Today is the final of the DC Couples tournament where Barbara Gordon/Oracle and Dick Grayson/Nightwing battle Lois Lane and Clark Kent/Superman for the title. Here is an overview of Barbara and Dick’s relationship by Elisabeth Johns and Karen of the Tumblr Powergirl. Their thoughts follow.
Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon have a very long history that wasn’t always romantic: They have been teammates, partners, lovers and, most notably, best friends. When Barbara was introduced as Batgirl in Detective Comics #359 in 1967, she was not interested in Dick, despite his very obvious crush on her. Barbara was one of the first female heroes created not to be a love interest: creators had no intention of getting her and Dick together. Their affection for each other grew naturally over time. When they shared a kiss in the first issue of the Batman Family, it actually led to angry letters from fans who did not like the taboo of an older woman kissing a younger man.
When they were younger, it simply wasn’t meant to be; not only that, Babs had retired from crime-fighting and became a congresswoman, while Dick continued on with it and joined the Teen Titans and later became Nightwing. She met Jason Bard and fell in love, while he experienced his first love with K’oriander/Starfire.
Those first love relationships ended and both Dick and Babs went through some major struggles and challenges: Babs, so much moreso than Dick when she was shot in the spine by the Joker. She remade herself into the all-knowing, all-seeing hacker Oracle and was trained in the use of eskrima (the sticks Dick also uses), as well as in martial arts by Richard Dragon.
They both grew up. And grew to become independent persons. And yet, their crimefighting lives soon intertwined again and brought them back together. During No Man’s Land, an earthquake hit Gotham, destroying buildings, the infrastructure and killed many. Dick’s first concern? Barbara.
They worked closely together during No Man’s Land and while Barbara was busy being the central information system for the good guys, she began to mentor a new Batgirl: Cassandra Cain. Dick only approved of Cassandra once Babs had expressed her approval. In the novelization of No Man’s Land, by Greg Rucka, Babs tells Batman why she thinks Cass should be Batgirl. Dick crouches down beside her and she tells him, “She has my blessing, Dick.” Barbara, who is narrating at this moment, then says: “That was what did it, I think. Nightwing sighed and almost smiled. It was easier for him to accept my opinion on the subject than Batman’s, for some reason. Maybe because he understood where this was going, and he understood where it put me.”
Dick understood, for the most part, what Barbara was going through even then: he knew what it was like to have another take over his Robin legacy and respected her enough to make sure she had the ultimate say on who would honour her own legacy.
Following the final battle of No Man’s Land with the Joker, Dick becomes injured and Babs becomes his nurse, healer and trainer. She teases him, and they flirt. (
All that flirting and teasing soon develops into romance. It’s shown as a natural, organic progression for two already independent people who share so much in common and already are teammates, partners and friends. This romance, though, has not come without its false starts: particularly because Babs has pushed Dick away more than once as he’s tried to get close (Birds of Prey #8). She has had to push herself to overcome those boundaries and Dick, being the gentleman he is, has respected her space and respected her. And their relationship is refreshing to see that they not only had a sex life, but even had playful, roleplay uniform sex!
Dick proposed to Babs and she accepted, but as he had to once again had to find himself through following Batman’s orders by going to Nanda Parbat, she returned the ring with a note saying:
A letter is a bit chicken, I know. So sue me. We both know you have to go with Bruce. Not because of him, but because of you. I love the man you are, Dick, but you need to be happy with him, too.
Not the Flying Grayson. Not the billionaire’s ward. Not Robin, not Nightwing, not the Bludhaven cop. And not Barbara Gordon’s husband. You have spent your whole life defining yourself by others. Putting yourself last. It’s an admirable quality, Dick. It’s what makes you a hero. Now you need to find out what makes you a man. Go. It might hurt both of us for awhile, but it has to happen. Don’t worry. I’ll be here when you get back. And I can’t wait to meet Dick Grayson. I’m sure he’s a pretty amazing guy.
He leaves her a letter, with the ring on a necklace, which she wears. His letter says:
You’re right, as almost always. Know this: no matter where I go… No matter how long I’m gone… I love you, Barbara. And I will come back to you someday. I promise.” (Nightwing Annual #2)
In return for his respect and support of her, she respects him and supports him by telling him he needs to find himself. By this time, she’s been the leader of the Birds of Prey, she’s THE social network for all of the good guys in the JLA: she’s made herself. She’s found herself and knows who she is. She’s no longer held back because of the insecurity or depression as a result of the shooting and disability or the disability itself.
Their relationship is a friendship, a partnership and a supportive network. One of the things Babs told Dick in Birds of Prey #8 is that she wanted to feel like flying again. So he took her to the circus and took her “flying.” And yet, he didn’t forget that about her: on her birthday, in Nightwing #153, he took her up in a plane and surprised her (and it’s Very Hard to surprise the great Oracle, mind you) with a tandem parachute jump as a birthday gift. He remembered one of the emotions and feelings she wanted to experience just one more time and helped her to be able to experience it. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is!
As Dick has recently taken up the Batman mantle, Barbara has supported him and helped guide him once again. Like most real friendships and relationships, there have been fights: they fought over whether Stephanie Brown was truly ready and capable to take on Barbara’s Batgirl legacy. They fought over Damian’s role. But In the end, Dick expressed his sincere apologies for doubting Barbara and pledged his support to both her and Stephanie.
As they have been working closely together, there is constant communication between the two of them. Babs knows who Dick is more than he knows himself sometimes, as seen in Scott Snyder’s current Detective Comics run, which began with #871. When the Calculator forced Babs into a dream state to obtain her wishes and fantasies in Batgirl v3 #11, she has a very sexy dream in which she awakens in what looks to be a post-coital moment, her hair mussed and wearing just a T-shirt and underwear, to see her shirtless husband, Dick, toweling off. Her fantasy world includes the two of them together in marriage and the Batfamily acting as such.
And there has been flirty banter, such as in Batgirl v3 #6, where Babs teases Dick by saying he could ask for help a little nicer and he looks directly into a camera, grins and says: “Pretty please?”
They have yet to take the step back into couple status in current canon, but theirs is a relationship that is one that is made of lasting qualities: compromise, consideration, communication, support, partnership, friendship, love, and respect. And of course, the sexual tension mix of flirty banter and teasing add a bit of icing to the cake that is this awesome couple.