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The joys of writing Batgirl and Dick Grayson

This week’s Writer’s Commentary takes us to the beginning of my “Armored Underworld” story. It was set up as a Batman/ Iron Man crossover, but I started the story featuring — Batgirl.

The “Armored Underworld” story came from the idea that both Bruce Wayne/ Batman and Tony Stark/ Iron Man were billionaire playboys who fight crime with gadgets. Why haven’t these two met before?

Plus, I love me some Batman and wanted to toy with the Iron Man character.

I wanted to start with some action and knew my first encounter between the two main heroes would be in their civilian identities to set up the later heroic encounter. I chose Batgirl on patrol to open the story.

Ever since the Gail Simone run of the character I’ve been on board, so figured I’d play in that sandbox.

With all respect to Ms. Simone’s work, who I can only strive to emulate.

My commentary is in the lighter shade boxes.

“Shouldn’t you pay attention to what you’re doing, Barb?” Dick Grayson asked over the earpiece in Batgirl’s cowl.

He was probably right.

I have Barbara talking to Dick to do some exposition/ world building. My fanfictions can be read independently of one another, but together I’m creating my own amalgam comic book universe. The conversation provides some history, some humor and sets up the world of Gotham.

A few nights ago, Batman had narrowed down a theft of firearms to the Heavy Playas gang up in the Bowery. He’d left the task of tracking the Playas to her.

Providing a reason why we’re with Batgirl and how she operates in Batman’s Gotham. I also wanted to give some backstory as to why these particular creeps were under investigation instead of the usual “You’re thugs! I’ll beat you up!”

Batgirl had surveyed the Playas every night since then. Their routine barely changed: hang out on their turf, get high, meet some girls, repeat.

Tonight, they finally mixed things up with a trip to the edge of their territory.

Often forgotten in quickie Batman stories is the that he doesn’t just have a radar for criminals and shows up when it goes off. Batman and his team are detectives, using routines similar to police to hunt their prey.

Batgirl perched on a rooftop five stories up, a dead-end alley with a small side street below her. The Playas had a box truck parked nose first in the alley. Back on the street, an SUV parked across the mouth of the alley, blocking traffic, and setting up a secure exchange out of the truck.

An issue of Gail Simone’s “Batgirl” featuring cover artwork by Adam Hughes

Using a set of binoculars from a pouch on her yellow utility belt, Batgirl took a closer look at the opposition. Three black men in their early twenties stood watch in the middle of the alley.

A fourth man, older than the others by a decade, hung to the back of the box truck. He smoked something, probably not a standard cigarette.

Though none of the men had a visible weapon, Batgirl could tell they all packed handguns in shoulder holsters or belts (never smart). The way the guy by the truck clung to the side not visible to Batgirl, she figured he might have another heavier weapon stashed there.

A dusting of snow covered the ground, largely untouched save for the box truck’s tire treads and the shuffling of the men’s feet.

More detective work, and an explanation for all those gadgets in the utility belts.

The conversation with Dick helped distract Batgirl from the chill seeping through her Kevlar-laced bodysuit. Batman had Batsuits that insulated against fire and cold. He hadn’t gotten around to doing the same for Batgirl. She had her standard black bulletproof suit for the evening. At least she had the yellow gloves and boots to keep her extremities warm.

Just another February in Gotham.

Rather than “Batgirl wore a suit that was this and that,” I describe the costume through a utilitarian sense. This way, instead of just getting rote info, you get some backstory that helps guild the world, explain the suit, explain Batman’s working relationship with Batgirl, tells the time of year and sets the weather — all in five sentences.

“Please,” Batgirl finally responded to Dick. “I could follow these guys blindfolded and still beat you in a Batline race.”

“Be careful, there,” Dick said with a chuckle. “I may be a bit rusty, but once an acrobat…”

 “Always second to a girl,” Batgirl said, cutting him off.

Dick had a customary witty retort, but Batgirl missed it. The SUV had moved, allowing a cargo van to back into the alley so that its rear compartment would open to the rear of the box truck.

Didn’t take detective skills to realize something was about to go down.

“Love to continue ribbing you, college boy,” Batgirl teased, “but momma’s gotta go to work.”

“College boy? Says the senior who got a full ride to Gotham U but put it off for a semester.”

“Quiet, you,” Batgirl said while sliding her binoculars back into their pouch.

“You call Bruce?” Dick asked.

“He’s on a Bruce Wayne mission tonight,” Batgirl replied. “Besides; it’s just a couple of street hustlers peddling some stolen firearms. All in a night’s work.”

“Be careful. And have Alfred standing by with the Batwing if things get hairy.”

“I’ve got this, Dick,” Batgirl said with full confidence. “You get back to Calculus. I’ll call you after.”

“You better.”

Notice the dialogue is largely expository. However, it’s really doing double duty: revealing character and contrasting the dangers of life as Batgirl against the pleasantness of life without the cowls and capes.

The relationship between Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon was always one of those “will they/ won’t they” ones for me but I also wanted to give it a level of professional respect but maintaining the concept of them as kids in their late teens. I use the physical distance between them to downplay any potential romance.

Batgirl allowed herself a smile as she cut the com line. She missed their teasing while on patrol. She also missed Dick’s ability to keep things light despite the brutality that often came with the job of defending Gotham.

It was way better than patrolling with Batman. He rarely said a thing except to correct something in her method or to bark commands. Her young adult self would have thought it annoying — except that Batman’s corrections and orders could one day save her life. He was a tough taskmaster, but he badgered and trained his young allies concerned they returned home alive.

It was time to put that training to work.

Contrasting conversations with Dick and Batman sets up Batman’s reticence. Him not having a cold suit for Batgirl shows him as kinda uncaring and gives him that loner sense. However, Batgirl calms fears of him just being a dick by mentioning his training. Would a dick teach her things to save her life?

Hmmm… that’s debatable as maybe he taught her so she wouldn’t endanger him which is kind of a dick thing to do. But I digress!

So that’s that. I’ve been flipping around in different works for the commentary, but I think I’ll hunker down and run this story all the way through. It’s a long one, so I’m gonna post on both Wednesdays and Fridays.

In the meantime, you can read “Armored Underworld” in its entirety by following the link below. My other fanfictions are listed too.

I’m still cranking away on my third novel. In the meantime, there’s a sample to my first, “By Virtue Fall,” a tale from my urban fantasy world the “Shadowdance.”

Until next time, stay safe, stay inside and go watch “Fleabag” on Amazon Prime. Trust me.

Mark Wooden’s Original Fiction

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