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The Eschatology of Barbara Gordon, Part 1
by The Old Maid

(This essay was originally posted to World's Finest May 2004; revised July 2006.)

The animated Barbara Gordon is a really hard character to evaluate, for some reason. It's Barbara's attitude that is the subject of today's debate. Barbara is the Teflon Bat. Nothing sticks to her, not even things that probably should. She minimizes her flaws so silently and skillfully that it's practically hazardous to one's health to discuss them. The multidimensional writing contributed too, by giving Barbara noisier characters to hide behind. (As has been noted elsewhere, fans appreciate a gift for subtlety but there is such a thing as being too subtle.) Or maybe it's because Barbara is pretty and sometimes the rules are different for pretty girls. Whatever the explanation a subtle double standard exists, and it protects Barbara's character from the kind of scrutiny applied to the Batboys. Let a viewer critique her character—let alone criticize her specific actions—and said fan is assumed to dislike her. These nullifications not only relieve Barbara of accountability for the role she has played in the events of her life, but they also serve to dismiss the observations of viewers who look for that accountability.

Indeed, not only is the audience hesitant to address Barbara or the decisions of her character, but the other animated characters don't do it either. Aside from Barbara's love life, Barbara herself remains a blank, almost disembodied in her ability to float through walls, plot holes and other people's lives.

As a result fans who like the purported Bruce/Barbara relationship claim it is better and/or more real than any other in her life, whereas fans who dislike the idea insist there has got to be a better way for her to get our attention.

The Bruce/Barbara scenario has been discussed, and discussed again. It has been discussed on threads that didn't start out as Bruce-and-Barbara threads. It has been discussed on sites that are not dedicated to it either. It's an invasive topic.

It's also a divisive topic. At times the Bruce/Barbara affair vies with the Maxine Gibson character for the title of "Querulous Fanboy's Perennial Complaint." This writer is not overly fond of Max. The character is physically attractive, except for that pencil-eraser hair. (One wonders if the hair was an in-joke because the writers were pressured to create her, and that they might stand her on her head, rub the hair over one of her scripts, and use her to erase herself from existence, given the chance.) Unfortunately many self-professing fans call Max "ugly" solely because she upsets them so much they can't even stand the sight of her. Yet for all the viewers who dislike Max Gibson, one has yet to hear them say, "I consider “Batman Beyond” to be an alternate future solely because she's in it. If not for her, I would accept it as real." On the other hand, how many viewers have said, "I'm going to consider “Batman Beyond” an alternate future because I hate the idea of Barbara and Bruce hooking up." Interesting ...

The Bruce/Barbara hints of BB were presently subtly, but they were not presented as open to negotiation. The audience was expected to believe. Whether any given fan liked it or not was beside the point; the fact existed. This writer dislikes the relationship but has no intention of banishing “Batman Beyond” from continuity. So this writer tried to evaluate the discrepancies—some would say Looked For Loopholes—and came up with a few. (Why did Barbara say she walked out on Bruce when the forensic evidence—a Batgirl suit riddled with bullet holes—suggests she was carried out? What should be believed, the person or the evidence? Eh, maybe someone watches too much CSI.) But in the end it seemed that any discrepancies were merely oversights on the part of the writers. They weren't intended to cast doubt on "the fact that it happened." So when viewers others expressed distaste for this turn of events, it was to express our distaste for a story which we believed to be true, and this writer wrote accordingly.

“Mystery of the Batwoman” changed all that.

One of this writer's "real world" tasks of late has been to wade through Christian eschatological thought, of all things. Although one wouldn't stretch the metaphor too far, a few borrowed terms might help us organize the new nuances that “Batwoman” brought to Barbara's character and situation.

(You already know one term: "dispensationalism," which underpins a famous series of doomsday novels and explains the many faces of “Batman Beyond”'s Dana Tan. Her boyfriend Terry McGinnis is presented with a Dana, neglects her, is presented with a new Dana and neglects her, etcetera. The point is to demonstrate that no matter how many times Terry tries to be a good boyfriend to her, he can't do it. In theory the story would end when Terry ruins his relationship with the seventh and final Dana, also known as Dana Go Bye Bye. Then suddenly Terry notices she's on a plane taxiing down the runway, and he can only chase after her on foot wailing, "Where are you going? Don't leave me! How did you even get on the plane? Your shoes are still in my car!"

We mention this to clarify that the Barbara Gordon character doesn't qualify for dispensational treatment as such. Dana Tan existed as a series of external frames imposed upon Terry's life to illustrate Terry's romantic failures. In contrast Barbara Gordon's destiny flows from her own choices. However, we will name various stages in her life just for clarity's sake, since we'll be looking at their interactions through time.)

The term "eschatology" traditionally has been assumed by the man-on-the-street solely to refer to doomsday (whenever that is), but that's a misunderstanding. It's just as much about the beginning and the middle and the "how do we get there from here" process which happens to have an end. So the stuff happening in the middle of time is just as valid as any Last Day stuff—because what's in your face right now is the last day of your life so far. (Too many people conclude that if they buy into a plan from the beginning they're guaranteed a free ride to the end. You won't see them helping at the soup kitchen, aiding famine relief, or otherwise "healing the world" because those are "works." Besides, the sooner the world ends, the sooner they can leave. Hence the expression, "so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good.")

In Bat-mythos eschatology “Batwoman” offers us a glimpse of Bruce and Barbara in the middle of their lives. And it offers us a certain insight that we really can't find anywhere else. In Bat-mythos eschatology this film trumps the BB series—not in the sense of overwriting continuity but of illuminating it.

Perhaps the best way to understand what “Batwoman” reveals about Barbara's character is to go about it by way of her beginning, the end she achieved, and then to that scene in the middle of time.

This writer wants to clarify that this is by no means intended to be a comprehensive review of Barbara Gordon's strengths, talents, accomplishments or ideals. Nor is it intended as Babs-bashing. Rather, we need to get past the spin-doctoring to try to understand her better. People say they want their Batman dark ; they think they want him dark (pitch-black Catwoman dark)—but what they really mean is, "as long as it doesn't happen to Barbara." One appreciates the impulse. (Everyone likes Oracle but people cringe at what she had to endure to get there.) But the animated Barbara has also done things she's not proud of and should not be proud of. It's the things she hides from us (or from herself) that “Batwoman” invites us to re-examine or explore.

Begin at the beginning. Barbara/Batgirl has more origin stories than Carter has pills. The post-Miller versions tend to introduce her through the eyes of her father. Two of the most popular versions are the 1993/94 comics “Batman : Madness” (a.k.a. “Haunted Knight : Madness”) and “Batman Adventures #12” ("Batgirl : Day One").

“Madness” introduces a 13-year-old Barbara chafing against the restrictions of her father, King Dork the First, Ruler of Dorkdom. Jim Gordon is totally in over his head, and he frankly admits he envies the Batman.

"I can't imagine that behind that mask, he hides a wife and children in Gotham. I don't think he'd answer my signal at night, if he had someone waiting for him at home. No, HEgets to put on a CAPE, and leave THAT responsibility to the rest of us."

(“Madness” : p. 12)

Barbara for her part is strong-willed yet sheltered, a little bratty but not excessively so, and a diary-keeper who dots her "i"s and "j"s with little hearts yet manages to keep her cool when she is captured by the deranged Mad Hatter. For you see, King Dork the First has one shining virtue : he has this really cool friend who thinks the world of him. Therefore for all their sakes Barbara tries to think like a police officer, like her father. How would a police officer stall for time until the Really Cool Friend could rescue her? Ironically young Barbara's fascination with Batman helps to mend her relationship with her father, by encouraging Babs to see things from her father's point of view—and by showing her that a man worthy of the Batman's respect might just be worthy of her respect too.

"Batgirl : Day One" shows us a dreamy young adult version of Barbara with her touch-of-gray father, who is clearly much calmer and happier now that his "little girl" is old enough to be streetwise and safe. So imagine Jim Gordon's surprise when his "streetwise young adult" daughter asks him out of the blue :

Barbara (preoccupied) : "Dad? Did you ever wonder what it's like to BE Batman?"

Jim (slight frown) : "What do you mean?"

Barbara (starry-eyed) : "You know, leaping from rooftops ... chasing criminals .. dodging gunfire .. it just sounds so ... EXCITING!"

Jim (solemnly) : "There's something you have to understand. Every night a lot of men with a lot of guns try to KILL him. Every night. All it takes is ONE mistake. ONElucky shot ... and it's OVER. I admire Batman for what he does. But I don't envy him. Nobody should. (He rises and leaves for work.) Well, enough lecturing. You have fun at the [costume] party."

Barbara (smiling) : "Thanks, Dad. (Then she opens a box on the table and says) Good thing I didn't show him the costume!"

(“Batman Adventures #12/1993” : p.1-2)

As in the Sixties print version, the costumed "Batgirl" sees a crime in progress and can't resist the temptation to save the day. As the police process the paperwork, Barbara reassures her anxious father that she was nowhere near the action. "What happened to your costume?" asks Barbara's father. She takes his arm and walks with him saying,

"Oh, THAT. I threw it away. Turns out it didn't fit."

Then there's the mainstream comics version of Barbara, who hangs up the cape yet is shot by the Joker anyway, simply because she is Commissioner Gordon's daughter. Now styling herself The Oracle, she coordinates communications and research for assorted do-gooders. Oracle proved so popular that the character starred in (some would say "carried") the short-lived television series “Birds of Prey”.

The animated Barbara is all of these creatures and none of these creatures. Her creators took the best elements from many interpretations and blended them into one consistent college-age Batgirl, a version we might call the Freelancer. Barbara only had about five BTAS episodes, but the creators made each appearance special. Fittingly, they introduced the civilian and the alter ego by way of the strong bond between Barbara and her father. Whether in the "Heart of Steel" storyarc, the hospital scenes in "I am the Night," or the rise of Batgirl as a figure of righteous wrath in "Shadow of the Bat," that constant bond remains. Where one Gordon goes, the other is not far away.

About this time Barbara starts dating Dick Grayson. Jim Gordon is delighted and does everything in his power to push them together ... not that they need his encouragement.

"I only have eyes for you" ("Sub-Zero").
Pics printed with permission from [URL=""]World's Finest[/URL].

At the same time, Barbara happens to have steamy dreams about Batman. The one seen in "Batgirl Returns" is charming, funny, and unrealistic as heck. (Two-Face alone used to lift weights, and has mopped the floor with Batman on several occasions. Joker too was out of Batgirl's league, as he demonstrated by flipping her off a building upon their first meeting [TNBA "Old Wounds"].) But dreams don't always translate into reality. Barbara is hot-for-teacher ; now she has to figure out what she is going to do about it.

Ask a psychologist whether it's okay to have romantic fantasies about someone who is not your significant other, and the psychologist will usually ask, "who is it" and "how much." If the object of one's desires is a stranger (say, a movie star), then the question "how much" should reveal whether the fantasizer is just having fun or is substituting controllable fantasies for living in reality. By this definition there's no harm for most of Gotham City's little girls (and not a few big girls) to daydream about Batman because, as with a movie star, it's not like they're dreaming about someone they could ever actually get. However if the daydreaming is excessive, or if the dreamer thinks of someone already in her life (say, a co-worker or neighbor), the fantasies pose a threat to any existing relationship. The temptation and opportunity to act upon those desires is there, every day. (Now if you ask a religious counselor, you might be told to stop it no matter who the object of your desires may be. No tap-dancing necessary!)

Barbara walks a thin line between normal and abnormal behavior. Most of the dreaming little girls (and big girls) will never meet the Batman. But even before Barbara knew his identity Batman was in her life. Just press a button on the rooftop and there he is. How then do we judge whether her fantasies are a threat to a real relationship or a reflection of her heart's desires?

We determine it by her actions.

Barbara fantasized about Batman (BTAS "Batgirl Returns"). Her initial interest was in Batman, not Robin. I think any interest in Bruce will always have had some foundation in the fact that his role—The Batman—was the one she had romantic fantasies.

Here is where things start to go seriously wrong. Barbara Gordon was already being courted by Dick Grayson when she set her sights upon Batman. And here is where the double standard shows itself most blatantly. If Barbara was not interested in Dick Grayson then she should never have gotten involved with him. Yes, it's nice to have a rich buddy to take her on a weekend vacation to the coast (“Sub-Zero”) or to the toniest restaurant in town (TNBA "Old Wounds"). However Barbara can see, or ought to be able to see, that Dick is not doing these things to be her buddy. He isn't listing his qualifications as a good provider to impress some other woman. As noted elsewhere, Dick kept bringing up "the future," and as any escape artist can tell you, the term "future" is a code word for "committment." It doesn't mean "until the end of the week/prom season/this episode," and it definitely does not mean "settle for me until something better comes along."

(Additionally, though we would not normally quote the censors as reliable sources of information, even the censors thought things were getting intense. If memory serves, the censors asked for one of Dick Grayson's lines to be changed in Sub-Zero—because they thought that his invitation to spend a weekend on the coast tacitly included the possibility of having sex. Censors are paid to have dirty minds ; nevertheless many unmarried couples use vacations as an excuse for such activity since nobody knows them there.)

If Barbara just wanted to be Dick's buddy, she should have bowed out graciously the moment she realized he was getting serious about her. Instead she waited until Dick said, "Whatever my future holds, I hope it includes you"—and then she revealed that she would drop him in a beartbeat to rush to the Batman's side. This gives the appearance that she was just amusing herself with him until something better came along.

If Barbara preferred a romantic relationship or a future with Batman, all she had to do was say so. (There's no such thing as a shy Gordon.) Barbara even had a risk-free opportunity to express her feelings. For more than a year after Barbara became Batgirl, she operated under the assumption that Batman had no idea who she was. Therefore if Batman did not know her identity, it would have been safe for Barbara-as-Batgirl to tell Batman how she felt. If his response happened to be less than she had hoped, she could withdraw without dying of embarassment. She could still interact with him as the civilian Barbara. She could still work with him, talk to him and look him in the eye. Likewise, if Batman "didn't know" it was her, he would not go out of his way to avoid her. So at least Babs could still spend time with him until he "noticed her" as a civilian, or until she thought up a better plan. Meanwhile if she still craved the streets she could create a new vigilante identity, comfortable in her belief that if Batman couldn't figure out her old Batgirl identity, he won't figure out the new one either.

Therefore if Barbara truly believed she might have real feelings for Batman, she could have dealt with the situation half a dozen ways other than the way that she chose. If Barbara believed she and Batman belonged together—then getting involved with another man was not the way to express this belief. However Barbara has a convenient avenue of escape : spin.

Dick was a childhood sweetheart.

The term "childhood sweetheart" suggests they were both 14-year-olds on the playground. Actually the animated characters Dick and Barbara were already legal adults attending Gotham State University when they got involved. They probably have adult married friends who are younger than they are. Also, both characters would have been self-supporting if their fathers hadn't agreed to let them stay on the dole long enough to finish their studies. (Ten years later we can imagine Jim Gordon wondering, when is this happy day of "finished her studies" going to arrive anyway?)

We can see why the terms "crush" and "childhood sweetheart" are such effective verbal tools : they reinforce the double standard.

On the one hand Barbara goes around telling people that she and Dick were not old enough or mature enough to have a real relationship. Ah, but simultaneously Barbara is old enough and mature enough to pursue a relationship with the Batman?

On the other hand, if Barbara is old enough and mature enough to pursue a relationship with Batman, then she is also old enough to be held accountable for her actions—to take responsibility for the way she treated Dick.

At this point Barbara might sprout a third hand and admit that she lusted after Batman and leaped at the opportunity to work for him, but that she didn't get involved with him until they both thought she was "old enough." Okay. If she "waited until she was old enough," then why did she get involved with the adult Dick Grayson? This practically implies that the Dick/Babs relationship was illegal (which of course it was not). If anything, we could compare Dick to a jaded soldier since he was a ten-year veteran in the war on crime when he started getting serious about her. He was a trained professional who took out criminals the SWAT team couldn't handle. So if Barbara walked out on a relationship with one "soldier" because it "wasn't right," is it better that she ran off with another soldier?

Either Barbara is old enough to be held accountable for all her actions (say, with Dick), or she's not old enough to be performing these actions (say, with Bruce). She can't have it both ways.

The point which I think is revelant which TOM doesn't touch on is that Barbara says in hindsight her love for Dick was not so much love, but a crush.

Not true. This has been addressed. The result is that this writer didn't believe her.

It is one thing for Barbara to dismiss Dick as "puppy love" if he could not compete with her hero worship for Batman. That may well be how she rationalized his loss. Whether Barbara came to believe this statement for herself, it does not grant her the insight, or the authority, to make such a sweeping statement on behalf of someone else.

If we go by "what we see on the screen," it should be plain that if Dick Grayson was just Barbara's "puppy love," no one ever bothered to inform HIM of it. HE thought it was real. Watch their scenes in the TNBA episode "Old Wounds." (No time or space to post a transcript here.) They're very intimate scenes. They're very tactile scenes, as rich in gesture, look and touch as the quoted “Batwoman” dorm scene is rich in voicework. The positions of hands ; the expressive feet (the point of a slippered toe, legs curled under under so) ; sashaying ; stranded on a dance floor ; pacing ; chasing ; tiptoeing ; running ; the exquisite eyes which can express "here we go again" in loyal sympathy in Barbara's room but express "here we go again" with sour revulsion on a Gotham rooftop—forget the Joker's sideplot and drink in the sight of these two moving sculptures instead.

There's an old saying to the effect that "home is that place that, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." Where is "home" to Dick in this transitional stage? Home is becoming less the mansion and the cave. Home is becoming the place where Barbara is. In bad times "home" is the place he can go at three in the morning for love, sympathy and comfort, if he will take it. In good times, "home" is a fine restaurant with a view : a view where, shimmering in the distance, he sees a future with Barbara in it.

Barbara's hold over Dick is not one-hundred percent identical to Andrea Beaumont's hold over the young Bruce. The situations have about fifty percent in common. Dick already wanted to leave Wayne Manor and to hang up the cape. Had Barbara not been in his life he might have done so anyway. However, the prospect that the radiant Barbara waited for him in the civilian world was powerfully attractive, and was certainly a factor in his considerations.

It's easy to lay the blame at Bruce's feet for mishandling the "Old Wounds" situation. In truth all three of them are at fault. But Bruce lit the match. As Barbara could have handled Dick's feelings better, so also could Bruce. (And fifty thousand fans screamed in unison, "Where's Alfred?!?!") Yet we have to wonder ... if Bruce had not "outed" all their secret identities, how far would Barbara go along with Dick's dreams? If she never learned Batman's name, would she have married Dick? And if so, would that be "settling for him," or would it become real? Here is one of the great expanses in the territory of "what might have been."

Instead Dick is totally blindsided by Barbara's sudden preference for Batman. It's one thing for Jim Gordon to tease Dick that he has many rivals and Dick's victory will make so many men in town soooo jealous. But to have a romantic rival he didn't even know about!

Nevertheless Dick is traditionally blamed for most of the fireworks in "Old Wounds" simply because he's the loud one. Understand, slugging Bruce was inexcusable and we cannot excuse it. We can only consider whether he was provoked. (In law, "inciting to riot" is no excuse for a riot ; all parties are responsible.) On the one hand, Barbara almost died. Had Dick not personally saved her, she absolutely would have died. (Batgirl does more skydiving than any other character except Bats/Terry.) On the other hand, Dick only held back information from Barbara to protect Bruce's secret, not his own. Yet Barbara scolds him for not telling her. This places Dick in a no-win scenario (which we know from experience he hates). No matter what he told, or didn't tell, someone would have yelled at him for doing the wrong thing.

Dick also discovers that his girlfriend would rather be with her hero than her boyfriend. (She doesn't chase after Dick.) The home Dick would have left held no appeal for him anyway, but to see the home he hoped to make with Barbara evaporate before his eyes as well is devastating. If this is puppy love it's not like any kind he recognizes ... more like a veteran coming home to find his sweetheart is leaving him but (those naughty mails!) he just hasn't gotten the letter yet.

Dick's explosive temper and his hammer hands undermined his credibility with the fans, and went a long way toward turning Barbara's affections away from him to his wounded "victim." So yes, that was bad. Realistically, though, what else was he supposed to have done? Should he have stayed in the cave because Barbara was there, working for a man who enraged him, doing a job he had come to hate? Should he stay in the cave watching the woman he once loved getting busy (or trying to get busy) with another man? Should he have stayed on the grounds that "you would if you loved me" and therefore if he leaves, that's proof he doesn't? Should he have humbled himself like a Johnny Galecki character, to shuffle his feet and look at the ground and say meekly, "If you sleep with him and you don't like it, I'll still take you back" ... Does this sound like something Dick Grayson would say? Should he have to?

It's all too much for this Borderline Personality, and Dick leaves Gotham and Barbara ... for all they know, for good.

The Dick Grayson who returns as Nightwing five years later is hardly recognizable. The generous, enthusiastic and openly trusting Boy Wonder is gone. In his place is a brooding loner. Does Barbara see something attractive in the mystery? Perhaps. In any event she sparks off Dick in several episodes, to no avail. After all, there's no reason he should accept her advances.

Barbara continues to make only the same offer that Dick Grayson had already rejected. The moment Dick realized she was cheating on him (in an emotional and intellectual sense at first, more later), to him that crossed a line. Dick knew from the start that he could not live as "the other man." He could not kiss her knowing that she might be thinking of somebody else. He could not spend his days with her wondering how many times in the day she might be thinking of somebody else. So Dick cut his losses. Unless Barbara is prepared to make him a deal he can live with, there's no reason for them to get back together.

Was Dick himself aware of the double standards of Barbara's love life? When Dick refuses to be the other man it's not seen as a gesture of self-respect. He has to listen to the line, "you would if you loved me." However when Barbara becomes "the other woman" to Batman (who is "married" to the job), for some reason that's considered empowering.

Dick also had to listen to the unspoken rhetoric that since he didn't put a ring on her finger—and since the animated Bruce never actually adopted Dick—then Barbara should not be "restricted" in her affairs but should be free to do as she pleased. After all, it's not like she's breaking up a "real" family. (To our knowledge no one has banished Dick far enough away to qualify as, say, Landlord-and-Tenant.) Would Barbara have the same freedom if the free agent had been a man? Or rather, if Barbara was a man who dated a daughter, then her mother—or alternately, a man who dated a younger sister then switched to her older sister—would it still be okay? Are things permitted to Barbara that people wouldn't tolerate from a man?

Did Barbara feel any sympathy for Dick? When Dick left she didn't chase him ; years later when Barbara left Bruce he didn't chase her either. Barbara assumes Dick ought to settle for being the other man ; when she settles for being the other woman it turns out to be not as much fun as she thought it was. When Barbara shrugged off a man who would give up the cape to be with her, she ended up with a man who would never give up the cape to be with her, and he said so. What Barbara has done unto others, others one day will have done unto her. Did her situation give Barbara any insight into Dick's thinking, any remorse for what she and Bruce put him through, any compassion for him whatever? The answer, simply, is No. Barbara's speech in “Batman Beyond”'s "A Touch of Curare" shows no empathy, or from some fans' point of view, even decency. It was as if she really was amusing herself with him.

Dick's arguments with Batman contributed to his departure and reinvention as Nightwing, but the arguments and the NW identity were not reason enough to turn Dick into such a misanthrope. Batman alone did not have that much power. To coin a phrase, "There's a whole world out there where you ain't." Dick's problems with Batman soured his opinion of Batman. But it was the loss of Barbara whom he trusted that destroyed his faith in people.

Now single again, the TNBA Babs (let's call her Sidekick Barbara) goes to work for "the great man" himself, the Batman. For her it is a dream come true. Her hero has counted her worthy to serve at his side. Although she fantasized about him in "Batgirl Returns," there is nothing in the TNBA series or in the “Return of the Joker” feature film that could be construed as romantic interest or contact between the characters. Nor does there seem to be a need. They are co-workers, and for the grateful, worshipful, and impressionable Sidekick Barbara, just being his partner is enough ... for now.

Sidekick Barbara reporting for duty
("The Ultimate Thrill," TNBA)

At first many fans greeted the change with enthusiasm. Who wouldn't want more Batgirl? But as time passed the complaints grew. Barbara had traded Quality Time for Quantity Time, and fans didn't like it.

... it seems she got a lobotomy somewhere between BTAS and TNBA ...

Additionally, a new reason for Sidekick Barbara's behavior is that Dick Grayson's Robin was not replaced with another Robin (Tim). Actually, the first Robin was replaced with two Robins. For example, Batman is more tolerant of Batgirl's mistakes than of Dick's mistakes, solely because Batgirl exhibits the blind trust and unabashed adulation that is traditionally Robin's duty and Batman's due. Batgirl also competed with Tim Drake's Robin for put-downs and one-liners. Honestly, in many TNBA episodes we could have placed Robin in Batgirl's scenes and given him her lines, and it wouldn't have made any difference. (Obviously "Over The Edge" is an exception, but that's a topic for later.)

About fifteen minutes before this writer sat down to the computer (honest!), I came across an article in the “Harvard Business Review” magazine titled, "The Risky Business of Hiring Stars." It dissected the deterioration of Freelancer Babs and her reinvention as Sidekick Babs in astonishing detail. Here are some of the highlights :

"We observed that top performers in all [studied] groups were more like comets than stars. They were blazing successes for a while but quickly faded out when they left one company for another ....

Three things happen when a company hires a star, and none of them bodes well for the organization.

The star's luster fades. The star's performance falls sharply and stays well below his old achievement levels thereafter .... the decline in the star's performance [is] more or less permanent.

Obviously a star doesn't suddenly become less intelligent or lose a decade of work experience overnight when she switches firms. Although most companies overlook this fact, an executive's performance depends on both her personal competencies and the capabilities, such as systems and processes, of the organization she works for. When she leaves, she cannot take the firm-specific resources that contributed to her achievements. As a result, she is unable to repeat her performance in another company ; at least, not until she learns to work the new system, which could take years ....

The group's performance slips. Most executives realize that a star's appointment will hurt the morale of the people she will work with, but they underestimate the aftershocks. The arrival of a highflyer often results in interpersonal conflicts and a breakdown of communication in the group. As a result, the group's performance suffers for several years. Sometimes the team (or what is left of it) returns to normal only after the star has left the company.

The money that stars make isn't the only problem. Their coworkers often become demotivated because they feel they must look outside the organization if they want to grow or occupy leadership positions. Their suspicions are fueled by the fact that senior executives provide more resources to a newly hired star than to a company stalwart even if both have performed equally well ... Junior managers take the star's induction as a signal that the organization isn't interested in tapping their potential. That often results in demoralization in the group.

The company's valuation suffers. In spite of the positive publicity companies get when they sign up stars, investors perceive the appointments as value-destroying events ....

Many investors apparently believe that while compensation for a star with long tenure is more or less commensurate with performance, rivals are blinded by stars' status and overpay in order to bag them ....

Most of us have an instinctive faith in talent and genius, but it isn't just that people make organizations better. The organization also makes people perform better. In fact, few stars would change employers if they understood the degree to which their performance is tied to the company they work for.

Note the parallels to Our Heroes. Fans (the "outside investors") whine about the shift from a psychological crime drama to a straightforward action/adventure series. Inside the company, Bruce/Batman recruits an outside "rainmaker" but the price proves too high. (It shatters the Bat-family.) Dick feels manipulated and unappreciated. He takes five years off to learn a new "crimefighting culture" before he debuts as Nightwing. (He knows that's how long it's going to take to absorb that new culture.) Thus Bruce/Batman ends up giving away "proprietary information" to two sidekicks who will grow up to start rival businesses. (Commissioner Barbara in particular uses that proprietary information i.e. she knows Batman's name, to try to shut him down.) The young Barbara is uprooted from the environment where she had prospered and transplanted in new soil where her old techniques and skills are not The Way Things Are Done Here. The new culture is so different that even as late as the training scene in the episode "Cold Comfort" she has trouble keeping up. Maxie Zeus once explained the New Character's Assimilation Dilemma this way :

The problem with illustrating a storyarc in which the new kid is learning and is receiving a valuable education—is that it can come across as portraying the character as being in desperate need of that education.

Anyhow, it's fascinating to hear the remarks of a Harvard Business School study coming out of the mouths of teenage and young adult Batfans.

And so the years pass between the events of one DCAU series and the events of another. In that time Tim Drake is broken, Nightwing leaves Gotham for good, and Bruce and Barbara allegedly have an affair. A shifty look ; a picture ; a question directly asked and not answered with "no" -- these hints were carefully crafted to drive the viewers batty (ha ha, very punny) but not, one hoped, enough to drive them away. Regrettably many fans did turn their backs on an entire series for this reason.

Let's take a closer look at what they missed.



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