I was waiting for Bronze Age to get to the Batman Family reprints, assuming since DC moved Batgirl from backups to an anthology—and even a feature or two—the stories must be better. Surely Elliot S. Maggin and Bob Rozakis had to be better at writing her comics than Frank Robbins. Silly me.
Most of the Batman Family stories have Batgirl teaming up with Robin. There’s one where she teams up with the Golden Age Batwoman, which features some of the worst Rozakis exposition. At least until his last story, which is the last story in the collection, where Rozakis calls the readers dummies for not understanding how his very bad plot line works. Usually he’s just being oddly sexist to Batgirl (and alter ego Barbara Gordon) in a way Maggin never hits. Maggin’s got his issues—Batgirl kisses Robin to show him he can’t tell her she’s a girl and can’t do crimefighting—not to mention his very weird take on Robin:
If Spider-Man’s superpower came from being bitten by a radioactive spider, Robin’s special power is having the agile body of a boy and the intellect of man. He’s a man-boy or a boy-man. Definitely makes Robin seem like a better superhero name.
When the Dynamite Duo—Batgirl and Robin—first team up, they still don’t know each others secret identities. They quickly figure it out—off panel because Maggin’s not into any character development whatsoever—but that discovery even further stalls their character development. There’s maybe some implications—like Dick’s girlfriends being jealous of his friendship with Babs—but he tells Batman at one point he’s not interested in older women. Bruce Wayne doesn’t agree (oddly, Barbara never figures out Bruce Wayne is Batman despite Grayson being his ward); meanwhile, Barbara thinks Dick’s too young for her and when you subtract seven from her twenty-five (I’m fairly sure they’ve de-aged her and also taken away at least one advanced degree) he’s just outside jailbait. Guess she’s not impressed with the boy body, especially since Robin’s usually just using the man intellect to tell Batgirl she’s too much a girl to be a good superhero.
All of the stories are silly or bad. The first one has the Devil bringing Benedict Arnold back to life to take over the United States, which is actually a low point until Maggin brings in the Huntress and the Sportsmaster (doesn’t matter, don’t ask) who trick Robin and Batgirl into doing an elaborate heist in South America. But then Rozakis comes on and, while the stories are less patently absurd, they’re also intentionally confusing so Rozakis can turn around and be condescending to the reader on the last page or whatever.
Also disappointing is the art. Unless you want to see when Mike Grell didn’t know people had knees or Pablo Marcos drew everyone at 6’6”. Not even the José Luis García-López entry pays off. Curt Swan’s entries are also rather disappointing. Irv Novick’s is maybe the best. It’s a very low bar.
There are some decent DC extreme long shot action panels, which usually involve Batgirl doing a flip out of danger. Those panels at least show some good composition work.
The Batman Family reprints are a tepid finish to the already tepid collection. Every story, you see the artists credits and assume it’ll at least look good and then it never even looks good.
I’m a few years too young for the late seventies Batman Family but am now really glad I never bought a bunch of back issues of it because, if Maggin and Rozakis’s writing is any indication, they’re probably pretty stinky overall.
Batgirl: The Bronze Age Omnibus Vol. 1 sure doesn’t motivate to read Vol. 2.