Monday, July 21, 2014

Superheroines Don't Selfie: A Girl Against the New Batgirl. by Megan Marie Fox

Fan art by Sam "Hidalgo" Logan

 A little over one week ago, the big comic book companies started leaking to the press upcoming changes for their fall comic line up. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that Marvel has revealed that Thor’s mantle will soon be worn by a female, and that Captain America will soon transfer his costume to his good friend Falcon. These past weeks DC has also been stirring up dust, arguably trying to meld the new 52 line up with the old.

DC has gotten grittier and darker over the years, and not all fans are happy with that. However, reverting characters to their starting positions is clearly not an option. How to make things lighter? DC’s answer clearly is selfies, stereotypes, and cliches.

Although there have been major changes made to many books, the most striking and infuriating changes (in my humble opinion) have been made to my favorite character, Batgirl. I’m not going to mince things here, our little Barbara Gordon has been through a lot. To quote artist and member of the new creative team, Cameron Stewart, “Batgirl has really been put through the wringer in recent years – after being attacked and paralyzed by the Joker, her brother turning out to be a serial murderer, the trauma of her family breaking apart and the series of gruesome villains she’s had to contend with, we figured she deserved a break from all that.”

Basically, Bab’s life is pretty dark. Even in between saving people from mentally ill supervillans, pretty standard stuff for the modern comic. In reality she would be clinically depressed and maybe even medicated, but in the comic world, she trudges on, triumphantly, without need of a mental health professional.

Having been through so much, it is hard for me to understand the logic as to why this Barbara Gordon, who has had so many experiences beyond her twenty-some years, would just suddenly decide she’d “had enough… after her apartment burns down” and move to the Gotham equivalent of Williamsburg, Brooklyn to live with a bunch of hipsters.

Say it ain’t so? Here’s the rest of what Cameron Stewart had to say, “Just prior to the start of our story she’s pushed to the breaking point and decides that she’s had it with misery and darkness and wants a change. She wants the opportunity to have some fun and live the life of a young, single girl in the city, so she packs up and moves to Burnside, the cool, trendy borough of Gotham, to focus on grad school.”

So… yeah. This is definitely happening. I’ve heard rumors Babs is even majoring in Woman’s Studies… and I am not happy. In fact I am quite angry Not just at this take on Batgirl. Alone, this direction could work, but combined with candid statements from the creative team and the “practical” new outfit I am in full on nerd rage mode.

These are the official press release images regarding Bab’s drastic new makeover. As you can see below, her new wardrobe is far from streamlined. If it were for style alone, I could dig it, but to claim this outfit a versatile fit for the dangerous situations Miss Gordon may still find herself in, is a straight up fallacy.

I won’t pretend to have greater knowledge than I do in regards to the comments folks have been making on the inter-webs about this outfit. Some say leather gives away your position easily in a stake out. Others say the leg holster would chafe (which I totally believe). But for my part, I know the exposed ears would get cold. I ran the 2014 Bay to Breakers in a bat-cowl with exposed ears… my ears stung and were freezing. For everything you gain in hearing, you lose at least half in warmth and therefore comfort.

Next, we have the issue of the cape. While it may be useful in combat to have a detachable cape in case an enemy were to grab you by it, it hardly seams useful in gliding situations or for anything but considerable air resistance. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe those are some really sturdy army surplus snaps, but probably not. When asked about the outfit, the creative team stated “We wanted to make it with things she could find in her new neighborhood, at thrift shops…”. “Fun, flirty and sassy” said Babs Tarr, the series' new writer. So I’m guessing the lady Gordon at least made the cape, since I can’t think of a vintage store that sells one used. And then there’s the shoes.

Oh God, the shoes! Have these people ever tried to wear Doc Martins running? Or Hiking? Or doing anything actually strenuous? These are shoes made for walking, not much else. They lack significant traction for climbing around on buildings and would give you blisters after a stakeout. Once again, DC has given us an outfit that is cool to look at, but in actuality would be cumbersome and heavy as hell. I know comic books creators are finally being made aware of their ridiculous and sexually skewed outfits, but taking away the spandex, period, is to discard its tactical uses. Spandex grants the wearer an unrestricted full range of motion. It is a fabric that wicks moisture and hugs the body for comfort. There is a reason it is worn by dancers and acrobats. And then there is perhaps the most glaring error in the design of this new outfit… its striking lack of Kevlar. You know… the stuff that say, stops bullets from entering your spine.

Now where was I? Oh, yes I should talk about plot. I’ll paraphrase here, but DC’s new team has said they were “inspired” by the plots of hit TV shows. Their short list includes Veronica Mars, Sherlock and Girls. Yes, HBO’s Girls. Why is DC turning my favorite character into a Hipster Princess who makes more “public appearances” and “takes selfies”? Why move her to the young and hip part of town? Why visually de-age her by about ten years?

Well, ladies and gentlemen… but mostly ladies between the ages of 13 and 23, DC thinks this will get YOU, yes YOU to buy this comic book. This is pure pandering. Most comic book readers are in their mid 20s and 30s, and market research (by Marvel) from February shows that 46.67% of readers identify as female. This means a female Thor, this means a better Ms Marvel creative team, but for DC this means a younger, “hip, happy to be single” Batgirl inspired by what they think we like. They think we want fluff, they think we want a character who takes selfies of herself and posts them to social media. They think we don’t like a character who faces her problems and her past rather than running away from them.

I suppose time will tell if Batgirl #35 sells better than Gail Simone’s new 52. Batgirl, sorry to see you go, but I’m done with this. No more pull list for you starting October. Call me when you’re sober.

Megan Marie Fox currently lives in the beautiful city of San Francisco, Comic-Con is her favorite holiday.

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  1. I'm surprised they didn't make the new costume pink for all they wanted to make her more *koff* girl-identified *koff*.

    About the only comment the new team didn't make was "Writing about life's difficulties is hard; let's go shopping!" Maybe Mattel had trademarked that.

    All-in-all, this reminds me of the screw-up DC made with Supergirl a few years ago (remember smoking, partying Supergirl? Sorry, for the reminder) and the Ame-Comi crap they did. DC seems less interested in attracting young, female readers and more about appealing to folks who groove on a Lolita-meets-Kardashian vibe.

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  3. i think a batgirl movie should heppin