365 T-shirts - the reasoning

This blog should be sub-titled: a journal of my life in geek.

I get my geek on with things about which I am geeky: comic books, Baseball, Ultimate, science fiction, my favorite bands, books I have read and loved, and Jungian psychology to name some of the most frequently traversed subjects.

I began this project simply as a way to count my T-shirts. I own a lot of T-shirts. But how many do I have? Do I have 365? We shall find out.

When I started this blog, I thought about how each T-shirt means something to me. I bought it for a reason, after all. I set myself the task to post an entry about a new T-shirt every day as a way to simply write something every day, a warm up for writing fiction, which is my passion. Writing is like exercise. Warm ups are good for exercise. But after completing a month of blogging about T-shirts, I have learned that this blog serves as a journal; it documents my life in geek, sort of a tour of my interests in pop culture. The blog serves as a tool for self-inventory, for assessment and analysis of self and the origins of self, for stepping through the process of individuation in catalogues, lists, and ranks.

The blog also made me aware that I have some serious gaps in my T-shirt ownership, and I am in the process of collecting some new T-shirts for several of the great popular culture icons that I truly love. Stay tuned.

I was also a bit surprised that people checked out my blog and continue to check it, read it, and even comment on it. I am very appreciative of this readership. Please feel free to share your thoughts in my comments section. I will respond.

Also, please note that I have moved the original introductory text to the side bar. And now, I present to you the most recent entry of 365 T-shirts: a journal of my life in geek. Thank you for reading.
(Second Update - 1310.24. First Update - 1306.05 Originally Posted - 1304.25.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

T-shirt #28: Batgirl (spoiler alerts)

T-shirt #28: Batgirl: Television, paralysis, and transgender

I dedicate today's entry to Batgirl, even though I am told that today is Superman's 75th birthday. But The Man of Steel will have to wait until I can find my Superman shirt. The T-shirt blog is starting to have a back-logged schedule.

This blog (the entire blog, not just today's entry) traces my life in popular culture: my life in geek. No such tracing could be complete without properly canonizing in a central position the influence of the Batman television show that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1968. And no discussion of how the Batman show influenced me could be complete without acknowledging Catwoman (we will deal with her a different day) and BATGIRL. (Also, always consult the super awesome DC Wiki.)

Batgirl serves as an example of how television produced media influence the comic books and how comic books depictions of heroes or the nature of the actual heroes (identity, personality, character) themselves will be altered to match (at least somewhat) television or film interpretations. Barbara Gordon as Batgirl was the brainchild of comics genius Julius Schwartz (previously mentioned in T-shirt #20, the Flash Logo) and the producers of the TV series in an attempt to boost ratings. By introducing Batgirl to the current comic books, the TV producers hoped to boost ratings by then introducing her to the TV show. PURIST ALERT!

Betty Kane? Yeah, okay, okay, I know. Comic book purists will cite that there was already a Batgirl character, Betty Kane, introduced by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff in 1961 (before I was born), not counting Bob Kane's pesky girl version of Robin in the 1950s. But that was a one shot, and the real, true creation of the beloved Batgirl character came with this plan to boost ratings for the TV show, and the amazing Barbara Gordon.

In 1967, Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino (also mentioned in the previous T-shirt #20, the Flash Logo entry) featured the new Batgirl in Detective Comics #359. In the story, Barbara Gordon, the daughter of police commissioner Jim Gordon, dresses as a female version of Batman for a costume ball. Inevitably, Batgirl comes to the aid of Bruce Wayne, saving him from being kidnapped by Killer Moth. The TV show producers made a short featuring the same basic story and ABC renewed the TV show for a third season, its last. Yvonne Craig played Batgirl in the TV show. Though Craig showed up in many TV shows throughout the 1960s and 1970s, such as Star Trek , she is best known for this role (with a dear place in my heart and the hearts of many Batman TV show fans). The TV show informed my ideas about justice, fair play, and heroism (though also a campy sense of fun) as a very young boy (ages 4-6) and the reruns that followed for a few years. With only two female roles on the show (not counting Aunt Harriet), both Batgirl and Catwoman influenced my ideas about women. Don't worry. I am not going to engage in any deep psycho-analysis here today. I will leave off with that last statement.

From those early days of the TV show, Batgirl became one of my favorite comic book characters along with her main ally: the original Robin (Dick Grayson). My life as a huge Teen Titans fan (even though Batgirl was never one of the Teen Tiatns) and fan of Robin and Batgirl will wait for another day as well. Suffice to say that I read apearances of Batgirl avidly until 1988 and Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's The Killing Joke. My world as a comic book reader and Batgirl fan was rocked when the Joker shot Barbara Gordon, quite unaware that he was also shooting Batgirl. The bullet to her spinal cord paralyzed her. (SIDENOTE: Criticism of this story and others in comics became known as "Women in Refrigerators," for which there many great web sources, though I cannot find my favorite from the iconic BITCH MAGAZINE.) Though other characters assumed the mantle of Batgirl in the intervening years, I remained a staunchly loyal fan of Barbara Gordon, who became Oracle and leader of the Birds of Prey from her wheelchair.

For many years, this new role of Barbara Gordon's seemed permanent, much like the death of Barry Allen as the Flash. But the comic book companies will do most anything to increase sales, and I can appreciate that fact of the industry. Though purists might cry foul at Barbara Gordon's miraculous recovery and resuming of the Batgirl mantle for DC's latest reboot 52, I was rather excited to have Barbara Gordon back in the cowl and new stories about one of my favorite comic book characters.


Though I had not read the issue yet, my wife told me the other day that Batgirl's roommate was going to come out as the first transgender woman in the history of comic books. DC is definitely breaking more ground in regards to LGBTQ issues with new gay characters, such as the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, in Earth Two; various characters in Legion of Superheroes, whom fans have always argued were gay, such as Lightning Lass, Shrinking Violet, and Element Lad; and Batwoman. Now, Batgirl's roommate Alysia Yeoh reveals that she is trans. Writer Gail Simons handles the scene deftly as Barbara Gordon tells her roommate to call her "Babs" because "people I love call me 'Babs.'" Good articles about it have appeared on Art Threat and The Hufflington Post.

The new issues of Batgirl (through #19 as of last week) have been worth the twenty-four year wait to have Barbara Gordon back in the cowl.


- chris tower - 1304.18 - 9:54
Photo courtesy of Liesel MK Tower