Robot 6

Changes to the Bat-books show DC stepping out of the man cave

batgirl

Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.

This week DC Comics announced a big change in Batgirl: namely, a new creative team of writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher and artist Babs Tarr. Coming aboard with October’s Issue 35, they bring a nifty new look and setting. After three years of grim but determined storytelling from writer Gail Simone and various artists (most recently Fernando Pasarin), Barbara Gordon is heading into Gotham’s “hip border district” for graduate school, and she’s leaving all the bad times behind.

If this is a sign of DC finally waking up and seeing demographics beyond aging fanboys — like me, for instance — it’s long overdue. Stewart and Fletcher’s resumes include more experimental superhero fare like Seaguy and Wednesday Comics, and Tarr’s work stands out immediately against the clenched jaws and over-rendered costumes of DC’s more ponderous titles. Babs Gordon may still have that fateful encounter with the Joker (and in the New 52 timeline, a painful period of rehab) in her past, but Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Darevdevil reminds readers that tragedy doesn’t have to control one’s life. Combine that with a sensibility that recalls the current Ms. Marvel title, and Batgirl‘s prospects look pretty good.

catwoman(As an aside, it’s a little ironic for me to think of DC repositioning Batgirl as a fairly young character, as she was a librarian with a Ph.D. when she was introduced, and later served in Congress. I suppose the New 52 Babs can get her Ph.D. as part of her graduate school studies.)

Format and creative changes also come to Catwoman in October, with the former facilitated by events of Batman Eternal. The new creative team of writer Genevieve Valentine and artist Garry Brown have Selina take over the mysterious “family business,” which apparently involves a sleek pantsuit. While this isn’t necessarily an appeal to neglected sections of the readership, it does sound like a nice jolt of energy after however-many years of sexy anti-heroics. At any rate, this is Valentine’s first comics-scripting gig, so here’s hoping she has a similarly fresh perspective.

Together with the announcements (two weeks ago) of new series Gotham Academy and Arkham Manor, the new teams on Batgirl and Catwoman appear to show the Batman line shifting away — at least on the margins — from a general approach to unflinching urban adventuring that’s been the norm since at least the 1990s. No doubt the Bat-books get a certain amount of leeway from DC, but it’s nice to see them using their popularity in such productive ways.

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Comments

28 Comments

I welcome with open arms more well written female characters that are not immediately put in the fridge. It’s high time DC lumbered out from their dingy man cave, the one festooned with dismembered arms and blood vomit.

Hey now! DC also fridged Alan Scott’s new gay boyfriend. They are equal opportunity fridgers!

Gail Simone being replaced by two men equals DC recognizing a changing demographic and moving away from men. Internet logic, you can’t beat it!

Cameron Stewart

July 13, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Keith – I knew this would be a sticking point for some. First of all, I was approached to take over Batgirl by Katie Kubert, the then-editor of Batgirl, so the decision was initially made by a woman. Second, since I knew I’d be writing for someone else I made a firm decision to work with a female artist, and realized that there was no better opportunity to bring a new female artistic voice into the industry, so I lobbied for Babs Tarr to draw the book, and I’m very pleased that it’s her first work in comics. Babs’ presence means we GAINED a woman in the industry. We also have her paired with Jordie Bellaire – another woman – on colors. This actually means, I believe, that we have more women working on this book than there were previously. Third, we aren’t working in a vacuum, both Brenden and I are extremely fortunate to have a variety of terrific, smart women in our lives to offer us counsel and guidance, and so far they’ve been very supportive of what we’re doing. Hopefully you’ll give us a shot.

Thank You Mark Doyle!!!!

He deserved a mention…..

Neo-Con Professor Pyg

July 13, 2014 at 2:58 pm

What a weird psuedo-progressive article. These changes show that the bat-books are stepping out of the man-cave? Not Harley Quinn, which is written by Amanda Conner, and actually selling extrememly well (#7 was in the Top 10 somehow).

Not interested at all in Batgirl, which looks like its trying too hard to appeal to a demographic that doesn’t give a damn about comics. Barbara now takes selfies and has a ton of piercings. Wooo how modern!!

It’s interesting that the article brings up Barbara getting over Joker’s ugly, vicious assault. Will Cammy work that in? Will Barbara be tweeting #AllWomen!?!?

Cameron Stewart

July 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Actually Pyg (I’m assuming from your user name that you’re trolling) – I think we’ve seen a pretty clear response that our target demo DOES give a damn about comics, they just don’t have a lot of comics they’ve been able to give a damn about. If you haven’t seen the huge positive response you’re not really paying attention.

Cameron, Neo con is a troll. Do NOT speak or acknowledge it, for you only feed its ego.

I’m really looking forward to Batgirl and Gotham Academy. The art looks great for both and I think these are some of the boldest books DC has tried since the New 52 started; I’m going to miss Gail Simone, though. Hopefully this means even more awesome things to come to DC! (Young Justice Reborn? I’ll buy that. Whisper: Make Amethyst the leader….)

Also, I liked Harley Quinn #0 and #1, but I”m waitng for the trade. It’s nice to see a book like that do so well. Now the possibility of a Tara Strong starring Harley Quinn movie is closer to reality!

GringoSuave89

July 13, 2014 at 5:50 pm

I typically enjoy Gail Simone’s writing, but Batgirl, even from the beginning, was all doom and gloom and general unhappiness. First arc dealt with her recovery from being paralyzed. I accepted it, enjoyed it to an extent, and was looking forward to pressing on. Then there was the drama with the Joker. Again, I gave it a pass cause it was a Joker/DotF tie in, so I got the darkness of it. Then James Jr drama, alright I’m ready to move on Gail! Then the Batgirl Murderer arc, which I thought we saw how Bruce Wayne Murderer turned out and knew better. Dark dark dark dark DARK. More so than even the main Batman books!

I’m very happy with the direction Batgirl is going now. I trust the writers greatly, and I have only heard good things about Babs. Bring on Batgirl!!!!

I am a little tired of the assault on DC’s New 52.

I like the new Babs look, I adore the artstyle that Babs Tarr is bringing to the table AND the new direction of the book.

But why do we have to treat this like a zero sum game. Can’t we acknowledge that DC can in fact do their cool darker toned stories and appeal to readers like me who enjoy that sort of thing AND be happy that they’re branching into new areas? Let’s not burn the establishment to the ground lets embrace its new coat of paint and be happy!

So much of the response has been DC SUCKS – but Cameron Stewarts gonna save us. Seems needlessly confrontational.

I adore that DC is taking so many risks with its B-tier of heroes and even trotting out C and D listers like Klarion the Witch Boy and original ideas like Gotham Manor.

Eddy Vee, how dare you bring rationality and middle ground to an internet discussion board! I bet you also wear white pants after labor day.

In all seriousness, you comment is spot on. My issue with DC is that the reboot was supposed to parse out the convoluted continuities and multiple earths and histories so new readers (like me) could get in on the action without feeling completely at sea. But with all the creative team switches (we’re getting a 5th new team on Green Arrow, even though that book was performing well critically and commercially, now Batgirl, the hot mess that was JH Williams’s departure from Batwoman) it just seems like the people at DC are headed down the same road that got them in trouble in the first place.

I do not mind new directions, but how about a new character for the new demographic? I love Simone’s Batgirl. I will try the new, but honestly it looks as if the true grit Babs is out and that is the Batgirl I have really gotten into. When the new 52 started, Casandra was my favorite Batgirl. I always had thought Barbra was too trendy and honestly seemed the weak link in the bat family….until the Oracle days at least. Gail’s run took that character and made her a girl who didnt take breaks, didnt need a trendy outfit, didnt need her cop dad (who is also a favorite of mine.), she was a strong and independent woman with the tenacity of a fresh out of hibernation bear on the hunt. I get what the books trying to do, but to me this all paints a picture of a hero who has no idea what she is doing and is just going to need bailed out. This did not start with this title. DC and Marvel are have constantly changed there characters of late trying to appeal to new audiences. Again they need to do this to survive…I get it. Create new characters! Stop taking established characters who are having a great story and then just disregarding it. If this continues then you get folks who all love a version of the charcter that is no longer being printed and they grow distrustful of investing time in characters who will just change after 25 or 30 issues. I miss teams have a great 100 issue run were no infinite secret war happens to throw everything out the door. Sorry for the rant and I will give the new book a shot for 6 issues. Thank you.

Finally, I can start picking up DC books again

the Batgirl book looks really good. But there is something weird about them making her look way younger than she’s been portrayed. Is that just the artist style or are they making an effort to make her look like that? Some of those preview images kinda remind me of the show New Girl where Zooey Deschanel is in her thirties but acts way younger and it’s kinda creepy.

It feels like every other character in the batman family is getting older and growing up including characters she’s supposed to be a contemporary of and she’s going backwards or staying put.

Just a friendly reminder that despite the hype for both Rat Queens and Lumberjanes, they still constantly under preformed (in terms of hitting above 50th place in sales) and what keeps on selling the most? Batman, grim dark adventures of Batman and other fairly dark titles (aside from Amazing Spiderman restarted).

Now those two mentioned titles have more breathing room (generous amount of time, creator own material, borderline indie) but there’s been plenty of series that have had good word of mouth (All Star Western, Demon Knights, etc) but got axed by hack of sales (compared to the powerhouse titles of Superman/Batman).

It’s a good sign that Harley Quinn is doing so well, and that Batgirl can always fall back on being a Bat title to boost it’s popularity but once October hits, I’ll be really curious about where it shows up in the charts.

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 run she had was needed for the reintroduction of the character as you should not try and gloss over what she has been through and pretend everything is OK and that recovery makes everything perfect straight away.
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. 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 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 its time for DC to make itself more accessible.
Finally, the argument about “the lack of women”, we have already agreed it is pure BS but when it comes to the representation of women in comics, 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 and the readers and so I personally will be going into this run with my mind open and more than a little bit of excitement. :)

I, for one, welcome this new Batgirl direction. I’ll actually be reading a Batbook for the first time in about a decade or more!

I understand the change of creative teams, I hope that this time they did it a lot more respectfully then the last time they tried to replace Gail on the book. My concern with babs “moving” is that we are going to lose a lot of the supporting cast that Gail created. Her “boyfriend” and also her roommate who represented a group in comics which is very lacking (transgender). I don’t know if it will happen and I’m willing to give the new team the benefit of the doubt and try the book even though I am a HUGE Gail fan. It has been gloomy but at times very heartwarming and done with a lot of respect to the character’s history.

Also, with Gail moving on she is getting a new DC project. I REALLY hope it’s a new SECRET SIX book…. I’ve missed that book since the new 52 revamp.

“As an aside, it’s a little ironic for me to think of DC repositioning Batgirl as a fairly young character, as she was a librarian with a Ph.D. when she was introduced, and later served in Congress.”

I don’t think that’s actually ironic. It’s a change, but I don’t see any irony.

@Neil: “I love Simone’s Batgirl. I will try the new, but honestly it looks as if the true grit Babs is out and that is the Batgirl I have really gotten into.”

From what I’ve read on Simone’s Tumblr, she’s been trying to steer Batgirl in a lighter direction from the get-go and her editor wouldn’t let that happen; that’s part of the reason she chose to leave the book.

I’m sorry you’re losing a creative team and a direction that you enjoyed; that always sucks. But it wasn’t for me; the relentless grimdark was the reason I only picked up a couple of issues of Simone’s run. I feel like DC DOES have enough books (and plenty of Bat-books) that fit that tone, and I’m looking forward to something different.

” I think we’ve seen a pretty clear response that our target demo DOES give a damn about comics, they just don’t have a lot of comics they’ve been able to give a damn about”

Unfortunately, that view goes against history and the numbers(which I understand the internet likes to ignore). While I’d love to see more female friendly comics and agree that at this particular moment in time we have more female friendly comics than we’ve seen in a long while, I’m afraid that does not represent the massive sea change that the female demo might believe it to be. We’ve had periods like this before. It was called the 70s. Then we had it for a time in the 80s. Then a brief moment in time in the 90s. And so on. What followed and preceded those periods were long stretches where the marketplace was flooded with material targeted to the male demo that dominates the marketplace and that the comic companies will continue to show preferential treatment to. I’d also point out that those brief moments in time when we did get female friendly comics ended because of poor sales. The sad fact is that the female demographic is much like the youth vote. They turn out for speeches but come voting time they leave you waiting at the altar. As Gail Simone herself once said, Tumblr support does not translate into sales support. Nor does high female turnout at comic conventions. If it did we would see much larger percentage of comics targeted to women. We can’t keep blaming poor marketing for cancelled books when the industry makes roughly 600 mil a year marketing exclusively to dudes doing exactly what they’re doing. Facts are facts and, in spite of rare mitigating factors, the onus is on the buyer for a title’s success or failure.

Michael R’s comment in a nutshell: it didn’t work before so fuck it, why bother trying to change?

Actually, that’s not what I said. By all means, keep trying. But when it fails, just have the courage to acknowledge why rather than start numerous tumblr campaigns and comment threads affixing blame on everyone and everything but the buyer. Which just serves to perpetuate the cycle of failures. Not that there’s anything wrong with seeing vol 38 of Birds Of Prey.

Really looking forward to this. The change in the look and tone is what’s got me interested. It worked for me on the latest change on Detective.

If I got a well written and drawn story for 100 plus issues that maintained a characters identity in this era then I would maybe do a cartwheel (probably not because I cant, but I would try dang it!). I am just tired of so many about faces in so short a period. Especially if I am digging a book. I am going to miss Gail on Batgirl but will give the new team an honest try. The same goes for Lemier and crew over on Green Arrow. I really dig them too, but will give the TV folks an honest try. I gave Wolverine and the X-men a try after Aaron but it was not really what I wanted. I doubt that I will be happy with whoever picks up the chores for Thor when he is done. These comic worlds are huge and I think there are ways to do these big personality swings they are doing with more profesionalism. As much as I love the characters of Guardians of the Galaxy, 2008 is well and gone as the heroes of that book are now being written with the same gimmick as hundreds of other characters. Stop breaking character. If you want a hero that fits that demographic then use one that already fits it or create a new one! I understand the need to do new and fresh stories to appeal to a wide or other audience, but lets keep our characters core. Hulk is the most painful for me to talk about, but im not going to pretend that book has not broke and remade the character a billion times. Sometimes for good. (Planet Hulk) Sometimes not. (Current run featuring “Simple” Bruce Banner .)

Who is Genevieve Valentine? I am not familiar with the name. Has she done work outside of comic books, such as prose fiction?

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