to something terrible happening to her.
I really think that makes her special.
GM: Does that mean exploring what happened with The Killing Joke?
MS: That’s not my plan.
I believe that sometimes when TKJ gets addressed, it gets made either too big or too small of a deal. It’s not like you bounce back from something like that happening to you, you’ll see that in Batgirl #26 and Batgirl #27, but it’s frustrating that some people say TKJ is the most important Batgirl story. I wouldn’t consider it her story, and I would only be interested in it so far as it pertains to Barbara Gordon.
I’m not here to tell the Joker story, I’m here to tell Babs’s story. It left marks on her, but it’s not what makes her Batgirl, it’s not what makes her a hero.
Getting back up from it to be Oracle certainly makes her a helluva hero but it’s just a little piece of her, not all of her.
GM: What character journey would you like Babs to take over the course of your run?
MS: Of all the Bat-Family, Batgirl is the most stable, and the most able to live a full, three-dimensional life.
What I want to do at the end of my run, I want to bring her back to that Burnside hopefulness in a way that can’t be taken away from her. [Note: Scott is currently the ongoing Batgirl writer and her run does not have a scheduled end.]
When she comes out of this, I want her to be someone who has a full life.
I don’t want her to be all alone in the clock tower. I want Barbara Gordon to live a very happy life, as much as I want Batgirl to help to always be there to help people. I want her to have as much maturity and grown-up happiness as you can in comic books.
I want to build up Barbara Gordon. We kinda gave her that phrase, “Gordons don’t give up,” and I want to drill down on that phrase. I want to see Batgirl live up to that.
GM: How much will we see of the father-daughter dynamic between Jim and Babs going forward? [Note: You can see an important scene in the preview above.]
MS: The father-daughter dynamic is going to be a huge part. Some of the first arc is based off what happened between my mother and me over the years, and I have a toddler, and that set me thinking about how Batgirl exists in relation to her dad.
Jim Gordon is a good man but doesn’t mean he was always the perfect father. Babs is a good woman but it doesn’t mean she was always a perfect daughter. I wanted to know what it feels like to know your parents did the best they could and maybe it wasn’t enough.
In a way, over the years, the way we think about Batgirl changes most in relation to her dad. Years ago, it was Jim Gordon refusing to ever let his daughter be a police officer. But in the present day, Jim Gordon would never demand his daughter not be a cop. So now, he’d rather she not be a copy because he’s overprotective and worried about her. But he does have a dark, rough job and I was interested in what that does it mean to be a child with a man in that kind of job.
As for whether he knows, I’m writing from the standpoint that he does not know. He does not immediately recognize her when she sees he’s Batgirl.
GM: What was your first experience with Babs? Do you have a favorite Batgirl story?
MS: ::laughs:: That seems like a dangerous question.
My first introduction to Batgirl was Batman: The Animated Series, that was the first time I saw Babs become Batgirl.
And, as much as I love all the comic runs, it’s still hard not to hear that actress’ voice when I’m writing Batgirl. Your first version of that character is the one that sticks to you. That might be why my Batgirl is a little more snarky than the way Hope [Hope Larson, the previous Batgirl writer] writes Babs, just because that’s what I think of her.
I like the origin episode of B:TAS, I like that Babs is all “you don’t have a copyright on it,” to Batman, meaning wearing the Bat-symbol and helping people. It takes a lot of guts for a teenager to stand up to Batman.
I’ve always thought that’s interesting in her story, that someone tells her to give up Batgirl but she refuses, that she doesn’t ask for anyone’s permission or acceptance. She’s going to do what she’s going to do.
For my money, she’s more like Bruce than anyone else in the Bat Family.
In Batman: Beyond, I love that she was the police commissioner because she would be, because this is the life she choose for herself. And she hasn’t let anyone take that from her and she won’t let them take that from her. And I think that’s a really great message for anyone.
I’m really excited to be part of that.
GM: Okay, now about that new costume everyone is talking about…
MS: Everyone wanted to give her a new costume because she’s going back to Gotham. My editors were very nice to let me find an organic way to bring it in.
You’ll see it in #27, the reason it looks like a Year One costume is because it looks like the prototype she was working on when living with her dad when she first started being Batgirl.
I like the idea of a good story reason for the costume change and it gives us a little more of a visual signal that our story is different than the Burnside run. It’s a little bit more stealthy, a little darker.
It’s gonna stick as far as I know, it’s as permanent as anything in comics. It’s going look similar to the images released, and it’s gonna stay that way. I like the more aggressive look, plus it’s got some pockets, we can put in some tech in there as well.
GM: It has pockets?!!
MS: Yes! Pockets, external pockets.
GM: In the oversize Batgirl # 25-anniversary issue, you focused on the mother of one of the victims of the church massacre by the Joker in Batman #48. What drew you to that story?
MS: I was interested in what happened to the friends and families of those victims. I was interested in “who gets the story? Who’s worthy of their story being told?”
That’s a theme that runs through my writing of Batgirl. I want to focus more on the people she rescues, those who deserve to live, rather than the villains who deserve to be around to kill again in comics, as long as they’re interesting.
I really want the audience to feel for the person who dies, that it’s a tragedy not because it makes Batgirl sad but because whoever that person is or was, they deserved to live.
Batgirl #27 goes on sale at all local comic shops and Comixology.com on Wednesday, September 26.