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Interview: Gail Simone Talks Death of Oracle

Could this be the end of Barbara Gordon?

If you have been reading DC Comics' Birds of Prey series then you, like me, have been greatly anticipating the third installment of the four issue arc The Death of Oracle. We're all waiting to see what it could mean for the future of Barbara Gordon and the rest of the 'Birds.' As we slowly come closer to the finale of the arc, it's hard not to wonder what the meaning behind The Death of Oracle is. Does it imply the literal death of Barbara Gordon or does it mean that Barbara Gordon will no longer lead the Birds of Prey as Oracle?  Will she will take on the identity of another character? Is it possible that Barbara Gordon will walk again?

Back in 2009, DC Comics released a three issue mini series entitled Oracle: The Cure, leading the majority of the reader base to believe that by the end of the series, Oracle could be out of the wheelchair she has relied on for the last 23 years. Obviously, that did not happen. The idea is not improbable as far as the scope of comics is concerned, but is it really a possible outcome? Thinking back to previous major events in comics, we have watched countless characters in the DC universe die and eventually return; just look at Brightest Day. The question is, do readers want to see Barbara out of a wheelchair again, and is it something that DC is ready to publish?
 == TEASER ==
The Birds of Prey team first launched in 1999 and featured Oracle, Huntress and Black Canary. The three not only worked together, but evolved from being teammates to close friends who relied on one another though difficult times. The series was eventually canceled in 2009 after a ten year run, which is really not bad considering the state of comics. After a break for a year, DC brought Gail Simone back to the Birds of Prey and re-launched the series in July of 2010. Taking into account the success of the series, it might be safe to say that the likelihood of Oracle's death is rather unlikely. Not only is she the team's leader and the glue that holds them together, but one could argue that she is far too valuable an asset to die so soon after the re-launch of this series. That still leaves the question, what does The Death of Oracle mean and what will it mean for the Birds of Prey team? Well, who better than to ask than the source, right? We caught up with Gail Simone to find out exactly that.
Comic Vine: First, Birds of Prey has been really fantastic. What is it like bringing these fabulous girls (and guy) together on the same team?
Gail Simone: Dah, it's a hard feeling to describe. I've had some friends who have done runs on books that they have become closely identified with, and when they go back, it hasn't always gone well. So, it was a concern to be sure. But writing the first issue of the new Birds of Prey, where Canary is snarking at some creep, trying to rescue a little girl in the snow, and suddenly bam, bam, bam, we see Lady Blackhawk, then Oracle, then Huntress...I don't know how to explain it. It was just a lovely, lovely feeling.  Like a homecoming.  At the same time, I'm very conscious that we can't simply tread water, or trade in on the goodwill of old stories. A lot of big things are happening...some new things to the status quo, particularly for Babs and Helena. But seriously, there's no hype to it, I think the BoP have a special rhythm and chemistry, and my goal isn't so much to lasso it, as to let it run wild and try to keep up. I love it.

CV: I am sure this is a tough question, but who would you say is your favorite BoP character to write and why? Who do you feel is the most complex? Which character is the most difficult to write?
GS: Hmm.  Well, traditionally, Lady Blackhawk is the most fun to write. Dinah's probably my favorite. But Helena is by far the deepest character of the lot, I think. She behaves one way by herself, and another with the Birds. And her origin is always looming over any story she's in. I hate when she's written badly, it just makes me want to tear my own head off. As for the most difficult, it's mostly a matter of focus, but Hawk and Dove haven't YET shown the colors we hope to show for them. There just hasn't been enough real estate on the page to really do what we needed to do with the rest of the team AND show them in their full glory.

CV: There's been a lot of speculation about the current story arc, The Death of Oracle and what it means and will mean for the character. Will it be the death of Barbara Gordon? Will it mean that Barbara will walk again? Is there anything you can tell us about your plans?
GS: Not really.  Except to say that it's not a stunt, I'm not really interested in stunts. It's something organic and troubling and thrilling at the same time, I hope. It's subtle, but the waves ripple outward a long way.

CV: Where did you get your inspiration for the villain, Mortis?
GS: That's a great question, actually. A big part of it came from my philosophy about creating villains, which is tied in with some ennui I have about modern villains in comics. The constant thread of's sort of tiresome after awhile, particularly when we know these dead characters are likely to come back some day.  But the way death is sold, and made into an 'event,' I just find it unimaginative. I am not talking about the new Fantastic Four, by the way, Jonathan Hickman is one of the few writers I trust absolutely to put a new spin on such a thing. But in general, it's just this required bit of nonsense to give the latest crossover a bit of's silly. So I like my villains to be interested in something OTHER than just the death of the hero. Because baby, there are SO many things that are worse than death. And if you add in metahuman possibilities, then there are likely to be things that make death seem like a wonderful picnic. Mortis can get into your mind and see what makes you ashamed, what makes you despair. She knows the bits of your soul that you will never tell anyone. And she crushes it. And most people can't handle that.

She's like the Galactus and your soul is the planet he wants to eat.

 [Emphasis ours]

CV: I am a big fan of having Hank Hall on the Birds of Prey, but I admit a lot of people found it unconventional. It is also interesting to see him as this sort of reckless, hard headed character that has no problem disobeying orders (which we saw in issue #8). Why the ultimate decision to have him on the team and will he be sticking around?  
GS: It was Geoff Johns' suggestion, as it was his suggestion for me to come back to Birds, bless his little green heart.  But the idea captivated me, because I love the b-list and c-list to start with, but more than that, I LOVE the Hawk and Dove concept. I think they more they complicated it, the farther it got from being REALLY effective.  And Karl Kesel, famous for working on some of the best Hawk and Dove stories ever, wrote and told me it was time to get past all the chaos/order stuff and go back to the war/peace conflict, so that was exciting. I love Hank, we haven't seen him really flip over all the cards yet, and Helena and Babs are very skeptical of him. Dove fits in oddly well, I think. She's sweet, which none of the other Birds are at all.

CV: In her character history, Barbara Gordon has been in a wheelchair longer than she could walk. Early last year, DC released the 3 issue mini series ' The Cure,' and most of us thought that by the end of the series, she would be walking. Do you think it was the wrong time to give Barbara back the use of her legs, or do you think it's not something DC is planning for her character?
GS: I do know it was something considered at one point, it comes up every so often. And I was on the fence for a while, I admit it. But the overwhelming majority, I mean by something like fifty to one or more, of people with a disability that read the book and look up to Babs think some pseudo-science fix is a terrible idea.
I have seen dozens of Oracle cosplayers, people who are genuinely in a chair, and Oracle MEANS something to them.
I have a friend I consult with from the Feminists with Disabilities website, and she shared a story with me.  She has a four year old nephew that is paralyzed from the waist down. He says he's going to grow up to be, "Mr. Oracle."

She's just one of those characters that means something to people in a way much deeper than most of the two-dimensional, flimsy-as-cardboard ultra-perfect action heroes. 

[Emphasis ours]

GS: I think she is inspiring to those with physical disabilities, but also to those who have other struggles, as well, people with roadblocks and burdens and abusive pasts and the like. There's a sense that if Babs can pick herself up and fight back from a chair in front of a computer, that we all can, as well, that we can find our Oracle, as odd as that may sound. In a world of comics that are increasingly dismal and value-less and lacking in hope, Oracle is one with a whole raft of wonderful messages; don't give up, don't let anything stop you, don't let despair run your universe.  But in the end, I think her best message is simply this--don't screw with the redhead in the tower, because she will freaking DESTROY you. What's not great about that?
Whatever the future holds for Oracle is bound to be entertaining and interesting development for her character- and that is the best that any die-hard fan of her character can hope for. Look for Birds of Prey #9 part 3 of 4 of The Death of Oracle in stores on February 9th, 2011 to find out what's next for the heroine. What do you think 'The Death of Oracle' means, and what do you want to see happen to Barbara Gordon? 
42 Comments Refresh
Posted by jordama

Given what Gail said, I really doubt that Babs would be given a way to completely walk again. Most likely to me is that they would give her a way to be more active in the field aspect of heroics. Maybe a suit that allows her to fight crime but still be conected to the tech.
Posted by Mercy_
Tries to stop herself from reading the article and spoiling it. 
Posted by Duo_forbidden

Great interview. I think I would like Hawk a little bit more if he had something more to do. Dove on the other hand, she is like the innocent one in the group. I also wouldn't mind seeing a possible return of Misfit.
As for the story arc itself, I'm enjoying it. Still don't think Oracle will die, but I think I like the direction it's headed judging by what Simone said.

Posted by xerox_kitty

I have a friend I consult with from the Feminists with Disabilities website, and she shared a story with me.  She has a four year old nephew that is paralyzed from the waist down. He says he's going to grow up to be, "Mr. Oracle."


That's just the sweetest thing!  I love the way that Oracle isn't just a regular comic character. 

Posted by FadeToBlackBolt
@xerox-kitty said:

I have a friend I consult with from the Feminists with Disabilities website, and she shared a story with me.  She has a four year old nephew that is paralyzed from the waist down. He says he's going to grow up to be, "Mr. Oracle."


That's just the sweetest thing!  I love the way that Oracle isn't just a regular comic character. 

Yeah, as much as I love Barbara, and think it's so cruel that she can't do her thing as Batgirl, she's so much more meaningful as a character now.
Posted by sora_thekey

I have newfound respect for Gail Simone! 
I love her writing and enjoy most of the books she works on, but this just proved to me that the dedication she has for the characters she writes is big. Even though I am relatively new reading DC books, Babs has been one of those characters that made it into the Favorites list. 
Comparing Mortis's powers to that of Galactus' nature sure makes me be more interested in the character. I am now even more curious of what Death of Oracle really is about. 
Thanks for the amazing interview Sara!

Posted by Eyz

"Is it possible that Barbara Gordon will walk again? "
Will people stop asking that?!
(plus we actually have a very silver age-ysh fun Batgirl already currently, so, stop it!) 

Also she gave out a great answer!
Luv Gail Simone^__^
Keep rockin' BoP and the Secret Six!!

Posted by Niesa

I really hope she's not 'cured.' She's my favourite of the Bat-Clan and one of the most wonderfully written female characters in DC.
Gail Simone, you're my effing hero.

Edited by Evpraksiya

She's spectacular in wheelchair or on her two feet. She doesn't need to be ''cured'' her strongwill do the job. Birds are well orchestrated, thanks Gail and all the artists behind them i've been reading this since years all the time i've seen the volumes waiting in my mailbox coming from us was delightfull. Love Barda, Lady Bh Huntress and Misifts 
 I hate bling superficial things so thanks again your work is always professionnal.

Edited by antiterra

Phew, crisis averted... It's reassuring to see that Gail Simone not only has no plans to make Babs walk again, but that she's firmly set against it. Very few characters (if any) in the history of the DCU or Marvel have had to reinvent themselves to the same radical degree as her. Part of what makes her so compelling is how she managed to become such a pivotal character in her corner of the DCU - someone that many look up to and admire - even though she has no superpowers, no costume, nothing apart from that wonderful brain of hers.

We've seen her struggle, first with the loss of her legs, then with her very purpose (did she even want to be part of the super-hero world any more?), then with the increasing responsibilities that she gradually took on.

Maybe it's because I have a soft spot for brainy characters, but I don't see how making her walk again could possibly make her cooler than she currently is - because, let's face, comic book characters don't get much cooler than Barbara Gordon.

Every time I think I can't love Gail Simone more than I already do, an interview like this one comes around and I just know that my favourite characters are in good hands, that I shouldn't be afraid that some stupid marketing stunt will wreck them. Whether it's the BoP, WW or the Secret Six, she treats her characters with more respect and genuine affection than any writer I can think of. She may send them through hell and back, she may hurt them, but she never damages them.


Posted by Bestostero

I want Barbara to walk again...I feel that it's unlikely with what was said in the interview... but I still hope for it. 
Great interview, anxiously awaiting to pick up BoP 9 today :)

Posted by dondasch

This is interesting and great news.  Very interesting to see how this character has managed since Alan Moore's event for her in The Killing Joke.

Posted by miki

I hope that she come back, with her legs!

Posted by queenfrost_

OMG! Gail Simone is the besttt <3 thanks Sara for the interview!
I hope Barbara's given a chance at walking, but then returns to her wheelchair days but somewho sacrificng her ability to walk?

Posted by wingster

I do want Babs to walk again, someone throw her into a lazarus pit already! 
But seriously, I'd be fine if Babs never walked again if there was a scene in the comic where Babs actually "choose" to stay in the wheelchair and not walk.  Until I see that scene, it's contrived to have her in the wheelchair... given comic book science/magic/tech which could easily "cure" her.
Posted by goldenkey

I thnki she walk again.  If it doesn't work just have someone bust her up again.
Posted by Video_Martian

I bought issue 8 of BoP the other day and I really liked it, can't wait to check out this new issue since this has become one of my favorite comics to read recently.
and I totally agree w/ Gail Simone, Oracle/Babs really is an inspiration to those with disabilities everywhere, so it would be very weird if she began walking in the comics again for no reason =P

Posted by Paloc

I have a feeling that this will tie into the web 3.0 thing talked about in Batman Inc. 
The "Death" of Oracle probably means she will give up the name to be more tied into that story line. Since Bruce showed her something about having an avatar it means she'll probably be Bat-Web-Girl or something (though with a better name, I'm not super creative)
Posted by Doctor!!!!!

Oracle will die..........and arise Batgirl again! 
Maybe.I don't know what I'm talking about.
Posted by Darkmount1

Please, please, PLEASE, can we go this entire year without a comic character or characterS being killed off literally or figuratively?????? Is it too much to ask??????
Posted by necromage93

I think what they mean by "The Death of Oracle" is simply that the team is finally moving off of an Oracle database for their back end data storage to something that actually makes sense, is scalable, and open source, like MySql. ;)

Posted by No_Name_
@necromage93 said:
" I think what they mean by "The Death of Oracle" is simply that the team is finally moving off of an Oracle database for their back end data storage to something that actually makes sense, is scalable, and open source, like MySql. ;) "
Posted by NightFang

Interesting article.

Posted by SirSparkington

I'm thinking the "Death of the Oracle" will end with Babs not using the Oracle persona anymore. Anyways, good interview!

Posted by The Impersonator

Sara, I was wondering. Did you get your nickname,"Babs" from the character, Barbara Gordon?

Posted by Raul_The_Man

Great job.

This article/interview has ramped up my curiosity about BoP and Babs a lot.

I will probably go and get the 3 issues of this story line since this is a slow week in comics for me.

I do agree that what makes her character so intriguing is that she does have a physical disability. and that she didn't let that prevent her from doing something with her life.

Posted by aouric

After reading this interview I'm caught between wanting Babs to walking again fighting crime, and her remaining in the wheelchair as a meaningful symbol to all those who are dealing 
with paralysis.  
You know... I could never imagine Matt Murdock being cured from his blindness.

Posted by johnny_spam

I still think it is not wise to keep her in a wheelchair.
As time goes on and technology in the real world gets more advanced then the comics tech should get more so staying as someone behind a computer losses it's uniqueness as people in the real world are like that every day the imagination and what can make superheroes so fantastic is not really there when a characters traits are they use computers.
  Steel has a robot hand Cyborg has been entirely reconstructed Damian had been shot in the spine and then had it replaced keeping Oracle in her wheelchair which really does limit possibilities does nothing but maintain an old status quo with no evolution.
Also in the mechanics of this fictional universe there are endless possibilities that the characters are perfectully aware of  it makes Barbara less heroic if she knows there are ways she can walk again but chooses not to consider those options.

Posted by mickoreo_LZ

I have been a big fan of the Birds ever since they formed and I am really excited to see how Simone ends this arc. Hopefully nothing too dramatic changes to Oracle because she is one of my favorite characters in the DCU, and easily one of the best female characters in all of comics

Posted by Gregomasta
Posted by Chris2KLee

I think the hints in the Batman Inc. series point to a continued role as support and control for Barbra, but maybe under a new name.

Posted by shadowpdf

Barbara Gordon became a strong character after she was shot by the Joker and left a parapalegic (sp?).  She became an even stronger character under Ms. Simone's tenure.  She'll continue to be a strong character, and an interesting one, no matter where Ms. Simone takes her.  While I would love to see the original Batgirl up again and in action, she is a far more interesting character in the chair.  If that inspires others, so be it. 
Posted by JonesDeini
@Darkmount1 said:
" Please, please, PLEASE, can we go this entire year without a comic character or characterS being killed off literally or figuratively?????? Is it too much to ask?????? "
Yes, yes it is...
Posted by TheMess1428

This is going to end up with Dick Grayson all over it. 
She dies = He's going to be cry and be depressed. 
She walks = He's going to be there in love again.

Posted by huntressfan

I am more interested in what this "status quo" change will be to The Huntress character. She has certainly not been as focused upon as some of the other core character, and I feel she is by far the most interesting of all of them, especially her duality. It was nice to see the writer recognize that Huntress orgin looms largely over the character as I a agree that her tragic pass influence every aspect of this character.  We haven't  seen even sublt hints of that in many of the stories, and I hope that is something further expolored. Huntress full potential as a character certainly hasn't been scratched.
Posted by No_Name_
@The Impersonator said:
" Sara, I was wondering. Did you get your nickname,"Babs" from the character, Barbara Gordon? "
Yes indeedy
Posted by guuthulhu

But I like Oracle.... *cries* 
I just hope that whatever actually happens doesn't turn out retarded.

Posted by .Mistress Redhead.
@Babs: fantastic interview Babs, I love Simone, but hearing her views on the character was interesting as well as enlightening, I honestly did not thin she would have such a big crush on Dinah, I thought Babs would have been her fav. Thank you for a great, well researched and fabulous interview.
Posted by Havik86

I don't think Oracle will be killed because Morrison showed Batman having some kind of plan for her in the near future. Something having to do with "Internet 2.0" if I recall. She had a new costume and everything. I hope they don't make her physically dead but mentally log her online to hunt down criminals or something way out of left field like that. Mostly I just don't want to see her killed because I hate comic book deaths. As a fan and reader, it really pisses me off when it happens. I get this feeling like who the hell do you think you are coming in and writing a story that kills off a character that's been around so long.

Posted by marvelcomicsandbatmanfanatic

I will be pi$$ed if she dies. I would like to see her walk again, but its just so cool to see her kick someones ass while sitting in a wheelchair. What I think should happen is have her be able to walk half the time or something like that

Edited by entropy_aegis

Birds of prey has been in all honesty very mediocre since it relaunched, 
first we got  the whole white canary mystery and it turns out there was NO mystery or they failed  when it came to the payoff,the lady shiva jobbing ,and finally this death of oracle,we are already 3 out of 4 issues down and it's already a black canary story with bruce wayne as the supporting character,we all know that oracle will live and we also know that she wont be getting her legs back .the book is failing to live up to the hype. 
But on the brightside simone is killing it with secret six,AWESOME BOOK.
Posted by Enyalios

I stubbled onhis thread whil  was surfing the site. I had to think about the subject of Oraclewalking again.  In all honesty I've always been bothered by her cofined to  wheelchair, though it took me  a little bit of thinking about it to figure out why.  I've narrowed it down to two reasons. 
First, in all honesty it does not make sense.  In the context of the world that DC set up, it really is unrealistic that Babs has never been able to walk after her run in with the Joker.  Just taking into account her portion if it, she is a friend of Batman, of Bruce Wayne, among the richest men in the world.  He and his company make inventions that can do damn near anything.  In addition, characters have died and been brought back to life, healed completely by being dropped into a pit, and Batman himself took a journey through time.  She is the best friend and on again off again lover of Dick Grayson, his oldest 'son' who can get his hands on any of that tech if he really needs it. 
In addition, look at who they hang out with.  Beings of awesome power, gods and those who walk among them, again beings who routinely defy death or just come back from it.  And you mean to tell me that a (comparitively) miniscule thing like paralysis completely baffles them?  Don't think so.  And you know she wants to walk again, she has to.  No one chooses to accept a disability when the option exists for them to overcome it, especially someone who knows what its like not to have that disability, especially considering the life she led prior to.  It just makes no sense. 
My other problem I think I realized it as I read this thread.  All the comments about people not wanting her to walk again, as though that was going to change who she was as a character.  And it hit me.  But before I get into that, let me backtrack a bit. 
Traditionally, a female character who takes her gimic from an established male character is at a huge disavantage not faced by other characters.  She has to hold her own, but at the same time not become defined by her male counterpart.  Dick Grayson (and everyone who has taken up the Robin mantle) has faced similar issues, but I don't think it was to the same extant, because, in these cases, its easy to see the character as a sort of platitude to female viewers.  Instead of "oh look, its Batgirl" its easy to dismiss her by instead saying oh look, the female Batman" or, somewhat worse the female Robin".  I'm not sure if she ever managed to get beyond that.  I was only like 7 or 8 when she was confined to the wheelchair.   
Unfortunately, while she is not not neccessarily defined by Batman or her assosciation with him, he has instead become defined not by her ability, but by her disability.  This thread is proof of that, simply reading these comments.  As though her walking would diminish her as a character, diminish the impact she could have on the DCU and Gotham if she were allowed the use of her legs.   
I for one feel it would make for an interesting story.  How would she cope with the return of her physical abilities?  Would she return to the the Batgirl mantle?  Make up a new identity?  Or simply return to her life as normal?  How would her relationship with the Birds of Prey be affected?  How would her relationship with Dick be affected?  These could make for some interesting stories if handled correctly.  I just don't think there are currently any writers who would have the courage to try it.