Batgirl Sheds Her Wheelchair and Loses a Fan


Friday, September 23, 2011

In 1966, Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham's police commissioner, began fighting crime in DC Comics' "Batgirl."

Then, in the 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke, she was shot by The Joker, paralyzing her from the waist down. And so Batgirl became the paraplegic character called Oracle, who helped other crime-fighters using her computer skills.

Since then, Oracle has attracted a new generation of fans, including pop culture journalist Jill Pantozzi. "I myself am a redhead like she is, I am in a wheelchair. I'm not paralyzed like she is — I have muscular dystrophy," says Pantozzi. She says she identified with the character's struggles, but also her self-sufficiency.

So when DC comics announced it was rebooting the character and taking her out of the wheelchair, Pantozzi was devastated. "I almost couldn't believe my eyes when I read it, and got pretty physically upset over it," she remembers. Pantozzi explained her feelings in an op-ed for "[T]hese people fail to realize is what Oracle as a character truly is."

Pantozzi remembered an old issue in which Batgirl (not yet paralyzed) is condescended to by Batman. "'Don't talk down to me Batman!' she yells, 'You have no idea what I can or can't do! But you'll find out!' And sure enough, we did. Barbara became capable of anything, rising even further when her physical abilities were taken away, giving her a genuine reason to fight crime," she wrote. 

In the revamped "Batgirl #1" Barbara Gordon has an alternate back story that involves a cure for her paralysis. Exactly how remains a mystery. Pantozzi is willing to give the new character a chance, but says she'll always miss Oracle. "Every hero has a defining moment that makes them who they are. Batgirl didn't. Oracle did."

Slideshow: A New Batgirl

Adam Pantozzi

Writer and Oracle fan Jill Pantozzi uses a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy. She says she identified with the character's struggles, but also her self-sufficiency.

Art by Guillem March and Adam Hughes/Courtesy of DC Comics

In the newly rebooted “Batgirl” (right), DC Comics has decided that Barbara Gordon (who, as Batgirl, was paralyzed and transformed into the wheelchair-bound hero Oracle – left) has the ability to walk again. The choice has left many fans, including Pantozzi, dismayed.

Art by Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes/Courtesy of DC Comics

In the first issue of the Batgirl reboot, Barbara Gordon seems surprised by her ability to walk again. It's unclear if DC will ever offer an explanation for her mysterious recovery — and that's both disappointing and frustrating for Pantozzi: "In the real world, most times, people don’t come back from that. They are in a wheelchair for the rest of their lives."

Sean Twigg

Although she related strongly to Oracle, Pantozzi doesn't expect DC to keep the character wheelchair-bound just to fill a token role. "My point is, people being disabled is part of the real world," she wrote. "It is essential it be part of the fictional world as well."

Produced by:

Eric Molinsky

Comments [4]


Wow. The entitlement displayed by this chick is unnerving. Just because a FICTIONAL character is getting her use of legs back? What baffles me more is the enablers who agree with her! Obviously this chick has sone deep rooted issues about her own life that have caused her to lash out on a company who chose to revitalize their best and fan favorite choice for Batgirl! I am in no way poking fun at Ms. Pantozzi's disability nor am I saying she doesn't have a right to dislike DC's direction for their company. I am saying that her decision to turn her back on her favorite character a petty and childish move, nerds like her are the reason the geek community is seen as fickle and unloyal to their brands.

Mar. 12 2012 06:49 PM
Ross Taggart from London

I agree that it is a bad move. keeping Barbara Gordon in her chair is the best move she is no less a hero and it is nice to have super hero's how are not physically perfect. And besides we have enough hot leather dressed chicks running around in DC. She is even more amazing for the fact she has been confirmed to a chair and traumatized by the Joker.

And she is a female hacker another rarity.

Dec. 19 2011 09:26 AM
BradyDale from Philadelphia, PA

I'm not too surprised that you didn't generate a lot of interest in this story. You didn't explain who Oracle was. It's easy to understand who Batgirl might be, but Oracle? Who's that?

Once she became Oracle, Barbara Gordon became the chief hacker for ALL the superheroes. She was the Google for justice. She was in the ears of dozens of heroes, feeding them intel, solving problems, making it happen.

It was a truly unique new kind of character (most superheroes are just revisions of other heroes). It became a more andmore compelling idea over time, even inspiring a villainous foil in The Calculator.

Oracle was EVERYWHERE in the DC universe. She became one of the most interesting, powerful and ubiquitous characters. She was a part of the very fabric of D.C.

But you didn't explain that. All you said is she got shot and changed her name and she was in a wheelchair. But you never said what she did. And so why would your listeners care about the fact that she changed back to being just another character in tights, punching and kicking, but could only ever be in one place and working on one case at any one time?

Oct. 04 2011 10:35 AM
Anna from savannah

Bat girl is not the only superhero who has suffered in the DC overhaul. Most of the female super heroes in the DC universe have disappeared and those that have managed to stay have either been powered down or over sexualized. DC has sent a message to its female readers that it doesn't care about us.

Sep. 25 2011 01:26 PM

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