Stewart, Fletcher, and Tarr’s run on Batgirl won’t just be remembered for the iconic redesign of Batgirl’s costume, which has found its way into other mediums, like the DC Comics Superhero Girls toy line or the Batman Bad Blood animated film, or the cyberpunk-meets-Williamsburg aesthetic of Burnside. It will be remembered as a comic that showed that not all DC superhero books had to have art that looked like Jim Lee’s, kicked ass while still being stylish as hell, and most of all for having a diverse, multifaceted cast of characters that fans of all genders, races, sexual orientations, body types, and disability status could see themselves in.
Throughout Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr’s run, Batgirl has proven that it is the visual crown jewel of DC Comics, and issue 49 is a victory lap, especially thanks to the powerful work of Ming Doyle and James Harvey along with the sunny, suburban Stepford horror of Roger Robinson. It is also a tour de force into the beautiful and damaged psyche of Barbara Gordon and a real turning point in her arc in the New 52. Issue 50 can’t come soon enough.
While Batgirl is an effective detective and crime-fighter, and her fights with villains are a blast, that’s only half of the story. The other half is her relationships with her friends, her father, and her love interests. Although anyone could easily enjoy Batgirl, the title is acutely suited for teen girls and young women.
With clever dialogue and rapid plotting of Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher, the fierceness, cuteness, and sadness of Babs Tarr’s art, and the battle of genres and tones created by colorists Lee Loughridge and Serge Lapointe, Batgirl #48 is an excellent outing for the title, and there are more cool reveals to come. There is definitely a lot of darkness to endure before the colorful fun returns. If it ever does.
Like Barbara Gordon’s agile mind, writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher tend to balance several plot threads in each Batgirl issue, and this one is no exception. The three main ones are real estate developers using teenagers in various street gangs to drive out tenants so they can gentrify Burnside, Stephanie Brown aka Spoiler getting a bounty put on her because she witnessed Eiko Hasigawa (Catwoman’s lover during Genevieve Valentine’s run on the book) executing mob leaders, and also her continued lapses of memory, which might have led to a scientific breakthrough. Although, Stewart and Fletcher’s plot has a lot of moving parts, it comes organically out of character relationships and the dark, lovely world they have crafted through thirteen issues with artist Babs Tarr, colorist Serge Lapointe, and other collaborators.
The first panel I attended at New York Comic Con was the LGBT in Comics panel on Thursday, October 8. It was sponsored by TimesOUT, an LGBT affiliate of the New York Times. The lineup was quite star-studded and possibly the first time that three bisexual men have sat on a panel at a comics convention together. It consisted of writer Steve Orlando (Midnighter), artist Kris Anka (Uncanny X-Men), writer Jennie Wood (Flutter), artist Babs Tarr (Batgirl), cover artist Kevin Wada (She-Hulk), and writer James Tynion IV (Memetic). They represent a broad spectrum of comics genres from fashion forward superheroes to YA survival stories and even exploitation sub-genres. The panel was moderated by New York Times writer Jude Biersdorfer.
This year, I will be attending my first ever New York Comic Con with a press pass from Popoptiq.com. I am very excited and a little nervous about getting the chance to rub shoulders with 150,000+ comics, sci-fi, fantasy, anime, and video game fans. (Sorry if I forgot your specific niche.) This year, New York Comic Con is really bringing their A-game as far as panels, guests, and even afterparty opportunities. This year’s guests range from Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto to the casts and writers of upcoming genre TV shows like Sword of Shannara, Ash vs. the Evil Dead, and Legends of Tomorrow and of course, a stacked comics creator lineup from living legends like Chris Claremont and Brian K. Vaughan and relatively new stars like Batgirl artist Babs Tarr and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Jughead artist Erica Henderson.
Even if the final page villain reveal might not be the most exciting (for now), Batgirl #43 is another opportunity for Babs Tarr to strut her character and clothing design sense, try out some new types of fight scenes, and for Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher to put Batgirl’s well-developed supporting cast to work in another wacky, tech/supervillain/political caper/thriller. It’s hard to fit this comic’s plot in a neat genre box, and that’s a good thing.
One of the things that writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher and artist Babs Tarr have shown in their run in Batgirl is that Gotham can be home to other stories and genres other than dark conspiracy, horror, or detective tales. Batgirl #42 could be classified as a techno thriller comedy, or just a straight up superheroes defeat supervillains with an added personal layer because Barbara is teaming up with her dad even if they don’t know it. The art continues to be the biggest highlight, and Tarr’s lines continue to be sweeping and pretty, and her character models are quite adorable. Jake Wyatt and Michel Lacombe handle the layouts and showcase Batgirl’s speed and tenacity with swooping, diagonal panels even if a sequence in the big climactic fight sequence against Lightspeed is a little muddled. Colorist Serge Lapointe brings a bold, bright palette to the issue, but switches up his style for softer, happier scenes with Batgirl in her civilian life as well as going a little Post-Impressionist for the bits featuring Batman and the Gotham skyline.
After a break for Convergence, Batgirl is back with a new villain, a new colorist, and most of all, the first real look about how Jim Gordon’s Batman affects the relationship around him. But Batgirl #41 is still both Babs’ show as readers get to see fight crime as well as interact with her roommate Frankie (who is taking on an Oracle type role) and her dad. Artist Babs Tarr also takes over both layouts and pencils and gives the comic the rush of a Saturday morning cartoon using slanted panels and slightly larger gutters to give her acrobatic style an additional “oomph”. Joel Gomez (most likely) helps out in some of the interior scenes adding details to the arcade where Babs and Frankie hang out, and the haunted house-type environment that makes up the first page of the comic, and Gotham Academy colorist Serge Lapointe give Tarr’s art a Studio Ghibli-esque palette like that series.
Even though she’s only been drawing comics for about a year, Babs Tarr’s artistic revamp of the Batgirl title and the character in general has made her one of comics’ rising stars. She discarded the armor or spandex of past costumes for a fashion forward costume featuring yellow Doc Martens and a snap cape that is cosplay friendly as well as reintegrating the classic cape, cowl, and Bat-symbol for a new generation of a fans.