Angel of the Bat

Superman as surrogate Jesus is fine with Hollywood, but a Bible-believing Batgirl is evidentally too controversial for DC. (Too bad they didn't consider the money — an influx of churchgoing-parent-approved middle-class disposable income could have resurrected the comics market!)

Gail Simone (writer extraordinaire of Birds of Prey, Villains United, and Secret Six) came up with a revolutionary new direction for Batgirl that was ultimately rejected in favor of Cassandra becoming the new leader of the League of Assassins, as currently depicted in the Robin title. But Simone's concept was rather the opposite (HT to the Fortress):

I was asked to come up with a direction for Batgirl, something new that would give her a fresh platform. I gave it a ton of thought, and the direction I came up with was this (obviously this is the abridged version):

Batgirl saves this minister, a guy who preaches to the homeless of Gotham City, a real get-down-into-it guy, from a vicious robbery. He's beaten badly, and Batgirl lashes out at the gang viciously, until he begs her to stop. He's forgiven them, let the police handle it, he says.

Batgirl is utterly baffled. She doesn't get it. Forgiveness for those who kill and injure innocents isn't part of the batcode. She starts visiting the minister in the hospital. He talks to her, not to convert her, but the belief he has in God is so moving and unshakable, that she comes to think of him as incredibly strong. Everything about him is the opposite of Batman–he's at peace, he doesn't believe in violence, and above all, he's got the joy of God in him, in every part of him. He tells her he used to be a bad, violent man, and the book changed him. The idea appeals to and terrifies her.

So, even though she can barely, barely read, she buys a bible, and at first, she's afraid to even open it. It must be a dangerous and powerful book to change men's hearts so. Each sentence is a struggle at first, and she has to call Oracle and Robin and Alfred to have words explained to her. But one day, bam, she gets it.

From then on, she is truly devout, truly converted. She wears a white bat outfit and starts looking out for the most vulnerable of Gotham's residents, runaways, immigrants, homeless people, mentally ill people, etc, because that's what she understands the minister would do. She still issues righteous beatings because she's a little bit old testament, but she talks scripture with both the minister and the gang members. She believes.

And after a while, she gets a new nickname…many people don't call her Batgirl anymore, she becomes to them, the Angel of the Bat. And for the first time, she's genuinely happy.

That's the pitch. Now here's Simone description of the editorial reaction and why she thinks it didn't happen: 

Okay, here's the thing. I am not religious. In fact, I am an atheist, and you guys know I'm liberal as all hell. But I too believe Conservatives and religious people have been represented cheaply and unfairly (sometimes stupidly) in comics. When I turned in my pitch/outline (and I wasn't pitching for the book, just being asked what direction I might see for it), the editor instantly thought I meant it in a condescending way…like she would be religious, but would be shown to be naive, or that it would be just a fad, from an intellectual standpoint.

But that's not what I meant at all. I meant that she REALLY believes, and isn't stupid OR ashamed. Is in fact proud of it. Quotes the bible. Asks questions about matters of faith and scripture. And that she would be using her very dark knowledge in a redemptive way. I felt, and feel, that religious readers are often spoken down to in comics, and this would be a character change that would be fascinating for non-believers as well. But no cheating. No smirking. No trying to put in a knowing wink to the parts of the audience who aren't themselves religious.

The weird thing is, the idea actually seemed sort of radical, apparently, as I don't believe they thought it could be carried off sincerely. I don't see why not…it's a character. Her belief system doesn't have to match the writer's, or I couldn't write Dr. Psycho and Chuck couldn't write, say, anyone who isn't a gun nut (I'm kidding!!! Love ya, Chuck!).

Anyway, that was my idea, Angel of the Bat. For whatever reason, that idea seems a thousand times more controversial than having her be the head of the League of Assassins.

I'm not bitter about it, and hopefully I can revisit the idea somewhere, but with all the grim, hopeless characters in the bat-verse, I thought it would be delightful and seditious to do the exact opposite and present a sincere, hopeful and positive version of the character. Batman's reaction alone would be priceless.

So, I did try, anyway!

Gail 

I think it would've been very interesting to see how this developed. A superhero who quotes the Bible would probably become tedious, with the danger of seeming preachy, but a character who actually struggles with forgiveness vs retaliation would make for some undoubtedly fascinating stories, and provide a ton of moral dilemmas in terms of decided how to handle any number of ethical or life-endangering situations in a manneer consistent with her faith.

But it's never too late for this direction. Considering her fans' nearly universal outrage over Cassandra's current direction, wouldn't Batgirl: Born Again be the ideal solution? If anything, the depth to which she has recently fallen is a perfect set-up for an Angel of the Bat.

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3 thoughts on “Angel of the Bat

  1. Not a bad idea, but I fear DC doesn’t quite have the guts to pull the trigger on the concept. Which is kind of strange, considering they publish The Spectre, Lucifer and a number of other spiritually themed characters (including, at one time, the PAD Supergirl…)

  2. Nobody says:

    It did occur to me that it might make an intriguing Vertigo title — “Testament” explicitly depicts biblical stories after all — but the common thread (e.g., Lucifer) seems to be revisionist takes on theology, not characters who accept the traditional versions.

    Besides, I’m sure they also want to keep the Bat-family within DC proper, and Vertigo isn’t just a “MAX” imprint that DCU characters occassionally dable in.

    Simone’s “Angel” designation also might have made it seem too similar to Linda Danvers, and if it didn’t work for Supergirl why repeat it with Batgirl?

    It might be an interesting direction to take Huntress in though. Since she already has religious associations it might be more natural for her to rediscover her faith, or to change her application of it. It would be interesting to see an integration of faith and crime fighting that’s more sophisticated than a Top Cow-style “warrior nun”, a cliche that has always been more contradiction than paradox.

  3. Ryan says:

    You’re right, that would have made for some excellent on-going character conflict. Too bad for DC.

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