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I guess I just like liking things

I recently started following Gail Simone on Twitter, mostly because a friend suggested I do so and because I saw several retweets from her that amused me greatly.  [Twitter Tip: be amusing and friendly to get more Twitter followers!] I had no idea who she was before said friend told me she’d written for several comics, and I soon learned that she is currently writing Batgirl (and Red Sonja, and probably some other things). Furthermore, I learned that Batgirl #21, which came out very recently, is blowing people’s minds. Gail retweeted several people’s responses to her about it and it got me all very intrigued.

Here’s the thing: I don’t regularly read comics. I tend to keep up on comic news and major events, but usually wait to read collected stories in trade paperbacks or graphic novels, and even those I haven’t been reading as often lately. The aforementioned friend is usually my go-to guy for comics questions. So I asked him, “Hey, will I understand Batgirl #21 if I haven’t been reading?” and I tagged Gail (Ms. Simone? I don’t want to be too informal here) in the question, perhaps to solidify to him that she was the reason I was asking?  I’m not sure. Not even a few minutes later, she responded with “It might be helpful to have issue 20 as well…it’s a two-parter.” Mind. Blown. [Twitter Tip #2: engage your followers and interact with them!]

So now I’m going to buy these comics, no question.  We have three comics shops in town and I started calling. This was Monday, and apparently many comic shops are closed on Mondays. I’ve only ever been in two, so I didn’t know this. The one that was open had Batgirl #20, but not #21, but could order it, but it would take a couple of weeks to get in. I decided to wait until Tuesday and go check out the shop closest to me.  That trip is a whole ‘nother entry, but the short version is they had both #20 and #21, so I bought them.

All of this is written before I’ve read them.  The covers are kind of freaking me out, but I’m still game. I just thought that before I go into this I should write up my pre-reading thoughts and then come back and write some post-reading thoughts. So, before reading, this is what I know about Batgirl:

  • She is Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon
  • A long time ago, in The Killing Joke, the Joker shot her and that crippled her (if you gripe to me about spoilers on a book that’s 25 years old, so help me I will drive to your house and box your ears)
  • Unable to fight crime the way she was used to, she became Oracle, a source of information for Batman and a bunch of other superhero types.
  • That’s… pretty much it

Another thing I know about DC in general is that they’re in the process (and have been for a while) of rebooting everything. So all this stuff I “know” about Batgirl is probably outdated.

So now there is a break while I read Batgirl #20 and #21.

* * * * *

And I’m back after #20.

  • So Batgirl is still Barbara Gordon, so that’s nice
  • She is battling The Ventriloquist, though she doesn’t actually know that yet.  I mean, she knows there’s a ventriloquist that is doing the bad things and there was a fight, but she doesn’t know the ventriloquist is The Ventriloquist.
  • Barbara has an eidetic memory, which fits with the previous version of Barbara I know. An Oracle would need to be able to bring up information super quick-like.
  • Barbara is dealing with some major, major drama. There was a thing she did recently (last issue, maybe?) that has caused her some distress (and that is not a strong-enough word but I’m trying to be non-spoilery here). Honestly, it makes me want to read the whole run, and that’s the mark of some good writing, innit? Come into a story not knowing anything about it but now wanting to go back and catch up?  I should be so lucky.
  • I don’t really understand how/where Batgirl fits in with all of the other Gotham types. It appears she’s modeled after Batman, of course, but she’s not really affiliated? Doesn’t appear to be, anyway. But I’m guessing he approves or he wouldn’t let her carry on?  I don’t know.
  • Oh, and, hey, comics is violent. Not such a thing I’m worried about, but if you have young kids you probably want to know that, is all I’m saying.
  • “That’s the thing about Gotham. Something awful is never far away.” So, so true. I’ve never been able to figure out why people live there!

On to #21!

* * * * *

I care so much about not spoiling things for you that I have blurred this cover. You're welcome.

I care so much about not spoiling things for you that I have blurred this cover. You’re welcome.

And I’m back after #21.

  • There’s this panel on page 3 (? they aren’t really numbered) that kind of breaks my heart. The look on Barbara’s face…
  • She must be affiliated with Batman because Dick Grayson calls her and they talk about [previously mentioned drama stuff] and there’s a footnote referring to “Bat-family” things. Oh, and she’s got a sweet motorcycle that looks expensive, and her suit is probably not something you can just buy.
  • I don’t know the Batgirl character, but I am very much intrigued. Huge difference between her and Batman: the stuff she has to go through in this issue is… well, “rough” doesn’t really do it justice. And she reacts much like you’d expect a human to react. Batman, see, he’d be all, “yep, that’s a thing that happened” and then he’d drop-kick the bad guy three different ways. [PLEASE NOTE: I am not trying to diminish the character of Batman. His ability to drop-kick a person three different ways is WAY COOL.] I’d react more like Batgirl did.
  • There’s a part where Barbara needs to get into her dad’s files and figures out easily, and I’m guessing they’re laying the groundwork for Oracle stuff later on, but what do I know?
  • I”m not going to tell you what happens, of course, so nertz to you thinking I would. Heck, I don’t even know that I completely understand everything that’s going on, anyway. I mean, I understand the main villain arc and all that, but there’s a lot of history going on that I see hints of but know completely.

Another thing that struck me while reading this is just how difficult it has to be to write comics, and I’m guessing that it’s even more difficult to write for ones that have huge histories. I just finished reading a two-issue story that stands on its own, but it also draws on stuff that happened before (and gives me just enough info to make me want to read all of it) and it lays the groundwork for future stuff. I get how people write books, but I don’t think I can quite wrap my brain around this.  I’d guess you’d have to treat it like a really long novel, right? Map out what you want to have happen, draw in lines for issue breaks, that kind of thing. But I know that comics get different artists and authors over the course of their publication, so how do they continue these things? It all seems so complicated, and it’s something I never even thought about when I was a kid. My “grown-up” history with trades and graphic novels don’t really account for that since I’m getting the long stories edited together all at once, so this is kind of new info for me, even if it seems like something I should have realized. I’m just kind of blown away by the process, and that’s on top of the thrill of reading a pretty great story and enjoying some pretty great art.

So overall I’m going to say this was a dangerous exercise, because now I want to buy comics all the time. I want to know what got Barbara to where she is. I want to know where she goes from here. I want to see how this fits with the overall Bat-arc, which I don’t even know about, anyway!  The amount of reading I will have to do to completely get up to speed here is daunting. I’d joke about getting a Cliff Notes version, but my English Minor hasn’t worn out completely just yet, and that kind of talk angries up the blood.  Besides, thumbing through an actual comic book, back and forth, making sure I caught everything… man. I don’t even really know how to describe it.  It was a combination of nostalgia and new-found joy, things I didn’t even know could happen simultaneously.

This could get expensive.

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