David Hines (hradzka) wrote,
David Hines
hradzka

Writing Batgirl, Part II: ...and loses it... and finds it... and loses it...

By now, it's clear that Batgirl has not been an easy character to write. She's been a happy mute, a frustrated chatterbox, and one heck of a problem for her writers. But as of Batgirl #13, Chuck Dixon and Kelley Puckett have sussed things out. Dixon found Cass's voice, and Puckett showed how striking and effective that voice could be in dialogue. So it has to be smooth sailing from here, right?

Well, not exactly.


For a while, things seemed to be working: Puckett did a great job with Cass's voice, even in extended dialogue scenes, and Dixon added even more spice to the mix in another guest-writing stint when he paired up Cass and Spoiler, making what looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship:



(To understand how cute that is, you have to remember that Dick Grayson's Robin used to call Barbara Gordon's Batgirl "B.G.," way back in the seventies and early eighties. Very nice hat-tip by Dixon.)

Then the problems start. Cass's voice starts to change again. She gets more words, and more dialogue -- which isn't necessarily a problem, as Puckett had done all right with that before. The problem is that there's too much of it at once, and it's really *bad* dialogue (as in Batgirl #25, at right). Even in scenes with Oracle and Spoiler, the characters off of whom Cass plays best, her dialogue is too fluid, too abundant... and too cutesy. Puckett tries to maintain Cass's voice by breaking up her dialogue with ellipses, but it just doesn't work.

So, it's the writer's fault, right? Dixon gets it, Puckett doesn't?

Well, no. Because Puckett does get it. After the godawful bits above (from Batgirl #27), he gives us a fantastic scene with Cass and Spoiler in the very next issue. And when Dixon does a three-issue guest writing stint, he makes the same mistakes: Cass is too garrulous, too fluid... and her dialogue is well below Dixon's par. Other guest writers have problems with Cass's speech patterns, too; if you read through the whole Batgirl run, you'll see a lot of instances of Cass swinging in and out of voice, and her distinctive speech patterns completely changing -- not from one writer to another, or even between issues, but on voice and off over the course of a single issue. That example is Dixon, from Batgirl #32, but Puckett does it, too: Cass goes in and out of voice so fast in that scene with Spoiler and Babs in #27 that it'll give you whiplash.

The problem has persisted with Dylan Horrocks's taking over the book. Sometimes Cass's voice is on. Sometimes, well --




That is just *horrible* dialogue. Even for a comic book. (Don't get me started on Batgirl #52, which was so bad it *hurt,* and not just because of Barbara Gordon's apparent new-found ability to fly.) At the same time, though, Horrocks has done some excellent stuff with Cass and the other characters. Case in point: one of my favorite Cassandra scenes ever -- also one of the best scenes anyone's written for Oracle, period.

So, how should fanfic writers -- and profic ones, even -- write Cassandra? My take, in part III.
Tags: cassandra cain, dcu, meta, writing
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