It happens plenty of times through our lives, we make a judgement of something which is often formed with preconceived notions and we get it wrong. Whether those notions are of a person, a place, or a product it doesn’t really matter because it still happens. Often those preconceived notions are born of facts we have about any of the above, sometimes it’s a gut feeling. The most important thing to take from this, and maybe it’s just me and my incredibly poor judgement, but I’ve found that more often than not those notions are completely and utterly wrong and unfortunately it’s a lesson I’ve had a really hard time learning. Thankfully, my judgement of people in this regard has become a thing of the very distant past. Adulthood brought about a whole slew of new experiences and thrust me into contact with people I ordinarily wouldn’t have spoken to and I’m so thankful for that. Sadly, this lesson has not been taken so far in to comics yet.
You thought this was going to be some really deep, personal insight eh? Nope, this is a comics discussion.
So anyway, this lesson has been somewhat drummed into me through the last couple of months, beginning with the launch of the Netflix original series Daredevil. I’d pretty much canned off the idea of reading any Daredevil years ago largely due to the pretty awful movie released all those years ago, so there comes the fact and experience. You know what though? It wasn’t just that. I’ve always been a DC fan, there’s always been something from them for me to enjoy and I love the universe they live in so there’s always been a reluctance to try and delve into another shared universe. On top of that, there’s always been a love of Batman and the Bat-family in general so my first impression of Daredevil was a direction comparison to Batman, a fairly negative one at that. I don’t even know why really, looking back on it, but that’s how it was. I only watched the Daredevil show because I have enjoyed all of the Marvel Studios movies (to varying degrees, sure, but enjoyed them all nonetheless) and it was a total eye opener for me. Since then I’ve started reading Daredevil and loved it all immensely. I’ve set myself up for having Daredevil on my pull list come October while continuing to buy collected editions from previous runs. A stupid, stupid preconceived notion that I pulled from absolutely nowhere and the first of two key lessons from this year.
The second lesson came last week. Let’s rewind a little further than that though, back to 2011. DC relaunched their entire line of comics with a half-arsed “soft reboot” where they tried to make things easier for new and lapsed readers to jump in, monumentally cocking it up by cherry picking events from the history of their characters to keep as canon while moving forward. It left everyone scratching their heads in confusion, especially since some characters seemed to have compressed a huge number of life altering events into a short span of time. The New 52, a moniker that has thankfully been ditched as of last month, brought some characters back into old roles and outright lost a whole bunch of other characters. We had Cassie Sandsmark as Wonder Girl, but somehow there was no Donna Troy. We had a young Batman who had still managed to train three Robins and have a son in his relatively short career. It also stripped us of my favourite Batgirl, Stephanie Brown, and Oracle, but Barbara Gordon back into the role of Batgirl. I let that go (begrudgingly) since Gail Simone was on writing duties for the new Batgirl book and, despite some heavy handed editorial interference, Gail managed to spin one of my favourite runs for the character.
Then we got the big change, Gail Simone left/was removed from the book (whatever happened behind the scenes, I have no clue), bringing in Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher and Babs Tarr and a whole new look and direction for Barbara. It was a far cry from the book we’d been reading for the four years or so running up to this change. Maybe there was a sense of apprehension at the thought of a change to a book I’d been enjoying so much, but my initial thought was that I didn’t particularly like the new costume and didn’t really care for the new direction the creators were taking the book in. It was a fairly blind judgement to be honest, at the time I wasn’t particularly familiar with any of the names on the book but without second thought or willingness to try something new or different, I dropped the book from my pull list and put it out of my mind. Funnily enough, it was partly down to Marvel that I tried Batgirl again. Spider-Gwen wasn’t a book I would have considered reading two or three years ago and yet, right now, it’s one of my absolute favourites. But it was Spider-Woman that really swayed me into my change of opinion. The change Jess went through was very similar to the change Babs went through, at least on the surface it was anyway. Yes, there was a different story behind each heroine’s change of status quo and appearance, but on the face of it the similarities were glaring. And I loved it. I think Spider-Woman is one of the strongest books on my pull list.
So last week, I took the plunge. I downloaded the first issue of Batgirl from the new creative team from comixology and it piqued my curiosity enough to dive right in and pick up all five of the issues the team had done in print. Roll around to this week and it was in my collection box at my local store and was the first book I read when I got home. I’m impressed, genuinely, there’s so much about this book that’s just… right. It’s given me a new appreciation of the fact that sometimes change is good, even if it doesn’t seem it at the time. A new appreciation of my changing, or better than that evolving, tastes in comics. A new appreciation of the fact that sometimes, even when it comes to my own tastes in all sorts of media, I get it wrong.
It’s funny really, one of the first lessons you learn as a child is “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. With regards to Batgirl and pretty much every other comic ever, comics being a visual medium and all, that’s exactly what I’ve done up until recently. Less so now, moving forward, I can guarantee that.