Warning: spoilers ahead for the first three episodes of Young Justice: Outsiders on DC Universe.
Young Justice has finally returned to the small screen with new episodes for the first time since it went off the air in 2013. Now called Young Justice: Outsiders, the series picked up two years after the Season 2 finale, and there have been some changes to the team. Nightwing apparently never returned to lead the group, some new young heroes joined up, and Barbara Gordon as Batgirl is conspicuously absent.
Barbara's on-screen absence coincided with the off-screen introduction of computer genius Oracle, and DC Comics fans can be pretty confident that Barbara left the cape and the cowl to become Oracle. Even folks who don't know Oracle's history from the comics may have noticed that the same voice actress who played Barbara in Season 2 also voices Oracle.
The first few episodes of Young Justice: Outsiders didn't actually feature that much of Oracle, and it's entirely possible that Outsiders will give her a tragic backstory to explain why Barbara is no longer in the field as Batgirl. If so, Outsiders really needs to change Oracle's origin story from the comics for the show. If you're not familiar with the basics of how Barbara Gordon became Oracle in the comics, here's what you need to know.
Barbara had actually stopped her work as Batgirl before taking on the superhero identity of Oracle, giving up the vigilante life, which is not something that members of the Bat-Family are the best at. Everything changed thanks to the events of the infamous graphic novel called The Killing Joke, written by Alan Moore.
In The Killing Joke, the Joker decides he needs to break Jim Gordon's sanity and give him "one bad day." Joker started his mad mission by showing up at the Gordon residence and shooting Barbara through the torso, stripping her naked, and taking photos of her to show her dad. She ended up paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair.
Although Barbara was ultimately able to adopt the identity of Oracle and help the other heroes of DC Comics fight evil with her skills as a computer and technology genius, the story of how she was paralyzed is heartbreaking and has garnered a fair amount of criticism since The Killing Joke was published back in 1988.
Barbara's transition into the Oracle role after the Killing Joke arc wasn't adapted for the screen until 2016 with the Killing Joke animated movie, which was rated R, started with a prologue starring Batgirl, turned Batgirl into a love interest for Batman in a move that still baffles and freaks me out more than two years later, and then put her through her ordeal with the Joker.
Here's why it should be different on Young Justice: Outsiders. While I'm confident that Young Justice won't give Batman and Barbara a love connection like in the Killing Joke movie -- seriously, I'm not the only one who's still not over how gross that was, right? -- I have to hope that the show also won't go the route of the Joker shooting, stripping, and then photographing Barbara to transition her into Oracle.
If Young Justice does reveal that its version of Barbara was paralyzed and then switched to a behind-the-scenes role, I expect it would skip any gory details. After all, this is the show that managed to kill the second Robin without even identifying him as Jason Todd, let alone delving into the "Death in the Family" comic arc that ended in his death. That said, Young Justice already seems to be going darker now that it's on DC Universe rather than Cartoon Network. Could Young Justice tackle The Killing Joke?
Barbara finding a way to remain a tremendous asset to the superhero community in the comics despite the paralysis that meant she could never return to her Batgirl role is a compelling arc, and she was frankly more effective as Oracle in saving lives and fighting evil than she could have been as Batgirl.
Young Justice's Barbara dealing with circumstances that forced her to give up Batgirl might not be a bad thing. But subjecting another Barbara Gordon to another Killing Joke is something I don't think any of us really need. Whether that means changing Oracle's origin story by giving Barbara a different reason to give up Batgirl or changing it by simply not filling in the blanks (a la the dead Robin), I believe Young Justice would benefit from it.
Now, all of this is assuming Oracle's role significantly increases from what it was in the first few episodes. In those installments, she only communicated with Dick Grayson, and it wasn't entirely clear that any of his friends actually knew about her. When Artemis caught him talking to Oracle, who could see what was in front of him through tech implanted in his eyes, he tried to cover rather than simply say he was chatting with his pal Oracle.
Based on their conversations, it seems that Oracle is at least in touch with the Bat-Family, and the banter with Dick points toward the two as pretty close friends, if not more. Given how Outsiders began with a quick flashback to Dick's departure at the end of Season 2, with Dick and Kaldur specifically discussing Barbara stepping up to help lead, I consider it unlikely that the show doesn't plan to fill in at least some of the Oracle blanks moving forward.
Barbara felt conspicuous in her absence as Batgirl; hopefully Young Justice will address that absence in the not-too-distant future. I've been a diehard fan of Barbara Gordon in just about all of her incarnations ever since Batman: The Animated Series as a kid, so my fingers are very much crossed that Young Justice does... well, justice to her character.
We'll have to wait and see. Young Justice: Outsiders will continue to release new episodes Fridays on DC Universe. Based on the trailers, plenty of villains are on the way, and the dissension within the ranks of the Justice League could complicate things for all the younger heroes of Young Justice, including both those working with Dick and those still on the official team. For some additional viewing options, take a look at our midseason TV premiere guide.
Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.
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