Goodbye Oracle, Goodbye DC Comics

As has been much publicised, DC Comics has sort of rebooted their universe. Except they aren’t wiping the slate clean this time – they are rebooting their characters, but somehow leaving their histories in tact as well (I still haven’t quite figured out that one). As far as I can tell, it’s another case of a comic book company handwaving away a lot of great stories because they would rather be nostalgic or maybe start over with their own revised versions. While one of the biggest stated intentions of this is to draw in new readers, I’m skeptical. The changes seem to me more likely to lose readers they have than to attract readerships they have not previously attracted.

There have already been some great illustrations of this with Starfire (this article and this comic, for example) and others. I think that DC has forgotten that there are more readers in the world than the ones they have been writing for over the last several decades. The comics world is constantly in need of more money, more sales, more readers. And those readers are out there – the appeal of their characters is far more widespread than the sales of their comics would suggest. The numbers of viewers of the animated shows and the big-budget movies and the popularity of the videogames based on their properties are orders of magnitude higher than the numbers of readers of their comics. It doesn’t take a business genius to see that the customers are there, they simply aren’t being reached through the comic book medium.

And those cartoon and movie viewers, those videogamers are all kinds of people – some fall into that white, male pool that the average comic book readers fall into, but there are so much more than that. There are women and people of both genders who are not white and kids and more. And those consumers represent a huge amount of revenue. Comic book shops are always struggling, right? Well, if they could get some of that revenue that they have not attracted before maybe they wouldn’t be struggling so much. Women represent half the population, but only a small fraction of the comic-book buying population. But as a woman I can tell you that when I pick up a comic book, even as a life-long comic book reader, I’m frequently stunned by how violently I feel the message “THIS IS NOT FOR YOU”. That’s the message that Starfire gives to women. She always has had that problem, but is doing so even more in this new incarnation.

For me, the character that drew me to superhero comics the most as a kid was Batgirl because she was a strong girl who chose to be a heroine and then worked to become one, sans superpowers. But what kept me reading superhero comics, as opposed to completely giving them up in favor of other types of stories that were not as likely to scream “THIS IS NOT FOR YOU” at me from the covers and nearly every page, was Oracle.

Oracle was something special. Something beyond capes and tights. She still didn’t have any superpowers (most superpowers would have allowed her to get up out of that chair, whether it was to stand on her feet or fly in the air or something else), but she still managed to be a hero from her wheelchair. And how many disabled heroes are there in the comic book world? The only other one I can think of is Professor X from the X-Men, although it seems like there must have been others over the last century.

Oracle was able to become a powerful character in her own right, completely without borrowing from the mantle of one of the more famous (male) characters, with only her intelligence and willpower. Being paralyzed let her character develop in new and interesting ways that few comic book characters ever get to. She worked hard to overcome the pain and loss (although, realistically, that pain was never completely gone), mastering a new fighting form she could do from her wheelchair, but even more importantly, she found a whole new way to fight the good fight without needing a costume at all.

To me, she was a woman who was able to be powerful and heroic without having to also be a sexy pin-up and by being smart instead of having to have the ability to kick her heels up over her head. The idea of a woman who could be heroic without having to be able to show off her breasts and her butt at the same time was very appealing and the image of a woman who was saving the world by being really smart and doing research was even more appealing. I also found the idea that even in a world with invulnerable people and shapeshifters, some pain and some injuries could not be healed to make the DC Universe something that I am more able to relate to. If everyone is invulnerable and no injury is permanent, then what’s the point?

Apparently DC doesn’t see it that way, though. They have gotten rid of Oracle. That and other changes make me, a life-long reader of DC comics (seriously, I have boxes full of comic books dating back to when I was a kid and even some scavenged from my dad’s childhood collection), ready to give up. I give in. DC Comics, you win. I got the message. Maybe it took nearly 30 years for me to get it, but I finally got it. DC Comics are not for me. And as sad as it makes me that you don’t want my readership and my money, or, apparently, women readers and their money in general, I’ve been trying too hard for too long to get past all of the “NOT FOR YOU” messages. All of the T and A pin-ups. All of the stories with powerless women needing saving or women being destroyed so that male characters would have motivation for a few issues until they forgot all about the women who died for them. I give up. Apparently even in 2011, there is room for a boy’s club and I guess it’s time for me to read that “No Girls Allowed” sign posted out front.

Related Articles:

- The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their ‘Liberated Sexuality’
- Oracle is Stronger than Batgirl will Ever Be
- No More Mutants: 52 Problems
- A Response from a Female Comic Book Fan
- Dear DC Comics
- Comics Should Be For Everyone
- Lois Lane, Girl Reporter (Read this one and think about what DC gave up by rejecting this amazing idea!)

8 Comments

  1. Viv said,

    September 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Holy shit. This is just heartbreaking to read (much like the story of the seven-year-old and Starfire).

    I’m not sure if they’re being willingly clueless or what, but to torch everything like this just hurts.

    Granted, I’m not a DC fan (I prefer Mingola and Hellboy, PS238 and other random things — it’s more of an art style thing than anything else), but shit like this is really upsetting as a person who enjoys her comics.

  2. Alan said,

    September 29, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Nice post. I sadly don’t expect DC to change a thing, but plentiful voices complaining will hopefully convince other people that there is a market for super hero comics beyond 16-year-old boys.

    It looks like WordPress mangled your “this article” and “this comic” links. Where it should be straight quotes, it put in smart quotes, which confuse some browsers.

  3. Maverynthia said,

    September 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    The whole T&A thing is the reason I never started to read comics. I could read that the skin tight outfits were basically “We wanted to draw naked women BUT..” Unfortunately that hasn’t changed. We either get the super thin sticks for the kids or the yard of cloth for a costume.

  4. Ozaline said,

    September 29, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    From the way Gail Simone wrote Batgirl it’s possible Oracle will come back it’s really hinted that Flashpoint changed reality somehow and she got her ability to walk back but she’s not supposed to…

    I give it 1 to 2 years before she’s back in the chair.

    A lot of the characters are getting a total reboot, the Justice League, Teen Titans (this incarnation Red hood and the outlaws makes it clear there was a titans before) Supergirl, and more… It’s really only the Bat family (which Red Hood and hence the characters in his book like Starfire are a part of) and the Green Lantern family that are left alone… Superman starting fresh with two titles he’s not married in either.

    There’s a lot that turns me off as a woman (a transwoman for full disclosure) and a queer person in this reboot but there are some great titles I’m enjoying If you want check out my videos on my blog linked I try to rate titles on how minority/women/queer friendly they are… there’s a lot of failure but a lot of success Batgirl I’m on the fence on cause I also grew up with Barbara gordon Batgirl stories… so I understand the appeal of seeing her back again.

    I give it 1-2 years though, till she’s back in the chair.

  5. Rosepixie said,

    September 29, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks for the heads up about the links, Alan. They have been fixed.

    And yeah, I’ll still read PS238 and comics about things other than superheroes, but I guess after this long I’m just tired of feeling like the creators of the characters and stories are spitting in my face. I want heroes too, but clearly I’m not going to get any from DC. And that does make me sad since I have been a very loyal reader for so long. But you can only take so much, you know?

  6. mordicai said,

    September 30, 2011 at 5:22 am

    I’m not quite ready to say goodbye; I still have hopes that there can be an intervention. I think it isn’t too late to pull the nose of the plane up, but I can’t understand why the pilots are trying SO HARD to plow it into the ground.

  7. Eva said,

    September 30, 2011 at 9:59 am

    You’re right to walk away. DC can’t claim you’re some sort of theoretical customer. You are their customer and they’ve treated you horribly. People are very fond of saying “money talks” and it sounds to me like DC is not earning your money in any way shape or form.

    There are other comics in the world. It can’t be the same, but you’ll find some that treat you with more respect. *hugs*

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