Great Moments in Comics Discrimination #3: Barbara Gordon and the Oracle Dilemma

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

4 thoughts on “Great Moments in Comics Discrimination #3: Barbara Gordon and the Oracle Dilemma”

  1. The Killing Joke was the first time I really felt failed by Alan Moore. It simply was not good. The only reason it received critical approval was Alan Moore! Brian Bolland! They actually did represent a distinctly raised standard of craft, one that few writers or artists of the time could match.

    But the work itself was simply not a success, and the casually manipulative nature of the violence was both obvious and distasteful. I remember feeling almost — no. I was angry. I thought Moore owed Bolland and the audience a decent fucking story, and not only did he fail to deliver that, he gave us a taint as well.

    Moore’s biggest flaw as a writer is his reluctance to engage in direct observation of people. His characters are Characters, puppets intended to fulfill their roles in his drama. I cannot stress enough how important a writer he is to me — but that also compels me to be aware of his failings, lest I acquire them. And in The Killing Joke, this treatment of characters as puppets rather than people is both technically fascinating and aesthetically revolting.

    In other words, “Check it out! Here’s something not to do.”

  2. Yeah, they’re kind of hosed regardless, aren’t they? Never really thought of it that way.

    For my part, I’m sorry to see the return of Batgirl vs Oracle. Oracle is an excellent partner for Batman. Bats uses his brains as much as his brawn. With Oracle on his side, he’s got double the brain. She serves a rather unique role, and represents a different kind of strength and vulnerability for Bats. She’s never where he’s at, so she’s protected from the physical dangers of Bats’s night job, but, if anyone ever discovered her location, she’s in serious trouble. Can you imagine Riddler figuring out where her secret lair is?

    With Batgirl, we’ve got Batman with a much more attractive figure. That’s it. She has the same skills, same abilities, same intelligence, and so on. Bats already has Robin (sometimes). I don’t think a female version of him adds more.

  3. I think his work on Swamp Thing had its highs and lows, but that’s like my mom saying the Beatles had their highs and lows. His second issue, 21, was absolutely electrifying, and to my mind still stands out as an example of a perfect comic book. It made me rush out and get the British series Warrior, where Marvelman and so on first appeared. I’ve recently been wondering if the comics of the eighties were my big cultural watershed…

    There is no question that when Moore hit the scene he changed everything — but few of the earthshaking works from that period, including those of Spiegelman and Miller, still shine the way they did when the field was less developed. They are now part of the larger artistic canon, and subject to more scrupulous criticism. Which you are applying!

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