What the hell?
You know, I’m not a fan of Batgirl right now. It has less to do with Gail Simone specifically and more to do with Babs’ demotion. She isn’t a leader. She isn’t a woman. She’s a girl stuck in a sidekick role forever, never allowed to grow up. Batgirl. The Batgirl role should be like Robin, something to eventually grow out of and pass on (hello, Cass and Steph), but DC isn’t letting her. A twenty something year old character should have a future as something beyond Batgirl. It isn’t Batwoman, Kate has that role. It isn’t Oracle, not any more. Babs is stuck.
Can you imagine Dick Grayson, who should be around Babs’ age, being called Batboy? No. Because he’s no longer a boy. He’s a man. He’s no longer Robin. He’s Nightwing. He’s grown up and out of his childhood vigilante identity. So why can’t Babs? Well, she did, way back when, before she became Oracle. She retired the mantle of Batgirl, not because she was sick of vigilante-ing, but because she said she had outgrown it. She wanted her own identity, separate from Bruce, and separate from girl, which she no longer was.
I had the opportunity to ask Gail Simone, writer of Batgirl, about this when I visited her booth at Emerald City Comic Con. I was excited. Gail Simone wrote Babs as the hero I loved in Birds of Prey. I loved that title and I loved Secret Six. I’m a huge fan of her Tumblr and the way she responds to fans. So I had so much hope for the conversation. Unfortunately, I received the brush off.
I started out telling Gail Simone the things I always wanted to say to her: That Birds of Prey was one of my favorite comics of all times. That Oracle gave me hope for women in leadership positions in comics. That I loved her writing and her characters. But when I started voicing curious concerns about what I’ve written above, she turned cold. I don’t think she wanted to have this conversation at all. I asked about Babs’ age and how that would relate to her current title, I was told she was barely twenty-one, she has many years of Batgirl ahead of her. As if that makes it okay for her to be only girl and not woman, stuck in this sidekick role. When I asked about her future, if she had any other plans, I got the same answer. Finally, as I was leaving, I got a joking answer about how she used to be interested in criminal psychology. But that isn’t the stuff of comics No, she was Batgirl and she would stay Batgirl.
I’m going to give Ms. Simone the benefit of the doubt. I am sure she gets a lot of flak from a lot of fans, and I’m sure many are less than respectful when they confront her. Maybe she was expecting that from me and was trying to fend it off. I don’t know. But I left the booth very unsatisfied, just as I leave Batgirl comics. Because Babs is a girl again, even as she ages. She isn’t a leader, she isn’t a genius, and she isn’t a woman. She’s a bat with a smile and a high kick. And she’s never going to grow up.