When I was in school, I always thought of librarians as superheroes. I would walk up to the desk, ask a question, and magically they would be able to find the answer for me in seemingly no time at all. I was amazed.
Did you know that there is actually a superhero librarian? Barbara Gordon, the second Batgirl, who replaced Betty Kane, the original Batgirl, in 1967, was also a librarian. Gordon’s civilian identity is Dr. Barbara Gordon PhD. With her doctorate in library science, Gordon serves as the head of the Gotham City Public Library. She is also as the daughter of Gotham City police commissioner James Gordon, filling her role in the library, and eventually becoming a United States Congresswoman.
Barbara Gordon’s version of Batgirl is the iconic Batgirl. If you see a comic book cover of Batgirl with red/orange hair, you’ve found Barbara Gordon!
As Gordon’s role as Batgirl progressed, she found the job to be less and less fulfilling until she pretty much retired from being Batgirl all together. An interaction with the Joker changed her course as Batgirl forever. In Batman: The Killing Joke, the Joker is on a course to seek revenge on Batman, the person who he blames for his disfigurement. This comic flashes back and forth between the present, where the Joker is wreaking havoc on Batman by going after his closest friends, to the Joker’s past, where readers are shown the Joker’s origin story as an ex-engineer in a chemical plant who happens to make some bad decisions and ends up disfigured and seeking revenge. Barbara Gordon is swept into the Joker’s revenge plot and is shot and paralyzed by the Joker as an attempt to turn her father, police commissioner Gordon, insane.
Waking up paralyzed, Gordon realizes she can no longer be Batgirl and becomes the Oracle. Gordon has since become a symbol for PTSD sufferers and the disabled as she is confined to a wheelchair. As the Oracle, Gordon still relies on her library superpowers, becoming the computer superhero and information access giant for the entire DC superhero community. Examples of comics of Barbara Gordon as the Oracle are Gail Simone’s Of Like Minds, and also the books where Gordon, as the Oracle, helps the new Batgirl, Cassandra Cain, fight for justice in A Knight Alone and Death Wish. The Oracle joined forces with two others, the Huntress(daughter of Batman and Catwoman) and Dinah, a clairvoyant, to become the Birds of Prey in a DVD series aptly called Birds of Prey.
If you’re a fan of the new 52 comics, this back story may be confusing to you because in 2012, DC released Batgirl: Volume 1: The Darkest Reflection, in which Batgirl’s tenure as the Oracle is erased and she comes out of her paralysis slowly after she was shot by the Joker in the spine three years prior. In this first volume, Gordon reintroduces herself to life as Batgirl and and all the challenges that come with it.
Another variation comic of Batgirl as librarian shows up in Batgirl: Year One. This comic happens chronologically years before Gordon becomes the Oracle and even a Bird of Prey. She is portrayed as a girl between the ages of 16-18 years old who has already graduated college and seeks to become a member of law enforcement, an idea that her father and Batman quickly decide she has no business doing. Instead she takes a job as a library researcher and decides to rebel against Batman and her father by becoming Batgirl.
If this tiny glimpse into the life of Barbara Gordon, a real librarian superhero, caught your attention, feel free to click on the links to check out those materials and visit the library catalog to search for any superhero comic that may interest you.