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Where Is Barbara Gordon in Birds of Prey?

Yesterday, it was announced that two of my favorite comics people, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, would be working on a title called Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey, featuring Harley Quinn, Huntress, Cassandra Cain, and Black Canary. The cover looked awesome, and I do love seeing the Birds of Prey in any iteration, but I couldn’t help but wonder … where is Babs?

Barbara Gordon, as Oracle and Batgirl, has been a part of the Birds of Prey since its inception, and while the roster has switched up, her absence usually occurs when Batgirl isn’t already in an adaptation of something. For me, Birds of Prey in a franchise form, without Babs, feels like a Teen Titans series without Dick Greyson.

Dick’s evolution from Robin to Nightwing is so tied to his experience within the Teen Titans and highlighting his skills as a hero and leader without the shadow of Batman hovering over him. Even Titans, with all its weirdness, gets that. For Barbara, her role as Batgirl or Oracle in BoP is part of her evolution from just a female Batman to expanding her skills as a hacker and showing that “the man in the sky” can also be the woman in the sky. It was part of her gaining a sense of autonomy as Oracle after The Killing Joke, and I just feel like the series misses something without her.

I have accepted the lack of Barbara Gordon in the upcoming Birds of Prey movie, because I’m sure Warner Bros. wants to make its own Batgirl movie (although having her show up in this first would be a good way of establishing the character in her own right, a la Black Panther), but what I find concerning about her soft push out is who is being pushed in her place: Harley Quinn.

For the record, I do really like Harley Quinn—always have. She has always been a standout, which is why she effortlessly made her transition from an original character on Batman: The Animated Series to the comics. Several writers have worked their behinds off to transform her from just “the Joker’s ex” to the survivor of an abusive relationship and an anti-heroine. That’s cool. I love it. The slow redemption of Harley Quinn and highlighting her bi/pansexuality is awesome. I’m glad that a character like her exists.

But she is also so oversaturated right now.

I accept it in Birds of Prey because Margot Robbie, who plays Harley Quinn, produced the movie, so I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but when it comes to this comic, I can’t help but wonder why it’s necessary to not just have Harley in the Birds of Prey, but so much so that she is top-billed and the other girls are secondary.

Especially when I feel like the better place for Harley is, and has always been, the Gotham City Sirens.

I am not opposed to Harley being redeemed, but I also think her being a villain is also something that gets hand-waved. Let’s keep in mind that in the Suicide Squad canon, she helped kill a Robin, and in the animated series, she brutally tortured Tim Drake. Harley is a victim of abuse, but she’s also hella complicit in a lot of terrible things. Being with the Sirens allows her to be with other morally complex women—other women who have killed, harmed, and done wrong. That’s more interesting than putting her with mostly traditional heroines.

I’m happy to see Harley, but I miss Barbara, and I would rather we have both than only thinking there is room for one. That being said, I’m so excited for this new series because I do love Conner and Palmiotti; I just hope Babs comes along.

(image: DC Comics)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.