Comic book fans and professionals were shocked by the news that DC Comics had dismissed Gail Simone from “Batgirl.” The news was first broken by Bleeding Cool and then confirmed on Twitter by Simone herself.
“On Wednesday of last week, new Batgirl editor Brian Cunningham informed me by email that I was no longer the writer of Batgirl. 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.”
Before I start my commentary, I should preface it by saying that I was born without legs and have used a wheelchair my entire life.
In 2011, DC Comics launched “The New 52” that would change years of continuity. One of the biggest changes was that Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl/Oracle) would regain the ability to walk. Upon learning the news, I have to be honest, I felt insulted. You see, there aren’t too many disabled heroes in comic books or any other medium in general. It’s hard for non-disabled people to really understand, but disabled people are routinely dismissed, overlooked, and pitied on a daily basis. I felt like this was going to be another instance of someone saying, “You don’t matter. No one cares about your wheelchair.”
Anyways, time goes on and “Batgirl” began its monthly publication cycle. I picked up a copy and read it, then kept reading it, and it became one of my most anticipated comics each month. I didn’t realize it at the time but Simone helped me process some of my own emotions, maybe not directly but through Batgirl.
It’s tough living your life in a wheelchair. No one denies that. But if you offered me a magic pill that would fix my body for me, I’m not sure I would take it. Being disabled is a part of me. It is a part of my identity, my personality, and my temperament. Because of it, I have been pitied, made fun of, and denied jobs. But I also have learned integrity, toughness, and found true friends. I don’t know if I would want anyone to take that away from me.
In “Batgirl” #4, the very first panel is Barbara Gordon sitting in her wheelchair. She feels guilty for abandoning her previous life. All those experiences, all those life lessons and she literally walks away from them. She struggles with being newly abled in the same way someone struggles with being newly disabled. Until that issue, I was leery, but then I saw Barbara constantly unable to let go of her past. She couldn’t just abandon something that was an enormous part of her. Her disability still mattered and she wasn’t naïve enough to dismiss it.
From that issue on, I felt safe in Simone’s arms. She “got it.” She didn’t use Batgirl’s inability to walk as a cheap plot point. Simone wrote a character that struggled to move forward because she was weighed down from years of hurt, unfairness, and frustration. A character determined to move forward because there is no reward for dwelling on injustice.
I loved Gail Simone’s run on “Batgirl” and I am genuinely saddened that she won’t be penning the title anymore. The way DC chose to handle Simone’s dismissal from the title was unprofessional. But the decision has been made and there is no going back. All I can do now is offer Simone my gratitude for portraying disability so well and hope that other writers use her works as a lesson.
Sometimes the only way to deal with something is to simply move forward. Batgirl would.