Now that Jason Bard is getting cozy with Vicki Vale over in “Batman Eternal”, it might be a fun time to reminisce about another love connection he had with a notable Batman Family redhead. Before Flashpoint made time all wonky, Jason Bard had a romantic history with Barbara Gordon. They were even engaged for a time. I wanted to use this space to examine this “engagement” of theirs as it involved some retcons and out of character moments.
Let’s start by turning the “wayback machine” to Batman #349. Jason and Barbara are seen together for the first time in many years. They had been sweethearts before Barbara went to congress, but later writers had decided to give Babs a more active dating life (including Clark Kent). This issue saw them reunite for the purpose of helping Jim Gordon put his life back together. From that point on, the two were frequently seen in each other’s company again.
The last time they were seen together until the nineties was Detective Comics #524. Look at that disco suit Dick Grayson is wearing! For the continuity buffs out there, this is indeed the first time Barbara Gordon meets Jason Todd…or at least this incarnation of him. After this issue, her relationship with Bard wasn’t mentioned again. Jason Bard only had two appearances between Detective Comics #524 (1983) and Birds of Prey #1 (1999).
Barbara retired the Batgirl mantle in Batgirl Special #1. Her love life wasn’t touched on it in the issue and it was generally assumed that she and Jason had quietly separated at one point. She evens tells Marcy that Jason and her lost touch when she went to Congress. That was an odd thing to say considering they had recently begun dating again. We all know what happened next; Barbara got shot and spent the next few decades as Oracle. When Birds of Prey became an ongoing series in 1999, Jason was brought back along with a startling revelation about his past with Babs.
Engaged you say? Apparently the engagement occurred in off panel land. What the heck happened? Barbara gives us another clue in Birds of Prey #3.
The implication here is that Barbara is resentful over the fact that Jason couldn’t stop the Joker from crippling her. I find that petty and out of character.
Jason Bard (who is temporarily blind) finally reunites with Barbara in Birds of Prey #19. He apparently didn’t know she had been injured.
“Some detective I am”. Indeed Bard!
We don’t get much else from Babs on her off panel engagement to Jason or why she ended it. Once again she mentions that her crippling was “one of the reasons”. This leads us to believe that Babs broke up with him after she was shot. That raises many questions. Why did they break up? How could he not know about her injury? When and why did this engagement happen?
Because of the timeline given here, we now know that Babs was engaged during the Batgirl Special one-shot. Jason is nowhere to be seen in the story and she seems to write him off. In some ways, this works. Why didn’t she tell her Marcy she was engaged? Could an upcoming marriage have been one of the reasons Babs decided to rethink her life as Batgirl and retire? Or perhaps giving up Batgirl gave her a “what now” mentality causing her to rush into an engagement with Jason. It’s fun to speculate.
The next major problem is her injury. How could Jason have been in the dark about his fiancee getting crippled. Remember, she didn’t dump him until AFTER she was shot. The only way this works is if Jason was out of town on an assignment. Perhaps even out of the country.
Wouldn’t somebody have told him? If my fiancee was assaulted in her home by the Joker and it was all over the news, I imagine it would get back to me. That’s one logical fallacy that disturbs me. If I was a private detective and my fiancee broke up with me without an explanation, I would probably look into what’s going on with her. I imagine Jason would have done so and discovered Barbara had been attacked. For whatever reason that’s not what happened.
I feel like calling off an engagement would be a major life altering decision, yet if it happened in the wake of The Killing Joke Barbara doesn’t give it any thought in “Oracle Year One”. I know she had many other things on her mind, but canceling a wedding would earn a passing thought. Perhaps she thought about it “off panel”, but the timeline Chuck Dixon gives us for the engagement still doesn’t add up.
Jason didn’t know Barbara was crippled, it also means she didn’t break up with him face to face. She either telephoned him, wrote to him or just cut him out of her life altogether with no explanation.
Barbara’s reasoning is a bit weird too. She indicates some resentment that he couldn’t protect her and tells Jason that her crippling was one of the reasons they didn’t marry. Without knowing what the other reasons are, this doesn’t paint a very good picture of Barbara. It seems out of character.
Here is an alternate theory: Barbara and Jason were planning on eloping. Jason left on an extended assignment away from Gotham. Barbara didn’t follow him right away because her father was recovering from his nervous breakdown. She planned on following him later. For whatever reason this was done in secret. This is why she doesn’t tell Marcy. After she got shot, she decided not to rendezvous with Bard, leaving him to wait for her and effectively “left at the altar”. This is explains how she would be able to break up with him without knowing of her injury. Perhaps the “engagement” was open ended; a case of “if you show up I’ll know the answer is yes, if you don’t I’ll move with my travels alone”.
Working with the original comics and Chuck Dixon’s retconned engagement, here is what the sequence of events might be….
* Barbara and Jason get engaged sometime around Detective Comics #524.
* Jason leaves Gotham for an extended period of time.
* Barbara gives up the mantle of Batgirl in Batgirl Special #1. Perhaps the decision was partially influenced by her upcoming marriage or visa versa.
* Babs is shot by the Joker in The Killing Joke. Somehow she ends her engagement to Jason without seeing him.
Let’s hope Jason’s current relationship with Vicki Vale in “Batman Eternal” is less confusing!