For as long as there have been comic books, there has been the feud between DC and Marvel. Both are heavy-hitting comic companies that continue to gain legions of fans every year. The purpose of this column is to take one DC persona and one Marvel persona of equal measure and popularity and pit them against each other to see who come out on top.
Barbara Gordon originated as a comic book character in the Batman universe in 1967. She’s been given a few different background tweaks. Sometimes she is Commissioner Gordon’s daughter and sometimes his niece. As the years went on Barbara went from being a librarian to having a degree in computer technology. In her first appearance she becomes Batgirl after dressing up for a party and randomly stumbling onto a villain and stopping him, then deciding to actually be a hero herself. In the newer graphic novel Batgirl: Year One, Barbara is shown as wanting to follow her father into the police force but after being rejected she turns vigilante and is eventually accepted by Batman as part of the Bat-family. Perhaps the most famous part of Barbara’s past is the events of The Killing Joke when she was shot by The Joker and became paralyzed from the waist down. No longer Batgirl, Barbara then becomes Oracle; as information broker for Gotham’s superheroes and leader of the crime-fighting group The Birds of Prey. In the new 52, they changed her history, letting Barbara recover from her gunshot wound and remain Batgirl, but having her still a member of the Birds of Prey.
In 1961, Sue Storm gained her superpowers when she accompanied her boyfriend Reed Richards, brother Johnny Storm, and test pilot Ben Grimm on a risky starship flight. After being blasted by cosmic rays, the four passengers ended up with superhuman abilities and became the crime-fighting team Fantastic Four, with Sue taking the name Invisible Girl. At the beginning, Sue was more of a team mother than crime-fighter, keeping the team together. She soon discovered that she had more powers and became an important defensive mechanism for the team. Sue and Reed eventually married and they had a son named Franklin. At one point, Psycho-Man turned Sue into the villain Malice, but she later gained back control, even though she struggled against his influence multiple times after. Sue later became more powerful in her own right, obtaining leadership positions in the Fantastic Four and The Avengers and graduating from The Invisible Girl to The Invisible Woman.
Both women have rich backgrounds but Barbara’s famous experience with the Joker and reinvention as Oracle gives her the point in this round.
Barbara Gordon, like the rest of the Bat-family, has no superpowers. She is, however, extremely intelligent with a genius-level intellect and a photographic memory. Barbara is an expert gymnast, acrobat, and martial artist. She is developed in many technological skills, including hacking, which comes in handy when she becomes information broker and superhero Oracle. As an information broker for superheroes, Barbara can find any info and send it anywhere she wants. Even after paralysis, Barbara trains with fighting sticks and batarangs and works out her upper body.
Sue Storm can manipulate cosmic energy to make herself and other objects invisible as well as create psionic force fields as protective shields. Those psionic force fields also allow her to fly for a few hours at a time. She can also create shock waves to use against her opponents. . Sue can also sense something made invisible by physical means. While Barbara is a butt-kicking heroine, Sue Storm’s superhuman powers make her more skilled.
As Batgirl, Barbara has teamed up with various members of the Bat-family and even Catwoman. After becoming Oracle, Barbara formed the Birds of Prey and employed various female superheroes such as Black Canary and Huntress to work as a crime-fighting unit. After being confined to her wheelchair, Barbara temporarily spent time with the Suicide Squad. Besides being the leader of the Birds of Prey, Barbara continues to work with the Bat-family and mentor the new Batgirls as they come along.
Sue Storm is known specifically for being one of the Fantastic Four, and was even its leader for a while when her husband was presumed dead. The Invisible Woman has also at one point been a member of The Avengers and The Secret Avengers. Sue Storm is known for being part of a group; she is one fourth of one of the most famous crime-fighting superheroes teams in comic history. She is, if nothing else, known for her affiliations, which is why she wins this round.
As Batgirl, Barbara wears a costume similar to Batman’s; a full suit with the Batman logo and a mask to cover her face. She can press a button on her cowl which put various lenses over her eyes including telescopic-vision, microscopic-vision, thermal, and a multi-light tracer lens. Like the rest of the Bat-family, Batgirl uses many gadgets including batarangs, smoke bombs and grappling hooks and drives a bat-cycle with built-in crime detection lab. As Oracle, Batgirl has no official uniform and spends most of her time in her lab but is still equipped with various weapons like batarangs for close combat. Not to mention her extensive technology and computer system which allows to her not only communicate with anyone in Gotham she is connected to, but gives her full access to almost any information.
The Invisible Woman wears a blue body suit with the number 4 on it like her teammates. Sue’s costume is made of unstable molecules that allows it to turn invisible and includes an electronic network of transceivers and sensors that track her location, condition, and other data that she uses to keep in touch with the other team members. She carries a Fantasti-Flare as a weapon. Sue has driven in many vehicles both on land and in the air. While Sue’s costume is interesting, it is not terribly unique. Barbara’s Batgirl costume has evolved with time and includes enough gadgets to make any geek go nuts, not to mention the significance of her wheelchair.
Point: Barbara Gordon
Barbara Gordon is one of the most famous comic-book characters. She’s been around a long time, first as Batgirl, then as Oracle, and now as Batgirl again. Batgirl was played by Yvonne Craig in the 1960’s tv show Batman. Barbara has made appearances in almost every animated Batman TV show, both as Batgirl and as Oracle. In 2002 the short-run TV show Birds of Prey told the story of Barbara’s transition from Batgirl to Oracle, played by Dina Meyer. Barbara’s character was also adapted for the 1997 film Batman & Robin and played by Alicia Silverstone, although it is not considered canon. Besides being a positive role-model for women, Barbara Gordon is also a role model for handicapped comic-book readers. After being shot by the Joker, Barbara picks herself up and makes herself into one of DC’s most powerful heroes, not letting her wheelchair stand in the way of fighting crime. She shines as an example of the fact that just because someone is different, it doesn’t mean that they are any less spectacular. Even though Barbara is back to being Batgirl with the reboot, Oracle will never be forgotten.
Sue Storm was the first female superhero character created during Marvel’s Silver Age of Comics. She appeared in all 4 animated Fantastic Four series (60’s, 70’s, and 90’s) as well as the more recent Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes. She has also made guest appearances in the 1994 Spider-Man TV series, The Super Hero Squad Show, and briefly on The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Sue Storm has also starred in the 2005 live action film Fantastic Four and its sequel, 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer played by Jessica Alba. Sue Storm is the intelligent, capable woman who can stand her ground with the rest of the men and remains one of the strongest female presences in the Marvel universe.
Both Barbara Gordon and Sue Storm represent strong women in comics, equal to their male counterparts in intelligence and drive. While Sue Storm may have more live-action exposure, she can’t beat the utter popularity of Barbara Gordon, first as the much-loved Batgirl, and then as the shining example of Oracle, proving that anyone can be a hero.
Point: Barbara Gordon