WARNING: The Following Article Contains SPOILERS For Batgirl #26
A shocking encounter with the supervillain Grotesque may have robbed Batgirl of her greatest power. While Barbara Gordon does not have a metagene and wouldn’t be considered a technical “superhero” by most definitions of the term, she does possess a rare talent – a photographic memory that enhances her abilities as a computer hacker and a crime-fighter.
While not as impressive as super-speed or the power to fly, a photographic memory is an incredibly useful talent for a vigilante like Barbara Gordon. The ability to capture every detail of a crime scene with a glance while running through it is a tremendous boon to a detective. Being able to analyze and identify an enemy’s fighting style and recalling the perfect technique to counter it is a wonderful ability for a tactical fighter. And if nothing else, it makes her graduate level course work a breeze since she doesn’t have to worry about studying, which is fortunate considering how many long nights she works as Batgirl.
It was during one of these long nights that Batgirl encountered Grotesque – an art thief with an electric touch, who recently started creating his own art in the form of gruesomely-decorated murder scenes. A lucky shot allows Grotesque to get away after his touch temporarily shorts out the microchip that restored Barbara Gordon’s ability to walk following the events of The Killing Joke, after which she briefly took up the identity of Oracle before becoming Batgirl again. Barbara doesn’t think any more about it, until she tries to recall the details of Grotesque’s hideout… and realizes that she can’t, beyond a few scattered details that give her little to work with in guessing the villain’s ultimate plan.
Though Barbara refers to her talent as an eidetic memory, it should be noted that there is some difference between this and a true photographic memory, despite the two terms often being used interchangeably. A person with an eidetic memory possesses an amazing capacity for retaining information after a relatively brief exposure and can remember the visual details of things around them as if they were still standing there for a few minutes after the initial exposure.
Someone with a true photographic memory, on the other hand, can recall specific details of stimuli beyond the visual and has a perfect ability to recall all those details afterward. While many people have extensive memories and can train themselves to retain information, science has yet to find a truly consistent photographic memory in our world.
Whatever you call it, the loss of this talent is a tremendous blow to Barbara Gordon’s effectiveness as a crime-fighter. It remains to be seen if what happened to her is as temporary as the paralysis Grotesque’s electrical attack inflicted upon her along with the mental trauma. Either way, it will not go well for the masked murderer when Batgirl finally catches up to him.
Batgirl #26 is now available from DC Comics.