This originally appeared at The Great Curve in 2005, but as that site no longer exists, I thought it'd be nice to have this piece appear where folks could read it. Enjoy!
I don't think folks know enough of Oracle's backstory, so I figure I should lay it out for you.
Our story begins in May of 1988, with the publication of Alan Moore's The Killing Joke.
In this much-hyped event, the Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon, formerly known as the heroine Batgirl (Barbara had given up the identity in a Batgirl Special earlier that year by Barbara Kesel, to pave the way for the Killing Joke. The idea was to give her a quick presence before the Killing Joke so that the event would have more of an "impact," as it were).
Almost immediately, Kim Yale had a problem with the comic.
Discussing her dislike of the treatment of Batgirl in the issue with her husband, John Ostrander, the two formulated a plan to address what would happen next for Barbara. As Ostrander recalls, "There were no plans for her in the continuity at that time. We decided that if that happened, we weren't just going to make her better magically -- we wanted to explore what happened when someone like her was crippled and how she would respond."
In late 1988, Oracle made her first appearance, but only as the NAME "Oracle," a hacker who aided the Suicide Squad, in Suicide Squad #23.
Oracle aided the Squad for the next year, with hints given to his/her identity piling up (and Oracle started appearing in Manhunter, also written by Ostrander and Yale).
Finally, in Suicide Squad #38, in early 1990, Oracle is revealed to the readers as Barbara Gordon!
After that, Barbara laid low for most of 1990, making a few appearances in various titles, such as Ostrander's Firestorm and Roger Stern's Starman (plus a quick appearance in Batman #451, reacting to the return of the Joker, believed dead after Jason Todd's death), but she made a big return in Suicide Squad #48, when Amanda Waller saves Barbara from the psychotic new Thinker, and asks Barbara (who she knows as the alias Amy Beddoes...does anyone know if that name has any significance?) to join the Squad full-time.
At about the same time, Barbara Kesel becomes the first writer other than Ostrander and Yale to use this new take on Barbara Gordon extensively, as Kesel brings Barbara to the pages of Hawk & Dove to resolve some old plots from the Batgirl backups that Kesel used to write in Detective Comics.
Soon after, Barbara, for a time, even became the leader of the Suicide Squad when Amanda Waller became incapacitated.
However, when Suicide Squad folded in early 1992, Barbara's future was in real doubt.
Luckily, she had a new patron, one who would shape her destiny dramatically for the next decade. Go to the next page to find out what happened next...