In Brightest Day: Oracle-Schmoracle! Let’s make that woman walk.

For anyone who has been a DC Comics reader in the last couple decades, the story of Barbara Gordon has been a serious divider among the fandom. Some argue that she was at her best as Batgirl, fighting side by side with Bruce Wayne to rid Gotham City of evil-doers.

Those people fail to realize that, while she was physically fighting evil, she really wasn’t doing anything except standing next to Batman and looking pretty. And no, that’s not a knock on her feminism. Wayne’s sidekicks usually just stand next to Bats and look pretty. I would argue that it’s what drove Dick Grayson to Nightwing and Jason Todd to Red Hood.

No, Gordon was at her most effective when she was Oracle, devoted all her time to developing one of the world’s most complex and powerful computer systems and set to work accumulating information.

In that role, Barbara Gordon became more important to Wayne then his millions of dollars and need to avenge his parents. On more than one occasion, Oracle’s “eye in the sky” mentality saved Wayne from death. She became at the very least an equal, but I would argue that she became more important to Wayne than the Batarang.

But the choice to go from cowl-wearing fighter was not her choice. The choice was made for her. By this guy.

When Joker paralyzed Barbara in 1988s epic graphic novel “The Killing Joke” Gordon realized she could not fight physically, opting to use her nearly photographic memory to become Oracle. The choice to put Gordon in a wheelchair also gave paralyzed readers a parallel figure to look up to. It also let Gordon have a new wrinkle to her character; no longer was she lost in the crowd of Batman sidekicks. Now, she was Wayne’s equal.

However, DC Comics decided to send Barbara to South Africa and get a cure, because all cures are in South Africa, apparently.

In September, DC’s reboot of Batgirl gave her working legs. Yay! Except, what does that do to those who, for twenty-one years, saw Barbara Gordon as someone who wouldn’t let a disability hold her down. Who cares about those people, right?

While Barbara as Batgirl can fight off villains with punches, Barbara as Oracle fought off villains with intelligence. The physical ability to hit someone didn’t matter, because Barbara was smarter than the villain and would use her powers, in this case her memory and intelligence, to win. Someone want to explain what’s wrong with that?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’m not the only one with problems. Lady Geek Girl showed me an article discussing this from the paralyzed viewpoint. In the end, DC is gonna DC, but by losing the Oracle character, you lose a serious hero to the disabled.

In Brightest Day: A Brief Introduction on Disability Studies


Before I dive head-first into the world that is fandom, I need to lay down a couple ground rules.

For starters, everything I write is up for interpretation, and I would love to have a good back-and-forth going with the readers and fellow writers.

The other thing I need to disclose is this: I am Aspergers. While I function normally in the day-to-day, this is something that I have worked hard to overcome. As such, things in my life have shaped my opinion. This is really just one small opinion of one small writer with a small Green Lantern plush as his avatar. I love feedback.

The concept of Disability Studies comes from lengthy debates about how “disability” should be defined. The theoretical roots for these debates reside in the medical, structural, and minority models. The medical model views disability as equivalent to a functional impairment; the minority model sees a lack of equal rights as a primary impediment to equality between able and disabled populations; and the structural model looks to environmental factors as the cause of disability.

This is all extremely new, mind you. Disability Studies took serious form in the early to mid-90s. Sabrina was still Clarissa, Ghostwriter was still on PBS, and Benjamin Sisko was still working on hitting every member of the Alpha Quadrant in the mouth. I’m barely older than the theory, and I’m twenty-two. Compared to Marxism, Disability Theory is a baby.

However, I believe that Disability Studies holds extreme weight for the superhero, science fiction, and fantasy genre, especially concerning supernatural abilities. It’s important to break down the abilities as a disorder to understand the deeper meaning of characters. A brief example of this, of which I will jump head first in eventually, is Clark Kent. While he is “Superman” on Earth, on Krypton, he would be an Average Joe. Superman’s powers are, by definition, a structural disability.

There are tons of examples like this, but the first one I’m going to tackle is the paralysis of Barbara Gordon, and how her reboot into Batgirl is viewed by the lens of Disability Studies. I’m aiming to finish up that by the beginning of February, so stay tuned into In Brightest Day for more info.

Until next time, please keep in touch with thoughts.