First, the comment that prompted this post:
"Alan Moore didn't revitalise Babs Gordon. John Ostrander did in SUICIDE SQUAD.In going to answer the comment, I found a linkback to this post on Stars and Garters. It says:
When Moore wrote THE KILLING JOKE he felt that Barbara Gordon was expendable and obviously the editor agreed. It was John Ostrander who brought her back from comics limbo."
"Yeah, it was "after the fact", all right. Years after the fact.and
Let's clear something up right now:
Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke" did not help revitalize Barbara Gordon.
Suicide Squad did."
"Moore, and apparently the Bat-editorship at the time, thought Batgirl was disposable enough to end her career permanently.Now, what I said:"Suicide Squad" writers John Ostrander and the late Kim Yale, on the other hand, thought Barbara Gordon was salvageable enough to re-invent her. They deserve credit for inspiring what's happened since (Birds of Prey).Not "The Killing Joke"."
"Aside from crippling a sidekick to a character, Batman, who already had Robin, The Killing Joke helped revitalize Barbara Gordon as she transformed herself into Oracle and went from sidekick/guest star to Major Player. She can literally appear in any story in continuity. She has her own book with her own team. Rather than be the helpless female, Babs fought back."In no way do I see what I posted to be inconsistent with the facts of how it occurred. I was discussing a character and her development in the context of everything that's happened to her since that story. I never read The Suicide Squad and actually, until about 3 days ago, didn't even know that's when Babs became Oracle, which is why I was vague about when that happened, simply saying "as she transformed herself into Oracle." To me, she was Oracle in Birds of Prey and a few years ago, I found The Killing Joke and read it so I could find out how she got crippled. When I wrote the post, I knew she didn't become Oracle in The Killing Joke. And all of that happened while I was boycotting comics following Kara Supergirl's death in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Yes, I was that upset.
I was not discussing the writer of The Killing Joke or any other writer. I was discussing the character, from the benefit of hindsight. Same as many years ago, when I went back and analyzed Ollie Queen to explain how he could go from socially unaware, rich playboy to the do-gooder he became in Green Lantern/Green Arrow. Denny O'Neill and Neal Adams had their reasons for doing what they did, but that didn't mean it made sense in the larger context. So, psych major that I was, I went through it all and analyzed Ollie, the character, so it made sense to me. Apparently, it made sense to other people because it got published in a semi-pro magazine. Published as in, I got paid for that piece of writing, my only paid writing credit so far.
It is and remains my contention that The Killing Joke helped revitalize Babs as Oracle despite what the intent was. See, writers' intent isn't really relevant except as an "extra" of the sort that gets added onto DVD releases of TV shows and movies. Intent is an interesting side story. As has been discussed previously elsewhere, and maybe here, but I forget, not intending to insult someone who's insulted anyway, doesn't make that offense less real to the person feeling it. If it's just one person who feels the offense, then it's likely to be that person. If it's 99 of 100 who feel it, then it's likely to be what's on the page/screen. In either case, the intent is a footnote to the person's reaction.
I've had writers tell me they didn't have something in mind when they wrote a book, only to have readers tell them what it's really about, and often, the readers will disagree. Never mind what the author wanted to say, if anything other than tell a fun tale.
Do Ray Bradbury's comments that readers and critics have misunderstood his classic anti-censorship novel Fahrenheit 451 make readers suddenly change their view of it? According to Bradbury, the book is about this:
"Bradbury, a man living in the creative and industrial center of reality TV and one-hour dramas, says it is, in fact, a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature."Bradbury, and any writer, is certainly entitled to his opinion and his intent, but that book will remain an example of how censorship can become extreme. His intent will never change how most readers will interpret it. Because, once a writer releases his or her words into the wild, those words become open to interpretation by others. Writers who don't want to give up complete control of their writing shouldn't seek publication. As an aspiring novelist trying to ready her first manuscript for the submission process, I understand this.
Back to The Killing Joke. Perhaps my interpretation of the events is influenced by hindsight and my view of The Killing Joke might be different if I'd read it in real time, with all the years between that and Babs becoming Oracle in The Suicide Squad. But I'll never know if that would be so. I can only look back at it all in its entirety, see where Babs was and where she was at the start of Birds of Prey (and I came into that about 10 issues into the series and had to find the trades).
If she wasn't crippled there would have been no reason for Babs, from a character standpoint, to reinvent herself as Oracle, unless another major event occurred in its place. From a writer's standpoint, there would probably have been no reason to give her the role of Oracle if she hadn't been crippled and unable to be Batgirl anymore, thanks to The Killing Joke. Like it or not, Moore provided the impetus or the inspiration for that. So yes, Ostrander and Yale deserve the credit (I hadn't known who had been responsible for that) for making Babs Oracle. But The Killing Joke gave them the reason. And as Batgirl, Babs was stuck as a secondary sidekick in the Batman family, and stuck with the "girl" part of her name. For whatever reason, even a bad one by many people's figuring, being crippled freed Babs to become something more, something better, someone who could be Batman's equal.
And as a character, Babs progressed from Batgirl to a crippled woman who needed a new purpose and reinvented herself as Oracle. As a writer, I'm not always so concerned about the writer. I'm concerned about the character, about making and keeping it plausible. About being able to look at characters independent of their creators. Do they stand on their own? Could they really exist? Would readers be able to embrace them as real and believe in them?
From the moment I first watched Man from UNCLE in 1964 and started playacting UNCLE with a friend, the characters of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin were more than the words the writers gave Robert Vaughn and David McCallum and more than the actors speaking those words. I believed in Napoleon and Illya. They became as real to me as my favorite comic book characters. Through scores of writers and interpretations, the best characters maintain a core that keeps them consistent and real. I had to look hard to find that core in Ollie Queen, but I did, which is why I'm so enjoying the new Green Arrow Year One series which is filling in the gaps so perfectly. And it's why I and my friends wrote fan fiction. Because we saw things we wanted to do with the characters, put our own spin on them, fill in the gaps, yet maintain the core of what they were that made us love them.
I didn't have to look hard to find the core in Barbara Gordon.