Saturday, June 4, 2011

Which characters (and fans) will be most affected by the DC relaunch?

Wow. It's been a crazy week. Whatever we may be feeling about DC's relaunch plans, one thing is certain - it got people talking, and it's far from over. Only 15 of the 52 new books have been officially announced so far. I'm keeping track of them here. I'm assuming more titles will be announced next week, leading up to their full September solicitations the following week.

My initial reaction to the news was cautiously optimistic. A lot of questions (and fears) about how exactly it's going to work, but keeping an open mind. Then, as the days passed, I found that the excitement waned and gave way to a kind of sadness. Even if there will almost undoubtedly be some good comics coming out of it, I can't help but feel like it's a big exercise in futility.

For one thing, it doesn't look like "everything changes" the way we were originally led to believe they would. The four Green Lantern titles that were announced are basically continuing everything that Geoff Johns has been setting up over the past few years. No big surprise, since this is one of their more successful lines. The "new" Justice League, despite some minor costume tweaks and younger looking characters, is really just the same group of classic heroes everybody is familiar with.

So which characters are going to be most affected by the changes? Here are a couple of big rumours going around:

  • Superman and Lois Lane won't be married anymore (so Superman and Wonder Woman can flirt with each other?)
  • Barbara Gordon goes back to being Batgirl (and where does that leave Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain?)
I'm trying really hard not to jump to conclusions at this point in the game, but I get the very disturbing impression that if any characters are going to be thrown under the bus for the sake of the A-list characters ("A list" being code for "straight white male"), it's going to be mostly female characters. Lois Lane, an already underused and undervalued female character, gets demoted, and by restoring Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, they not only get rid of the most prominent disabled character in the DCU (Oracle) but also jeopardize the status of two other female characters who followed in her footsteps.

Of course, maybe DC will prove us wrong. Maybe they also have big plans for all those secondary characters. A Lois Lane Reporter solo book would be amazing. And maybe they'll have completely new identities for Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain. Change doesn't necessarily mean these characters have to disappear or become less important.

by Jamie Noguchi

DC Women Kicking Ass commented on this image of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl walking away from the wheelchair and the Oracle identity with a big smile on her face. Like many others, she was upset by it. (The artist, Jamie Noguchi of Yellow Peril, has apologized for it, saying he didn't think of the implications for fans who see her as an inspiration and that he should have known better.)

I've seen a lot of comments from people online who are excited by the rumours that Barbara will be Batgirl again. A lot of older fans who haven't been reading Batgirl for a while are saying, "Sign me up!" or, "I'll buy it!" Which makes me wonder who this relaunch is really meant to appeal to. Is this really for "new readers" or is this just another way to reach out to the older, nostalgic readers? There's no reason why new readers should be more interested in Barbara Gordon as Batgirl than in Stephanie Brown as Batgirl. The only people who are going to care about this are the old fans (a predominantly male demographic). And the ones who are going to be the most hurt and disappointed by the change are current fans of Stephanie Brown as Batgirl and Barbara Gordon as Oracle. In other words, a predominantly female demographic.

As for me, apparently I care about these characters a lot more than I previously realized. Bryan Q. Miller's Batgirl was a unique and tremendously entertaining book, and I've become really attached Stephanie Brown. As for Barbara Gordon, I still find it hard to believe that DC is really going to get rid of their only prominent wheelchair user. Even during the "Death of Oracle" arc in Birds of Prey, I was pretty sure Gail Simone wouldn't really kill her. And when Grant Morrison started suggesting that she would act as a virtual Batgirl on the internet in Batman Inc, it just seemed silly and ridiculous and I didn't think it would stick.

But now, I'm really scared. And surprisingly upset. And in a weird way, whether or not I can get behind this whole relaunch kind of hinges on the fate of Barbara Gordon for me. Because I honestly don't know if I'm going to be able to keep buying these monthly books if it turns out that she's Batgirl again. That may seem like a dramatic overreaction to some, but it's just a gut feeling. It's not a rational argument, it's an emotional reaction.


BDS June 8, 2011 at 5:54 PM  

*Raises hand* I am an older male reader that loves Stephanie Brown as Batgirl and loves that book. I also read Birds of Prey religiously. Oracle is a favorite. Sure I like the look back stories that have Barbara as Batgirl, but I do not want her healed and back in some quick fix. I am not liking the direction the information is going. Please realize many of us older guys like and read female characters as well.

Yan Basque June 8, 2011 at 6:30 PM  

I didn't mean to imply that older male readers don't like or read female characters. Sorry if it came across that way.

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