Monday, 14 July 2014

Hard-core to Hipster: In Defence of Batgirl

As is the case with most high profile comic titles, changes in the creative team can lead to some.. tension. The announcement of the new creative team for DC's New 52 Batgirl is no exception. Pictures have landed of the new artistic direction for the character and her new costume and this, combined with the new setting, is placing one word on everyone's lips- Hipster. In this post I plan on quickly going over a couple of the most popular complaints circling the internet about this new turn. This should be fun.
The new direction for the title sees Babs leaving her father and Gotham behind to try and live the life of a modern 21 year old in Burnside, a trendy area outside the main city. She plans on going to grad school and turning over a new leaf and, it would seem, going to a lot of trendy boutiques.

Although the new setting seems really interesting, what we have here is something that DC has had difficulties doing in the past (most characters stay within their city limits and rarely move somewhere completely new, see new Harley Quinn) and people have been having trouble accepting this new turn and in this post I plan on defending these choices.   
One of the first things that I read with regards to this change is the fact that Barbra is young enough to be going to grad school (again). Right, first of all, Simone has stated that in the New 52 continuity, Babs is 21. This can get a bit confusing considering how much she achieved before the reboot- we know the shooting happened as she went through a large amount of rehab and still has the wheelchair accessible car, but what happened to her life as a librarian? Her PhD? Why is she going back to college? Although DC is no stranger to mixing things up, this change seems to be deleting a large amount of Babs' life. But still, I can see where they are coming from taking some things and leaving others.
I think the fact that Babs is being portrayed as a younger woman is a positive thing. I loved Gail’s run and I think the darker tone was needed for the reintroduction of the character. She showed us that recovery is not easy and that the darkness of her past was still haunting her but still allowed her to have her youth.
The use of a younger character than pre- new 52 allows her to access a demographic that no other member of the bat-family can (in a solo capacity, Teen Titan's Robin is still a bit young). As a 20 year old who has only been reading comics for a year, I can safely say that would have loved to have found what we are being promised with this Batgirl when I started because she was a bit more modern. It remains to be seen how close to the “hipster” line she goes but I think this is refreshing. Marvel have been updating their characters with reboots- just look at Ms. Marvel, and I think it’s time for DC to make itself more modern and have their real-life troubles more believable. 

Finally, the argument about “the lack of women” after the powerhouse that is Gail Simone leaves. Right first of all, with an artist and the colourist being women, there are already more women on this comic than there were before, just because the men are writing this, doesn't mean we have to give up on the progress Gail made. I'm sure most will agree that the representation of women in comics is pure BS but it is not the gender of the creator that matters, it is what they do with it character and I think this team respects that. Yes, we need more female creators because, yes, comics are for everyone but it is not right to disregard something because it is assumed they will mess it up because of their gender (gosh, that sounds familiar).  

So yes, I will be reading the new Batgirl, not just because I am curious but because I am genuinely excited and interested in what the new team are going to do and am confident in their abilities. This post is just a simplified summary of the challenges this comic faces and I could write a piece three times as long if I had the time. Tides are changing and people are realising that, more girls are reading comics and they want characters they can relate too, not the same paint-by-numbers crime-fighting that we are used to. Babs is not going to be any less bad-ass or complex and she is simply moving onto another part of her life in a way that has not been tried before. I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait.