Barbara Gordon, Junior Detective
You may remember reading Dean Trippe’s pitch for Lois Lane: Girl Reporter, an abandoned proposal that got some attention online a few weeks ago. After I linked to it, friend of the blog Bob Greenberger mentioned that he’d written a similar one, only this was titled Barbara Gordon, Junior Detective.
Bob has kindly given his ok for me to run the proposal, dated October 2008, here, and that’s what you can read below. It seems that HarperCollins wasn’t interested in this proposed set of Young Adult novels using DC characters. I have vague memories of putting together my own set of sample chapters involving the Legion of Super-Heroes, but that was while I was on staff at DC, so an earlier time period. And I have no idea where THOSE wound up.
Anyway, here’s the pitch for Barbara Gordon, Junior Detective. Thanks, Bob!
From Barbara’s LiveJournal:
I thought losing mom and dad were the toughest days of my life. Now I have to leave Chicago and move to, ugh, Gotham. Saying goodbye to Marcy and all my other friends brought out more tears than I thought I had left.
Uncle Jim is a great guy if a little distant. His wife and son left him recently, so he’s got this cloud over his head. I’ve nowhere else to go, and he knows it. He’s trying to make the best of it, offering to help me pack and buying me some new makeup, but it’s not the same. He’s distant, pre-occupied.
Gotham is a cesspool. Dad always said so and never understood why Uncle Jim had to go. But Gotham has something Chicago doesn’t — Batman. Tall, dark, mysterious, and I bet Uncle Jim knows him.
From Barbara’s Facebook page:
Barbara is…settling in to the new apartment. The jury remains out.
From Barbara’s LiveJournal:
IMing with Marcy is not the same, not by a long shot. She keeps asking if I’ve seen Him yet. No, but Uncle Jim confirms they talk and work together but, he says, it’s complicated. Hearing him talking about the Batman is one of the few times the clouds seem to lift from him. He’s making every effort to be good, and we’re talking more than we did on the flight from Chicago, but it’s not easy.
Tomorrow is the first day of school, already halfway through the first term. Watch out, Gotham High, here comes Barbara!
And so it begins.
A young teen, removed from her familiar home and environs is suddenly moved to Gotham City, a dark, corrupt place out East. The sole shining beacons are her uncle, Police Commissioner James Gordon, and the costumed vigilante called The Batman.
Barbara has to acclimate herself into the social set at Gotham High School. Her natural brilliance automatically classifies and segregates her from many of the cliques. Instead, she has to forge a new identity at home and at school, using her brilliance to help others and gain acceptance.
All the while, she harbors a secret crush on the cloaked avenger who periodically visits the apartment she shares with her sad uncle, who misses his own wife and child.
Born to Roger C. and Thelma Gordon of Chicago, she is just five when her mother and aunt are killed in a traffic accident. Thelma’s death devastates Roger, who begins drinking. At fourteen, her father dies, and she finds herself an orphan. Her uncle Jim, who left Chicago for Gotham a few years earlier, comes to bring her back to live with him.
After observing a visit between Jim and The Batman, a smitten Babs resolves to be his partner. The young woman begins training in the martial arts and quickly becomes a fixture at the Gotham Public Library, studying maps of Gotham. Forced into an early adulthood by the demands of caring for her alcoholic father and gifted with a photographic memory, Barbara quickly rises to the top of her freshman class, pushing out of the way those who grew up in Gotham who don’t take kindly to the new brain in town.
James W. Gordon and his wife Barbara had a nice life in Chicago until the police lieutenant got into trouble with his superiors and he decided he needed to leave town. He relocated to Gotham City and proved to be a rare commodity: an honest cop in a city rife with corruption, from the mayor’s office down through the police ranks. Worse, his life is complicated when a costumed vigilante emerges, attempting to end the corruption. Along the way, Gordon commits adultery and loses his wife and infant son, collateral damage in the fight for good. When his alcoholic brother dies, he has to take in his young teen niece, a new responsibility he is totally unprepared for. By now, he has risen to police commissioner and has earned The Batman’s trust. Is there room in his life for the precocious teen, or will she too become a victim of the city’s rampant crime?
The corruption throughout government has meant the schools have been neglected. The textbooks are out of date, the standards are low, and the teachers’ morale is hammered time and again. As a result, the urban jungle’s roots can be found in the hallways of the high school, currently at 114% capacity.
Gangs have a toehold, and cliques are stratified so once you’re in, there’s little hope of moving to a different group. Few operate between groups or have their mutual respect. As Barbara arrives, everyone waits to see which clique she will naturally gravitate toward, and once they see she’s smart in addition to pretty, she’s consigned to the “Brains”. Not that Barbara feels like she belongs or wants to be pigeon-holed, but it’s a starting point.
The one competent guidance counselor finds Barbara and keeps pushing her to get out of the high school as quickly as possible. She might even be able to enroll in college after her sophomore year. Barbara is in no hurry, wanting to settle and grow some roots first.
Also in the clique is Katarina Armstrong. Everyone presumed they’d be BFF, but instead, they are nothing more than acquaintances and academic rivals without becoming friends. “I was still growing into myself, but Kat just walked on campus as a lion among rabbits,” Barbara would recall years later. Where Barbara comes to her gifts naturally, Katarina is driven. Valedictorian and an Ivy League scholarship are her goals, and woe be anyone in her way.
Keisha quickly becomes Barbara’s closest friend, because she’s smart and funny and willing to guide the newcomer through the cliques. Keisha keeps Barbara current on what’s happening in Gotham culture. Her parents own a dry cleaners, and she has to work there after school and on weekends, so the pressure to get her school work in and have a social life sometimes gets to her.
He’s the shy one who immediately averts his eyes whenever they see one another across the hallway. He’s handsome, and she wants to befriend him, but there’s something keeping them apart. No one knows much about him, since Ethan moved to Gotham only a year before. Rumors, of course, run rampant, and he’s a mystery she wouldn’t mind solving.
She tests well and has been lumped in with the “Brains”, but she sees herself as anything but. Emily works hard, gets along with everyone, but there’s something amiss, and Barbara has to unravel the reason. She begins to recognize the signs and confronts her — Barbara tells Emily she knows she’s the child of an alcoholic and wants to help. Emily rejects the statement and instead works to undermine Barbara…anything but face the truth.
A first generation American, she helps her parents assimilate to America and Gotham, but it’s hard. They work barely above minimum wage, and the pressure to stay current with fashion and gadgets leads Elizabeth to petty thievery…until she’s caught. Now on probation, she walks a narrow line between pressure and temptation and doing what is right. She finds Barbara a steady shoulder to rely on.
JOSHUA and MIA CORDOVA
Fraternal twins and best friends, they have a benign rivalry in everything, but most noteworthy is their constant desire to find the latest band. As a result, they often go to extremes to be the first to hear a new sound. They are the emotional center of the circle of friends and are among the first to welcome Barbara.
Welcome to Gotham
Barbara Gordon comes to Gotham to live with Uncle Jim Gordon after her father’s death. Gotham is darker and scarier than Chicago, but she’s excited because that’s where Batman lives. The first book covers Barbara’s acclimation to school life as she navigates the shark-infested social waters, establishing a relationship with her father, and hoping to catch a glimpse of the Caped Crusader.
But first, she has to figure out what’s wrong with her lab partner, Emily Kelly. Over the first few weeks, Babs can’t put her finger on it until she realizes, Emily’s parent must be an alcoholic. She offers to help, having been through it herself, but Emily refuses and actually becomes a rival of Barbara’s, making her time at high school difficult.
At home, she’s struggling to find a rhythm with her uncle whose hours are long and erratic. She tries to cook for him, but the meals go cold. She tries to plan shopping trips, but he’s preoccupied with a current crime spree from the Penguin.
One night it happens. She is awoken by a sound and creeps down the stairs to overhear her father confer with the Dark Knight. Fascinated, she listens, keeping to the shadows. Something they saw registers with her, and at school she tracks down a vital clue, something a student would know and a police detective would miss.
It means dealing with the other cliques, and Barbara proves she can navigate in some tough areas. She gets what she needs and in so doing, provides Uncle Jim with what they need to trap and stop the Penguin.
Along the way, Emily finally admits the truth, and Barbara gives her some counsel. She also returns home one day to find a thank-you gift on her bed. She’s delighted Uncle Jim thought to do this until she reads the note card and realizes it’s from The Batman himself.
Maybe life in Gotham won’t be so bad after all.
Barbara gets caught up in a circle of interconnected problems at school, requiring her to forge alliances with strangers and cross cliques, something considered impossible at high school. As she struggles to make sense of it all, she comes to realize the underlying cause is a new drug being circulated that makes the stoners higher but also gives a boost to the athletes.
At home, she and Uncle Jim are finally making some headway on their relationship, but Gordon realizes he doesn’t know the first thing about caring for a teen girl and has no one he can turn to. Who comes to his rescue will surprise him.
We Are the Beat
The Cordova Twins hear of a new underground club that will feature a band from England. They skip curfew and defy their parents to find the club, but misunderstood directions have them finding the gathering place for the Mad Hatter and his minions. When they don’t show up at school, Barbara gets worried and urges her father to have her friends located. Harvey Bullock gets a lead that they are in the hands of the Mad Hatter, so the Bat-Signal flares, but there’s no Batman. Father and daughter struggle to help support one another without letting the other do something foolish. The hunt is on, and it’s only a matter of time before the twins are found dead or alive.
Barbara begins her martial arts training in earnest, finding that fitting in the extracurricular activity is necessary but disruptive. It puts the strain on several of her budding friendships. She also realizes martial arts can only teach her so much. She goes seeking boxing help and gets it from former heavyweight champ Ted Grant.
A crime scene visit goes horribly wrong when a bomb goes off and Uncle Jim is seriously hurt. Barbara has to struggle on her own once more, while worrying about losing her only family. Batman supplies some unexpected solace. At school, she’s also beginning to feel pressure from the staff about living up to her potential — and getting out of high school, not something she’s eager to do right now.