I’m doing a series of tribute posts to Oracle that include thoughts and memories by some of the creators who have written her through the years. The first one was by Scott Peterson about the first standalone Oracle story.
In this post Devin Grayson, who wrote Oracle in both Gotham Knights and Nightwing (and as pictured here the story Desire from Batman 80-page Giant #1 from 1999), remembers a pivotal moment in the character’s depiction. And long time DC and Vertigo editor Joan Hilty, an editor on Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey run, talks about the relationship between Oracle and the other birds. Their thoughts follow.
From Devin Grayson:
As someone who worked so closely with Nightwing for so long, I can quite honestly say that I’m in love with Oracle. The reasons are as obvious as they are numerable, so I thought it would be fun to share a behind-the-scenes memory here.
During one of my very first visits to the DC Bat-offices, I came across prince-among-artists Brian Stelfreeze visiting Bat-editor-extraordinaire Scott Peterson. They were in Scott’s office talking about an inked page that Scott had just received.
"She doesn’t like to be pushed around," Brian was saying, "it’s as simple as that."
Scott was in ardent agreement. “She absolutely wouldn’t allow it. She’d make the modification herself if it came to that.”
I snuck in to take a closer look at the page they were discussing. It featured Oracle in her clock tower and it was beautiful. I couldn’t imagine what displeased them about it. Just then Jordan Gorfinkel stuck his head in the door.
"Hey, Gorf," Scott said, nodding at him, "Oracle’s wheelchair—any art specifications?" Brian and I also turned our attention to Gorf.
"Top of the line, of course," he answered, and then, after only a second’s pause. "And no handles on the back, because she wouldn’t want to be pushed around."
Scott held up the page triumphantly and snapped his fingers as Brian grinned.
"Exactly!" Scott nodded. "I’m getting this fixed."
I looked back at the page Scott was holding and realized that Oracle’s wheelchair did, indeed, have handles on the back—as did most of the wheelchairs of which I was aware. But I saw immediately that they were right; those handles couldn’t be there. And I was ecstatic to find myself in a room with three grown men who thought and cared so deeply about a fictional character that they were imagining every aspect of her life in vivid and respectful detail, right down to the handles—or lack thereof—on her wheelchair. Oracle had that effect on people. As I’m sure she will continue to, in the stories of her that will live on in print forever.
Thanks Devin. And now some thoughts from Joan Hilty:
During my editorial run on BIRDS OF PREY, during the many funny, contentious, gratifying, creatively thrilling conversations I was privileged to have with Gail Simone as we built the BOP universe, I came to think of the team as a classic sibling dynamic: Huntress as the clowning youngest child, Canary as the conflicted middle child, and Oracle as the protected, bossy, hands-on eldest.
Okay: I’m an eldest child. So that played into it. And when I found myself cringing every time she answered to “Babs”, wondering if she could truly be OK with that nickname, I knew it was in part because I’ve always balked at answering to “Joanie”, which I still only permit to a select few. But isn’t this the ultimate proof that a character born on the two-dimensional comic page has become three-dimensional: that you think and talk about her like she’s real? That’s the brilliance of Barbara Gordon.
Thanks Joan. Here’s a page from Birds of Prey #68 that captures, I think, the dynamic Joan refers to.