Girls of Gotham outshine Dark Knight


Batgirl and other heroines of the Batman comics proved popular during the Batman in Popular Culture
Conference at Bowling Green State University.
The conference celebrated the 80th anniversary of Batman and was hosted by the Department of Popular
Culture and the Ray and Pat Browne Library for Popular Culture Studies Friday and Saturday at Jerome
While the Pallister Conference Room looked full for previous speakers, the room reached a standing room
capacity of more than 60 for the Girls of Gotham.
The conference featured more than 20 sessions on Batman. In addition to the Girls of Gotham, it included
Batman and Popular Music, Batman and Modern Technology, and Batman and Villains.
The event brought Batman fans together from across North America and from as far away as Tokyo, Japan.

Sociologist Brandon Bosch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, presented Bat Meets Girl: Adapting the Dark
Knight’s Love Life to the Big Screen, while journalist and podcaster Stella Bowman presented Barbara
Gordon as the Epic Hero and the Men Who Influence Her Journey during the Girls of Gotham roundtable.
“It’s serious and campy at the same time,” Bowman said of her podcast.
“Batgirl to Oracle: The Barbara Gordon Podcast” is currently on episode 172.
Bowman said that she first got seriously into comics through Spiderman and has been a fan since
elementary school.
“Once I happened upon Barbara Gordon, there was no going back. I’ve really been invested in her. They are
my top two heroes,” Bowman said.
In the Batman comics, Barbara Gordon is the daughter of Gotham Police Chief James Gordon, with the
superhero alter ego as Batgirl.
Bowman made comparisons between Gordon and classic characters from Greek and Roman literature with visual
references to paintings from classical masters, such as “The Meeting of Dido and Aeneas,” by Sir
Nathaniel Dance-Holland, exhibited 1766.
Bowman’s day job is as a Latin and classics teacher at the private Covenant School in Charlottesville,
Bowman addressed the objectification of women in comics.
“It comes down to context. In the real world I don’t want to be seen as an object, but since we’re in a
superhuman world … my co-speaker had it right, women in general are underestimated and that’s a huge
theme in Barbara Gordon’s life,” Bowman said.
Bosch said women in the Batman movies were frequently presented as damsels in distress, comic relief or
as tools to highlight “vulnerability and emotions in Batman.”
“The way femininity is shown in the films is not particularly progressive. … Romance threatens the
super-hero life. … Also, there’s the ‘women make men do stupid things,’ aspect,” said Bosch in
critiquing Batman movies going back to 1966.
Bowman did admit to some love of the soap opera nature of the comics.
“I would love to see Dick and Babs married in the future,” said Bowman of the original Robin, Dick
Grayson, who became Gordon’s frequent partner as the “Dynamite Duo: Batgirl & Robin.”
As for a future Batgirl movie, Bowman believes it could happen, because of the popularity of the recent
Wonder Woman movie.
Rudy Ramos, a Batman fan, enjoyed the conference.
“I only know one drop about Batman compared to what all of these presenters have. This is great. It is
art in society,” he said.
March 30, 2019, marked the actual 80th anniversary of Batman’s first appearance in the 1939 Detective
Comics No. 27, which was written by Bill Finger and penciled by Bob Kane. The story, “The Case of the
Criminal Syndicate!” was only six pages long and introduced audiences to Batman and Commissioner Gordon
and revealed Batman’s secret identity as wealthy bachelor Bruce Wayne.

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