Love it or hate it – the first issue of Batgirl with a new direction and new creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr arrived in comic shops this past Wednesday. Reaction to the change seems fairly divided in half near as I can tell. I liked far more than I’m uncertain about for now and that mainly has to do with maintaining a superhero identity while living with yet another roommate. Yes, I had the same thought when Gail Simone introduced Alysia Yeoh in the beginning of her run on the title. Simone made Yeoh likable and the living arrangement not just believable but also meaningful. Maybe I should say I’m waiting to see how it’s handled. Instead of talking about the whole issue I want to focus on LGBT characters and Alysiah is the perfect segue. Many readers vocalized concern about Alysia’s status once the new team came on board. It’s an understandable reaction given that LGBT characters tend to be either supporting cast or part of an ensemble and often disappear into limbo even without a change in the creative roster. Brenden Fletcher stated in a CBR interview with Jeffrey Renaud that Alysia would be around still in the supporting cast which is good news because there are so few transgender characters in comics and even fewer that are well written like Alysia. How much she’ll be used in stories remains to be seen. In this issue she appears in a small handful of panels on the opening page, serving as a transition from the old to the new.
Fletcher had also mentioned in a tweet they’d include more LGBT characters in their stories. And they’re off to a good start. New roomie Frankie throws a party to welcome Barbara to the apartment. The next afternoon it’s discovered that a phone and Barbara’s laptop have been stolen. Artist Babs Tarr draws a great visual of Barbara mentally reconstructing the party and “walking around” the room while asking Frankie questions about various people. That’s how we learn about Frankie’s coworker Donna coming to the party with her longtime girlfriend Natasha Holloway and another guest, Sevin Gupta who also runs his own company, Sevin Gupta Events. So, this makes four LGBT characters so far (Alysia, Donna, Natasha, and Sevin). Barbara as Batgirl tracks down the thief who stole the phone and her laptop. After getting beaten up, he pleads with Batgirl not to call his moms. The guy was raised by a lesbian couple! But wait! The writers reveal on the last page that there’s another one, and she’s been throughout the entire story since page one along with Barbara. It’s roommate Frankie who may be bisexual or a bi curious lesbian.
Frankie’s guaranteed to appear more because of her roommate status. Time will tell if Donna, Natasha, and Sevin will be recurring characters or just one offs. Gotham is becoming the most diverse corner of the DC Universe. There’s Cullen Row who debuted in Batman and I think appears in Batman Eternal. Of course there’s Kate Kane, AKA Batwoman and Maggie Sawyer. Grayson isn’t set in Gotham but Midnighter has been pitted against the former Nightwing. Renee Montoya is currently MIA though, having shown up only in flashback post the publisher’s relaunch in late August 2011. That doesn’t stop the character from being featured in the Gotham TV series. And then there’s Alysia! Please keep Alysia prominent in the cast! As one of the few fleshed out and well written trans characters in comics she’s too important to set aside!