Batgirl #16 Play-by-Play

December 10th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Stephanie Brown: Fugitive.  For about a second.

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Fourcast! 14: The Girlcast

August 31st, 2009 Posted by david brothers


(yeah, i don’t even know. we talk about girls and women and things in an extra-special almost-hour long show this time around. save me from myself by subscribing on itunes or straight up RSS.

apologies to jack kirby.)

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June 14th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

A lot is made of how, in comics, readers can/will/are supposed to identify with certain characters.

I’ve talked a lot about how, when I was a kid watching Batman: The Animated Series, Batgirl was my favorite character.  A girl, running around, having adventures, kicking ass, taking names and sassing Robin was just about the coolest thing little Esther had ever seen.  And while I can’t deny that I feel a certain personal investment in Barbara Gordon, exulting in her triumphs and enduring her failures, I don’t think that’s the same as identifying with her.  Most of the characters in the Batverse are too perfect to identify with.

Identification also depends a great deal on the reader as well as the character.  When you were a kid you might feel a kinship with a fictional child, but when you’re an adult, often you look at the same character and think, “What a brat.”

Have you ever felt a strong connection between yourself and a comics character?  And if so, does the connection endure, or has it faded?

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Oracle: The Cure #1

March 25th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Reading about Oracle always tangles me up in logistical questions.  Does second-life work like that?  Can a guy really open up a wall in a game?  When a woman screams in real life, does it make any sense at all that her avatar starts screaming, too?  Because I think she would be too busy screaming to tell her character to scream.  Then again, maybe it’s pre-programmed that they scream under certain circumstances.

And how does one explode a human head, anyway?  I first thought it would happen with an explosive device, but that couldn’t happen unless said device were pre-planted in said head.  The second idea was heating up the liquid inside the skull with microwaves, but it seems like that would get the excess liquid to bubble out the eyes and nasal cavities.  Unless it happened fast enough to heat the liquid instantly, which brings us back to an explosive device.

While I may not be much of a second-lifer or skull-exploder, I do know my Babsology, and more importantly, my superheroes.  The series is called The Cure.  The first issue chronicles the villain’s desperate, yet evil, attempts to save his desperately ill daughter.  It also makes much of the hero’s misery over her grievous injury.  Babs is going to have to choose whether to heal the girl or heal herself.  Being a hero, she’s going to heal the girl.  There is a way that set-ups like these go.  In fact, this is the way that this set-up has already gone in Birds of Prey.

And so, of course, I’m hoping it goes the other way.  Part of this is because of my shameless bias for Batgirl Babs.  Part of it – let’s say that I’ve had it up to here with stories that come complete with forgone conclusions.  My heart drops a bit each time I see summaries that go along the lines of:  “Will Batman kill the Joker this time?”  “Is this the end for Lois and Clark?”  “Is Batman dead?”  The answer is always ‘no.’  Always.  Without exception.  We know it the moment we pick up the solicit.

This time, I’m hoping for a surprise.

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February 28th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

There were two things I learned at the DC Universe panel.

There is going to be a Batgirl book after Battle for the Cowl is over.

Cassandra Cain is not going to be ‘part of the batfamily’ after Battle for the Cowl is over.

I asked who was going to fill the cowl and was denied an answer, so I’ve compiled a list.

1.  Barbara Gordon:  Her upcoming series is titled ‘The Cure.’  Dan Didio has gone from flatly denying the idea that Babs would ever walk again to giving cagey answers like, “There’s a lot to be said for a Barbara Gordon Batgirl.”  I think I’ve made it no secret that I would love to see Barbara Gordon as Batgirl again.  But then, isn’t she just a bit old for the ‘girl’ title?  And since the position of Batwoman is filled at least up until the end of the JH Williams Batwoman book, there might not be a place for an adult Batgirl.

2.  Stephanie Brown:  What can I say?  I don’t give up hope. 

3.  Charlie Gage-Radcliffe:  After all, she adopted the title for a while, and Barbara took her under her wing.  But what’s more – It’s been a long time coming.  And let me say, there were times when I truly believed I would never see this day.  But at last, at long last, there might possibly be a heroine with a hyphenated last name in the Batbooks.  Stay strong, sister!  Make us proud!

4.  Cassandra Cain:  Because sometimes a DC editor can be the father of all liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeees.

5.  Deathstroke:  He shows up in every book.  It was just a matter of time, really.

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Birds Of Prey: Ending Low

February 19th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

While Robin ends with Tim Drake coming into his own as a hero, Birds of Prey finishes with Barbara Gordon losing her identity.

At the end of the series, Babs has to blow up her second headquarters in two years.  She’s faced the Joker again, only to get knocked around.  She’s faced Calculator and seen him literally attain new heights while she’s left in the dust.  Her team is hated in their new town, and while they manage to disperse the criminal syndicate they were running, they can’t shut it down.  She’s lost a friend, possibly permanently.  All in all, this is a low point for her.

The different approaches to the two series make sense.  Tim is a young hero and former sidekick, so his series need to see him reach a new level of independence and maturity.  Babs is well-established, and has to find some new direction.  Her new direction is hinted at in the upcoming mini-series, Oracle: The Cure.  I know, I know, the name is supposed to be a reference to curing a sick little girl.  Still, either Babara Gordon is going to record a cover of Boys Don’t Cry, or DC is teasing us with the possibility that Babs is going to walk again and Cassandra Cain is going to have a little battle for her own cowl.

I hate being brought face-to-face with my bias as a comics reader.  The Robin series ended in a way which I didn’t approve of, but which made sense dramatically.  Tim Drake became a competent and autonomous hero while having to give up some of the things he’d loved as a child.  Couple that with the death of his last parental figure and you’ve got a strong, archetypal coming-of-age story.  I hate it.

Barbara Gordon quitting the team she established and nurtured, leaving a kid she semi-adopted, walking again, giving up her identity as Oracle and possibly stepping back into the shadow of the bat is wrong.  It’s backwards motion, it’s erasing her identity, it’s losing her place in a larger universe.  And yet I cannot find it within myself to hate it.  I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t happen.   I need it.  I love it.  I want it. 

I want fun!  I want the original Batgirl and her adventures.  At the very least I want more mini-series!

There is a lot to be said for comics that are committed to a story, rather than bowing to popular opinion.  But honestly, I don’t want to take my comics the way I take multi-vitamins.  If there’s an Oracle mini, I’ll be there.  If it breaks in the middle to make Barbara Gordon Batgirl again, I’ll be there and tearing at the shelves.  Pander to me, DC.  Pander to me.

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What Would Save The Pretty Birds?

December 15th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I try not to read internet rumors.  Most of the time they just get me riled about something dreamed up by someone on a message board.  Unfortunately, this means that sometimes I get bad news in public places.  That can be unpleasant.  A few weeks ago in a comics shop, some friends told me that Birds of Prey was getting cancelled.  I won’t get into details, but there was loud wailing involved.  Loud, sustained wailing.

I’ve written about how the Wonder Woman mythos doesn’t do much for me.  Birds of Prey was my version of Amazon Island.  Up until Canary left, it was a long-preserved team.  It was all-girl, all bad-ass, all the time.  Since it was not one of the hottest-selling books it was a sheltered island, out of the way of the major continuity events, where some of the lesser known female characters could thrive.

Yes, I know that there is going to be an Oracle mini-series, and while Barbara Gordon is one of my top five characters of all time, I’m going to miss the rest of the Birds.  Canary was at her best with a team that she could have fun with, not fight with or mother.  Huntress was an awkward fit everywhere else in the DCU, too independent to be one of the bats, too bat-oriented to get away from them.  In Birds of Prey she got a chance to shine, and take control.  And of course there’s Zinda, who is one of the most fun characters in the DCU.  There’s Manhunter, who had her own book cancelled recently.  Even Misfit was growing on me.

When a favorite character of mine loses a book, I always wonder if I’ll see them again.  Being too unpopular for a book, but just popular enough to be noticed, is often a recipe for death when big events come up.  I feel like Daniel Day-Lewis in Last of the Mohicans.  “Stay alive, no matter what occurs!  I will find you!”

I also mourned the end of The Blue Beetle, but at least I know that Jaime will be preserved in Teen Titans.  Also, I think that, as stages of grief go, I am still firmly routed in ‘denial.’  Jaime will come back.  I know this.  He must.

Birds of Prey has catapulted me into ‘bargaining.’  What would it take to get the Birds back.  How would it be possible to drive up readership?  Let me rephrase that.  How would it be possible to drive up readership besides having a Babs, Dinah, and Helena three-way in each book?  (Yeah, I’ve seen that fanart.)

As the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  What I have is a steadfast love of comics that are light, fun, and just a little nutzo.  My ideal Birds book would be a cross between the early Indiana Jones movies and Bruce Lee on pixie stix.  Three-to-five issue arcs, each one being a separate adventure.  Fast, fun, and ass-kicking.  I’d like constant wisecracks, mild indignity, ninja stuff, at least two issues in which people run to get out of the way of giant boulders, and Misfit as Short Round.  That’s Short Round, not Mutt.  Sorry, Shia.

I think the book was doing best with its four core characters; Babs, Helena, Dinah, and Zinda.  As said before, Misfit could be Short Round.  And, of course, since Indy got a new girl every movie, there could be a rotating spot for the last member to keep things fresh.

But hell, I’d favor an eighteen-person team in a somber, noirish book comprised of thirty-issue all-event storyarcs if I thought I’d be getting my Birds back.

What would you hope for in a Birds book?

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