Yesterday, word came down that Joss Whedon was stepping down from his role as writer/director of Batgirl, the DCEU's attempt at bringing Barbara Gordon to the big screen. The news was unexpected, though not out of form for the struggling franchise, which has seen a great deal of movie announcements without much in the way of actual development (only Aquaman and Shazam have made it in front of cameras, while Flashpoint, Nightwing, Batgirl, Cyborg and others remain in the early stages).
The biggest surprise, though, was the reason Whedon cited for stepping down. Apparently, after months on the project, he struggled to come up with a story for the film, despite the fact that when he was first announced as director he was quoted as saying he hoped to explore her motivations for donning the cowl in the first place. It's also in spite of the fact that the character has a 50 year legacy in comics, with no shortage of ready-made characters and stories from which to draw inspiration (admittedly, a great deal of that time was spent in a wheelchair as Oracle, rather than flying through the streets of Gotham as Batgirl).
Recent reports suggest that, contrary to these early reports, he did have an idea: to develop the Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl, a 1968 story in which Barbara helps Batman and Robin stop Killer Moth, but which includes them rejecting her help since they don't want to be responsible for a girl.
We've already suggested a number of women we'd love to see take on the brilliant and badass Batgirl, but just in case whoever Warner Bros. taps to take over the helm encounters the same problem as Whedon, we've also compiled a few of Barbara's greatest hits, all ready for their big screen debut.
Batgirl: Year One
What's an easier place to start than the beginning? Or, at least, an updated and less problematic version of the beginning, anyway. If you're looking for an origin story that places Barbara Gordon at the center of her own choices, rather than forcing her to rely on Batman for inspiration, then look no further than Batgirl: Year One. This 2003 mini-series gave us a story of Barbara Gordon, brilliant daughter of the Gotham City Police Commissioner, who becomes a hero thanks to spite and circumstance. When she gets passed over by both the GCPD and the FBI, Babs decides to attend a masquerade ball as a female Batman, just to stick it to her father. But this is Gotham, which means nothing goes as planned, and a chance encounter with Killer Moth shows the burgeoning hero that she doesn't really need help to save lives.
If the masquerade ball angle is too hokey for you, you can always combine Batgirl: Year One with the Batgirl crossover into Zero Year. In that one, Babs and her brother are in the GCPD when it is attacked, and Babs dons an old Batsuit stuck in storage before making her way through the precinct to stop the bad guys and save the day.
Batgirl of Burnside
Don't want to start with a plain old origin story? No problem. How about taking up on the Batgirl of Burnside, bringing a young, hip Barbara out of Gotham and into a hipster college town? This sort of soft reboot would allow you to reintroduce the character to audiences as someone who put down the cape and cowl in order to pursue a graduate level education. So what brings her back? Well, you could go with the comic book story and give her some motorcycle-riding assassins. Or maybe give her a more realistic enemy, stopping college level crimes. Maybe, even, make her a vigilante in search of justice for sexual assault victims. Someone should now that Sweet/Vicious has been canceled.
A Blade from the Shadows
Babs has generally been depicted as an only child, but the New 52 version of the character introduced her younger brother, James. Why haven't we heard much of him? Well, because he's a sociopath; a homicidal sociopath. His return in the comics was married with the return of The Joker, part of the plan to torment Barbara, but there's no reason that needs to be part of this version. Family drama is enough on its own, and with the return of both her absent mother and her murderous younger brother, Barbara has plenty to deal with. Lots of drama, lots of emotion, and a lot of hiding her identity from her family in stakes that are increasingly high.
Plus, this dovetails nicely into Batgirl: Wanted, a perfect sequel that pits father against daughter.
The Cat and the Bat
Here's a weird idea: dump the origin story altogether, drop the DCEU's nihilist approach to grim and gritty supers, and just have some FUN. The comic book story is about the first meeting between Batgirl and Catwoman when the latter steals a notebook from Commissioner Gordon. She and Batgirl spend their time running through the streets of Gotham wrestling over the notebook and fending off a mysterious third party, eventually developing a grudging respect for one another. The basic conceit is great, and the DCEU could use a little levity. You could even up the stakes by forcing them to team up, or trapping them in the middle of a heist gone wrong. Just don't give in to the urge to include Batman. He can keep his brooding in the Batcave for a night.
Oracle: Year One
I've gone on record multiple times about my hatred for The Killing Joke, the Alan Moore story in which the Joker shoots and sexually assaults Batgirl, leaving her paralyzed and broken and traumatized. That said, I've also gone on record multiple times about my love for the hero she becomes as a result: Oracle. That's not to mention that positive representation of the differently abled — and productive depictions of assault survivors — are something we're lacking, especially in the superhero genre. Which brings me to this wonderful story penned by Oracle's creators, John Ostrander and Kim Yale, which shows Barbara overcoming that initial trauma in order to become an entirely new kind of hero. I never, ever want to see another depiction of the Joker in his Hawaiian shirt, but adapting this story centers it on Barbara, opens the doors for a Birds of Prey film, and even allows you the opportunity to make a Batgirl sequel with one Cassandra Cain.