Friday Feature: Batgirl vol. 1

Ok folks.

I have an apology to make.

I’m late to the party. Not “fashionably” late, where everybody has just gotten there and has asked the host if you’re coming, just to have you walk in and they all say “HEEEY THERE HE IS!” No this was the other kind of late, the kind where you’re driving the van and everyone has been waiting for you and trying to call for hours, but you were asleep or picking your nose or maybe you couldn’t put down Call of Duty because you finally have a positive K/D ratio, and you’re not giving it up.

What party am I so late to? Gail Simone‘s new 52 Batgirl.

Batgirl #1 (2011)

Finally, 2 years later, I read Batgirl vol. 1 in trade paperback thanks to my co-blogger Jonny’s recommendation.

For those who don’t know the character, Batgirl (Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner James Gordon) has been through a lot. She was shot and paralyzed from the waist down by the Joker in an infamously brutal story by Alan Moore, and for a long time she was wheelchair-bound. Fortunately for Gotham (and the Bat-family) she kept using her (practically super-human) brain for good by becoming Oracle, the information hub/designated hacker/all-around-genius for all the Gotham heroes.

But with the arrival DC’s new 52, we fans were blessed with a return of Babs Gordon to the street-level crime-fighting for which she was born! By some miracle (which I don’t fully understand, and neither does she), she has regained the use of her legs and fully intends to put them to use. She expresses very early in the comic that she “didn’t even know how much [she] missed it.”

My DC pull list for the New 52 has varied some as titles and teams change, but my consistent pulls have been BatmanAnimal ManSwamp Thing, and Wonder Woman. With the exception of Wonder Woman (and on some rare occasions Swamp Thing) I’ve been reading a lot of really tragic stories coming out of DC recently. Bruce Wayne and Buddy Baker have had a really bad couple of years.

The end result of that is that my favorite heroes have been seeming really hopeless lately. Animal Man, Batman, and Swamp Thing have gotten to a point where they really don’t enjoy what they do.

The wonderful thing about Batgirl is that she really loves being Batgirl! She caries a youthful innocence, determination, and hope into the streets of Gotham, a city that characteristically saps hope from its citizens.

The story arc that is collected in Batgirl vol. 1 is not a “happy” story, by any stretch of the imagination. The villain against whom she fights is cold, destructive, and unsympathetic. But when Batgirl gets on the motorcycle with Nightwing (Dick Grayson, the original Robin), you can’t stop yourself from smiling…

 

So stop what you’re doing and go to your local comic book shop, and pick up the new 52’s Batgirl, by Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf. You won’t be disappointed.

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Friday Feature: Womanthology

A few weeks ago we had a strong feminist week here at the Playground and I was honored to be a part of it. It made me really proud to know the women I know and to read about the places they find support in the face of geek misogyny.

But this week I was reading some articles about DC character redesigns, women in video games, and the future and past of the comic book industry. The articles themselves are pretty innocuous, but I made the horrible mistake of reading the comments sections – and I’m once again pretty disappointed with a certain subgroup of fans.

It seems that for many male geeks in 2013, the treatment of women at conventions, the negative/detrimental portrayal of women in big industry products, and the dearth of female creators are just not problems.

To these fellows, I’ve noticed, all stories are written for them and since they’re not women, video game and comic book creators really shouldn’t worry about creating stories that feature women positively (at the expense of some aspect of their favorite male character). And why should they care if their industry of choice made any effort at equality behind the scenes? One particularly insulting comment indicated that women should really lower their expectations and stop making demands of a culture that just wasn’t for them.

It’s enough to make me and those like me literally angry with rage.

But enough rambling, on to the good news of this week’s Friday Feature: Womanthology!

It began as a kickstarter campaign with the express purpose of doing a comic anthology collection that featured only female creators throughout. They succeeded in their goal (and then some) and ended up with over 140 talented women in the final edition – and the creators run from the already-famous (such as Gail Simone, Ann Nocenti, and Fiona Staples) to the never-published.

The full cover of Womanthology: Heroic

The first volume, Womanthology: Heroic, was geared toward the theme of (as the title indicates) hero stories. A second volume, Womanthology: Space, features sci-fi tales.

My hardcover edition of Womanthology: Heroic, is bigger than a normal trade hardcover. It’s sort of “coffee table book” size, and it’s format suits that – most of the stories are just a couple of pages and can be read quickly amid the conversation you’ll start by having it on display in your living room.

As with any anthology, it’s hit-and-miss as far as stories you’ll like and stories you won’t, but there are a few stories I encountered in my copy of Heroic that were created by relatively no-name creators that I really hope I see more of in the future.

The full cover of Womanthology: Space

The big deal about Womanthology is that it’s still a big deal. A world where there are just as many lady geeks as dude geeks needs to also be a world where there are just as many lady creators as dude creators.

On the day that literally no one else cares that there’s an anthology of comics created by just women, or the day when a book with an all male creative team is just as surprising, then we can look back on the day that Womanthology began and smile, saying “Gosh. Remember when that guy said this industry wasn’t for women? What a joke!”