Opinion: Why Barbara Gordon Should Come Back as Oracle

 

Oracle Return Iconic Barbara                Oracle Return New 52 Barbara

With the relaunch of the DC Comics Universe of their entire line in September 2011 under the “New 52” banner, one of the most regrettable losses to the DC Comics mythos was Barbara Gordon as Oracle. In the New 52, Barbara was “healed” and once again had the use of her legs and was back in action as Batgirl. DC claimed that the move to the most iconic versions of characters precipitated this. Pre-52 Batgirl was Stephanie Brown, and before her, Cassandra Cain. Barbara hadn’t been Batgirl since 1988. One thing I think DC overlooked was that while Barbara was the iconic Batgirl, the iconic Barbara was Oracle.

Oracle Return Cass as Batgirl Oracle Return Steph as Batgirl

Barbara’s turn as Oracle provided her character with real growth. While there has been an argument that Barbara’s attack by the Joker was a classic “women in refrigerators moment,” the work done on the character by John Ostrander, Chuck Dixon and Gail Simone grew the character into something unique. More importantly, it allowed the character to feel real and grow. This is something that doesn’t always happen with comic books. Too often, changes in status quo are often reversed or retconned out of existence to leave to a character back to what has always been. Look at Spider-Man’s marriage over at Marvel for another example. Barbara as Oracle was a unique character who filled a different role in the DC Universe and she felt modern and relevant with her use of technology. It seems like a grave injustice that her role has been usurped in two DC Comics based TV shows and she doesn’t receive any acknowledgement.

Oracle Return Felicity as Oracle Oracle Return Team Flash

Felicity Smoak, on the Arrow television show, is really Oracle under a different name. Her computer hacking abilities and leading through communications are both trademarks of Oracle’s moderus operandi as part of Birds of Prey. On The Flash, Barry Allen has a whole “Oracle” team. Caitlin and Cisco operate as the technology aspect and Dr. Wells directs Barry. This is exactly how Barbara handled Black Canary and Huntress in the Birds of Prey comic. I suppose it’s some consolation that Barbara first appeared as Oracle on TV in the short-lived Birds of Prey show that ran for one season. However, the popularity of Arrow and The Flash far exceeds Birds of Prey and it is certainly probable that only the die hard comic fan is even aware of Barbara Gordon from Birds of Prey.

Oracle Return Dina Meyer as Orcale                Oracle Return Dina Meyer as Batgirl

Barbara’s use of technology and role as an information outlet is now used on two DC Comics-based TV shows. Both these shows are doing well in ratings and have excited the comic book fans. Their popularity shows a penetration into popular culture. Felicity Smoak has recently been introduced into the Green Arrow comic, and one would expect her to fill the same role. This is good synergy with the TV show, but another slight against Barbara Gordon.

 

Oracle Return Soft Reboot Barbara

In the Batgirl comic, Barbara has been “soft rebooted” into a younger, less experienced character who seems further from the confident, informed and capable Oracle of the Pre-52 DC Universe. Despite being a paraplegic in a wheel chair as Oracle, her current status quo seems like a number of steps backwards. Even in a wheelchair, Oracle was still depicted as a total badass that could take out anyone she needed to. This depiction is preferable to an insecure, self-doubting Batgirl. Credit this assessment to the work of the aforementioned Ostrander, Dixon and Simone.

Oracle Return Classic Oracle           Oracle Return Felicity as Oracle in comic

 

The role being filled by Team Flash and Felicity Smoak on TV was originated in the comics by Barbara Gordon in the identity of Oracle. Apparently, this might be revisited on TV in the upcoming Titans TV series. If true, it only seems fair that Barbara Gordon get the credit she is due. We will get a glimpse of her as Oracle in the Convergence event in April and May. Barbara deserves to be the confident, capable Oracle in the comics again as well. Perhaps, that is what’s being teases in the most recent issue of Batgirl. One can only hope….

Oracle Return Not Batgirl

Matthew Lloyd

Matthew Lloyd

Master's Degree in Art History from the University of Louisville. Doctorate in Progressive Rock from Genesis and Rush. Father of 2 awesome daughters, husband to 1 amazing and understanding wife. Post-Doctorate in Comics from Heroes Aren't Hard to Find (Charlotte, NC) and Parts Unknown (Greensboro, NC). Managing a restaurant pays the bills.
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  • Trey McKnight

    I think it was a bad move to bring back the originals on many characters. Oracle was a great character. Kyle Raynor was as well. Wally West was the Flash for almost 30 years. The fact that the original characters were replaced or changed made DC’s universe grow and become way more interesting a world. Their decision to bring back all these dead characters while keeping the replacements around also causes problems. There are 5 human Green Lanterns! Ok, one of them is Red and one is White but I hate the rainbow spectrum stuff.
    My favorite Batgirl will always be Cassandra. I thought she was such a different character and brought needed variety to the character.

    • Matthew B. Lloyd

      That growth is what we lost in bringing back the ‘iconic’ versions. With The Flash, it’s been a concept that’s had multiple speedsters so that wouldn’t have been a problem. GL either, especially if they are operating in different roles. Barbara as Oracle was unique in many ways. Her character growth and ability to find a way to overcome adversity is something that was interesting and powerful. As Oracle she increased her importance in the DCU far beyond her place as Batgirl. Plus, the all female BoP and dynamic with Huntress and Black Canary was a lot of fun.

  • Brian

    I respectfully disagree. First off, it’s not fair to compare Barbara’s depiction at the end of a continuity to Barbara’s depiction at the start of the reboot (even now). The former had decades of character development to shape Barbara Gordon into the character she was at the end, while the latter has just a few years. The point of the reboot should be to give writers a chance to create new stories for characters and allow them to develop over time. If the reboot started with Barbara Gordon as Oracle and written similar to how she was at the end her character arc, then she won’t grow as a character.

    There is absolutely no justification to the theory that Barbara can grow more as Oracle than Batgirl (and vice-versa), and she still was a part of the BOP in the new 52. Yes, Barbara Gordon right now is insecure and full of self-doubt, because she’s 21 (not 32), but it stands to reason that by the end of the current continuity she will be just about the same confident capable Barbara Gordon as she was at the end of the previous continuity.

    Comic book readers have to be patient, especially when continuities reset and not expect the characters to right away be portrayed as they were in the previous continuity. Now, I might be biased because I do enjoy the current Batgirl run, but I think that as a character, she’s fine and Barbara doesn’t need to be crippled and return to being Oracle to be a kick-ass character. Besides, Barbara Gordon is still the most recognized Batgirl.

    • Matthew B. Lloyd

      Respectfully, Barbara as Oracle is a lot more interesting than regressed Barbara as Batgirl. I understand what you are saying, but in terms of interesting stories, I just can’t get into Barbara as Batgirl in the Nu 52. Oracle was and still is unique. She was really the first of her kind. It would be like DC dropping Superman in favor of Shazam (ugh) as their premier super-hero.

  • Barbara Gordon

    Honestly, i don’t think Oracle is THAT unique anymore.
    It may have been a unique concept in the early 90’s, when hackers were thought of as some sort of basement dwelling computer wizards capable of performing miracles, but it’s 2015 now. Technology and computers have advanced so much and more importantly they have been so much more integrated into everyone’s daily lives.
    Plus, there have been plenty of teams in games and shows that have that type of “computer tech genius” as supporting cast in one way or another over the past two decades. Although admittedly, usually in the 90’s these were long haired scruffy looking dudes in a basement filled with Roswell Alien dolls and Star Trek posters, and not someone like Barbara… although there was that girl in Jurassic Park, who used her superior computer skills to aid the survivors, and referred to herself as a hacker… but still, while you may have somewhat of a point with the similarities between Felicity and Oracle, to say the team on The Flash is based on Oracle borderlines on a “Nobody else is allowed to do what Oracle does” sentiment. Which kinda goes against any ” There were other Batgirls” argument, if you ask me. Because if you can accept that there can be other Batgirls, then you shouldn’t be holding on to Barbara as Oracle, and just accept that there can be other “Oracles” or Oracle-like characters.

    “Barbara hadn’t been Batgirl since 1988.”

    Even if you ignore the impact Yvonne Craig had as Batgirl on the mainstream audience since the 60’s, or the fact that she actually was Batgirl in the comics for over 20 years before she was paralyzed, Barbara Gordon appeared as Batgirl in Batman The Animated Series, which ran from 1992 to 1998, and was one of the most important and ground breaking tv shows in the history of American animation. This is the show that introduced the character and defined her for a whole generation of children and adults through out nearly the entire decade of the 90’s. When you say she wasn’t Batgirl since 1988, and not acknowledge her role on TV in the 90’s, you are ignoring the fact that, while she may not have been Batgirl in the comics in those days, she was all the more in the spotlight as Batgirl on TV, specially in the later revamped seasons, when she replaced Dick Grayson as Batman’s full time partner after he moved out to become Nightwing.
    Then later in the next decade, shows like The Batman, The Brave and the Bold, and Young Justice all continued to portray Barbara as Batgirl.

    In that sense, you can clearly see the influence of the animated incarnations in the current run by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr. You could already see the influence of the Bruce Timm design in the Batgirl: Year One mini-series, but now it’s even more obvious than ever. Honestly, i don’t have any problem with that.

    …and lets face it. The new 52 was designed to be a universe de-aging universe. Instead of trying to find ways to revert everything back to the setting of the old continuity, lets just embrace the idea of doing something new.
    Right now in the current story arc of Batgirl, we see that Barbara created an Oracle style protection system with her brain algorithm. This system became self-aware, and because it was made by Barbara using scans from her brain, it doesn’t understand what it is, and thus tries to terminate the real Barbara Gordon. However, there are two popular theories going around about the final issue of this arc next month based on the info we have at this point.

    1: Barbara Gordon finds a way to reboot the virtual copy, and code name it: Oracle. This would create an interesting new take that would allow Barbara to exist as Batgirl alongside a sentient digital copy of herself as Oracle.

    2: The recent issues of Batgirl and Secret Origins have shown that Barbara’s friend Frankie has a muscle decease that will eventually cause her to end up in a wheelchair. We also know that Frankie has considerable computer skills that equal those of Barbara Gordon. Since Frankie now knows that Barbara is Batgirl, she could end up demanding a piece of the superhero pie, and become the new 52’s version of Oracle, using the technology that Barbara originally invented.

    • Matthew B. Lloyd

      I believe the best version of Barbara is as Oracle. Unique and different and three dimensional.