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Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Fandom Turned Frightening

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Fandom Turned Frightening

By Amy Ratcliffe Monday, May 1st, 2017

BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY VOL. 1 introduced us to the newest version of Oracle. But does he take his Barbara Gordon fandom too far? Writer Amy Ratcliffe ponders this and other Birds of Prey themes in this exclusive feature. Please note that it does contain SPOILERS.

Ah, social media. If you're reading this, chances are you're familiar with the myriad ways internet users can share the moments of their lives with the world. Social media offers a platform for users to share everything from occasions of import, like weddings, to less grand but still important occurrences like trying new desserts. Because of social media, we connect in some way with more people than ever before—more so than we did in the days of message boards and chat rooms. We share personal details of our lives with not only family and near and dear friends, but with strangers around the internet. What does the latest technology and increased accessibility mean for creators or celebrities who have fans? While reading BATGIRL  AND THE BIRDS OF PREY VOL. 1: WHO IS ORACLE?, I couldn't help but ponder that question.

As the title suggests, the volume addresses the new Oracle in town... and it's not anyone you expect. Written by Julie Benson and Shawna Benson with art by Claire Roe and Roge Antonio, the story begins at a turning point of sorts for Barbara Gordon. And this is a character who's had so many turning points, it's remarkable she can navigate any path at all. Barbara doesn't have super powers, but if she did, one of them would sure as heck be resilience. She's found herself and her purpose despite changing circumstances, one of them particularly violent, repeatedly. When she learns one of her identities, Oracle, is being used by a Faux-racle (thanks, Dinah), she decides to take action.

Barbara worked hard to create Oracle and to inhabit the role. Being unable to perform the heroics she was once capable of didn't stop her from helping the greater good. I think, in some ways, Oracle saved Barbara. It's no wonder she'd want to protect the name.

Though she's returned to the role of Batgirl, Barbara pulled in help from her former Birds of Prey teammate, Black Canary. Their personalities clash. Their approaches to problems aren't the same. Their differences don't drive them apart though; they help make each other stronger. The sentiment sounds incredibly mushy, I know, but it's not wrong.

I digress. Let's get back to the identity of Oracle. With the help of Helena Bertinelli, a.k.a. Huntress, the Birds of Prey track down Gus Yale. He's the one who assumed the name of Oracle and used it to sell information to the mafia. Oh, and hey, he's also Barbara Gordon's biggest fan—yes, he knows who she is and knows she's also Batgirl. Seems like a recipe for disaster to me.

It's one thing to verbally claim you are someone's biggest fan. It's another thing entirely to demonstrate those feelings with a collection. Gus has a Batgirl suit, Batgirl memorabilia, a batarang, and even one of Babs' library cards. The latter particularly gets me because it's not like a used library card is akin to merch sold in the toy aisle. When does the line between fan and stalker start blurring past recognition?

Granted, Gus has some mad computer skills, and he uses them to access information a la Oracle. He has the chops, as they say. Talking about social media and how fans reach out to people they admire isn't exactly an apples to apples comparison, I realize, but it makes me think. There's the positive side to such exchanges, of course: the ability to thank someone for working on a story you enjoyed, the moment of realizing someone you admire likes the same sort of fast food as you and feeling weirdly validated by it, a way to ask a quick and respectful question about a favorite character. The list goes on.

But there's a darker side, too. As with just about anything, some people go too far and assume too much. The accessibility social media offers makes some people think they're entitled to interaction and they get upset when they don't receive what they're expecting. Or they view it as cementing a certain level of relationship. It can be tricky territory to navigate.

All of that to say, I'm side eyeing you, Gus. You proved you can walk the walk, but what are your motivations? I was skeptical before the final panels. Gus reminds me a little bit of the entitled side of fandom, and I don't know if Batgirl is doing him any favors by letting him join the team.

But wait, before you go, I have to share something that caught my eye. Just before Part One of the story begins, we see a desk. On said desk, you can spot one of the best snacks in the world: Pocky. It's the panda variety, which means the cookie stick is covered in a cookies and cream (not panda!) flavor. Best Easter egg? I'm going to say yes.

BATGIRL  AND THE BIRDS OF PREY VOL. 1: WHO IS ORACLE? is available now in print and as a digital download. What do you think of the new Oracle? Do you think he's worthy of helping the Birds of Prey? Share your opinions in the comments.


Amy Ratcliffe writes about Rebirth and DC Super Hero Girls for DCComics.com and covers Supergirl for the #DCTV Couch Club. Look for her on Twitter at @amy_geek.