Holy Half Century Batgirl!!
In 1967, at the behest of the producers of the classically camp sixties Batman show a new Superhero was born, Barbara (Babs) Gordon, better known as the feisty flame haired vigilante – Batgirl!
Bab’s creators – Julius Schwartz, William Dozier, and Carmine Infantino called for a female analogue to the Caped Crusader, who could be simultaneously introduced into both the comics and the popular television series. Technically though, Batgirl wasn’t a new character, she was a variant of the original Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff created persona from earlier that decade. The original Batgirl appeared in Batman #139 in April 1961, the niece of Kathy Kane aka Batwoman.
Batwoman and Batgirl were originally created to be romantic interests for Batman and Robin, as well as costumed crime-fighting associates. In 1964, Batman editor of the time Julius Schwartz erased Batwoman, Batgirl (and other supporting characters – Ace the Bathound and Bat-mite) from the timeline on the grounds that the characters were “too silly”. Both Batwoman and her niece Betty (now known as Bette) Kane eventually and triumphantly returned to the DC Comics timeline, with Kate Kane reprising her role as Batwoman (with a few fundamental changes to her character) though Bette returned not as Batgirl, but as Flamebird, a role that had previously been inhabited by several other DC creations that included Jimmy Olsen and Kara Zor-El.
Babs Gordon though has always been seen and celebrated as the Batgirl by her millions of adoring fans, debuting in Detective Comics # 359 in a story entitled “The Million Dollar Debut Of Batgirl” by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino. Babs was introduced as the daughter of long time Batman aide – Commissioner James Gordon, she retains a doctorate in library science, is employed as the head of the Gotham City Library and possesses a photographic memory and genius level intellect.
Aside from being a popular recurring character in many DC publications, Babs didn’t get her first starring role until the “Batman Family” comic series in 1975, where she took centre stage alongside other members of the bodacious Bat clan including original Robin, Dick Grayson.
Bab’s continued her well loved run as the masked avenger up until Alan Moore’s Eisner winning one-shot “The Killing Joke“, where, in a controversial sequence of events, she was shot through the spine by the genocidal jester himself, The Joker, ultimately causing paralysis from the waist down, with the paraplegia signalling the end of her crime-fighting career… or did it?
A subsequent storyline by John Ostrander and Kim Yale established Babs in a new role, as the wheelchair bound Oracle. Forming a formidable team of female Superheroes (that includes amongst its members – Black Canary and The Huntress), Babs became a behind the scenes leader and information collator as her Birds of Prey fought crime and corruption on a global scale. During this time two other ongoing versions of Batgirl took over the mantle – Cassandra Cain and then later Stephanie Brown, both had a modicum of success as the character.
In 2011, DC Comics heralded a comic wide reboot of their entire Universe of characters known as “The New 52“, the major revamp followed the “Flashpoint” paradox which brought extensive changes to their classic cadre of characters, including Batgirl/Oracle. Babs was eventually given back the use of her legs after receiving experimental surgery at a South African clinic and through rigorous physical rehabilitation. The decision to allow Babs to regain her mobility was seen by some fans as somewhat of a shame, as she had become one of the few very prominent disabled heroes in comics, but most fans were (myself included here) ecstatic to see the Batgirl prowling the rooftops of Gotham once more.
And so “Happy Birthday Babs” and here’s to another fifty years in your awe inspiring presence, oh and “hey DC Comics, how about some live action love for Babs huh? the only actress who has ever done her justice onscreen was the lovely and very much lamented, Yvonne Craig, I think it’s about time… Batgirl Returned!”
Posted on February 1, 2017, in Comics, Comics/television and tagged Barbara Gordon, Batgirl, Batman, Batwoman, Betty Kane, Burt Ward, DC Comics, Flamebird, Kathy Kane, Yvonne Craig. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.