Welcome to Vanishing Point, a monthly column about the more outré continuity problems in the DC Universe, and my personal *non-canon* attempts to make sense out of them. This month's column is:
The Distaff Detective
Ever want to be a superhero? Ever put on ballet tights and wrap a towel around your neck? Years ago, in a small town in Ohio, young Barbara Gordon had that dream. Along with her best friend Marcy, she created mysterious identities like Marvelwoman and Rocketwoman [Although this has never been shown, it's highly likely that the Golden Age Wonder Woman was a major inspiration]
Her life was not all fun and games, unfortunately. Her mother died in an automobile accident when she was very young, and her father, succumbing to depression, turned to alcohol and died before she reached adolescence. Babs, as her friends called her, was sent to live with her nearest relative .James Gordon of the Gotham City Police Department. To facilitate matters, he officially adopted her, and to this day, their relationship is that of a father and a daughter.
Gotham had one thing going for it that no other city in the country had the Batman. Not only that, but her "father" knew him, worked with him. This discovery fired her imagination, and the very next day she began preparing in secret to join him in his crusade. With her natural aptitude for gymnastics and track & field, as well as a sharp intellect for research, she would have made an excellent partner, but somehow, she never felt that she was ready. Instead, at Gotham University, she took a degree in Library Sciences, and soon took a position at the Gotham Public Library.
But one day, fate intervened. As a lark, she created a functional Batgirl costume for the Policeman's Masquerade, planning on surprising her father. On her way there, she discovered the villainous Killer Moth's attack on playboy Bruce Wayne and instinctively leapt into action, saving, if not his life, at least his suit. Her actions were enough of a distraction for him to slip away, and don the cowl of Batman. Soon afterward, Batgirl met her inspiration.
He was not happy.
However, despite his objections, Barbara continued her career as a crimefighter. Although she was not aware of it, her father knew, and approved. For the next several years, she joined Batman and Robin in their crusade, turning the Dynamic Duo into a Terrific Trio. [Note: Pre-Crisis, Barbara also served a term as an interim Congresswoman in DC, but it's unclear if this is still the case.]
A near-fatal encounter with a villain called the Cormorant caused her to rethink her choices, and after years of adventure, she hung up her tights for the last time. She resigned herself to a life of research and boredom. But the Joker had other ideas.
Conceiving a master plan to drive the now-Commissioner Gordon insane, Joker kidnapped him and his daughter, trapping them in a freakish circus. Along the way, more or less as an afterthought, he shot Barbara, shattering her spine.
Eventually, Batman intervened, and the two Gordons were freed. However, not without great cost Barbara would never walk again. To a person of lesser will, this would have been a crushing blow, but Barbara was stronger than that. She decided that since her body could no longer serve the cause of justice, her mind would, and using her skills with computers (honed by years of library work) she contacted a woman named Amanda Waller.
Ms. Waller was an operative for the Federal Government, in charge of a crack paramilitary organization of semi-reformed super villains, code-named the Suicide Squad. When she was contacted by a mysterious "Oracle" offering her services as an information resource, the pragmatic Waller accepted. At first, their relationship was rocky (at one point, Amanda even fed a computer virus into Oracle's systems) but Oracle's skills soon became irreplaceable.
In fact, after the Squad was instrumental in rescuing Oracle from an assault by the madman called the Thinker, she even became second-in-command of the Squad, using the name Amy Beddoes for the purpose. However, despite her skills the Squad eventually disbanded. Now well-endowed with equipment and connections, she was able to offer her services to the man who was her mentor for many years Batman.
In the years that followed, she became indispensable to his cause, aiding him, as well as his fellow Gotham defenders Robin, Nightwing, and Azrael, in their investigations. Her skills have developed to such a degree that Batman himself admits that she is a better detective than he is.
I'm sorry, I just have to say that again.
Batman himself admits that she is a better detective than he is.
Quite recently, she has begun to take a more proactive role in affairs. Not only has she teamed with the second-generation heroine Black Canary to take on cases of her own, but, with Batman's ardent recommendation, she has also taken her rightful place as a member of the pre-eminent group of heroes on Earth the Justice League of America.
From her childish dreams has risen a legend that will last for hundreds of centuries:
Oracle: The Living Mind of the Justice League
All characters are DC Comics
This column is © 1998 by Mario Di Giacomo.