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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….