Wednesday, March 7, 2012

WHM 2012 Batgirl in the Comics

The first super-heroines I knew were Batgirl, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Mera, and Black Canary. Batgirl, of course, was well-known from her television appearances on BATMANand from her Filmation cartoons. Mera was featured with her husband in Aquaman's Big Little Book, Scourge of the Seas. Supergirl was one of the MEGO dolls action figures I had. (Although I actually switched her body with another MEGO doll, Dinah-Mite. She had a nicer looking face and long, straight blond hair than the Supergirl doll. Nicer! Does this make me weird?) And of course Wonder Woman and Black Canary were members of the Justice League, the book that got me reading obsessing over comics in the first place. I'll talk about those two JLA Women along with Hawkgirl/woman and Zatanna next week. Today, however, I want to talk about my all-time favorite...Batgirl.

Batgirl made her debut in DETECTIVE #359. After that she appeared regularly in both DETECTIVE and BATMAN, both as a guest-star with Batman and Robin and then as a solo-star in the back-up. She started out as a librarian, then decided to run for Congress as a US Representative from Gotham City. She won, and then for the next few years her adventureswere divided between Washington, DC and Gotham City. During this time she began a regular set of adventures with Robin in BATMAN FAMILY, starting with a wonderful story illustrated by Mike Grell (shown here). During this series it was established that they had guessed each other's secret identities (see panels below). Also, it was first hinted that they shared a mutual attraction, although nothing was ever shown that they were a couple (not even their fake wedding, which was actually staged to flush out some criminals). During these years Batgirl was shown as shrewd, athletic, and brave. In hindsight, this was the best she would ever be portrayed.
Several years later, after BATMAN FAMILY was cancelled and she was relocated to a spot in DETECTIVE again,  she was portrayed as not being in the same class as Batman and Robin. One story in particular had her memories wiped clean and she loses the knowledge of the Dynamic Duo's identities (although they kept their knowledge of her's). Another had her lose her nerve when she is almost killed by a sniper. Then in CRISIS in 1985 she faces depression and considers retirement after her good friend Supergirl is killed. It is at this point that she is shot and crippled by the Joker in THE KILLING JOKE. Although many fans protested this development, DC kept it as canon. In fact, BATMAN editor Denny O'Neil has gone on recordas saying he doesn't like the character; likewise, DC had announced that post-CRISIS all extra "Bat" and "Super" characters would be eliminated, meaning that Batgirl, Supergirl, and Superboy all ceased to exist.

Several years later, SUICIDE SQUAD writers Kim and John Ostrander took the paraplegic Barbara Gordon and re-introduced her as the heroine The Oracle, the information guru of the DC Universe. From her headquarters in the Gotham City Watch Tower she had links to all the major crime-fighting groups, including her own under-cover group The Birds of Prey. This group had its own series for years and even had an oddly adapted television series in 2002-2003 on The WB. In this series Dina Meyer was Barbara Gordon, but there were a few flashback scenes with her dressed as Batgirl, too. 
Recently DC has re-introduced three new Batgirl characters. One was a near-silent character named Cassandra Cain whose father was an international assassin; she took over the role in order to help balance out her father's evil. The second version was Stephanie Brown, the daughter of obscure Batman villain The Cluemaster. And just this past year Barbara Gordon herself is back in The New 52 BATGIRL series. I am not a fan of dead characters coming back to life or paralized characters suddenly getting to walk again, so I am not buying this book. I prefer my adventures to be fantastic but my drama to be realistic. :-) So as far as I am concerned, Barbara Gordon as Batgirl exists only in the past....

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