Barbara Gordon

I’ve been thinking, was the killing Joke really necessary? In my opinion Barbara Gordon is such a smart girl, so being a police daughter and a hero in her own right, you would think she be smart enough to ask who’s behind the door. I’m pretty sure back in the 80s they have a peep hole on a door so the homeowner can check. I can see why Yvonne Craig the original Batgirl hated what DC did to Barbara Gordon, it was almost as bad as Marvel killing of Gwen Stacy!
So here’s a poll, Do you think DC was wrong to have Barbara Gordon shot by the Joker?

  • Yes
  • No

0 voters

Feel free to leave a comment. :slightly_smiling_face:


Nope. The events surrounding the killing joke were pretty gruesome. But the story it explored afterwards was pretty awesome. It shows that a wheelchair bound girl will not be held down. She really grew and helped others to grow after those events.


That’s a very complicated question. On one hand, the story itself was gruesome. On the other hand, without it, we never would have had Oracle, who I adore.


I think it was an unnecessary and poorly handled plot point, but opened the door for better stories than we’d have had without it.


Don’t get me wrong, I think Oracle is a great character for Barbara, I mean she could’ve follow Dick Grayson’s footstep, retire the Batgirl costume and work behind the scene as Oracle and still form the Birds Of Prey. :slightly_smiling_face:


How else would we have oracle???


While I agree, and was upset, that she didn’t show more caution in the scene I do acknowledge that the event itself was necessary for the amazing story that followed. Plus, as amazing as she was/is, everyone makes a mistake, especially when they’re young. In her mind, she was out. She was focused on other things, and sometimes even things that are normally routine can slip our mind. Unfortunately for Barbara that moment was a critical one.


Was it necessary for the writers to kill Bruce Wayne’s parents in front of him when he was a child? Was it necessary for the planet Krypton to be destroyed, killing at least millions of people? Yes, it was a terrible event. It was never trivialized or made light of. Bad things happen. She didn’t allow it to define her, though. She forged a new identity as Oracle.


I think what happened in Killing Joke was a gruesome event and probably could have been done better. And I think the only reason why fans say it is okay is because we eventually got Oracle out of it. If Barbara had been handled differently afterwards this would be a completely different conversation.

I also have heard stories about what was said in the creative process about what was going to happen to Barbara and that is that part I don’t like about it. But overall, we got Oracle and I think that is the most important part of it all.


It was gruesome, no one every denied or underplayed that. I’m not sure how it could have been done differently. Nothing seemed out of character for the Joker. I can see him doing it.

As far as what was said by creative, as has always been said, writer Alan Moore asked if he could cripple Babs and the editor (repeat: the editor, not the writer) replied in the way we’ve all heard but that I won’t repeat here. That was terrible, but it also reflects the feeling around DC back then; Babs had given up being Batgirl by that point, and was being quietly phased out. Had John Ostrander not debuted her as Oracle, and had she not gone on to star in Birds of Prey, she may well have slipped away into obscurity.

I know that’s probably shocking for most modern fans; DC editorial today has largely anointed her as the one true Batgirl, but no one back then really cared about her. But the fact that no one had plans to use her certainly contributed to the decision to cripple her.


I really didn’t want to start the argument, you both made a very good point. I guess I should’ve been thankful that they kept Barbara alive and Wheelchair bound and made her a better character.
I was also thinking that without that event would she still be a police Commissioner in Batman Beyond?
And please remember everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

It’s not an easy question, but my answer is going to be “yes”.


A comicbook heros story is told over decades and with time maybe centuries. Making sudden huge changes to characters whose stories are told over such timespans is not unproblematic. Imagine a reader investing 30 years of money and time into following that character, then at a single writers whim, something drastic happens to that character that makes it unpalatable for the reader.

The killing joke is arguably a potentially unpalatable tale not in line with what Batgirl readers might have been looking for.

Oracle is a great character, I,m not going to debate that. But why not make it a new character, with its own origin story? Short term, the shock value of it being a character you are familiar with will be important. Long term, not so much. The Oracle stories would have been just as great if Oracle was a new character.

Because of the decision to make it the same character, you estrange original Batgirl readers, and you upset Oracle fans when you inevitably return Barbara to the original character again.

These are issues that will linger forever. I am still meeting people angry that the Killing Joke was ever made. I still here people bemoaning the lack of Oracle ongoings.

In my mind it wasn’t worth it for one story. It would have been better long term if we had Oracle and Batgirl being different characters and let both find their own fans, and had them both on the active roster. Then everyone could have had what they wanted.


While what happened to Babs was pretty gruesome, the stories that followed along with her character growth were amazing. So I can’t say that I wish the event never took place, but it’s too bad the entire thing wasn’t handled better.
In the end, though, we got to see Babs become Oracle, which I think was extremely powerful to watch.


I just reread The Killing Joke and paid particular attention to the time leading up to Barbara’s incident. She and her father were in a discussion and she had just prepared mugs of cocoa for the two of them. Although it seems silly that she would answer her door (in Gotham of all places) without checking the peephole that it clearly shows in the panel, she also confirmed confidently (to the Commissioner) that it was “Colleen from across the street” coming for their yoga class. I don’t fault her for the casual response. I did, in this reading however, wonder why upon opening her home and seeing it was The Joker she didn’t either close the door immediately, throw the hot beverage at him, or both! I know she was startled (and talked about her fear of The Joker right before it happened), but she was also Batgirl - a tough young woman ready for action who fought alongside THE Batman.

That being said, I believe that her outcome was necessary and led to other amazing opportunities for herself and the DC Universe as a whole. The Oracle is an incredible character who uses her wits and strength in spite of her disability and is looked upon highly by all fans, especially those who share parts of her experience.


I would think that she didn’t think twice about who was possibly behind the door, i think the reason may be that just a little bit before joker knocks on the door Barbara mentions that “and for the life of me i can’t remember Barbara’s friends name that was coming over to go and workout with her” her friend was coming by to do the workout thing with her. So i would almost assume that she really had nothing to fear from opening the door due to her friend coming by.


Barbara Gordon is one of my favorite heroes (top 3) and a lot of that is because of her being Oracle. As much as I like her being Batgirl I prefer her to being Oracle. That being said, what happened to her in Killing Joke was totally unnecessary. Not only gruesome but also executed sloppily (this goes into my overall opinion that Killing Joke is overrated but another topic for another time ). Let us remember that neither Moore or anyone at DC had any intention on making her Oracle until John Ostrander and Kim Yale decided to put her in Suicide Squad.
As to her becoming Oracle , there could have been dozens of ways to lead her to that path. She’s a hero, a very dangerous profession. They could have had her injured during a fight or shootout. It could have been an accident outside of the costume. I know at this point in time they had retired her from being Batgirl so I’m inclined in going with the later option.
What really got me about the whole scene in Killing Joke was how gruesome it was. Not only assaulted but stripped, demeaned, and humiliated all to drive the plot forward as a device. It didn’t need to be that extreme or horrendous. They could have done better. I suppose if wasn’t so horrific would have a different opinion.
Those are my two cents. I understand that Killing Joke is a fan favorite , being a big Joker story with his origin (maybe origin?) so people will always defend it with all they have and I don’t want to start up any giant fights. While I find it overrated I do find parts of it enjoyable and it has some of the best Batman art out there.
I really could go on more but probably shouldn’t. At least not yet. It’s a good question to bring up. Thank you!


Back when it happened it seemed like it. But Barbara getting shot breathed new life into the character and arguably took her to new heights as Oracle. Which never would have happened had they not done that to her.


I would say no.
This is a huge Part of her character which lead to many great stories featuring oracle. Even though she is Batgirl again that event still has an effect and was able to show her strength in over coming and adapting to it.


I love The Killing Joke, but the thing is, Joker could have shot any rando and my feelings for it would be the same. Story-wise, I liked the book for the questions it posed about Batman and Joker’s sanity; Barbara and Gordon’s pain were secondary (which is why, despite my adoration, I’ll never claim it’s without problems).

And while I answered “no,” I’m kind of lukewarm on my vote.

If the story had been proposed as, “Hey, I want to paralyze Batgirl, but here’s the thing – afterward, you’ll have her rise above her personal tragedy and sidekick status to become an intellectual juggernaut who commands her own team and acts as a keystone to Batfamily operations!” I’d say no, DC didn’t do anything wrong. Bruce’s back has been broken; characters have died before; if Barbara’s rebirth as Oracle didn’t work out, they could always find an excuse to undo her paralyzation. (To be fair, I’m biased. Oracle is one of my all-time favorites, but Babs has never been my favorite as Batgirl).

However, that’s not how it was proposed. Worse was what the editor said (as @J3D28F.17202 mentioned). I can’t imagine how Batgirl fans felt when it happened.

Tldr: Can we have a “Yes, but I’m glad it worked out the way it did” option for the vote? :smirk:

As for her opening the door, I think it’s 100% logical. I’m sure even Einstein occasionally forgot to look both ways before crossing the street.


Yeah, as to the actual logic of opening the door, I’m in the habit of checking the peephole because I’m antisocial and don’t expect to have my door knocked on. But with people coming and going pretty regularly and the fact that she’d been out of costume for quite a while, double-checking would essentially be redundant and it makes sense that Barbara would fall out of the habit if she’d ever been in it in the first place.

As to the way it happened, I think it’s actually quite important to Oracle’s characterization that it was a singularly traumatic event. I’m not defending Moore’s writing decision, but I think Babs is legitimately motivated by the sheer random cruelty of it. Essentially, her character arc is overcoming both what the Joker did to her and what Alan Moore did to her.

And it’s worth noting that since the New 52 (as far as I’ve read), Batgirl has actually been written as more heavily affected by it on a psychological level, essentially trading physical scars for (more/stronger) mental ones. While that’s a legitimate character direction, it feels like a backslide. Oracle was too strong for the Joker to break, but still had to carry the weight of what happened. Batgirl is basically just more of his collateral damage. She and Jason feel like proxies to try to bait us into thinking the Joker is a legitimate threat to Batman. Which in turn feeds into bad characterization for the Joker, but that’s another discussion.