Oracle’s time with the Suicide Squad began at a low point. Spending months off-panel, Barbara Gordon forged a new identity by secretly communicating with Suicide Squad tech liaison Flo Crawley. However, Flo got pulled into a Squad mission on Apokolips and was killed. Darkseid offered to resurrect Flo, but Waller refused to have her niece come back to life as a Hunger Dog. So, Waller let Flo slip away and began trying to learn more about Oracle. When Gordon was revealed to be Oracle, the moment was huge in late 1988/early 1989 DC Comics.
The Killing Joke was meant to dispatch the need for Batgirl in a post-Crisis continuity. But Suicide Squad writers John Ostrander and Kim Yale chose to save her. The duo later revisited the transition with Oracle: Year One, but the untimely death of Kim Yale undercut that story. Waller served as Oracle’s introduction to the Suicide Squad, but both parties wisely didn’t trust each other. Gordon was still transitioning into her role of super hacker, while Waller felt she could be a liability. When the two finally met, Oracle adopted the name Amy Beddoes to wisely keep her distance.
When Flo died, Waller broke the news to Oracle on purpose. The Squad was starting to fall apart as Waller was being pressured by The Louisiana Ordinance Association. The LOA was a drug cartel with deep roots in politics and events surrounding Belle Reve Prison. Fearing the collapse of the Suicide Squad, Waller had Deadshot and Poison Ivy execute the LOA leaders to maintain secrecy. But the LOA had leaked Waller’s ties to the Squad to the press. The U.S. Government made Waller take the fall, and she was imprisoned for a year. While incarcerated, Waller began formulating a plan that involved using Batman and cutting out the government.
Waller was released, and began finding new funding for the Squad. She used her negotiation expertise as a way to make Batman do her heavy lifting. This led back to saving Oracle from a villain attack and then exploiting her need to be a hero again. Waller gave Gordon a new purpose; as Oracle, she was the second-in-command under Waller. This time allowed Oracle to build her network and use Wayne Foundation grants to pay for her growing tech setup. That hub eventually moved out of her apartment and into the fan favorite Clocktower.
Oracle was also undergoing extensive physical therapy and psychological counseling at the time. While scenes like the above were common, it begged a giant question of Oracle’s status. If Gordon knew Batman like she did and his connections to S.T.A.R. Labs and beyond, why didn’t anyone try to help her? If Vic Stone could become a cyborg and many heroes could get new appendages, what was the purpose of leaving Gordon handicapped? Many people have written papers about how keeping a paralyzed hero was important to the livelihood of DC Comics. Honestly, it didn’t matter. In or out of a wheelchair, Gordon is just a great character.
Great characters can’t keep books from being canceled and Gordon eventually had to leave the Suicide Squad. Gordon’s identity slipped back and forth between Oracle and Amy Beddoes. As both characters, she became involved in the short-lived The Hacker Files that only saw DC push Gordon harder into the tech genius role. Eventually, she found her most prominent role when Batman recruited her to find information on the secretive Order of St. Dumas. Serving as the only key to learning information about Azrael, Batman began the process of turning Gordon into the Oracle of the greater DC Universe.
As Oracle, Gordon had to address her relationship with Batman. Gordon’s time spent recuperating after The Killing Joke allowed for the character to ponder her role to that point. Batman didn’t have any answers out of apologies, but Gordon couldn’t completely move past the pain. The push to never be a victim again helped inform her decision to form the Birds of Prey. The Birds of Prey were Oracle’s strongest allies, as they were a team of women found at the lowest points in their careers. Lady Blackhawk had been forgotten, the Huntress was trying to find herself, and Black Canary was considered a has-been. As Oracle, Gordon could coordinate these women and put them where they needed to be to stop crime. While Oracle could still help Batman, this role offered Gordon a chance to surpass the Dark Knight.
Nearing the end of Ostrander’s run on Suicide Squad, Oracle started to stand out. Very rarely in mainstream comics did audiences get to see female characters have prominent arcs. But, it would take the later work of Denny O’ Neil, Chuck Dixon and Grant Morrison to cement her importance to the DC Universe. Gordon was more than Oracle, just as Oracle was more than an information broker. Gordon was the new face of female superheroes. Nothing was going to stop her. Not Batman… her father… not even The Joker.