Lots of you nerds already know that Batgirl is going to be available as DLC soon for Injustice: Gods Among Us. If you are surprised by this, go watch the trailer here and then come back. I’ll wait.
I’m a huge Batgirl fan (all four of them, from Kate Kane to Stephanie Brown), so getting to play Barbara Gordon in a kickass new fighting game? Oh lord best believe that shit is my JAM. I will gladly drop five bucks for one of my favorite DC characters, especially when she has razorblade heels and taser knuckles.
But most of the comics community seems to be upset to varying degrees about this. Most notable are the folks (who I have seen in droves on 4chan, and in slightly fewer numbers here) who are upset that we have yet another Batman family member to the roster. It’s an understandable beef: we already have Bats, Nightwing, Catwoman, Joker, Harley, and Bane, while even Superman only gets two nemeses (with Zod possibly coming soon as DLC). These players say Babs has “wasted a slot” that could have been filled with Martian Manhunter, Blue Beetle, or someone else they want to play as.
I sympathize; I want to play as Animal Man, who would have a totally boss moveset, and MMH could also be a lot of fun. But just because you don’t like a particular character does not mean it’s a waste—others will get enjoyment from playing Batgirl, and these people will probably get some enjoyment from learning her weaknesses and exploiting them for schadenfreude. Everyone wins in the end! (And hey, it’s not like NetherRealm won’t make more DLC; this game is doing boffo business.)
The other side, as represented by DC Women Kicking Ass, is upset about the trailer; specifically, that it brings up the old Killing Joke story as a backdrop to Barbara’s entrance, defining her by her relationship to the Joker. Now, Injustice has had a remarkably shitty track record thus far for female empowerment, from Lois Lane’s use as a prop to make Superman lose his God damn mind to Wonder Woman being nothing but, as Deathstroke puts it in the game, “Superman’s rebound girl.” This is not much better, but it is slightly more reasonable than it seems at first. For one thing, The Killing Joke is an iconic Batman story, and the one comic featuring Batgirl (even though Alan Moore used her as a prop, much like the way Lois is used in Injustice) that I’d wager most of the mainstream audience members have read or heard of.
Given that DC has somehow found a way to (awkwardly) work in the story in their New 52 universe, where Babs got better from her spinal injury due to LOLMIRACLES, it’s also a story that is still very important to her character. DC and NetherRealm are going for what is recognizable, not what is original, and a Batgirl-Joker faceoff fits that to a T: he’s the only villain in the roster Babs has a long personal history with, so the matchup is natural.
So from a marketing standpoint, this is really just business as usual. From a storytelling perspective, it’s horrible, particularly given the fact that even Moore thinks the story is shallow and poorly thought out in retrospect (especially with regards to Barbara’s paralysis, or as Len Wein put it, the decision to “cripple the bitch”). In the grand scheme of Injustice’s crimes against women, this is relatively small potatoes—they’re really just reliving the past to maximize sales—but that doesn’t make it good. I’ll be playing Batgirl, and I’ll have fun, but the first person to play against me as the Joker (especially if he’s in his Killing Joke tropical-print shirt) is getting such a beatdown.
I’ll be writing about this and other aspects of DC’s bizarre new Injustice franchise on Splice Today very soon, so watch this space for a link, and meanwhile you can let me know your thoughts on the matter.