DC’s The Killing Joke traumatised Batgirl forever, but Booster Gold #5 reveals that it was necessary for her growth as a character.
What happened to Batgirl in The Killing Joke changed the character forever. Whether it was for better or worse is up for debate, especially with DC’s history with the women in refrigerators trope. While Babs is amazing at what she does, her role as Oracle is undeniably a result of tragedy, naturally leading many to wonder whether it had to happen at all. One issue of Booster Gold however explains why the Joker was always meant to paralyze Barbara Gordon.
One of the most controversial comics in DC’s history, The Killing Joke, was a traumatic experience for Barbara Gordon. After shooting Barbara and paralyzing her, The Joker strips her naked and takes photographs of her body, forcing her father, Jim Gordon, to view them all on a twisted theme park ride. Some comics fans may ask: was Barbara’s injury written to strengthen her as a character or further motivate Batman in his fight for justice? Regardless of intent, DC argued that it is an unchangeable moment in time.
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In 2008’s Booster Gold #5 by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, and Dan Jurgens, Booster is desperate to save his best friend, Ted Kord, from his inevitable death at the hands of Maxwell Lord. Rip Hunter sets an important mission for Booster first: save Barbara Gordon from The Joker. Booster travels back in time, over and over as he repeatedly watches Barbara get shot. Even though he gets beaten to a pulp each time, Booster Gold persists. When he asks to go back again, Rip stops him. There was no abnormality in the timestream, Rip explains. “It’s solidified time, Booster… Anything from the present on back cannot be changed.” Barbara Gordon was always destined to become Oracle, and Ted Kord was always destined to die.
Booster is rightfully shocked when hearing this news from the Time Master. Not only does he feel betrayed that he was lied to, but he’s horrified that he should just accept and allow the horrible actions of villains like Joker and Maxwell Lord to happen. While characters such as Batman and Superman have been able to return from the dead or recover from grave injuries, it took DC more than two decades to make Barabara Gordon Batgirl again. As bad as that seems, it can’t be understated how important Barbara Gordon’s time as Oracle was to many people. From a tragic event, the disabled community gained a legendary role model in Oracle, DC’s first paraplegic superhero. As controversial and problematic as the circumstances for Oracle’s creation were, it’s undeniable that this version of the character was meaningful.
Trying to justify the ‘women in refrigerators’ trope may not have been DC’s best call. However, following the events of The Killing Joke, Barbara forged a path for herself as a hero independent of Batman. As Oracle, she was no longer a sidekick, but a leader. Without these trials, she may never have formed the Birds of Prey, arguably the greatest all-female superhero team in comics. While Barbara has once again taken up the mantle of Batgirl in comics, The Killing Joke will forever remain a defining moment for Barbara and the DC Universe as a whole.
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About The Author
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Rebekah Galer is a freelance writer for Screen Rant, specialising in DC and Marvel comics. While writing on the side, Rebekah is a pre-service English and History teacher based in Brisbane, Australia.
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