Barbara Gordon. Batgirl. Oracle. No matter what name she’s using, she’s one of the most famous DC Comics characters of all time. While she’s made a few live-action appearances, her latest will come in the form of HBO Max’s Titans and now we have our first look at her.
Just before the first trailer dropped this afternoon, we got our first look at Savannah Welch (who has a limb difference) in new images from season three as Barbara Gordon... in a wheelchair. She’ll be joining the returning Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites), Kory Anders (Anna Diop), Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft), Gar Logan (Ryan Potter), Jason Todd (Curran Walters), Donna Troy (Conor Leslie), Hank Hall (Alan Ritchson), Dawn Granger (Minka Kelly), Rose Wilson (Chelsea Zhang), and Conner (Joshua Orpin). Entertainment Weekly has the first photo of her today, along with another new addition to the cast: Vincent Kartheiser as Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka Scarecrow. EW writes of Barbara’s entrance to the series, “When Dick returns to his bedeviled hometown, he rekindles his romance—and strikes up a new partnership—with Barbara Gordon (Savannah Welch), Batgirl-turned-GCPD Commissioner. Teaming up forces the couple to reckon with Batman and Jim Gordon’s messy crime-fighting legacy and hopefully find a better way of protecting the city.”
Obviously, Welch is using a wheelchair in this scene and has used one in her life—the initial announcement of Barbara Gordon didn’t specify which version of her we’d see and they’ve not mentioned the name Oracle yet. In the comics, Gordon was paralyzed after a horrific assault by the Joker (in Alan Moore’s 1988 comic, The Killing Joke, which everyone should really stop venerating!). Warner Bros. did well in hiring an actor with a disability for Titans but I’m curious why they didn’t cast someone who has Barbara’s exact condition (likely because the series plans on doing flashbacks (truly, the age-old excuse). Back in—whoo—2008, then-DC Senior VP/Executive Editor Dan Didio was asked if Gordon would ever walk again and he said: “Never.” If you keep up with comics regularly you’ll know a lot has happened since then. But film and TV reach a lot more people and having accurate representation there should be a current goal, not “something we’re working on.”
So far we’ve seen Yvonne Craig (‘60s Batman), Dina Meyer (Birds of Prey), Alicia Silverstone (Batman and Robin), and Jeté Laurence (Gotham) play Barbara Gordon in live-action, and only Meyer’s (a non-disabled actor) version was dubbed Oracle and used a wheelchair. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the CW’s Arrow seemingly flirted with making Felicity a version of Oracle (eventually known as Overwatch) but quickly “cured” her paralysis. Not great, Bob! Am I a bit biased because I myself am a redhead who uses a wheelchair? Absolutely. But including people with disabilities is one area Hollywood in particular really needs to catch up on, both on the big and small screens. While it’s nice at least a small step was made here, there are many other actors to who the role could have gone to. Disabilities are not interchangeable.
After way too much time, Warner Bros. finally put a Batgirl film in motion. Joss Whedon left that project in 2018 and Birds of Prey’s Christina Hodson was brought on as writer. The latest news has Bad Boys for Life’s directors, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, leading the project. But... these are all for “Batgirl”; a true-to-life Oracle hasn’t gotten a chance to make a name for herself yet. You’d think Warner Bros. might consider TV a “safer bet” for such a story—but, well, the decision-makers just relegated Batgirl to HBO Max too.
The first three episodes of Titans season three—which will also feature Damaris Lewis as Blackfire—are set to hit HBO Max August 12 with weekly Thursday drops afterward.
Correction 6/17/2021, 2:30 a.m. ET: A previous version of this post misstated that Savannah Welch was non-disabled. We regret the error.
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