Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr and Brenden Fletcher have put out a joint statement apologising for what went down in issue #37 of Batgirl. Check it out:
I think this is a very commendable move on their part, it would have been very easy for them to just ignore the concerns and keep on trucking. I especially like that they haven’t brushed off the concerns as false or as overreactions. They completely own that there was a legitimate problem with the issue, albeit one created accidentally.
SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR BATGIRL #37
I’m a supporter of the new direction Batgirl has gone in but I was very concerned with issue 37. For anyone who missed it, the incident revolved around the reveal of Dagger Type as the Batgirl imitator. When shown to be under the cowl, Batgirl reacted with shock at the idea of a man wearing a copy of her outfit. Complicating things even further is the fact that Dagger Type is then shown to unhinged and possibly even delusional. Couple that with how his outfits are sparkly, gaudy versions of Batgirl’s usually plain colours and it seemed that allusions to drag culture were being drawn upon too.
I believe the team when they say this was an accident, rather than a result of lazy storytelling. The trope of the unstable “man in a dress” is painfully insensitive and arguably dangerous, as such stories perpetuate degrading and offensive myths about the transgender community. So it’s incredibly saddening that the issue was the way it was.
My assumption is that the team were trying to comment on the anger of some male fans over how Batgirl had become a younger and more lighthearted character with the new interpretation. Dagger Type was perhaps an exaggerated amalgamation of critics, trying to use Batgirl’s image without her consent. This alluding to how some fans were dictating how Batgirl should be instead of the new modern approach, which is now aimed primarily at a female audience. Instead troubling tropes overshadowed any of these intentions and the message was lost with what felt like a tired and offensive stereotype.
Unfortunately this story will almost certainly still make it into the first collected volume for the series, as altering it would practically require a whole new issue. Judging from the statement, and Cameron Stewart’s tweets over the last hour or so, they are sincere about ensuring that future issues don’t repeat this mistake. Presumably that translates into being careful how Alysia, a recurring transgender character introduced by Gail Simone, will be used in the series going forward. So far she’s had a very downplayed role since the new team took over and I hope if one good thing can come from this, it’s to show the passionate demand for more respectful and realistic transgender characters like Alysia. Which will hopefully result in Alysia’s role being expanded as I do feel like she’s being overlooked so far.
Most of all though I’m just glad that they did apologise, and as a group too. It shows a cohesive dedication to make this series inclusive. I was a big supporter of this new direction and although I did have my faith shaken by this last issue, I’m going to stick with it. I trust the team not to do this again but I’ll be watching how they handle Alysia very closely. As one of the only transgender characters in comics they have a responsibility to treat her with care and consideration. I believe them when they say that they’re going to try live up to a better standard and I have faith that this was a big learning experience for how important these themes are for us readers.