The Batman Chronicles #5 (May 1996)

Story: Oracle -- Year One: Born of Hope (18 pages)

Writer(s): John Ostrander and Kim Yale
Artist(s): Brian Stelfreeze and Karl Story

Barbara Gordon / Oracle (in flashback also as Batgirl), James Gordon, Ashley Mavis Powell / Interface

Minor Characters / Guest Appearances:
Bruce Wayne / Batman (also as his alter ego Matches), Joker, Riddler, Sylvia Kandry, Richard Dragon

This story begins ten weeks and three days after the Joker shot Barbara in The Killing Joke. Barbara is still in the hospital, thinking that she was an idiot to be so careless to open the door without even looking through the peephole or putting the chain on, that she should have known better. She also has nightmares about the incident. The night before she's going to be released Batman visits her, and she is angry at him. She feels humiliated because she didn't have any significance as herself to the Joker, but only as a way to get to Batman. She lashes out at Batman, asking whether the private joke was her, when Batman and the Joker stood together laughing during the Joker's capture, hoping to hurt Batman that way. When she is released there are lots of reporters, watching her struggle to get into the car, but once again she feels only as an extension of someone else, this time of her father. She thinks the reporters wouldn't have bothered if not for her being the commissioner's daughter and thus a symbol. Six months of physical and emotional therapy follow, during which she had to accept that she would never walk again. Then for weeks Barbara just sits in her father's apartment, afraid to go out, afraid of the next day, feeling that she means nothing, that her life is now over, but then she resolves not to be a victim any longer. With a grant of the Wayne Foundation she gets a powerful computer set-up. She discovers her affinity for computer hacking and starts to make some money. The fledgling internet community also provides her with emotional support and acceptance during that time. One day her father, James Gordon, tells her about a case, a woman who launders money with the help of computers, Ashley Mavis Powell, also known as Interface. Gordon is out of his depth because he lacks the computer knowledge. Barbara researches Interface on her own. She gets information on Interface from Sylvia Kandry, a police computer operator out of NYC. Interface uses a low-level metahuman talent to interact directly with computers, she's also a child abuser. Barbara starts to go after Interface, but she doesn't protect her identity sufficiently yet. As Barbara tries to cross a busy street Interface pushes her into the traffic, but Barbara isn't run over. Barbara decides that Interface just made the biggest mistake of her life, because she made Barbara feel like a victim again. Barbara wants to start learning self-defense from a wheelchair, but doesn't want to ask her father or Batman for options. She asks around on-line, and gets contact information from someone named "Matches" one of Batman's alter-egos (which Barbara doesn't know then). She meets with Richard Dragon, who asks her what she wants. First she says she doesn't want to be afraid anymore, to which he replies that fear is useful, then she says that she wants to walk again, he says that's not really what she's seeking, then she says she wants her life back, and to that Richard Dragon says that that is who she were, not who she is now. He asks "Who are you?" and Barbara says "I...I don't know. I don't know if I ever knew..." and he says now she's ready to begin. He teaches her escrima during the next months. The physical and mental discipline hones the questions of her identity until the answer comes to Barbara in a dream. In that dream she's dressed as Batgirl and is at Delphi, asking the Oracle "I've lost so much. I've lost everything I thought I was. Who am I now? How do I go on?" The Oracle replies "You have lost nothing that matters. You have everything you need. Everything before leads up to now and now leads to what shall be." Barbara says she doesn't understand, the Oracle replies that she will when they both remove their masks. The woman who is the Oracle removes her mask (which looks like the later Oracle logo) and it is revealed that she is also Barbara. That makes Barbara realize that the internet could function as a mask as surely as any cowl, and she assumes the identity of Oracle, ready to take on her first task, i.e. dealing with Interface. Three weeks later her preparations are finished. She lures Interface into a logic trap, exploiting that Powell is psi-linked with the computer. Eventually Oracle cuts her loose, but tells her that she planted a post-hypnotic suggestion in Interface's mind and that she could trigger it again anytime, and that she will unless Interface turns herself in. In the end Barbara feels that her life is finally her own, that she is no longer a distaff impersonation of someone else.

Important Continuity Events:
- Barbara Gordon becomes Oracle. [p. 14]

Continuity References:
- The encounter with the Riddler in the flashback took place in ??. [p. 2]
- The Joker shot Barbara Gordon in The Killing Joke. [p. 2]
- The time Joker and Batman stood together laughing, that Barbara mentions, was in The Killing Joke. [p. 3]
- Batman's connection to or knowledge of Richard Dragon refers to previous events in ?? [p. 12]

Bruce Wayne Character Details:
- Batman knows Richard Dragon. [p. 12]

Barbara Gordon Character Details:
- James Gordon is Barbara's adoptive father. [p. 2]
- She's lived in Gotham most of her life. [p. 2]
- She ran one of the largest libraries on the east coast. [p. 2]
- Barbara doesn't remember much after the shot and the initial pain, she's not sure what happened. That hints at the fact that she was found naked and the Joker took pictures of her to torture her father. [p.2]
- Barbara feels it is humiliating and demeaning that she didn't have any intrinsic value for the Joker, but that her life only counted in relation to Batman. She thinks that it was similar in her role as Batgirl, that she was only seen as a weaker version of Batman [p. 3], she feels similar when the reporters cover her release from the hospital, that they're not interested in her as herself, but only because she's James Gordon's daughter. [p. 6]
- Her initial physical therapy after being shot took six months, during which she accepts that she'll never walk again. [p. 6]
- The money for her first computer equipment comes from a Wayne Foundation grant, later Barbara starts to use her hacking skills to make money. [p. 7]
- Barbara doesn't know that Batman uses the alias "Matches" [p. 12]
- Barbara learns escrima from Richard Dragon for several months [p. 13], before that she feels conspicuous and clumsy in her body, no longer loving how it moves as she did before, when she was a gymnast and a dancer. [p. 10]
- Barbara conceives her identity as Oracle first in a dream, where she sees herself as the Delphi Oracle. [p. 14]

James Gordon Character Details:
- James Gordon refused to have police guarding their house like other police commissioners in big cities, because the symbol of an open administration was important to him. [p. 6]
- James Gordon hates computers. [p. 9]

Gotham City Details:
- Barbara meets with Richard Dragon in Robinson Park. Robinson Park has a Centograph. [p. 12]

- Barbara has her Batgirl doll with her in the hospital, although the way it looks here it could be just as well a Batman doll. [p. 1]
- The Joker used a .45 to shoot Barbara but with a doctored bullet, with only half the grains of a normal .45, because the Joker wanted her alive for his scheme. [p. 3]
- We see Barbara with a coffee mug saying "#1 DAD" propably her dad's. [p. 9]
- Both in her dream [p. 14] and in the final panel [p. 18] white birds surround her, like bats often surround Batman in these kinds of scenes.
- Unlike her later wheelchair, here Barbara's wheelchair is still a regular chair throughout, seemingly without gadgets, but with handles for other people pushing her.

Posted by RatC