Barbara Gordon is for girls. This truth has been obscured over the years, most notably in the Batman: The Killing Joke, in which the classic Batgirl was shot, sexually abused and paralyzed by the Joker and taken out of costume for decades. But just as Superman stands for unimpeachable hope and Batman for rigid justice, Batgirl stands for girls doing what the hell they want. From the moment she debuted as part of the classic BatmanTV show of the 1960s, this was clear: she was a librarian, she rode a motorcycle decorated with chiffon ruffles, and she did not give a damn that Batman wanted her to hang up the glittery puple cape and cowl. She was no sweet-tempered Kyptonian cousin, no kid sister, and no swooning girlfriend. As Mike Madrid detailed in The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines, “Batgirl is a female Batman can actually regard as a brilliant peer and a partner in the war on crime, the same way he would a male.”
In her best adventures, this ember at the core of her character is stoked to a roaring flame—her time as Oracle, the fan-favorite super-hacker and enduringly powerful symbol for disabled persons in superhero comics; her portrayal as part of the Gotham Girls webseries and Batman: The Animated Series; and Scott Beatty & Chuck Dixon and Marcos Martin’s Batgirl: Year One come to mind. But these moments are brief, because as we all know, girls don’t read comics. Mostly, Barbara—the true Barbara, as all our favorite interpretations of these imprecise characters are the “true” ones—has lain in wait, a winking promise in the hands of a good-enough creative team. I’ve waited too. I’ve waited through mediocre art and ill-chosen storylines and a reboot I’m still not unequivocally behind. Today, as vibrantly portrayed by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher. Babs Tarr andMaris Wicks, she has arrived in DC’s Batgirl #35.