Elseworld’s Finest: Supergirl and Batgirl

July 23, 2008

For those who have read some really awful Elseworlds issues or have been disappointed by Countdown’s Search for Ray Palmer, here’s a decent short tale to tune out with. It’s the original story of the world-seeding partnership between Supergirl and Batgirl — no, not the Kara Zor-El and Barbara Gordon you know but the ones in whose universe they are their respective masculine superiors.

Written by Barbara Kesel, this story doesn’t exactly lay big on you the usual feminist fantasy of a utopia where women wear the pants (and men get pregnant). That is Countdown’s criminal caricature of this subtler universe. In fact, the reverse-gendering of only some characters here hardly makes women any less vulnerable. Batgirl still needs the money of ditzy Bruce Wayne to finance her secret obsession, which took root after her father Jim Gordon was murdered. Supergirl still needs the influence of flirty Lex Luthor to help settle her into her adopted world and promote her career. It’s the same difference, both women being still open to exploitation, but only Bruce is too nice (or ditzy) to spot the tempting loophole.

The crowning moment in this tale literally takes it all to the next level — you’ll know it when you reach it. Until then, you get small gags told with a straight face, beginning with the early introduction of an unusual Justice Society. Well-toned Hawkwoman replaces Hawkman, brainy Dr Mid-Night is female, Abin Sur is still Green Lantern, Captain Marvel is Black, etc. Team-leader Wonder Woman and Big Barda remain female, so I’m guessing that the rule is that, if you’re male or white, you become female or coloured, but, if you’re female, you’re OK. But the Flash is still male — perhaps how speed relates to a certain aspect of female anatomy (especially in comics) makes the sex change less practical. Slick move, Barbara!

However, these passing politically-correct corrections can only take the story that far. Having a Joker who beefs himself up the Charles Atlas way to get Batgirl’s attention — because everyone knows no girl can resist a hunk — pushes it just a little bit further. Thankfully, there’s that unexpected twist to make the adventure resonate with much more effect. By the end, everyone should be happy: the rights activist who wants to change the universe, the realist who wants some darkness shaking up innocence, and the male geek who just likes a lot of big boobs.

Gweek gives this volume 6 wolf-whistles.


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