By day, she’s a student, struggling to settle into college life at Gotham U.  By night, she’s a costumed heroine, fighting crime, battling supervillains, and carrying on the name of Batgirl.  But there are those who aren’t exactly pleased with Stephanie Brown’s decision to don the cape and cowl.  The former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, has her reservations.  The new Batman feels she’s in way over her head.  The new Robin thinks she’s downright inept.  Hell, even Stephanie herself has doubts about her decision – but despite those doubts (and the initial disapproval of her peers), she perseveres and, ultimately, proves herself a more than capable caped crusader.

Batgirl Rising serves as a great jumping-on point for first-time readers or readers, like myself, who have been out of the comic loop for a while. Writer Bryan Q. Miller does a very nice job of introducing our if-not-new-then-certainly-refurbished heroine in an opening arc that establishes her double life, paralleling Stephanie’s new role as Batgirl with her equally new – and no less daunting – role of college student (Sure, Livewire and the Scarecrow were intimidating but they’ve clearly got nothing on Philosophy 480!).  She attempts to strike a balance between them, but her two worlds collide when a dangerous new drug called “thrill” makes its way onto campus and, later, when a fellow student is kidnapped.

Miller and artists Lee Garbett and Trevor Scott deliver a book that is not only engaging and exciting, but a damn fun read as well.  I tend to gravitate toward to the more grounded exploration of our hero’s (or heroine’s) alter-ego and the writer does not disappoint here, crafting an interesting, layered character you end up caring about, and rooting for, by volume’s end.  The six issue collection is peppered with great moments in this respect, dramatic encounters that focus less on fisticuffs and explosions yet prove just as equally charged.  I loved Barbara Gordon’s breakfast ambush of Stephanie in her own home and the ensuing fireworks, Stephanie’s visit to the batcave, and all of her scenes with the brattish Damien (aka Robin).  Speaking of the latter, my favorite panel comes off Francisco’s “I’ll text you later…after you shake the little Omen fanboy giving you the stink-eye.” where we then go to – top of P.115 – the aptly named Damien looking hilariously Omen-esque as he loiters beneath an ominous-looking tree.

Which brings me to the one element of storytelling that I think is crucial to a great narrative: humor.  I’m not saying a series has to be comical, but certainly even the subtlest humor goes such a long way toward humanizing characters, contrasting those darker elements and, most importantly, winning over readers/viewers.  While shows like The Sopranos, The Shield, and Breaking Bad may deal with very dark subject matter, they are also possessed of a wonderful sense of humor that adds so much to their respective success.  Batgirl Rising, I’m pleased to report, has a wonderful sense of humor.  It’s never of the silly variety, detracting from the more serious moments, but always serves to add flavor and depth to the characters and situations. Stephanie’s moments with Damien, in particular, stand out.

I did have one nitpick and it has to do with the former Batgirl, Cassandra Cain, and her passing of the cowl.  This is covered in almost perfunctory fashion (a two-page flashback) after which the character of Cassie is never mentioned again.  From what I understand, Cassie and Stephanie were friends, so I found her disappearance all the more baffling given that their continuing friendship could have provided even more insight into Stephanie’s decision to assume (and stick with) the Batgirl identity. I’m sure an argument could be made that the Cassie-Stephanie relationship would have simply echoed the Barbara-Stephanie relationship but, at the end of the day, it still feels like an opportunity missed.

That quibble aside, I very much enjoyed Batgirl Rising and already have the next volume sitting on my to-read pile.

So, what did everyone else think?  Post your thoughts – and questions for writer Bryan Q. Miller!

And a reminder that today is your last day to post comments for former Stargate scribe, present Exec. Producer of The L.A. Complex, Martin Gero!

Speaking of Stargate, guess who I ran into in the fresh produce aisle of my local Safeway this afternoon?

Obviously incognito!

Yep, it’s Dan Shea, SG-1’s stunt coordinator.  Between conventions, Dan has been working on the locally-produced Psych!

28 thoughts on “January 16, 2012: Batgirl Rising!

  1. I thought that the humor and alter ego subtext were magnificent.
    I really liked the convention of fading print = sound dwindling.
    I sorta missed the Cassandra bit…I was reading quickly to get done.
    Robin was borderline grating…and the Batmobile was sorta Bladerunner meets Chrysler.
    Some excellent prop humor-O’Pear painting! Laughs!
    Two copy errors that interrupted the narrative flow for me. P.113 “Stop is Barb” & p.138 “brought the feet”.
    oh, & Robin was borderline grating!
    Joe I hope your Horror endeavor is NightGalleryesque because that is the only other genre group I follow! Season three on DVD in March-finally!
    Cheers!

  2. Hey Joe

    Thoughts on Batman: The Movie 1966

    Forgot how much I had enjoyed this movie when I first saw it. Totally over the top in every way. Mind you, I was 10 at the time.

    What can one say about a 46 year old movie? They must have spent a fortune at a sign shop for all the “Bat-This” and “Bat-That” labelling they did. I also noticed the two poles they used to get down to the Batcave were different sizes, a large one for Batman and a smaller one for Robin. And their “techno-babble” was really strange, and wrong. Kinda glad we had Samantha and Rodney! And, at the end, when they went to the window and opened it, then “poof” they had a large coil of rope, each! Holy Editing, Batman!

    All-in-all I enjoyed the film, again. Especially for the trip back to my childhood.

    Hope it’s alright posting this now, if I wait it’ll be to late, like last week…

    Elminster

  3. >>January 15, 2012: Batgirl Rising!
    January 16, 2012 by josephmallozzi<<
    I just saw the 15th and was so confused since I was damned sure I read last night, then looked and saw you have 2 Jan 15s. Please tell me how to make each day last 2 for the next few days as the dd leaves for 7 mos in France on Friday and I am having horrific empty nest anxiety pangs. She'll be fine, it's me one should worry about!
    I want to want to watch the new Alcatraz show but it doesn't interest me at all. 🙁 even with Sam Neill.

  4. I let out a squeal watching Psych earlier this season when I saw Dan Shea’s name in the credits. Don’t forget, Psych’s Sage Brocklebank also appeared on SG-1!

  5. I liked Batgirl: Rising. I’m not much of a comic book reader, so I was a little confused about Stephanie’s previous crime-fighting identities and how she had ended up as Batgirl. Hence I missed the weak hand-off of the cowl you mentioned. But that did not interfere with my enjoyment of the story.

    Good things:

    1. I liked seeing both sides of the Stephanie/Batgirl thoroughly fleshed out. And, even better, both aspects of her character developed nicely during the telling of the tale as she got more comfortable with her new roles as a Gotham U student and as Batgirl.

    2. Good artwork – characters and setting.

    3. Nice interactions- sort of superhero sibling rivalry – between the new Robin and Batgirl.

    4. I also enjoyed the touches of humor. That “Omen fanboy” bit made me laugh out loud. And I liked her solution to getting the stolen purse back to her mother.

    Confusing stuff:

    1. Who was the woman in the wheelchair that Barbara was trying to mentor?

    2. I’ll chalk up any other confusing things to the fact that I haven’t picked up a Batman comic book since I was 10 years old and just let it go for now.

    Overall, a very enjoyable read and if I was in the market for a new comic book series to read, this would be on my A-list.

  6. I watched the Batman movie tonight. I wanted to fast forward through some of the chase scenes toward the end, but my daughter reminded me that I had promised to watch ALL of it. So I did. So there. ;P

  7. Hey Joe,

    I watched Misfits for about ten minutes. Decided to pass until I hear more. I am now watching Roswell. The cast is great. Three seasons :o)

    Best to you Joe,
    Cheryl

  8. Sorry but I haven’t read Batgirl. I do want to ask you “Why would any normal person want to live in Gotham city?” It’s like Memphis, TN on steroids.

    Oh that reminds me of Karate class last night: “How to disarm someone with a gun.” I hope I never have to try that technique EVER!

    I missed Alcatraz! I’ll check to see when it re-airs.

    How did the pitch for Dark Matter the series go? I was just telling hubby how good the comic was. He’ll read it soon.

    Yams vs. Sweet Potatoes: http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/sweetpotato.html Until a few years ago, I thought they were the same. Our local sweet potatoes are a bright orange. I’ve never been fond of the after taste of sweet potatoes but I’ll eat them in a pinch.

    Pups doing ok?

  9. I like your produce department, reminds me that I need to hit the tiny grocery near work for more fresh produce after a long holiday weekend.

    I have a question for Martin Gero about the music on the show; I have great memories of the music on the old WB shows. One character is a rap star; who are the bands/artists they’d love to get on the show? What other music will be featured on the show?

  10. Thanks for choosing Batgirl Rising as a book of the month club pick otherwise I never would have discovered it. I have some questions for the writer:

    1. How did you make the jump from writing for television to writing for comics? Do you prefer one over the other?

    2. Were there any fellow comic book writers that helped you out when you first started? Who were they and how did they help? And what were the biggest challenges you faced?

    3. What are you plans for future projects in television and comics?

    Thanks to Bryan Q. Miller for answering my questions.

  11. I was glad to hear that Psych was picked up for a 7th season!

    And now for something completely different…

    Based on the recommendations of several users here, I started watching the show Misfits. I’m 4-5 episodes in and find it amazingly well done. Glad I took the recommendation. The whole thing is available free on Hulu. So, thanks for that!

  12. About a year and some ago, Octoberish, we were so upset that our 3 year old was saying to us, “I’m bad girl.” We’d assure her she wasn’t, but she’d walk away looking so sad. We were getting more concerned about where she was getting this notion every time it happened and she was getting more upset, too. Then one day she handed me a card and said it again. The card had a picture of bat girl on it. :doh

  13. Hey all,
    The new BBC S. Holmes airs on PBS here in the states re:deadlinehollywood
    SO good to see Dan Shea (where is that gigantic wrench?) Psych has to be a great gig, it is a tight show-what writing talent!
    Keeping my fingers crossed that SyFy will bring Sanctuary back for cinq, not expecting it though.
    Joe I am gonna give Fling a spin and then Entourage (thanks to local library) I tried Breaking Bad enjoyed a few episodes & moved on, I won’t say one-trick pony cos I still find Twin Peaks without rival, but the chemistry just wasn’t there!
    Cheers!

  14. @ BoltBait – Right now, Psych is my only ‘must see’ show. Sure, I like White Collar, Castle, NCIS, and maybe one or two others, but I don’t worry if I miss an episode or two. But Psych? That’s the one I sit up straight to watch, with a bowl of popcorn on my lap and a glass of wine in hand. The first half of this current season was exceptional! I think it was their best run of episodes since I started watching.

    Thing is, it took me a couple of years to get into. I didn’t care for it at first, but one day I stumbled upon a marathon and since there was nothing else on, I watched, and said to myself, “Self, why aren’t you watching this? It’s great!”

    Now, here’s another thing. My sister can’t watch it because she says Shawn looks – and acts – like my husband. And he does. Yeah, he looks like him, but some of the things he does – lol! SO much like my husband, especially when he misquotes something, or makes up words, or puts on an accent, or gets his facts all backwards. There’s this one scene that is SO much like Mr. Das it’s not funny. It’s in the ‘Thrill Seekers’ ep, and they’re talking about this guy, Sampson.

    First, Shawn – putting on a Sam Spadesque voice – says what a great name it is, like a film noir detective who drinks hard, and loves even harder. Or Sampson, a little country mouse from Wolverhampshire (this time with a high-pitched English accent).

    Then Gus says, “Or like Sampson…from the Bible?”

    Shawn: “Nah, those guys all had names like Ben-Hur, and Prometheus.”

    Gus: “You’ve never read the Bible, have you?”

    Shawn: (defensively, and counting on his fingers): “Genesis, Exorcist, Leviathan, Dooo-the-right-thing.”

    😆 THAT is Mr. Das. Years ago, when talking about the Bible book of James, he called it Jason. More than once. 🙄 And on our first date we got into a debate over who was the ‘Bad’, and who was the ‘Ugly’, in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly…he just couldn’t get it through his head that Lee Van Cleef was ‘the bad’. (I later found out because he got the names/faces confused – he thought Wallach was Van Cleef, and visa versa.)

    Yes, he is my *Shawn*, and I am very much like Gus. We make quite a pair. 😛

    das

  15. Hello Bryan! Have to say I loved Batgirl Rising and agree with all of Joe’s points especially about the humor of your writing. I have to admit to being kind of confused because, when the wheelchair-bound woman who Barbara befriends is first introduced, I thought she was Cassie the former Batgirl!

    Anyway, loved what I read and I have a few questions if you’d be so kind:

    1. How long did the Batgirl series run and why, if you’re able to say, did it end? Do you miss writing for Stephanie?

    2. Why Batgirl? When you made the move to writing comic books, why start with this character? Was there an opening? Was she a character you wanted to write for?

    3. Someone has already asked about future comic book work but I want to know who your dream character or title would be to write for?

    4. Were you a comic book fan before writing for Batgirl? If yes, then which titles did you follow and which writers/artists did you enjoy?

    5. Finally – if you could have one superpower what would it be and why?

    KK

  16. Questions for the writer of Batgirl Rising –

    1) What was the writing process like on Batgirl? How much direction were you given by the editors at DC and how free were you to create your own storylines? Were there specific dos and don’ts as you started work on the title?

    2) How would you describe your overall experience working for DC? How did you find it compared to working for television? What were the pros and cons?

    3) What advice would you give to aspiring comic book writers looking to break into the business? Would you say its easier to get your foot in the door writing for an established character at a DC or Marvel or an original creator-owned character at somewhere like IDW or Image?

  17. @ prof.madmax – I know an episode aired last Sunday, but as I understand it, it was an encore of the ones shown about 18 months ago (I have it recorded, but haven’t watched it yet since I’m assuming I’ve already seen it). The new ones start airing in May…YAY!! I’ve heard they are exceptionally good!

    Also, suuuuure…I betcha meant ‘Fringe’. 😉 Over the years, Joe’s blog has become an entire lingerie drawer full of Freudian slips, and it was just your turn to add one. 🙂

    das

  18. It’s been a while since I’ve read a comic book and I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by Batgirl Rising. A lot of thought went into the characters and they were all well-drawn and very believable. On the other hand, I thought that some of the story elements were given short shrift and I was left confused at various points where we seem to skip quickly over sections (ie. the whole attempt to drug the college street party) while Stephanie appears to make some big leaps in logic in arriving to her (albeit correct) conclusions. The whole kidnapping plot that concludes this volume, in the same way, felt like it could have used more time and detail in the telling. I wanted to learn more about Barbara and to see the writer explore more of the relationship between Stephanie and her mother, but I suppose that’s was volume 2’s are for! 🙂

    For Mr. Miller –

    – How did your writing approach for Batgirl (comic book) differ from your writing approach on Smallville (t.v.)?

    – Was there anything you wanted to do with the character that you weren’t allowed to (stories you wanted to write but couldn’t)?

    – How much and what kind of research did you have to do prior to writing for Batgirl?

    – What do you think of the New 52 relaunch? What are you reading?

  19. this is totally off topic, but thanks for turning me on to breaking bad. it’s my favorite show since BSG.

  20. AvidReader – those things you listed may have been confusing to people who don’t read comics regularly but as a regular you learn that comics have a shorthand that lets the writer tells a bigger shorter in a short amount of space. Remember, they only have 22 pages to work with. The woman in the wheelchair is introduced in this volume but, since this is a continuing series, her story picks up in the next volume.

    Anyway, I enjoyed Miller’s Batgirl. She reminded me of the Peter Parker with the struggle of balancing school, home life, and being a superhero by night. The person behind the mask was a lot realer for me than the previous ersion. And speaking of the previous version, I hated the old weird mouthless mask and preferred this costume that was a classic throwback to the original.

    Bryan, thank you for Batgirl. I miss Stephanie. Any plans to revisit the character in some future book?

    What was it that inspired you to write Batgirl? What did you draw from?

    Going to Comic Con this year?

  21. Hi to Bryan Q. Millar and welcome to Joe’s blog.

    I’d like to know your list of top ten graphic novels/trade paperbacks.

    What’s it like being married to the awesome Erika Kennair?

    And where’s YOUR blog?

  22. Hope it’s not too late to get in some questions for Bryan –

    – Hello, Brian. Thanks for taking our questions and great work on Batgirl. I wanted to know what it felt like taking over writing duties on one of DC’s most iconic characters. Did the fact that you were a male writer writing for a female character make you in any way nervous? How did you approach writing for Batgirl? What did you take away from the experience?

    Stacey

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