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Wednesday, April 22, 2020 

Barbara Gordon's the latest to undergo young adult renditions, just as questionable as the previous

In this interview from the Bryan Eagle conducted by syndicated columnist Andrew Smith with Marieke Nijkamp, focused on her YA rendition of Barbara Gordon, he predictably fawns over the story's proceedings, and, let's see what comes up here:
CC: As a longtime Barbara Gordon reader, I assumed there were some hard times between The Joker’s attack (in “The Killing Joke”) and when she appeared as Oracle (in John Ostrander’s “Suicide Squad”). But the official canon doesn’t show much of them. In “The Oracle Code,” you write this unwritten story.

MN: One of the reasons why I wanted to tell this particular story is exactly because main continuity doesn’t really show this side of Babs’ journey. There’s a bit of it in the wonderful “Oracle: Year One: Born of Hope,” written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale and illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (“Batman Chronicles” No. 5, for those who want to look it up.) But even that story doesn’t necessarily engage with the disability side of things; it focuses more on her fear and her need to be useful. I wanted to be able to show the whole journey, all sides of it. The joy, the hope, the anger, the pain.
What's the point of putting it that way when it's not related to the main continuity? Wouldn't it make more sense to spotlight the real Babs' coping with paralysis and learning how to fight with just her hands and sticks, as she did in the comics? Biggest problem though, is that even if they did focus on the specific aftermath of Babs' loss of walking ability, it still wouldn't be enough for them.
CC: Barbara is often written too good to be true, sometimes even a borderline Mary Sue. But your Barbara is anything but perfect; her raw emotion spills over to insult her father and drive away people who want to help. This may be the most imperfect Babs I’ve ever seen. Naturally she rises to the occasion anyway, but were you setting her starting point so low to emphasize her victory?

MN: I didn’t necessarily write her as flawed to emphasize her victory, but more to emphasize her humanity and the fact that she’s a young girl who dealt with major trauma. Underneath it all, she’s still the same curious, loyal Babs, but she isn’t on solid ground and she has to rediscover who she is.

It’s interesting too, because I never really considered the climax of the book as Babs’s big victory. To me, the victory lies in many steps along the way, like reaching out to her friends, finding and setting her boundaries, standing up for herself. The climax is where all the victories come together as a validation of who she is — and who she can be — once she’s found herself again.
Be that as it may, I don't recall Babs ever insulted her dad and her buddies so badly when she got her legs paralyzed by the Joker's assault. She'd already spent time as Batgirl, in a role that required considerable guts and dedication, so if we go by what the original continuity set up, how would she be that severely traumatized? But even more problematic is how out of touch this writer is with past history:
CC: Your CV shows lots of stories spotlighting kids with disabilities. Did you see that as a need that should be filled, or was it just a natural outgrowth of your own experiences?

MN: Both. Mainly the latter, but with full awareness of the former. When I grew up, there were very few books or comics (or media in general) that featured positive disabled role models. More often than not, disabled characters existed to be villains … or to be cured once they discovered kindness. Disabled characters couldn’t achieve any sort of happily ever after while they were disabled, and for some that happily ever after could only be death. “Rather dead than disabled” is still a common trope — and in fact a common sentiment.

So I saw a need for inclusive, positive disabled role models. I share that need. And I knew I could do a small way to addressing it, based on my own experiences. Though it bears saying that I’m only one of many people doing that work, and disability representation needs to be inclusive across races, cultures, genders, before it’s realized.
So somebody's obscuring the X-Men's mentor, Charles Xavier, along with Raymond Burr's notable role as Ironside from 1967-75, and doesn't even consider Babs found happiness in some ways with Nightwing. Or that in the 1993 TV reunion filmed shortly before Burr's death, Robert Ironside was married, living in Denver, Colorado and still very much disabled, yet he'd achieved happiness, more or less. But, if this woman really thinks there's not enough of what she asks for, then why doesn't she write it? She formed a special movement for the sake of "diverse casts". And why suggest getting cured of paralysis isn't something all disabled should hope and wish for? Additionally, I think it's insulting she's insinuating everyone believes paralysis is reason to be deceased. No way. To think that is repellent in the extreme. And would she just cut out that incredibly dumb yammering for "inclusivity"? It's become so cliched, it's almost comedic. If you know where to look, you'll find it in plenty of older, better examples like what I cited above.

And on that note, here's how Oracle's origin was remade for this YA venture:
CC: Lastly, and just for the fanboys among us who care about this sort of thing: Gordon’s injury comes by an attempt to stop a street robbery, not The Joker, right?

Yes, that’s what happens. We purposefully didn’t go into too much detail, because while it’s the catalyst, it isn’t the story (and trauma does weird things to memory too), but I wanted to make sure we told the story in such a way that Babs is the focus point and she has the agency.
Let me get this straight. Babs tries to "play hero", and winds up in a wheelchair because she took the law into her own hands, as the saying goes? On the surface, this reeks of a bad message, that if you try to be heroic and selfless, you're only asking for trouble. If that's what this rendition is built on, it only gives young adult fare a bad name. It's certainly mind-boggling.

In any event, it's clear this is just another example of young adult fare that's unlikely to find much of an audience, and isn't being marketed on merit either. And is being written by somebody who won't be satisfied even if she achieves her awkward goal.

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"But, if this woman really thinks there's not enough of what she asks for, then why doesn't she write it?"

That is kind of what this woman has been doing over the past few years. The Oracle Code is her third book, her first novel was a bestseller.

She was born in the Netherlands in 1986, eleven years after Ironsides went off the air in the US, so, no, she probably would not have had Raymond Burr as a role model when she was growing up.

Other heroes whose origins involved being punished for heroic and selfless deeds include Bruce Banner when he save Rick Jones, and Matt Murdock who became blind when he saved that old man from being hit by a car. Do you think those characters send a bad message? Given that the book is meant as a standalone story, it made sense to take the Joker out of the backstory. He is the kind of character who sucks all the oxygen out of the room for everybody else when he appears. The Killing Joke was not about Barbara, except as part of a general policy at that time of getting rid of all the spinoff girl characters in the various DC titles; she was just a plot device in it. The new novel is supposed to be about her!

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