www.cbr.com

When Did Barbara Gordon's Oracle Symbol Debut?

In "When We First Met", we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, "Avengers Assemble!" or the first appearance of Batman's giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man's face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Reader Henry F. wrote in to ask, "What is the first appearance of Barbara Gordon's Oracle symbol, and who designed it?"

This is an interesting one, because it came about surprisingly late in the game. Really, though, it is interesting in general to look at how Oracle was developed. As you may or may not know, having Barbara Gordon become a new superhero based on her computer skills, while keeping her paralyzed following the attack on Barbara by the Joker during Batman: The Killing Joke, was an idea that originated with Kim Yale. Yale was the co-writer of John Ostrander's then-new Manhunter series. Yale, who was also married to Ostrander, eventually began to co-write Ostrander's amazing Suicide Squad run, as well. In any event, Yale and Ostrander were both irritated at how Barbara was treated during The Killing Joke and especially how it seemed like there were no real plans for the character following her being paralyzed.

So they pitched DC on the idea of making Barbara a hacker superhero named Oracle. DC agreed and soon Ostrander and Yale worked Oracle into the pages of Suicide Squad, where a mysterious hacker known as Oracle helps out the Suicide Squad, especially communicating with Amanda Waller's niece, Flo, one of the Squad's support staff.

Oracle helped out the team for a while before her identity was revealed in Suicide Squad #38, where she is told about Flo's death (Flo had a great character arc in Suicide Squad. She was insistent that she could be a field operative and yet when she was actually given a chance, she died. It's a bit more complicated than that, but that is the basic gist).

Note, however, when Oracle communicates with the Squad (in this case, Waller stepping in her for her dead niece), there is no special symbol. It is just normal typing.

Well, after Suicide Squad ended (and Barbara became a bigger part of the team, even becoming the interim leader during a period where Waller was shot), the Oracle concept was luckily saved by Denny O'Neil, who slowly but surely brought her over to the Batman series of books (O'Neil first had her help out Batman in Batman: Sword of Azrael, which O'Neil wrote himself.

Note that not only did Barbara not wear a mask, but she was on camera talking to Batman!

It would not be until the next year or so that the other Batman writers began using her regularly, as well).

In any event, now that Barbara Gordon was a regular member of the Batman supporting cast again, there was now call for more stories about her. After a one-off bit in Showcase '94, Yale and Ostrander returned to Oracle to write her origin in Batman Chronicles #5 in 1995, with art by Brian Stelfreeze and Karl Story...

1 2
The Rejected Todd McFarlane Version of a G.I. Joe Classic

More in CBR Exclusives