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The Greatest Barbara Gordon Stories Ever Told!

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5. “One Man’s Hell” Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey #1

Chuck Dixon had been using Oracle for awhile by the time he decided to give her her own title, choosing to pair her with Black Canary, who was pretty much in limbo at the time. This world-spanning adventure has amazing artwork from Gary Frank and John Dell and quickly showed how great of a pairing these two heroes were!

4. “Oracle–Year One: Born of Hope” Batman Chronicles #5

John Ostrander and Kim Yale were the ones who “saved” Barbara Gordon after she was shot and paralyzed in the one-shot The Killing Joke. They sort of celebrate the great job that they did with this “Year One” story in Batman Chronicles. The art was done by Brian Stelfreeze and Karl Story and it was the last job that Kim Yale did before she was tragically taken from us.

3. “On Wings” Birds of Prey #8

To give you an idea of how cool this story was, people are so desperate to read it (as DC never reprinted it) that it still fetched over $50 on eBay! It is available digitally from DC for just $2, though! Anyhow, this story is the first date between Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon and it is heartwarming and adorable and funny and just great. Chuck Dixon wrote it and Greg Land and Drew Geraci drew it.

2. “Out of Control” Suicide Squad #48-49

As I noted before, John Ostrander and Kim Yale were the ones who “saved” Barbara Gordon by making her Oracle. She had been a supporting character in Suicide Squad by this point, but this two-parter brought her front and center as the villainous Thinker underestimates her as he tries to track her down. We learn how she became Oracle. Powerful stuff. Geof Isherwood and Luke McDonnell did the art.

1. Batgirl: Year One #1-9

Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty wrote this nine-book maxi-series with their new re-defined origin for Batgirl as well as her early adventures. Meanwhile, the art was by a then-newcomer Marcos Martin (with inks by Alvaro Lopez) and they’re just astonishingly good. Chuck Dixon had such a great handle on Barbara’s characterization.

That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

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39 Comments

Funny how so many of these are orgin/retelling of origin stories.

No Killing Joke???????

Mike Loughlin

April 9, 2013 at 6:07 am

I didn’t vote (I haven’t read much Birds of Prey or older Batgirl comics) but I’m pleased that 1) the Suicide Squad story made the list; 2) Batgirl Year One topped it; 3) I am now aware of an Ostrander/ Yale story I haven’t read to track down and enjoy; and 4) the Killing Joke is nowhere to be found.

I’m so relieved Killing Joke is not on the list. That is hardly a Barbara story, and much less one of her best. I agree with all of the list and I have to second the joy about the key Suicide Squad story.

Of course Killing Joke received enough votes to place in the top 10, so it sounds like Brian is just removing entries he doesn’t think belong.

What on earth are you basing that assumption on? The fact that you voted for Killing Joke, so it must have made the top 10?

I was afraid that the Suicide Squad story wouldn’t make it after all this time. Good job, voters.

Am I correct in assuming that Killing Joke was disqualified for “not being a real Barbara Gordon story”?

The Killing Joke is a dreadful story with beautiful art, and I find it very hard to believe that anyone would think it was one of the greatest Barbara Gordon stories ever told. Batgirl Year One is a perfect comic book story, and I’m pleased it made it to #1.

I’m sure that Killing Joke got a number of votes, but I’m betting that there were enough people who either hadn’t read it or more likely felt it wasn’t a very good story for Barbara Gordon, regardless of if they felt it was a good Batman story, that it didn’t quite crack the top ten. It would have been high on my list of Batman stories, but her arc has her shot, stripped and photographed (admittedly with a little bit of decent dialogue at the end). So I didn’t feel right about voting for that one in the context of a Barbara Gordon story. I think that Suicide Squad story was my top choice OTOH and a real case of taking a bad situation and coming up with something that made her even more interesting than her original concept.

A bit strange (or maybe telling) that for a character who is supposed to have a loyal fan base, all the entries come from after she was shot. I wonder what the best ranked pre-Killing Joke story was and where it placed.

Stephen Conway

April 9, 2013 at 10:17 am

Not surprised that Year One is #1 as its one of my favourite stories ever.

Also, this list reminds my of that strange and distant time when Greg Land art was to be celebrated and not feared.

Good list. I’ve read many of them.

Why would anyone have voted for the Killing Joke as one of the greatest Barbara Gordon stories? The only thing Babs did in that story was get shot. People are odd.

Yeah, a vote for Killing Joke in this context could only be motivated by hostility to Barbara Gordon as a character. She was hardly even in that comic. As Lorrie notes, all she did in it was get shot.

joe the poor speller

April 9, 2013 at 11:20 am

6 out of 10 for me (10, 8, 7, 3, 2, 1). glad that the killing joke didn’t make it.

I’m amazed how many of these I haven’t read. Have to get hold of On Wings, Born of Hope, The Cat and The Bat, Batgirl’s Last Case and Folie a Deux.
Batgirl Year One is a worthy winner. Whilst I personally chose an earlier suicide squad appearance this is a good choice nonetheless.
I’m not sure I agree with the Birds of Prey choices. I’m not sure how well Hunt for Oracle showed Babara and Of Like Minds had way to much overly sexualised art for my liking. I know she got some good action but I didn’t like it much.
It’s strange that even though most of them are of her as Batgirl, only one predates The Killing Joke (which sets it up). Were not many people fans of the Batman Family or Detective Comics back-ups?

Were not many people fans of the Batman Family or Detective Comics back-ups?

I think they all had their fans, but all the support split the votes. I’m actually somewhat pleased that the top choice among her back-ups fell just shy of the Top 10, since the top-votegetter among her Detective back-ups was a story that I think is almost Killing Joke-esque in its treatment of Barbara (more on a mete-fictional level, as obviously no story is ever going to be as rough on her as what happened to her in Killing Joke).

Am I correct in assuming that Killing Joke was disqualified for “not being a real Barbara Gordon story”?

No, you are not. Killing Joke received votes, just not enough for the top 10. Heck, it didn’t even finish #11.

A bit strange (or maybe telling) that for a character who is supposed to have a loyal fan base, all the entries come from after she was shot. I wonder what the best ranked pre-Killing Joke story was and where it placed.

The Batgirl Special was before she was shot.

as obviously no story is ever going to be as rough on her as what happened to her in Killing Joke).

Jeez Brian, don’t give DC any ideas!

@kdu2814:

A bit strange (or maybe telling) that for a character who is supposed to have a loyal fan base, all the entries come from after she was shot. I wonder what the best ranked pre-Killing Joke story was and where it placed.

It is not surprising to me at all. Barbara Gordon came to DC Comics (at least partially) from another medium. She was defined by Yvonne Craig far more than she was any comic creator. It took DC a good long while to figure out how to deal that.

While not a Barbara Gordon story, The Killing Joke almost accidentally resolved the problem. It took away her silly Silver Age origin and replaced it with dark modern secondary origin. John Ostrander and Kim Yale put a ton of work into making Oracle a great comic book character.

That, in turn, gave the character a theme: the contrast between innocence and experience.

@ Dean Hacker

I can agree with that. What I was getting at was that people are Batgirl fans, and she was so popular that she came back as Batgirl, but by the list here they only came to that after she was shot (except for the Special, except comiccollectorlive.com lists the Special as cover dated July 1988 and Killing Joke Jan. 1988, so they are at least very close release wise).

Apparently enough people wanted her as Batgirl, but her popularity came when she was someone who used to be Batgirl.

Travis Pelkie

April 9, 2013 at 4:38 pm

That Batman Chronicles/Oracle Year One story is great. I didn’t think I knew enough good Babs stories to vote, but I probably could have come up with something. Forgot about that Catwoman story.

Position 5′s cover makes me see that Gary Frank has/had something of a Paul Gulacy look to his art. Unless that’s a Gulacy cover….

For anyone who hasn’t read Batgirl Year One, DC is putting out a new collection with that and Robin Year One in the next couple months.

except comiccollectorlive.com lists the Special as cover dated July 1988 and Killing Joke Jan. 1988, so they are at least very close release wise).

They likely just listed all non-monthly comics as coming out in January for categorical purposes. The Special predated the Killing Joke. There is even an ad for the upcoming release of The Killing Joke at the end of the Batgirl Special:

Did people actually want her as Batgirl, or did just Didio and Johns want her as Batgirl? This always seemed like one of those changes that editorial convinced themselves fans wanted even though they didn’t. Kind of like bringing back Barry Allen. Seemed to me like most people were happy with Wally West as Flash and Barry as a dead inspiration to the younger hero, but Didio wanted Barry Allen so that’s what happens.

@ Brian Cronin
Proving once again the merits of actual research over lazy looking on the internet. Part of me is ashamed.

@ Jazzbo
Could be. Probably so.

Personally, I’m happy Barbara Gordon is back as Batgirl! I never liked The Killing Joke and was mad at the only thing to come from it was crippling Babs. Heck, even Alan Moore doesn’t like the story! Only the artwork “saves” it.

Barbara Gordon is the only real Batgirl as far as I’m concerned. Making The Killing Joke cannon was a huge mistake on DC’s part.

While what was done to Barbara in KJ was short-sighted, I think her character benefited from it in the long run. Prior to that she had her fans sure, her time as Oracle made her a more interesting character and pushed her out of Batman’s shadow. She actually inspired people in wheelchairs in real life.

Even for people who prefer her as Batgirl and not Oracle, I think there’s still a case to be made for “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” being used to sell a concept. Like other cases such as Hal Jordan and classic Coca-Cola, the changes made actually solidified the fan base and made the concept more commercial than it was before it was seemingly gone forever. Remember, before KJ she was never a lead character except in backups and team-up books. I don’t know if her current Batgirl series would be selling as well without the Oracle era back story.

I count the Batman Family/”Dollar”-era Detective Comics anthologies as backups because the page count was very similar to her backuops elsewhere.

surprised to see the killing joke did not make the cut for kind of thought it was a shoe in given how when it comes to babs over the years first story most think is the killing joke. and also amazing the suicide squad story line that not only first sets her up as oracle but later reveals barbara as oracle did not make the cut.

Jazzbo, Didio never made any secret of his preference for Barry Allen is the Only Real Flash.
Batgirl … I have no idea why they’d think she was more interesting or definitive in the suit instead of as Oracle. and I know plenty of people younger than me think of Cassandra or Stephanie as “the” Batgirl.

For the record, I love Babs and she’ll always be “my” Batgirl, but I had no desire to see her in the cowl again. It seemed disrespectful to go back to such an old status quo after how far she’d come.

But then, I also don’t like that her being in Congress isn’t something that happened anymore, and I’m guessing that was retconned out with the first Crisis.

Brian, you’ve piqued my curiosity — since you seem to dislike it so much, what is the Detective back-up story
that got the highest number of votes?

‘The Killing Joke’ should’ve been an honorable mention on Babs’ behalf.

To me, a great story for a character is one in which the character takes centre stage and/or plays a pivotal role.

Barbara is active for 4 pages of Killing Joke and absent for 40 pages – a small guest appearance.
Her active role consists of a 3 page sequence in which she is attacked and defeated by the Joker and one page of her pleading with Batman to save her father … she’s not pivotal, she’s just there for shock
great writing, beautiful art – one of the best Joker stories ever
but NOT a great Barbara Gordon story

Ironically, her paralysis became canon in the Batman series, therefore her role as Batgirl was over and her new beginning as Oracle began.

The Hunt For Oracle was my first choice and 5 others I voted for made the list
The 4 that didn’t were the secret origin of Batgirl -Flawed Gems, 2 Birds of Prey specials -Batgir and Wolves and later Birds of Prey story -Pitch Perfect

Were there any great pre-KJ stories anyway? She seemed a character that was more based on “Hawt” than having anything compelling about her other than who her dad was. She became much more fully fleshed out with afterwards. Ideally if she’s the “only Batgirl” to people, then they should stop using Batgirl. But we know they can’t do that, so they have to put her back in the suit, even when she’s become much more of a hero out of the costume. From someone who advises the Justice League to the 3rd or 4th most important Bat-Family member is not a character upgrade. But New 52….sigh.

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