Barbara "Babs" Gordon
Cassandra, Amy Beddoes
(used while working with the Suicide Squad)
Roger C. & Thelma A. Gordon (deceased);
niece and (later) adopted daughter of James W. Gordon and Barbara Gordon (divorced)
James, Jr. (cousin & adoptive brother)
As Batgirl: Detective Comics #359, January 1967
As Oracle: Suicide Squad #23, January 1989
Character Created By:
Oracle persona: John Ostrander
green eyes, red hair, 5'11" tall, 130 lbs
Base of Operations:
computer expert, librarian
genius-level intellect, photographic memory, expert at research & analysis, brown belt in Judo, background in gymnastics & dance, and excellent general athletic abilities, adept at escrima (the Philippine art of stick fighting), lawyer
Worked with the Suicide Squad for some time early on in her career as Oracle
As Oracle (with the Black Canary), half of the crime-fighting team "Birds of Prey"; reserve member of the JLA; an integral part of the Batman's research and support crew
Visit the site of one of the world's most dedicated Barbara Gordon fans! Mickey is a long-time supporter & friend of Birdwatching and has great pictures and collecting info on the Dark Knight Damsel. The rest of his site (dedicated to theatre rather than comics) is also quite cool.
The Birds are lampooned by Gail in You'll All Be Sorry at CBR
And here's a fan fiction site dedicated to Oracle & Nightwing —
of a Feather
— nice name ;-)
Kicking-n-Byting discussion list @ Yahoo Groups — devoted to discussing the adventures (both "real" and fanfictional) of the Birds of Prey.
Barbara Gordon's career as Oracle — the seemingly all-knowing information goddess of the DCU — began almost accidentally. In the months following her crippling encounter with the Joker, she'd hidden herself away from the world, going out only for her physical and emotional therapy sessions. But the woman who had been Batgirl quickly got tired of being afraid and feeling useless. She used her researcher's talents and a grant from the Wayne Foundation to begin anew, this time using computers as her library, her community, and, eventually, her battlefield.
While spending her ample free time secretly trying to help solve one
of her father's cases — serendipitiously involving a criminal whose
speciality was computer-related crimes — Barbara slowly discovered
herself. Though she didn't know her benefactor was Batman (aka "Matches"),
her quest for a new way to defend herself which would not be hindered
by her wheelchair-bound state led her to months of training in escrima,
the Phillipine art of stick fighting, with martial arts master Richard
While learning this discipline honed her body and her confidence anew, it also helped her to discover her new path. A dream led her to take on the identity of Oracle and become a hero once more, but this time, she'd be her own woman and not a copy of someone else. No one else does what Oracle does and even Batman — who relies on and trusts her as much as he does Robin, Nightwing, and Alfred — rates her unique abilities even ahead of his own . Time and again, he calls on her to find the unfindable and solve the unsolvable, and time and again, she comes through.
Oracle is, without question, one of the most fascinating characters in the DCU. Physically confined to a wheelchair, she is intellectually unrestricted by any barriers. The superheroes of the world come to her to handle the tasks too big for their superpowers — for instance, keeping track of all the teams and efforts and disasters which took place during The Final Night. . .
. . . and tracking the bizarre run of coincidences which temporarily wiped out half of the JLA in "The Seven Soldiers of Probablility" (JLA #19). She is a presence throughout the world, watching, tracking, and getting involved, via her operatives and allies, where she believes her and their combined skills could help out. And she "sits" at the round table, taking her place amongst the DCU pantheon as the JLA's resident Athena — the goddess of wisdom, appropriately enough.
She is one of the few heroes — along with only Robin & Nightwing — who operates within the confines of Gotham City with the Batman's blessing and encouragement. She was his first draft pick for membership on the latest JLA team (as were Nightwing & Black Canary, it was revealed in JLA Secret Files #2, but they turned down his offer. Though the real reasons they are not on the new team are that the JLA staff didn't think Canary iconic enough [and Big Barda is?!] and DC was holding Nightwing back for the new Titans team which debuted in early 1999).
"You on this one, Oracle?"
"... yes... I mean... YES!"
But the Powers That Be at DC Comics were apparently less certain of what they had on their hands after putting Batgirl to rest. Oracle made her one-line debut in Suicide Squad #23 (January 1989) as a mysterious hacker who had invaded the squad's database, and she eventually became a member of the team (under the alias "Amy Beddoes") and the Squad's leader Amanda Waller's second-in-command. When the Suicide Squad ended, Oracle continued on with the kind of work she'd done with them but with her own style. She became more and more interesting and useful as personal computers and the internet became more prevalent in everyday life and has emerged as the premiere investigator and information broker in the DCU. She is a favorite guest star in the DCU, too, turning up in a single panel here a few panels there, working her magic whenever a hero needs her special, invaluable brand of assistance.
Barbara lives in an extremely high-tech apartment in a building originally owned by Wayne Corp (which, lucky for her, had been earthquake-proofed) where she has everything she needs at her fingertips. She doesn't go out too much and the outings we've seen (prior to and including No Man's Land) haven't been terribly successful. She's been illegally arrested & detained by the US government [The Hacker Files], kidnapped and interrogated at the behest of Blockbuster's hired goons [Birds of Prey: Batgirl], and shoved into traffic twice [Batman Chronicles #5, "Oracle: Year One — Born of Hope" and Birds of Prey: Wolves]! The trend continued in a two-part story set during No Man's Land [Azrael #54 & #55] where Oracle ventured out to enjoy the day and was nearly murdered by a crazy man. However, she's had several more successful outings recently, so things are looking up.
During No Man's Land, Barbara managed to maintain both her databases and her health by tailoring her skills to the radically altered circumstances of Gotham City, and she took it upon herself to keep the history of this extraordinary epoque in the life (or death) of one of the two most famous cities in comic book history. Towards the end of that story arc, she gave her blessing to the ascendancy of a young, nameless girl — trained as an assassin but with a code of honor as strict and unyeilding as that of the Batman's own — to the role of Batgirl after the Huntress was revealed to be the mysterious Batgirl II. The new Batgirl (now named Cassandra) lived with Oracle for a time but now has a cave or her own. Oracle, along with Batman, is continuing to mentor her and acts as something of a mother figure to her as well. In fact, Oracle plays a major role in the ongoing Batgirl monthly series, giving her two major gigs in the DCU along with her many guest appearances.
Though Birds of Prey did not touch on the "No Man's Land" storyline, her appearances in the Batbooks, BoP, and even, sometimes, in JLA have in common their portrayal of Oracle as one of the few heroes shown living with and overcoming fear on a day-to-day basis. As Batman has said of her:
Barbara is stronger than she knows, and this is, perhaps, her only great weakness. Hyper-defensive about her disability, she has, if anything, over-compensated. However, her very determination to remain self-reliant, though admirable and inspiring, has made her less willing than ever to accept support or aid of any kind. Regardless, she has all the support Batman and Bruce Wayne can offer her.
excerpted from Wizard magazine's Batman Special,1998, "Battle Plans" by Devin Grayson, p. 60
In"Folie a Deux" [Legends of the DCU #10 & #11] it is revealed that James Gordon knew Barbara was Batgirl almost from the very beginning of her career, and at some point around the time of her retirement, she found out that he knew (although in some stories it appears this is not the case — continuity! Ya gotta love it). But she is again, as Oracle, keeping her identity secret from him. It is difficult to tell who does know who she is or if it's generally known amongst the superhero community that Oracle was once Batgirl (which is sort of implied in the first Birds of Prey story, "One Man's Hell" but is then contradicted by Oracle's shocked reaction to Black Canary's comment "You're sort of Batgirl, aren't you?" in Birds of Prey #4). And, conversely, I would wager that Oracle knows more secret identities than she lets on.
Black Canary finally met Oracle face to face in Birds of Prey #21, so we can add her to the "definitely knows" list. The dramatic meeting was cut very short, what with BC having to save Oracle's life and everything, but the follow-up meeting in issue #29 was fun and gave the two a chance to meet as Barbara and Dinah for the first time. Meanwhile, Babs and Dick Grayson are continuing to explore the romantic side of their relationship (in the few spare minutes they have), Babs and Ted "Blue Beetle" Kord have established the parameters of their friendship quite well (in ish #25), and, as I mentioned above, we've seen Oracle go out of the house without being nearly killed a couple of times now which bodes well.
Oracle has been offered her old life back — or some version of it — at least twice (by the satanic character Neron in Underworld Unleashed #1, "Patterns of Fear" in classic Faustian fashion & by J'onn J'onzz in JLA #19, "Seven Soldiers of Probablity" who offered her a technological solution) and both times she's turned it down in spite of the fact that she's frequently expressed bitterness about her condition. In fact, her connection with the Suicide Squad originally came about because she hoped they would be able to help her literally get back on her feet in exchange for the help she gave them. This never worked out and since then, it seems her pride and desire to play the hand she's been dealt allow her to overcome her feelings of bitterness and her desire to do whatever she has to do to regain her old life.
If Oracle has any real weaknesses, they stem from her supreme self-confidence. She has gone from someone who is somewhat tentative about taking charge of a situation which might be considered "Batman's Turf" to someone who charges in with all guns blazing and sometimes causes more trouble than she prevents (several incidents especially in the second and third years of Birds of Prey fall into this category). The force of her confidence, however, seems to carry her through and some sort of "good" result usually emerges.
But this confidence has also made her the de facto second-in-command of the Batsquad and the one to whom all members of the team turn for advice and backup. The first person Batman turns to when he needs backup is almost always Oracle. When Batman decided to make Cassandra into the new Batgirl, it was Oracle's word which swayed the rest of the team.
She fights; she perseveres; and she is a leader on a team of leaders (Batman, Nightwing, and Robin all lead teams of their own, but they are often led by Oracle in Gotham). Oracle continues to be one of the most effective and interesting heroes in the DCU, and the BoP monthly has allowed her to really come into her own.