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 death...it'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 gravitas...it'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?