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!”
The Batman of the 1960’s wasn’t a Dark Knight, he wasn’t foreboding or scary, and seemed to have gotten over, fairly easily, the murder of his parents that had haunted him and made him a creature of the night… in fact the Batman of the sixties wasn’t even a denizen of the dark, preferring to run around his native Gotham, during daylight, in tights!
Yes indeedy Batfans, 60’s Batman and today’s modern version are literally day and night, but both are still Superheroes of the highest echelon and downright entertaining, whether it’s the Caped Crusader holding aloft a comical round bomb whilst darting around avoiding nuns and ducklings (!?) or the Dark Knight stalking his prey from the shadows and vigorously snapping limbs…
And now, the stars of the 1966 epic televisual series, Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin) and Julie Newmar (Catwoman) are reuniting to Biff! and Pow! their way into a brand new animated movie! The actors will reprise their iconic characters when Warner Bros release the new movie, Batman: Return Of The Caped Crusaders on Digital HD on October 11, and then on Blu-Ray on November 1. Watch the exclusive movie clip below fellow Batfans and look for a review of the film itself in November, Same Bat-time, Same Bat-channel.
Yes indeed fellow Batfans, the classic 1960’s Batman live action TV series reached a significant milestone today, a monumental 50 years since it first aired on January 12 1966. The camp comedic series starred Adam West as the Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as the ever faithful Boy Wonder, and successfully introduced to a whole new generation, the continuing adventures of Gotham’s favourite guardians. Aired twice weekly by ABC, the show lasted just three seasons, but has gone on to be one of the most fondly remembered television series of all time, and is one of the original catalysts for the popularity of Superhero shows as they stand today.
The series followed the adventures of the Dynamic Duo as they attempted to thwart the plans of the various gaudily costumed Super-villains, who would easily bypass the inept Gotham Police force and set up ridiculous traps to ambush our fearless crime-fighters. The show was intentionally tongue in cheek, and would often champion simplistic moral messages such as the usage of seat belts or the importance of eating your greens. Each episode was narrated by producer William Dozier, who would utter the immortal line – “Tune in tomorrow, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel,” at every cliffhanger ending.
Special mentions must go to the fight sequences, that incorporated comic book style word balloons containing descriptions of the sounds of punches and kicks connecting, and of course, the amazing opening theme tune composed by Neal Hefti.
Happy 50th to the Dynamic Duo!
Actress Yvonne Craig best known for her role as feisty costumed crimefighter Batgirl, sadly passed away on Monday after a two year battle against breast cancer. Yvonne was the pioneer of the on-screen female Superhero, many years before Lynda Carter’s portrayal of Wonder Woman or Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. Yvonne was a professional ballet dancer and was known for performing her own stunts when she joined the 1960’s Batman TV series in its third season.
Working alongside Adam West and Burt Ward, Yvonne said that it was a “Wonderful experience, everyone on that show got on so well, which does not happen often, it was a joy to go to work everyday.” In an interview with Femme Fatale magazine the actress said “I meet women who say that Batgirl was their role model, because it was the first time they really felt that girls could do the same things guys could, and sometimes even better.” She retired from acting in the late seventies, but was an active campaigner throughout her life for equal rights and pay for women. Our thoughts and condolences go out to her family and friends.