“Suddenly, I get it. I see him. I see why crooks are terrified, why Dad doesn’t talk about him. He’s not a myth or a nightmare. He’s a real man, a human being. And now I know what being driven really means. And I know I want my life to matter.”
I’ll admit that most all I know about Batgirl comes from the three or four episodes Barbara Gordon was in from Batman: the Animated Series. I don’t recall that I had any manner of aversion to Batgirl’s comics, it just wasn’t one that I ever happened to follow. (I’ll admit I was kind of a conformist as far as a lot of my interests went up until college, but then, weren’t we all?) Since a lot of my friends were into comics, I was too, but I really only read the same ones they were into. And since Batgirl wasn’t one that they were into, it wasn’t one I bothered to follow. I didn’t, in fact, know that Barbara is one of several characters to bear the “Batgirl” mantle until I did a quick Wikipedia check just now. (Though this didn’t surprise me, given that there’ve been four or five Robins over the decades.)
As part of something called Batman: Zero Year, DC has decided to release or reboot or retell (or re-something) the origin story of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. I stumbled across this cover art on artist Alex Garner’s DeviantArt page, and immediately fell in love with Barbara’s outfit as a modern-day adventurer. While I don’t really know the details of the project, I just had to show my appreciation for the costume, especially given the massive contrast from the black spandex that Batgirl typically wears.
This concept drawing provides a little better view of her outfit as a whole. I love that it essentially looks like SWAT gear she borrowed from her dad’s closet. (Her dad being Batman’s long-time ally, Gotham Police Commissioner James Gordon, for those of you who didn’t know.)
The Kevlar vest is likely my favorite piece of apparel. Proof against knives, bludgeoning, and probably small-arms fire, the vest should keep our heroine’s torso safe against any group of lower-Gotham thugs. In addition, I like the pockets on the front for easy access to her tools of the crime-fighting trade.
The SWAT pants are awesome too, as they look slightly too large on her—suggesting once again that they were borrowed. I suspect these may also have additional pockets or pouches for Barbara’s weapons and/or gadgets. The holster on her hip might carry a handgun, as well, but in keeping with the Batman characters’ “no guns” theme, I suspect a taser or grappling gun to be more likely. The SWAT knee pads are also a nice touch. While handy for kneeling behind cover, I think it’s even more vital that they keep her knees protected from potentially incapacitating hits from pry bars or Louisville Sluggers.
Barbara’s gloves appear to be a durable set of fingerless leather gloves. These are handy and protective for anything from shooting to climbing to knuckle sandwiches. I’m not sure on her shoes, however. In the concept sketch, they appear to be a pair of black Converse, but in the cover painting they look more like boots of some kind. While it’s important to note that neither are f***ing high heels, I’ll admit that I prefer the boots over the Converse. The only advantage the shoes provide over the boots is a small level of flexibility. The boots, however, provide superior durability and traction in urban combat environments.
All in all, I found Barbara’s outfit to be a refreshing break from the “superheroines in spandex” motif that so often prevents comics from being taken seriously by readers outside the genre.