Changes to the Bat-books show DC stepping out of the man cave

Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.

This week DC Comics announced a big change in Batgirl: namely, a new creative team of writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher and artist Babs Tarr. Coming aboard with October's Issue 35, they bring a nifty new look and setting. After three years of grim but determined storytelling from writer Gail Simone and various artists (most recently Fernando Pasarin), Barbara Gordon is heading into Gotham's "hip border district" for graduate school, and she's leaving all the bad times behind.

If this is a sign of DC finally waking up and seeing demographics beyond aging fanboys -- like me, for instance -- it's long overdue. Stewart and Fletcher's resumes include more experimental superhero fare like Seaguy and Wednesday Comics, and Tarr's work stands out immediately against the clenched jaws and over-rendered costumes of DC's more ponderous titles. Babs Gordon may still have that fateful encounter with the Joker (and in the New 52 timeline, a painful period of rehab) in her past, but Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's Darevdevil reminds readers that tragedy doesn't have to control one's life. Combine that with a sensibility that recalls the current Ms. Marvel title, and Batgirl's prospects look pretty good.

(As an aside, it's a little ironic for me to think of DC repositioning Batgirl as a fairly young character, as she was a librarian with a Ph.D. when she was introduced, and later served in Congress. I suppose the New 52 Babs can get her Ph.D. as part of her graduate school studies.)

Format and creative changes also come to Catwoman in October, with the former facilitated by events of Batman Eternal. The new creative team of writer Genevieve Valentine and artist Garry Brown have Selina take over the mysterious "family business," which apparently involves a sleek pantsuit. While this isn't necessarily an appeal to neglected sections of the readership, it does sound like a nice jolt of energy after however-many years of sexy anti-heroics. At any rate, this is Valentine's first comics-scripting gig, so here's hoping she has a similarly fresh perspective.

Together with the announcements (two weeks ago) of new series Gotham Academy and Arkham Manor, the new teams on Batgirl and Catwoman appear to show the Batman line shifting away -- at least on the margins -- from a general approach to unflinching urban adventuring that's been the norm since at least the 1990s. No doubt the Bat-books get a certain amount of leeway from DC, but it's nice to see them using their popularity in such productive ways.

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