ID: I’d like to talk to you about Barbara Gordon.
B: That could be tricky.
ID: I know. But I like a challenge. But to get to Barbara, there’s a back-story.
ID: Well, the two of you ended up getting intimate because you shared something. Don’t try to be menacing; you’ve yet to actually hurt me in any way, so it’s really losing its edge.
B: I’m more patient when I’m not wearing a quarter of my weight in body armor. And that doesn’t mean I won’t hurt you.
ID: Relax. Take deep, calming breaths. Because the thing you two had in common isn’t much of a secret: you were in wheel chairs. You look relieved. What, were you afraid I’d found out something dark and sinister?
B: I don’t think Barbara has anything dark or sinister in her past; having something approaching affection for me at one point is probably as low as it goes.
ID: Fair enough. But Barbara ended up in a chair because of the Joker. You landed in yours because of Bane- and that’s why there’s so much back-story. So start us off at the beginning- your crippling, to be specific.
B: Bane was a genius. He deduced my identity, even before the Riddler. But unlike Edward, he used that information to try to destroy me. He staged an elaborate break from Arkham, freeing nearly every inmate at the same time.
I did what I could to stem the tide of insanity, but there were too many. I was reaching my breaking point, physically and mentally. And that’s when he attacked me in the cave. I barely put up a fight, I was just so… I was already broken. What he did to me really only made me physically into what I was psychologically.
ID: Though specifically he broke your back.
ID: And how did that feel?
B: Nice therapist tone. It was devastating. It wasn’t that long since I’d had my own dalliance with venom, and failure, but this took failure to a whole new level. I wasn’t just butting up against the natural limits of being human, I was destroyed.
ID: You might want to be careful, lest the disabilities lobby tear you a batcave.
B: I don’t think I’m saying anything that hasn’t been said before. I felt like less than a man- less than a person. I was catatonic. Alfred tells me it was exactly like what happened when I lost my parents, that the same dread and despair descended over him. Because he couldn’t be sure I’d ever snap out of it.
Even after the medications worked their way through me, and the painkillers wore off, it was days before I spoke. The people I cared about were gathered around, waiting outside my bedroom. They wanted to know what to do. They wanted revenge, and to get me better, but there was not really a clear path towards either.
I think it was even scarier, because Clark had just died- and I mean the first time, when Doomsday killed him. And I was being looked at to fill the void he left, and suddenly I was out of the picture, too. I’m not blaming Clark, or trying to escape culpability, but I know that weighed on me, too. Made things harder. The deaths, and the violence, everything that went wrong because of the mistake I made, that’s on my head.
But the first thing I did after Bane was to name a successor. Nightwing was there, but I didn’t- he wasn’t the first person I spoke to. There was a vigilante known as Azreal. He was violent, but I’d been working with him, and I thought he’d become someone I could rely on. I knew Bane was still out there. And I didn’t want him approached; he was too dangerous. I didn’t want whoever became Batman in my stead to pursue him, but I knew Bane would seek a new Batman out, so they were going to have to run.
And if I’m really honest, and self-critical, I think maybe I knew Nightwing couldn’t do that. Bane hurt me. And he’d challenged everything Nightwing had built towards his whole life. If I’d made him Batman then, he would have gone straight for Bane. He still might have, if I hadn’t made him swear to me he wouldn’t. Which maybe have saved his life. Or maybe I just prevented him from finally becoming the man he is, today, for just a little while.
ID: Because now Nightwing is Batman. So I take it you’d trust him to take on Bane today?
B: I have no doubt that he’d beat the hell out of Bane in record time. And the deaths, and the violence, everything that went wrong because I put the wrong man in charge trying to shelter him, that’s on my head.
[Continued Friday, or earlier.]