The internet is currently busy engaging in wild speculation about the prospect of Joss Whedon directing a Batgirl solo movie. I will be putting in my two cents on the matter, because it was that or write something on the new Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer and I want to go into that one blind. Because Spider-Man is too important.
But I digress.
Current speculation is that Whedon will be basing his film off of Gail Simone‘s run in the New 52 Batgirl comics and will feature Barbara Gordon as the titular hero. I’m as excited for a Batgirl movie as I can be about anything going on in the DCEU (very little since Suicide Squad), but there’s a few issues that are worth talking about. The first is that the DCEU timeline for the Batfamily is in a wonky place and that will have ramifications for a Batgirl movie. The second is how the movie will deal with the starting point of Simone’s run being set after her time as Oracle.
Now we won’t know anything for certain until the film is actually out, but it makes sense that Whedon would borrow from Simone’s run as Batgirl is one of the most iconic female characters in comics and Simone is the most iconic woman working in comics. So operating under the assumption that Simone’s run is influential on the movie, the first problem is fitting it into the timeline. The DCEU Batman is already significantly along in his timeline, as he retired once and Jason Todd was killed already, and so it will be difficult to insert the as-yet unintroduced Barbara Gordon into this version of Gotham City. Either they make the same mistake as they did with Batman and skip some of the best stories in comics canon to tell a major one, or they bring her in as a rookie crimefighter, which would throw her dynamic with the rest of the Batfamily off as both Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson will be fairly well along in their stories by the time a Batgirl movie releases.
That’s before the trouble of incorporating Simone’s run into the story. Much of her run dealt with Barbara working through the effects of being crippled after the events of Killing Joke and working to get back to the level of skill she had during her first tenure as Batgirl. The villains battled during this run weren’t very memorable on their own, moreso serving as vehicles for Babs to explore her aforementioned issues. This leads me to believe that any influence will be of the thematic variety. That would suggest Whedon and his team will make it a post-Killing Joke story and deal mainly with our intrepid hero working past the trauma she suffered. Doing so would be a bad idea, as it would skip Barbara’s time as Oracle, which is just over half of Barbara’s pre-Flashpoint material. Introducing Barbara as a rookie Batgirl would preclude the themes touched upon by Simone entirely, or else make the same mistake as The Killing Joke animated feature and make her issue that she’s somehow less capable than Batman.
At this point I’d like to go on record as saying that I think returning the character of Barbara Gordon to the mantle of Batgirl was a mistake. It detracted from her as a character, as instead of being someone who didn’t let a severed spinal cord stop her from being a hero, she’s a superhero that used to be in a wheelchair. I think Gail Simone did an excellent job with the material presented to her, but no writing is good enough to overcome the removal of more than twenty years of character development and arguably the most iconic disabled superhero in all of comics (and definitely in DC).
But I digress.
The most obvious middle ground to all of this (and the subject of further internet speculation) would be to make the movie an adaptation of The Killing Joke. That’s also a terrible idea. In the first place, 2008’s The Dark Knight is the best version anyone in any medium is going to do of The Killing Joke and any attempt to follow it would be superfluous (especially since last year’s animated adaptation has soured the story for many). Further, Killing Joke is not a Barbara Gordon story, despite being the event most associated with her character. It’s a Joker story and the material works just as well whether or not it’s Barabara in the crosshairs or another supporting character to the Batfamily. Also I’ve seen enough of Jared Leto‘s Joker.
What I would like to see come away from Gail Simone‘s run is the characterization of Batgirl. She’s capable but still very human. She has her issues but she’s working through them. She respects Batman and what he has to teach her but she’s not submissive to him. In this regard, Joss Whedon could potentially be a great fit to direct the project. He’s the mind behind Buffy Summers and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. version of Daisy Johnson captures much of the same spark. My major concern is that the hacks at DC/Warner Bros. will drag him down to the god awful level they’ve been playing at. Realistically, I bet we’ll get a repeat of Age of Ultron (that is, a good movie that could have been great if the studio hadn’t interfered so much). The best possible approach, in my humble opinion, would be Whedon directs, Simone writes, and the studio just gets out of the way. I mean, why borrow from Simone’s work when you can just have her write the bloody thing?
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