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Mike Maihack brings back Supergirl/Batgirl (and cookies)

Here at Robot 6, we’ve been strong supporters of the notion of Mike Maihack’s (Cleopatra in Spaaace!) doing a Supergirl/Batgirl comic. It all started with a fake cover, turned into a strip that begat a Christmas strip last year, which is now (hopefully!) an annual tradition. If Maihack keeps this up, we’ll have ourselves a full issue in 17 years. Fingers crossed that DC Comics doesn’t wait that long to hire him.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s March solicitations come in like a lion

The sociopathic apple doesn't fall too far from the incredibly-driven tree

No small amount of drama accompanies the March solicitations, thanks to Gail Simone’s unexpected dismissal from Batgirl.  There’s also turnover at Swamp Thing and Birds of Prey, potential clues to the end of “Death of the Family,” and the usual I-remember-this! commentary on collections.

Ready? O-kay!

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL

The big stories are the departures of Simone from Batgirl and Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette from Swamp Thing. It seems particularly odd in Simone’s case because it leaves the fate of Batgirl’s current antagonist in the hands of a different writer. Maybe that means Simone’s original plans for him didn’t go over particularly well with DC, or maybe it’s something totally unrelated. Either way, looks like it’ll be at least another month (in January’s Issue 16, her last issue) before we learn anything significant. At any rate, Ray Fawkes writes two issues of Batgirl starting with Issue 18.

As of March, Jim Zubkavich is your new Birds of Prey writer, Andy Kubert draws the lead story in Batman #18, and Trevor McCarthy draws Batwoman #18. Also, in a move that threatens to have me try out Phantom Stranger, the very fine J.M. DeMatteis comes aboard as co-writer with Issue # (guest-drawn by the equally fine Gene Ha and Zander Cannon).

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The big deal behind Gail Simone’s firing from Batgirl

NY Times Best Seller Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection

The Internet hand-wringing was set to overdrive when it was announced writer Gail Simone had been summarily dismissed from Batgirl. By email, no less. Virtually every comics news site and blog chimed in, usually followed by a flurry of reader comments. However, freelance creators are let go from comics all of the time. Sure there’s usually disappointment, and it’s never good when someone loses her job. But what made this the event of the week?

There’s a history to this that adds an extra layer of emotion.

Simone is a well-liked creator with a spirited fan base, and she has described Batgirl as a dream job for her. This is the character that hooked her into comics. This is the character she’s always wanted to write. Her dream came true, and now it’s being taken away. So any human being with at least an average level of empathy is going to feel like this is an unfortunate turn of events for her. This was also largely unexpected, as the series was performing well; Batgirl #14 was No. 17 on Diamond Comic Distributors’ November sales chart with an estimated 77,468 copies, although previous issues sold in the 40,ooo to 50,000 range. That’s where some shock and indignation comes in. It seems like an unfair decision (although it is of course fully within DC Comics’ rights to hire and fire whoever it wants).

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Ray Fawkes to fill in for two issues on DC’s Batgirl

Even as fans react to Sunday’s announcement that Gail Simone will no longer be writing Batgirl, word has trickled out that recently appointed Justice League Dark co-writer Ray Fawkes will fill in on a two-part story arc beginning in March.

The news arrives courtesy of DC Comics’ Batman Group solicitations for March (via The Outhousers), which appear to have leaked a little early on Newsarama:

BATGIRL #18
Written by RAY FAWKES
Art and cover by DANIEL SAMPERE and VICENTE CIFUENTES
On sale MARCH 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
• The first of two issues by guest writer Ray Fawkes!
• Batgirl must face the man who sold her out to The Joker during “DEATH OF THE FAMILY”…her own brother, James Gordon, Jr.
• Can Barbara help him, or will this conflict be the final nail in her family’s coffin?

Best known for his such books as Mnemovore, Apocalipstix and Possessions, Fawkes joins Jeff Lemire in February as co-writer of Justice League Dark.


Gail Simone ‘no longer the writer of Batgirl

Batgirl

Gail Simone, the writer of Batgirl since the comic was rebooted as part of DC Comics’ New 52 relaunch, said on Twitter today that she will no longer be writing the title.

“On Wednesday of last week, new Batgirl editor Brian Cunningham informed me by email that I was no longer the writer of Batgirl,” Simone said. “It is baffling and sad, I will probably have a statement later today or maybe tomorrow. But I want to give huge, huge thanks to the other creators in the bat-offices, and editors Bobbie Chase and @yourpallsmitty, champions all. And the biggest thank you of all to you guys for supporting this book so hugely and making it a commercial and critical success. I honestly don’t have the words right now to thank you all. I’m pretty choked up and it’s all gratitude, not bitterness. I am very proud of what we accomplished with Batgirl and it was an honor to get to write Barbara Gordon again. Love that dame.”

Simone has a long history with the character. In addition to writing the New 52 relaunch title that saw Barbara Gordon back in the familiar tights, Simone also wrote the character for years in Birds of Prey before the relaunch, back when Gordon was the wheelchair-bound Oracle. No word yet on what issue will be Simone’s last; presumably it will be issue #17, which was solicited for February. March solicitations I believe are due to be released tomorrow.

This also leaves Simone without a project in the DCU; she was the co-writer of Fury of Firestorm until issue #7, when Joe Harris replaced her on the title. She and her Secret Six collaborator Jim Calafiore are working together on a creator-owned project called Leaving Megalopolis, which had a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.

Update: Simone has a longer post on her Tumblr about this, as well as one that seems to confirm that issue #17 is indeed her last.

The case of Li’l Gotham and the magically changing Batgirl costume [Updated]

While some are pointing to changes to a Batgirl costume in the digital-first Li’l Gotham comic as further evidence of behind-the-scenes hijinks designed to erase Stephanie Brown from DC Comics, the truth may less conspiratorial — if still a little odd.

Bleeding Cool pointed out this morning that a panel from the Dustin Nguyen/Derek Fridolfs story had been altered from the preview released early Wednesday. In the original version, a blonde girl can be seen among the trick-or-treaters dressed in what’s unmistakably a Stephanie Brown-Batgirl costume. However, in a second version posted on the website, the same girl is shown now with dark hair but without the purple stripe familiar to Stephanie fans, leading Bleeding Cool to conclude, “Yup, in the DC Universe, not even little kids are allowed to dress up as Stephanie Brown.”

But in the comic downloaded this morning by Robot 6 (below), the purple stripe remains, clearly marking the costume as Stephanie Brown’s. Still, it’s definitely odd, particularly considering that the ash-colored hair is almost indistinguishable from the mask. Of course, why that figure was the only one on the page changed is a bit of a mystery — as is why there are seemingly two edited versions of the panel floating around.

We’ve reached out DC Comics for clarification, but the offices are closed because of Superstorm Sandy, so it may take a while for a response.

Update (9:25 a.m.): It appears the panel posted at Bleeding Cool is fake. The girl’s hair color was changed from the time of the preview’s release, as Robot 6′s downloaded image shows, but not her costume.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Beginning the Joker’s eight-way revenge

There's a killer on the road / His brain is squirmin' like a toad

As written by Scott Snyder, penciled by Greg Capullo and inked by Jonathan Glapion, the lead story in Batman Vol. 2 #13 is a terrific kickoff to the latest Batman event. “Death of the Family,” the Joker-centric crossover running through the Batman line for the next few months, will eventually involve seven more ongoing series — including Batgirl and Batman and Robin, which we’ll discuss later — but this opening chapter by itself shows me that Snyder, Capullo and company intend to kick out all the stops when it comes to the Clown Prince of Crime.

Naturally, SPOILERS FOLLOW for this week’s Bat-books.

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Stephanie Brown fights crime, boredom in Batgirl: Spoiled premiere

We’ve teased Batgirl: Spoiled, the fan-produced webseries, on Robot 6 and Comic Book Resources since early August — and now, two months later, the first episode has at last debuted online.

Created by Sax Carr and Marisha Ray (who also plays Batgirl), the series follows Stephanie Brown as she fights crime and tries to determine whether this life of “adrenaline and danger, duty and honor” is one she really wants. As the earlier trailer teased, Batgirl: Spoiled features a large supporting cast that includes such DC Comics characters as Commissioner Gordon, Batwoman, Poison Ivy, The Riddler, The Penguin and Oracle (those last two appear in the first episode, “Blindside,” along with a third whom I won’t spoil here).

The second episode will be released in about 30 days; the producers are hoping to find a convention to play host to its premiere.

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Comics A.M. | Marvel NOW! ‘ain’t a reboot,’ it’s a ‘refresh’

Captain America #1

Comics | Ahead of Joe Quesada’s appearance tonight on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the debut Wednesday of Uncanny Avengers, Marvel unpacks its Marvel NOW! initiative for the national press. “This ain’t a reboot, we’re simply hitting the refresh button. ‘Marvel NOW!’ simply offers a line-wide entry-point into the Marvel Universe that you’re already reading about,” Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso says. Tom Brevoort, senior vice president of publishing, calls it “a game of musical chairs” for creators, who will be switched around to make things interesting. [The Associated Press]

Creators | Writer Gail Simone discusses the coming battle between Batgirl and Knightfall in Batgirl #13, as well as the impending return of The Joker: “The Joker is really the Elvis of comic-book villains. There’s no one with his primal star power, there’s no one else anywhere who has sent more chills up the spines of readers, because there genuinely is something terrifying about him.” [USA Today]

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Grumpy Old Fan | Doubling down on the Darknight Detective

Yes, that is Benedict Arnold with a flaming sword

This week sees the print debut of Legends of the Dark Knight, the ongoing print version of DC’s digital-first Batman anthology. By design it’s not part of the regular Batman line, and therefore not counted as one of the New 52. However, it gives me an excuse to ask how many Bat-books DC Comics really needs.

Now, I don’t mean that to be as dismissive as it sounds. The current Batman line is built on years, if not decades, of steady readership and fan attachments, and you don’t just wave that away. Nevertheless, if there are only 52 slots in the main superhero line, must the Batman Family claim a quarter of them? The relaunch has made pruning these titles both easier and harder, and today I want to look at the opportunities it presents.

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When Batgirl met Merv Griffin (and Batman drummed with Spock)

Reiko Douglas, Yvonne Craig and Merv Griffin

For many men of a certain age, and more than a few women, Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl represented their first childhood crush. Confidant, sassy and just a little flirty, her heroine was a chaste counterbalance to the overtly sexual Catwoman, whether played by Julie Newmar or Eartha Kitt (there’s probably a master’s thesis in that). She was the purple-suited equivalent of your best friend’s older sister, or your next-door neighbor — the smart-and-pretty girl whom you thought you might have a chance with.

Batgirl was also wildly popular, even as Batman’s ratings flagged in its second season, as these 1967 photos from The Merv Griffin Show demonstrate. While the images have cropped up online before, it was difficult to pass them by when they appeared again overnight on Retronaut; I even poked around to find a couple of more shots of Craig backstage. It’s difficult to imagine an actor like Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson or Chris Hemsworth to appear in superhero costume on The Late Show With David Letterman or Conan, but there Craig is, looking like she’s having a blast.

As a bonus, I’ve also thrown in a photo Leonard Nimoy tweeted earlier this week of him drumming with Adam West, presumably in the late 1960s.

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Lora Zombie’s burlesque take on DC’s superwomen


Russian artist Lora Zombie has a portfolio full of work influenced by comic book iconography, though posed in a resolutely non-traditional form. She paints DC Comics’ female characters in work reminiscent of classic pin-up art, while her take on their male counterparts features them in a particularly non-dynamic fashion (but dig Batman’s Chuck Taylors!). Prints of all these are available at Eyes On Walls. Much more below.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Relaunch roundup, Part 1

After a year, I still don't quite get the knee-braces

Because it’s the first week of the New 52 Year Two, the time has come to review where I stand at the end of Year One. It also happens to be the week I’m away on a bidness trip, unable to react to whatever dern-fool thing DC did on Wednesday.

That would probably take a back seat anyway, because I’m a little curious myself to look back at these books. In terms of reading habits, it’s been a rather funky year. Some weeks I wouldn’t have time to read everything I bought, and sometimes that meant books just dropped off my radar. I caught up with a few of these, but a few I just didn’t miss — which, of course, is never a good thing.

You’ll remember that last year I bought all 52 first issues, and talked about each as September proceeded.  Of those which remain, I am reading 27: Action Comics, All-Star Western, Animal Man, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Batman & Robin, Batwing, Batwoman, Blue Beetle, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Demon Knights, Detective Comics, Firestorm, Flash, Frankenstein, Green Lantern, GL Corps, I, Vampire, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Stormwatch, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman.

Additionally, I was reading six titles that have since been canceled: Blackhawks, JLI, Men of War, OMAC, Resurrection Man and Static Shock. For a while I also read Grifter, Red Lanterns, and Superboy. Filling in some of those holes are second-wave titles Batman Incorporated, Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest and Dial H.

To keep your eyes as glaze-free as possible, this will be a two-part survey. Today we’ll look at the Superman and Batman families, the “historical” titles, the main-line Justice League books, and a few others.

Onward!

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Tony Fleecs’ comics-themed retro pulp covers


Remember those faked Marvel pulp covers by Calamity Jon Morris? Well, I’ve just came across these by Tony Fleecs (you may well remember his “adorable tragedies” series of illustrations), riffing on a similar theme. Fleecs will be selling prints of these designs at his many upcoming convention appearances (listed at his blog). More pulpy goodness can be found below. Continue Reading »

Conversing on Comics with Damion Scott

Comic readers like underdogs, both in comics and in comics creators. They like to see someone start off small and build themselves up with achievements, skill and perseverance. In recent years we’ve seen a number of talents catch fire as they went from comics newbie to comics celebrity, from Nick Spencer to Becky Cloonan. Several years back there was one artist who was right on the cusp of breaking into the exclusive A-list level of creators who decided instead to leave for something else. But now he’s back.

Artist Damion Scott graduated from the Kubert School in the late 1990s with a full head of steam and took that to DC Comics, where he climbed the ladderr from 1999 to 2006, refining his style and defining his name on books like Robin and Batgirl. By the end of his run on Batgirl, he was seemingly ready to shine — and did so as the youngest artist picked to headline an issue of DC’s prestigious (but short-lived) Solo anthology. After that, he produced a miniseries featuring the Teen Titans’ Raven, and then … nothing. Well, nothing in the United States. In 2007, Scott moved to Japan to pursue commercial and fine art, doing magazine illustrations, street art and gallery shows. He made a rare cameo in American comics with a short for 2009′s Deadpool #900, but by and large this budding top talent was absent for four years. But last month Scott returned with the first of a two-part story in Marvel’s Web of Spider-Man featuring a group of street-level heroes from his native Brooklyn. And he’s not stopping there.

For this interview I exchanged emails with Scott for several weeks, with the artist writing from Tokyo and New York, where he divides his time. We talked about his return to American comics and his art in Japan, as well as his upcoming comic series Duppy.

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