This is an extraodinary essay I hope everyone reads, by a remarkably talented woman named Natalie Reed. It actually took my breath away.
I haven’t posted a lot of positive reviews for Batgirl here on Tumblr, for a lot of reasons. First, I don’t know, it seems kind of, needy, I guess? I repost nice things readers say, sometimes, but posting really positive reviews comes across weird to me. But additionally, I know that a lot of readers still have mixed feelings, or hard feelings, about the New52, and Batgirl in particular.
And I get that, and it feels weird to be posting reviews, it seems like it’s only being done to counter any negative arguments, and I really don’t want to go that route. I don’t want to use people’s real lives to make a point, for one thing. And I don’t want to flood people’s feeds with that stuff when we could be looking at pictures of Ragdoll cosplayers. ;)
But the thing that’s true and powerful that I would actually like to talk about is that Batgirl IS very meaningful to a lot of people. I get emails and letters that are sometimes incredibly moving…I got two last week forwarded from DC, snail mail letters from two people whose stories were almost overwhelming (one survived a trauma that left her paralyzed, and another was born with a specific disability). Their generous comments had me literally shaking. I’m not going to go any further, except to say that they found something inspiring in the new Batgirl’s struggles.
When I took the book, the idea was that almost all the DC characters would be de-aged, moved back closer to their starting point. But nobody wanted erasure. It’s already tricky enough, no one wanted to say Barbara never had struggled and survived and triumphed over the events in the Killing Joke. I could just about accept a healing in the magic- and science-heavy DCU, but I could not accept that she had never been disabled.
So after a lot of thought, I agreed to write the book, for several complicated reasons (none of which had anything to do with commerce), but I have always understood the people who disagreed with the move. I love Oracle, I love what she represented, she was a PWD icon, all that stuff, I will always love classic Oracle and the Classic Birds of Prey, possibly above all other things in comics.
I agreed to do this on the condition that we could continue to focus on Barbara’s inspiring nature, in this case, that of a trauma victim. She’s the victim of a vicious and psychologically devastating home invasion. This sort of thing is routinely forgotten in comics, like characters can shed this stuff like a layer of skin. But most of us have either been the victims of such an event, or know someone close to us who has. And it doesn’t get treated believably in comics, as a rule.
Most real trauma victims can’t just forget and move on, not that easily. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work at Crisis Centers and you can see how deeply these wounds go, mentally and physically. I wanted to show that she could survive and be a hero, and still go through all those emotions that most trauma survivors experience, the PTSD and the survivor’s guilt and flashbacks and the body that betrays you when you least expect it.
It’s really resonated with a lot of people, and many of them have sent me their stories. I don’t want to belabor it any further, but it’s meant a lot to a lot of people. I don’t think Batgirl is like every other superhero book out there, and I don’t think Barbara should ever just be another girl in a cowl.
And then there is this.
An excellent writer named Natalie Reed, who is a trans woman, noticed that Batgirl had a large number of very vocal trans readers. And she asked me why I thought that was the case. I have a couple theories, but I didn’t want to speak for anyone.
Natalie took it further and wrote this very passionate essay about comics and Batgirl and trans readers. It absolutely took my breath away. I hope you will read it, and if you liked it, maybe leave Natalie a message of support for her great work. It is really, really worth your time, even if you disagree with her position.
Thanks for reading this, everyone. And thanks for the wonderful article, Natalie! You inspire me!