Batgirls launches from DC Comics in December, a new series by Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, and Jorge Corona starring, as the title implies, Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and Barbara Gordon. Cloonan and Conrad did a promotional interview for DC's website last weekend where they debuted plans to have Barbara begin using a cane and a wheelchair again. Not all the time, but sometimes. According to Cloonan, showing Gordon "in a chair again" was one of the things they pushed for when asked to work on the book. "She's just going to have some days where she needs to use it," Cloonan said.
Here's what Cloonan and Conrad had to say about addressing Barbara's "relationship with mobility and disability" in Batgirls:
BC: We are addressing it, I think, pretty head-on. Right now, Barbara has a chip in her back that allows her to walk again. But in our book, she has off days. She's got bad days. So, we'll see her using a cane. She does use a wheelchair occasionally. She's got days when she's just spending some time under her desk rearranging all the cables, you know? And I think anyone would want to spend the rest of the day sitting down. So, I think it's just natural. We don't make a huge deal of it because it's such a big part of her character and her history. It's not like we want to beat readers over the head with this idea. But at the same time, we want to show that it's still part of her character. She is still disabled, even if she doesn't always look like it all the time. She can walk around, but it's still a part of her.
MWC: And we love that she's become an icon for this community. It's a community that we really want to serve. We're going to do so to our greatest ability, without necessarily creating a different character entirely in our book. We can't have her running and jumping through, I don't know, ventilation shafts of whatever in one book, and then in our book have her be a representation of someone with different mobility skills. It's just a continuity issue.
That said, I've got a past in working with people who have mobility challenges. And, like Becky said, it doesn't always present in a way that becomes central to a character, and it shouldn't be. It should be that the central thing going on here is this awesome character and her great personality, and then if we can also show her physical norm is different from maybe your physical norm, then great. And if it's something that people can identify with and feel empowered by, we would love that.
BC: Yeah, and that's what we're really here to do. When we first got asked to work on Batgirls, one of the things we pushed for was, "Hey, we want to show Babs in a chair again, but she's just going to have some days where she needs to use it, you know?" It's such an integral part of her.
The writers also preemptively responded to criticism that the representation will be "half-assed."
MWC: And we don't want to make it feel like, "Oh, here's like a half-assed representation of something." Or, "Here's an afterthought of what this particular modality can look like." It's really coming from the most genuine place that we have. It's coming from a place of fandom of the character, her various iterations, and also of our great love for the fact that people have seen something there that looks like them. That feels like their life on a comic book page. We want to maintain that. We want to strengthen that moving forward.
BC: We don't want to think that we've taken something away from people. We're here to make people feel good, and we want to make a book that makes people feel good. And that's a big part of it.
Batgirls #1 is out on December 14th. Read a preview below.