To Walk or Not to Walk: Barbara Gordon in Batman Beyond

Even though Batman Beyond takes place fifty years in the future, it’s enjoying quite a bit of attention in the present. Almost a decade after the original show was cancelled, the world of Batman Beyond has resurfaced in comics with its own miniseries and ongoing title. And with the  announcement of a Superman Beyond miniseries to debut this fall, we might be looking at the birth of a full-fledged alternate universe.

I grew up with the show as well as the DCAU (DC Animated Universe) at large, so I’m no less than thrilled about its revival in the comic book world; but I’m also curious about Barbara Gordon’s character in the series. Her appearances have been occasional thus far, but as the current Commissioner in Gotham, there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing more of her soon. Question is, which Barbara Gordon will we see– her DCAU character, or a future version of the present Oracle? Or, perhaps, a blending of both? The answer will have lasting repercussions on her character in the series, not to mention the standing of Batman Beyond as an alternate universe or the mainstream continuity’s actual future.

For those of you unfamiliar with the DCAU or Timmverse, the term refers to several DC animated shows including Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Static Shock and Justice League Unlimited, which share their own continuity. For more about it, see here.

Barbara Gordon in the Batman Beyond show is almost unrecognizable from her present counterpart, and for good reason–it takes place fifty years in the future! Babs’ red locks have turned gray, and she has taken her father’s place as GCPD’s Commissioner; unsurprisingly, it takes her a while to warm up to the new Batman in town. But most importantly, this Barbara Gordon can walk. That’s right: no wheelchair. Along with several other inconsistencies, the events of The Killing Joke don’t exist in the DCAU continuity. (Yes, that’s one big reason why I love the DCAU so much!)

From the show, we learn that Barbara, as Batgirl, worked side-by-side with Batman and Robin, then just with Batman after Dick left for Bludhaven as Nightwing. Eventually, she hung up the cape. Her life between then and the Commissioner’s chair is still a mystery, though she is married to Sam Young, Gotham’s District Attorney.

This might seem minor to some, but whether or not Barbara can walk is a key element that greatly influences her character and presence. In the show, Babs gets proactively involved in the police force, accompanies them on missions and keeps a close eye on Terry. We see this when her husband is targeted by the assassin Curaré, when Batman supposedly goes rogue, and several other instances. While this isn’t impossible for one who is handicapable–and who knows where technology is at in the future?–staying true to the DCAU version certainly gives her different possibilities as a character.

So, is Barbara in the new Batman Beyond series in a wheelchair, or not?

Here are some brief scenes with Barbara, in both the miniseries and current ongoing series:

As you can see, Barbara hasn’t once risen out of her chair, nor been shown outside of her office. Is she sporting some futuristic wheelchair behind that desk? Or is it merely a coincidence that Barbara happens to be sitting in her office in every scene? There’s no reference to Oracle, the Birds of Prey, or another hint that would point towards the main continuity. Whether or not she can walk remains ambiguous.

So far, I’ve been discussing the DCAU and the mainstream universe as a binary, but there’s another possibility. Perhaps the Batman Beyond comics will blend the mainstream continuity and the DCAU continuity, especially when it comes to Barbara. Here’s what I’m thinking: maybe Barbara was shot by the Joker, became Oracle and so on (mainstream), but as technology progressed, she was healed and can now walk (how she appears in the DCAU). It’s certainly a possibility, but bring on the headache when you try to discern which continuity the series belongs to.

When it comes to Barbara, I’m more than a little biased. Of course I want to see Babs not only walking around, but also kicking butt on Gotham’s streets as the Comish–but in this universe, it’s actually possible.

DCAU images thanks to The World’s Finest.

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