Why the new Batgirl comic is a big deal (for all of us)

Female superheroes are definitely on the rise–just take a look at the recent buzz around Thor, and Wonder Woman making her big screen debut. Now we can add the relaunch of DC Comics’ Batgirl to the list of awesome superhero news. People love powerful ladies and it seems the bigwigs are finally taking notice. Batgirl has long been a fan favorite and this relaunch could not come at a better time.

For those who don’t know, Batgirl follows the adventures of Batman’s Commissioner Jim Gordon’s daughter, Barbara Gordon. However, it’s not always been an easy road for Babs. As Emma Houxbois points out, she was first introduced in the ’60s’ comic books as a chick who fought crime purely as an intellectual exercise and never sought out fame and fortune. She was seen as an equal counterpart to Batman. Which is totally awesome. In the ’80s, poor Barbara was subjected to a story line of sexual abuse that also left her paralyzed. But this led to her reintroduction as the mysterious hacker Oracle, who eventually created the all-female crime squad Birds of Prey. Pretty freakin‘ rad. But a very dark path to travel down, as she contended with endless obstacles and bleak story lines, and Batgirl deserved a new ray of light.

This latest incarnation of Batgirl is totally amazing on her own, equipped with yellow Doc Marten’s and a smart phone, no less. She’s a slightly awkward hipster grad-student and that makes her feel real. The writers steep the story in social media, consciously making an appeal to be relatable: Babara’s great because she’s just like us! (Or who we once were, if you’re no longer a twenty-something.)

The creators of Batgirl are clearly out to do this woman justice. Woman being the operative word. Exploring the human side of superheroes is always enlightening, but too often we find a haunted, wounded person under the mask–just take a look at Batman. This draws on our sympathy but is harder to actually relate to. But as one the series’ writers, Brenden Fletcher says “She’s a kickass crime fighter, she’s a computer genius, she knows every martial art, and she can handle herself in a fight. . . But maybe she doesn’t know how to act at a party.” That’s a human side I’m personally very excited for them to explore.

This is a complicated woman, honestly portrayed, and people can actually see themselves in her–it’s really not that complicated. The proof is in the pudding, after all. As Houxbois says, “Earlier this year, the first issue of Ms. Marvel, the ongoing adventures of plucky Muslim teenager Kamala Khan, went into an astonishing six printings and boasted even stronger digital sales. Thus, there’s big potential for Batgirl #35 to shatter sales records and make the industry take clear notice of its female audience.”

So, take notice, industry. Your audience is waiting.

Image via DC Comics