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8/21 – Curious Cat Also Asks…

Is Barbara Gordon being handicapped integral to Barbara being Oracle?

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32 Comments

not really for Barbara had the skills she uses as Oracle from the start the handicap aspect is what caused the Oracle character to first get the fan base since it is Barbara showing that the joker did not succeed in destroying her . for Oracle was just the next step in Babs evolution . for she has proven that she may not be able to walk but she is far from helpless. and it would not change if Oracle got her mobility back. for she will still be Oracle.

Yeah, I think it is. The core concept of the Oracle character is that she can’t fight crime traditionally anymore, so she found another way to do it.

Not anymore, no. But her handicap certainly doesn’t hinder her being Oracle, and it works marvelously as a character trait.

Not really, but I heartily agree with the poster in the other discussion who noted that if Barbara Gordon were able to walk it wouldn’t be long before she was back in tights as Batgirl again. Not that the character can’t work as a superhero computer expert (the 90s animated version brought elements of Oracle’s computer savvy to their take on Batgirl), but she’d lose a lot of her uniqueness and Cassandra Cain would be relegated to their awkward limbo that “replacement” characters are shunted to once someone decides they want the original back instead.

Have a good day.
John Cage

FunkyGreenJerusalem

August 21, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Although person with a disability who is good with technology is really cliched, there’s nothing special about Oracle if she can walk, it’s just ‘chick who is good with computers’, and there’s no drama built into that.
At least with her in a wheel chair you get rising above her disability, and able to do more good than she could when she was able bodied as built in character points.

That said, I find the character rather boring.
I don’t mind if she’s contained to helping one hero or team, but in this role of helping every hero out… it’s just boring, and in some cases lazy story telling – ‘Oracle got us this information’, ‘Oracle, can you hack in’ etc etc

FunkyGreenJerusalem

August 21, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Of course, it could just be that I’ve brought books where she comes across that way, and is actually an interesting character, but I haven’t personally seen it.

Maybe it was integral to BECOMING Oracle, but not to being Oracle. Though there is one thing her disability “gives” her as a character. She is a role model. She is a symbol. She might still perform a function as a story cog as the function of computer whiz Oracle if you had her walk again, but is her function what makes her the character she is?

Just magically or comic book sciencing away her disability is a slap in the face to people with real disabilities. It is also feels dirty to the memory of the late, great, Kim Yale. Kim made Oracle something stronger and more real than girl in a bat suit. She made a hero for people, not just a power fantasy adventurer.

Barbara Gordon needed to be crippled for the ORACLE character to be built up. After all, the identity of who ORACLE was was a secret for a couple of years ( although there were none too sublte clues .

Permanent changes in a character’s status quo in comics are gutsy and often good moves.

@Jbird I think that they are just as often bad moves.

Sometimes the permanent change in status quo breaks the concept of the character, and replaces it with a weaker concept and “storytelling engine”.

Honestly, “Former Superhero now helps fight crime through technology” is a lot less interesting than “Former Superhero, crippled by major villian, now helps fight crime through technology”

Wait, wasn’t there like 40+ comments on this last night?

….no…..wait…….i’m an idiot.

i think they’ve done the “i can’t walk but i’m amazing with computers and can help you escape from every plot tight-corner ever” bit to death. if they gave her some form of limited movement and sent her off on mission: impossible style espionage / infiltration type missions, that would be quite exciting. i don’t think she *has* to remain crippled just for the character to work. the more important question is – have they pretty much exhausted how she can be used currently (which seems to be just a handy escape route for every tricky plot situation involving technology ever)?

At least it’d free her up a bit in terms of different things the writers could do with her. She’s always seemed a bit one-note to me as Oracle.

DanLarkin nailed Oracle’s core concept. Her “handi-capability” (and jokey wordplay aside, that actually describes her iconography pretty well) is what makes the property. Going back to what Richard said, the “former Batgirl crippled by Joker but is still an A-list crimefighter” angle is actually more important than the generic “computer hacker to the stars” angle. The latter certainly looks better on a marquee, but considering that we’re 20 years into the Internet Age and pop culture has produced no other hacker icons (unless you count Willow and Neo, neither of whom are famous for their keystroking), I’d surmise that the trait itself doesn’t attract an audience. So in that sense, yes, being handicapped is a must for Barbara to inhabit the Oracle character.

I really don’t think people understand what a stroke of luck Oracle turned out to be. If Ostrander/Yale had tried that with anyone else, it never would have worked. It just so happened that there was a sidelined, crippled, genius, boookwormy superhero apprentice to the World’s Greatest Detective just laying on the trash-heap for them to reinvent. And it just so happened that Denny O’Neil’s proprietary ’90s Bat-office hoarded Oracle in their isoloation chamber long enough for her storytelling engine to develop, and that Chuck Dixon knew what to do with her when it did. And it just so happened that Grant “Danny the Street” Morrison was given DC’s flagship title and that he turned it into a blockbuster at the height of Oracle’s exposure. AND it just so happened that Gail Simone saved BoPs from cancellation just as DC was looking for extraneous female heroes to torture, encraze, kill, and rape. Excepting the SUICIDE SQUAD years (that no one read) and the early-’90s in Gotham (where she was almost forgotten), Oracle’s only been an A-lister for twelve or so years….that she’s lasted this long as a compelling attracter of fanboys — sans sex appeal, even — is a miracle, not a bygone conclusion. As long as Oracle is working for DC’s bottom line, they’d be smart to leave her alone.

At least it’d free her up a bit in terms of different things the writers could do with her. She’s always seemed a bit one-note to me as Oracle.

I think that’s more a ctricism of the way some writers have used her than of her options as a character. Just because she can’t walk doesn’t mean she can be nothing more than a sort of Deus Ex Machina. I agree with Richard; “Former Superhero now helps fight crime through technology” is a lot less interesting than “Former Superhero, crippled by major villian, now helps fight crime through technology”. It has instant drama, resilience and a strong motivation. Plus it makes her a good role model and a nice contrast to all the physically perfect superheroes. I think there are enough power horses in superhero comics for one decent disabled character.

That’s a good question, and one I haven’t thought about. I don’t think Barbara needs to be in a wheelchair to be Oracle…and perhaps there’s better stories ahead if she isn’t.

No, of course not, but if she were COMPLETELY cured, she might be more tempted to drop her Oracle persona, to go back to being Batgirl or Batwoman or Nightingale or something, which would be a real shame. And possibly a problem for the other heroes who have come to rely on her role as Oracle…

And making her into an Oracle/Batgirl combo just makes her into a female Batman/Iron Man…

I like the way it works with the brawn belonging to someone else and the dynamics of the team, where Barbara does the thinking and others do the actions…

It seems like it’s part of the dynamic with Nightwing is that she wants to be with him, but he’s also a reminder of her time as Batgirl, which makes for an interesting, complicated relationship. I don’t know if that depends on her being handicapped per se, but it depends on her being not what she used to be. And that’s not so much Oracle as it is Barbara. So I’m not sure I have an answer to the question posed… the previous question, I just felt like she’s more fun as Oracle than she was as Batgirl, this one, I’m not sure.

I stand by my point in the other thread: Barbara being crippled forces writers to use other characters as her field agents, which give those characters more exposure.

I sometimes wish more comics writers were wrestling fans: there’s far more similarities between the two from a business perspective than people think, with the distinguishing factor that comics have a longer turnaround time (wrestling’s quick, week-to-week turnaround is what makes it so fascinating to look at the business side of things). In the case of Oracle, keeping Barbara crippled allows for the time-tested wrestling approach of teaming up a main eventer with a midcarder in the hopes of making the midcarder into someone the fans view as approaching the status of a main eventer. Oracle’s one of the few comic characters that has this element built into the core character concept, and if Barbara could just get up and walk to a crime scene to investigate it, there’d be a far smaller available role for the field characters.

I suppose there’s people who get upset about the negative symbolic / thematic point of a crippled female heroine in the male-dominated comics industry, but screw that; everything’s secondary to business, and Oracle being crippled is good for business.

They could always pull a Once a Thief, where Oracle’s attacked by a villain, rises up to beat his ass, and that’s the reveal to let the other chartacers and us at home that she’s regained the use of her legs. But never told anyone, because she likes having a trump card up her sleeve just in case. it does seem that in a world with so many people how can heal by powers or technology no one has chipped in to help. but we’d get into serious Squadron Supreme/Watchmen/Authority slope-slipperiness if we started demanding that the DCU work the way it logically should given all the supertheroics, rather than having the DCU be a constant mirror of our world.

Here’s another one…

Does anyone else think it’s rather silly that Barbara isn’t Gordon’s natural daughter? I mean, the justification for that has been “she wasn’t in Year One,” however Frank Miller himself uses Barbara in All-Star Batman, as if she was at some boarding school for the duration of Year One. And I’m fine with that.

I don’t think it is entirely necessary for Barbara to be Gordon’s natural daughter, but I don’t really understand why that connection has remained severed. It’s needlessly confusing, especially Devin Grayson’s retcon of “He may be his natural daughter, because he had a relationship with her mother before she married his brother,” which doesn’t really cast ol’ Jimmy Gordon in the best light…

The main argument I’ve seen for keeping her crippled is that she’s too important as Oracle. If she’s so important as Oracle, she can do it with the use of her legs. I think that would be a neat story for her to regain her mobility and choose to work as Oracle most of the time.

I’d be annoyed if she regained her ability to walk and all of a sudden was leaping from the rooftops again. I’d like to see her have an ability to walk with a slight limp, then convince her dad to let her in the GCPD, and still work as Oracle on the side. That would make for a number of good stories, rather than just the one good story that Barbara back as Batgirl would create.

No. She doesn’t need to be wheelchair-bound to be Oracle. Nor does she necessarily have to go back to being a costumed crimefighter if she gets healed- if anything, she must have learned she’s *much* more useful in her current role, while Gotham has too many “capes” already.

Though I DO hope she gets cured one day, for one reason: to erase another of Joker’s “victories” over Batman. (They have already brought back Jason Todd, the other one.) Sorry, but I don’t enjoy serial killers, much less those who “win” over the heroes, and then hang those facts over his head forever. Bring back Joker the master villain, not the two-bit killer who uses crowbars and might be a rapist.

: she might be more tempted to drop her Oracle persona,
: to go back to being Batgirl or Batwoman or Nightingale
: or something

Yeah, because there’s no way you could conceivably carry communications equipment around in your uniform and be either a mobile Oracle or transform into some kind of tech-based, post-cyberpunk hero. For that level of science fiction you need prose…and Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross, or Cory Doctorow.

The only use of her being in a wheelchair is to keep writers from being tempted to turn her back into Batgirl. Otherwise it has outlived itself as a storytelling element.

she must really get p’d off every time bruce comes swanning by.

I don’t think it’s integral to her continuing on as Oracle, theoretically speaking.There’s no reason why she couldn’t develop Oracle into a costumed identity if she wanted to command the Birds of Prey from the field, or just… continue operating the way she does now. If she recovered use of legs without any super-solutions, then it’s plausible enough for walking around to be the farthest extent of her mobility for quite some time.

That said, the reality of the situation is that superhero comics are shackled to nostalgia. Only editorial dictates or seemingly insurmountable issues will keep nostalgic creators from wanting to revert characters to whatever status quo they were during said creator’s days as a fan. If Barbara Gordon is walking again in the next ten years, it’s just a matter of time until she’s somehow-or-other Batgirl again, and Cass Cain is thrown under the loser bus. If she’s not walking for another, say, 20 years, then you’re likely to have a generation of creators that only ever knew her as Oracle with Batgirl as just part of her backstory. In those circumstances, it’s quite possible she wouldn’t be immediately thrown back into her Batsuit, but allowed to remain as Oracle despite not being stuck in the chair.

It must be integral, because in a world of super science and incredible magic, the could at least put a suit on that allowed her to walk. I think if she could walk again, she probably would give up being oracle, indirectly fighting crime. She is important to the DC universe as a source of information, though, so I think she would keep that aspect of the character alive.

Yes, though only because it’s the only thing keeping some jackass writer or editor from putting her back in tights.

“Does anyone else think it’s rather silly that Barbara isn’t Gordon’s natural daughter?”

Yes, that always seemed like a silly pointless change, done for pretty much no good reason at all.

“Yes, though only because it’s the only thing keeping some jackass writer or editor from putting her back in tights.”

I agree with that. No, she doesn’t *need* to be crippled to be Oracle. But she does need to *stay* crippled to be Oracle.

Yes. The contrast between her physical limitations and her mental strength is what makes the character interesting.

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