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.
Not only does Steve Orlando’s Midnighter comic star a gay man, it tells blunt, sex-positive stories about that character. The main cast of characters in the upcoming main Avengers comic All-New, All-Different Avengers has a small minority of white dudes.
While there is still a lot of work on the road to a utopia of complete social justice, there is a trend of progressivism in some of today’s superhero comics that is impossible to ignore.
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.
First of all, I’d like to give a round of applause to the cleverness of putting an artist named Bengal on a comic book featuring a tiger themed villain and extended fight sequences of Batgirl against tigers. Batgirl #44 begins immediately after last issue when the new villain Velvet Tiger kidnapped Jo, the fiancee of Barbara Gordon’s friend Alysia and also framed her friend/gadget provider Qadir for murder. The plot of this issue involving the rescue of Jo, several showdowns with Velvet Tiger, and almost a half dozen supporting characters is packed to the brim by writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher. However, the sheer expressiveness of Bengal’s art and Serge Lapointe’s colors along with a nice dose of adorable in the several romantic scenes keep the issue afloat and entertaining.
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.
What makes the Joker such an exciting villain isn’t just his diabolical deeds, but the way he acts as the perfect foil to Batman. The Caped Crusader is a dark and brooding shadow, bound by morals, rules, and logic. The Clown Prince of Crime is a manic, posturing madman, ruled by chaos, entropy, and a disregard for anything…including himself. Everything the Joker does is to make a point, or deliver a punchline even if it comes at his own expense. He knows no limits and pushes Batman to his own limitations like no our villain. The Joker is to Batman as Kurt Cobain was to Axl Rose, or as Aaron Burr was to Alexander Hamilton, a perfect antithesis in every imaginable way. Here’s a look back at 13 of the most iconic Joker moments. These are the moments that made the Joker the one of the most memorable and recognizable villains in all of fiction, across any medium.