Let’s begin this way: Batgirl got a new design and it is awesome!
There, now you know — Batgirl is getting an all new creative team as of issue #35, revealed today in an exclusive by MTV. Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr are taking over the title, which has been helmed by Gail Simone and received much critical acclaim and fan support since 2011. It’s definitely some big shoes to fill — but the internet has responded generally positively, especially in regards to Babs’ new costume, which is more like a motorcycle jacket and less like a spandex onesie. Coupled with yellow Doc Marten boots and apparently pieced together from vintage stores, Stewart said he wanted the costume to be “cosplayable” and not “gazey” (is this an adjective we are using now?). Fan art of the new design exploded across my various social media platforms within hours of the announcement.
There has been a small bit of backlash, though: the new plot seems to be “Batgirl Goes to Brooklyn,” with Barbara moving to “Burnside:” the “cool, trendy” borough of Gotham, with “fixies and expensive coffee.” It’s hard not to feel that this sudden redirect on the series is an attempt on behalf of DC to capture some of the market that Marvel has gained with their more accessible, “young and hip” titles like Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk — in fact, Stewart directly namechecks Jamie McKelvie’s Ms. Marvel design as an influence for Gordon’s new getup.
There’s also a quote from artist Babs Tarr (whose awesome Bosozoku Sailor Scouts
image blew up the internet not that long ago), saying she’s excited to bring some “fun, flirt, and fashion” to the character. While it doesn’t seem like there’s anyone more qualified than Tarr to do exactly that in a fun, empowering way, I had to stop and ask myself: is that what DC thinks we need to care about a female character, or for women to pick a comic book?
It is true that a direct appeal to a no-shame-in-selfie-snapping, urbanite lady readership might work to entice new readers to DC’s notoriously female-unfriendly titles. Regardless of whether Marvel did it before or better, any forward motion from a big-two publisher that will attract readers who might normally be scared off is to be praised. Plus, an interest in fashion doesn’t have to take away from the smarts or strength of a character — it just helps them look fabulous doing what they do.
Retailer Annie Bulloch is excited to see a more accessible, one-and-done format:
“As a retailer, I’m excited about this because lots of customers, especially young women, come in looking for comics that are easy to start reading without needing tons of continuity knowledge. Taking a more episodic approach is a great idea, and I’d love to see more series follow that model. It’s a great way to let readers sample a book without making a long-term commitment. And as a fan, I think the lighter tone will be a nice change as well. I’ve enjoyed Gail Simone’s run on the book, and love her work in general, but I’ll also be happy to see a few more rays of sunshine in Babs’ life.”
Regardless of whether or not the Portlandia approach is pandering, it is a relief to see DC make an attempt to engage an audience who might not be lifelong readers familiar with every aspect of their mythology. Batgirl #35 drops October 8th, and I can’t wait to see fan reactions when this new version of Barbara Gordon becomes more than just a costume design.