With Batgirl, Is DC Comics Finally Getting It Right?

I have made no bones about my dislike of the direction DC Comics has taken in the last several years. From the sameness of the “DC House Style” aesthetics to the many narrative and PR missteps along the way, the New 52 has been divisive to say the least. While I’m not a fan of the overall strategy, I will admit that it hasn’t been all terrible. Most of Scott Snyder’s Bat books, Greg Pak on the Superman booksCliff Chiang on Wonder Woman, and Bernard Chang on Green Lantern Corps were highlights, for sure1.

As a longtime DC fanboy, it’s always pained me to hop on the DC Comics bashwagon, but sometimes it was hard to root for the publisher that let this and this and this and this happen. Over the last several days, though, news of DC’s plans for the last quarter of 2014 and beyond are proving that maybe on my world,  the DC logo means hope, too.

It all started last week — for me at least — when EW broke the news about DC launching two new books: Arkham Manor by Gerry Duggan and Shawn Crystal and Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl. EW describes both books thusly:

In Arkham Manor, stately Wayne Manor gets made over into the local psycho dungeon, and, perhaps predictably, some inmates wind up dead. Things are a bit less bleak in Gotham Academy, a new monthly teen drama set at Gotham City’s most prestigious prep school.

What strikes me about both books is just how different and outside of what the rest of DC Comics looks like. And that’s refreshing. For the longest time, DC House Style made it hard to distinguish between artists since all the heroes seemed to be rendered the same way (i.e., like an Image/Wildstorm book from the early 90s). From a narrative standpoint, going from Crisis to Crisis to Crisis and then the continuity confusion of the New 52 reboot made the words as hard to follow as the art. Gotham Academy is especially intriguing. Not only is Becky Cloonan co-writing it(!), but it looks like the book will be led by two teenage girls (who aren’t being inappropriately sexualized either; for DC, that’s progress). Also, BECKY CLOONAN IS BACK ON A BATMAN BOOK, YOU GUYS2!

This week, DC followed that reveal with some more welcome and out-of-the-box creative teams. First up, as part of their announcement for the digital-first Wonder Woman anthology series Sensation Comics, MTV broke the news of the creative team behind issue #3: Gilbert Hernandez (of Love and Rockets fame) will be writing/drawing a story while Sean E. Williams and Marguerite Sauvage would be collaborating on a different story.

Our friends at ComicsAlliance and The Beat were equally jazzed about both creative teams and the fact that DC was embracing different art styles and ideas, with Andrew Wheeler noting “indie artists like Hernandez don’t fit the mold of the more conservative New 52-era DC.”

And if that weren’t enough to prove that DC might be figuring out that treating their female fans and readers with respect is actually good for business, yesterday, they revealed the new creative team behind Batgirl — Cameron Stewart and Fletcher, once again, on writing duties with newcomer (and MICA grad!) Babs Tarr on art. More importantly, they previewed her new look and costume. Needless to say, but the internet definitely approves.

The hype for this book is really getting me to reconsider my stance on buying DC again. It doesn’t hurt that Stewart (with Ed Brubaker) is responsible for one of my favorite runs on Catwoman. His (and Darwyn Cooke’s) work on the Catwoman books proved you could make Selina sexy without being sexist. And now with Babs Tarr, he’s done the same thing for Batgirl. Not only is Babara’s new costume practical and chic, but it’s highly cosplayable. In fact, Betty Felon’s twitter feed yesterday was my favorite thing about the whole Batgirl announcement!

After all the heat that DC has taken over the last several years about how they treat women characters (and fans), maybe the powers that be have finally figured out that girls aren’t icky after all. I mean, I don’t want to give them too much credit. Not yet. But if they keep putting out books like Batgirl and Gotham Academy and pushing new, out-of-the-box talent like Babs Tarr and Marguerite Sauvage — not to mention putting the homey Ming Doyle on the Vertigo mini The Kitchen with Ollie Masters! — I might not be ashamed to call myself a DC fanboy again.

  1. Full disclosure: Greg, Cliff, and Bernard are personal friends and part of the SIUniverse fam. 
  2. It’s just too bad she isn’t drawing it since she’s one of the best cartoonists in the biz. Still, Kerschl’s art looks sufficiently dope. 

8 thoughts on “With Batgirl, Is DC Comics Finally Getting It Right?

  1. Great news! Thanks for including us fangirls out there who would love to love comics, if only we didn’t feel insulted by merely opening them. These developments look feminist-friendly, indeed.

  2. I don’t know about the stories. But superhero costumes are clearly trying to look more utilitarian.

    1. One thing to focus on is the bit about “cosplayable” being part and parcel of the design concept behind the new Batgirl outfit — the idea that “something that an actual woman could and would actually design, procure/assemble*, and wear in a mid-201x American city” was fundamental to her visual appearance.

      * IIRC the original articles revealing her new Batsuit explained that her prior Batsuit was compromised, presumably in whatever disaster took her other possessions. This is of course subject to change, buuuuut…

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