Batgirl originally started as a way to draw female viewers into the 1960s “Batman” TV show, but she’s grown into one of the strongest female heroes in comics. Daughter of Police Commissioner Gordon, Barbara Gordon was introduced into the comics in 1967’s “Detective Comics” #359 by writer Gardner Fox and artist Carmine Infantino. Since her first appearance, there have been two other women who’ve taken on the cape and cowl of Batgirl: Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown.
RELATED: The 15 Best Batgirls Ever
Batgirl has grown into more than just a sidekick or female version of Batman. She’s been a bold and confident hero for all fans of the Bat-Family. With news that Warner Bros is working on a solo feature film of “Batgirl,” CBR is taking time to talk about 15 of the character’s finest moments.
15. BROWN SAVES GAGE
Our first moment comes with the third Batgirl, Stephanie Brown. Created by Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle in 1992’s “Detective Comics” #647, Stephanie Brown was originally known as Spoiler and was the daughter of the Cluemaster. She briefly became Robin before being fired by Batman, and apparently killed by the Black Mask. She returned to become the new Batgirl after Cassandra Cain (who we’ll get to later) quit the role.
In 2009’s “Batgirl” #13 by Bryan Q. Miller and Pere Perez, Brown was just starting out on her journey as Batgirl and had begun working with a tough cop named Detective Nick Gage. Gage became Brown’s liaison at the police department, like how Commissioner Gordon served with Batman. In the issue, Gage unknowingly went up against Clayface who almost killed him. Fortunately, Batgirl swung in to sweep him off his feet, literally. It was a great role reversal of the “damsel in distress” and also called back to the famous Spider-Man cover of 1962’s “Amazing Fantasy” #15.
14. CAIN SCARES BATMAN
Now we move on to Brown’s predecessor, Cassandra Cain. Created by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott, Cassandra Cain first appeared in 1999’s “Batman” #567, where she helped Batman during the “No Man’s Land” story arc. After saving the life of Commissioner Gordon, Cain was given the role of Batgirl with the blessing of Batman and Gordon. However, Cain was a more wounded and troubled soul than Gordon or Brown.
She had a deep compassion for others, as shown by 2000’s “Batgirl” #6 (Scott Peterson, Kelley Puckett, Damion Scott) where Cain fought a group of armed men. She was shocked when one of the men shot another to get to Cain. With her skill at trigger points, Cain cornered the murderer and stopped his heart so he could feel what it was like to die, then started his heart again. Even Batman was left shocked at both her skill and ferocity.
13. CAIN GETS ADOPTED
Cain was mute, raised as an assassin by her abusive father David Cain and the supervillain Lady Shiva. For Cain, the trauma of her childhood loomed over everything she did. She was groomed with an almost supernatural ability to read body language to anticipate her enemies, but her father’s training intentionally left her mute until she learned to speak only after intense training.
In 2008’s “Batgirl” #6 by Adam Beechen and Jay Calafiore, Cain faced a pivotal moment in her history when her father came to kill Barbara Gordon. Cain fought him on a rainy rooftop while her father taunted her for being weak. At the same time, Cain told her father how he had ruined her, denying her the ability to read and speak. In the end, Cain managed to beat her father and throw him onto the edge of the rooftop. At the last moment, she decided to reach out and save him. For that, Batman told her he would adopt her into the family. She finally had the family she’d always wanted.
12. TEAM BATGIRL
Brown was eager to take up the costume of Batgirl, but she needed a lot of work to get there. After her failures to work with Batman, she was taken under the wing of the original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon. With the computer skills of wheelchair-bound Wendy Harris, the trio formed what they called “Team Batgirl.”
Gordon was hesitant to take Brown on because of her failures in the past, but Brown grew into the cap and cowl. After a few issues, Gordon decided to let Batgirl work on her own. In 2009’s “Batgirl” #20 by Bryan Q. Miller and Ramon Bachs, there was an emotional scene where Brown confessed how hard it was to be without Gordon, who reminded Brown she was the new Batgirl, all on her own. It was a great moment, one where the torch was being passed on with the blessings of the original. It also avoided being overly sweet, just sweet enough.
11. CAIN TRAINS
As we mentioned earlier, Cassandra Cain had an innate ability to read body language the way normal people talk or read books, allowing her to tell what her opponents would do before they even did it. It was her natural language, at the expense of her ability to speak or read. That all changed when she met a telepath who couldn’t communicate with her because of it, so he rewrote her mind to allow her to use the language centers of her brain. In the process, she lost her body-reading ability, leaving her vulnerable.
In 2000’s “Batman” #7 (Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott), Batman put her through grueling defense training, which came down to him hitting her to force her to block. He wanted to make sure she wouldn’t end up dead like his other Robin, Jason Todd. Far from recoiling from the training, Cain gave up eating and sleeping to train, and told him to hit her again and again until even he was surprised. It’s hard to shock Batman, but she did it.
10. ORACLE REVEALED
The character Barbara Gordon changed forever with 1988’s “The Killing Joke,” where the Joker shot and paralyzed her in a macabre prank to drive Commissioner Gordon crazy. Many fans were outraged at how she was treated, including John Ostrander and Kim Yale, who decided to bring her back and restore her dignity. Their plan involved not taking away the paralysis, but using it to make her better.
In issues of “Suicide Squad” from 1988 to 1989, the team began getting help from a mysterious hacker known only as Oracle. They communicated only by computer, so no one knew who the hacker was. Hints were dropped from time to time, but in 1990’s “Suicide Squad” #38 (John Ostrander, Robert Greenberger, Luke McDonnell), team leader Amanda Waller told Oracle about the death of Flo Crowly, the Squad’s computer expert who first spoke to Oracle. Cut to Barbara Gordon crying, revealing for the first time who she was: Oracle.
9. GOVERNMENT AGENTS
One of Cassandra Cain’s most amazing moments came in 2001’s “Batgirl” #13 by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott. When Cain saw C.I.A. agents chasing a man down the street, he jumped to avoid a young boy. The agents didn’t. That one act of kindness convinced her to rescue the man, who turned out to be a sharpshooter who discovered he had been killing innocent people instead of the terrorists he thought he was targeting.
Before they could kill him, Cain broke in. Later, the agents described her as she dodged a hail of bullets, beat up an entire government building full of trained C.I.A. operatives, and escaped with only a flesh wound. In the next issue, the C.I.A. agents tried to track her in disbelief that she wasn’t in any of their databases, and she didn’t have any superpowers beyond sheer strength of will. Gordon expressed amazement at the fact that Cain did it all without even wearing her costume to hide her identity.
8. HAPPY BIRTHDAY
Once again, it’s the little moments of humanity that made Cassandra Cain such a great character, and we’ll be talking about that again here. In 2000’s “Batgirl” #33 (Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott), Cain faced a new dilemma: her birthday. Specifically, she didn’t know what her birthday was. Her father had put more emphasis on training her to dodge bullets and stop hearts than celebrating the special moments in her life. In the issue, Gordon mentioned they wanted to celebrate her birthday, but she also needed to get information on a mysterious person named “Alpha,” and Cain’s father was the only one who knew it.
Cain disguised herself as a reporter, met her father, and immediately smashed the walls between them. Beating up the guards and pinning her father to the wall, Cain only had one question: “what’s my birthday?” When she went back home, Batman had a gift waiting for her, regardless of when her birthday was. Batman was more of a father to her than her real father ever was.
7. BRUCE WAYNE RETURNS
In 2008’s “Final Crisis,” Darkseid used his Omega Sanction to send Batman back in time, but left a charred body that made people think he had been killed. Batman made a long journey through history to finally arrive in the present, finding that the Bat-Family had been carrying on without him. Bruce Wayne decided to secretly observe and test them to find out if they had done him proud. One of the people he watched was Stephanie Brown, who had become Batgirl in his absence.
In 2010’s “Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Batgirl” (by Bryan Q. Miller and Pere Perez), Brown went after the mysterious Insider, whom she nicknamed “Casper” because of the newcomer’s ability to turn invisible, and used advanced technology to steal a powerful weapon from WayneTech. In the climactic scene, Brown faced the Insider knowing he wanted to be caught, only for him to reveal himself as Bruce Wayne. The moment that followed was classic Stephanie Brown as she slapped him, then ran off yelling, “I’m glad you aren’t dead!”
6. BIRDS OF PREY
In 1999, Chuck Dixon and Greg Land introduced “Birds of Prey,” a groundbreaking female-led title that brought Barbara Gordon as Oracle into a team-up with Black Canary and later the Huntress. It gave Oracle a stronger role in the DC universe as a crimefighter, and also made Black Canary into her face-kicking partner. The comic series led to a TV series in 2002, and is also being developed as a feature film.
In the first issue, all the elements were first brought together as Oracle sent Black Canary a laptop computer so they could communicate. The two of them arrange to get Black Canary onto the remote island of Rheelasia to get evidence against its ruthless leader. The story set up the entire series, showed how well the two ladies complimented each other, and also how Oracle could use her vast computer skills to disable alarms and unlock safes to get where they needed. Even in a wheelchair and operating a computer, Gordon was still Batgirl.
5. BAT VS. CAT
In 2011, DC comics launched the New 52, an event that erased and reset the long-running continuity. One of its biggest changes was to Barbara Gordon, who was no longer permanently paralyzed after being shot by the Joker. In the new reality, Gordon had been paralyzed for only three years before returning to full mobility and becoming Batgirl again. One of her big moments came in “Batman Confidential” #17 (by Fabian Nicieza with art by Kevin Maguire) where she faced Catwoman for the first time.
In the issue, Catwoman stole the Commissioner’s notebook from Gordon’s library, which Batgirl was determined to get back. What followed was a mad chase through Gotham City, over rooftops and on moving subway trains, as the two taunted and tested each other and come away with grudging respect. Batgirl proved she’s just as much a match for Catwoman, and Catwoman discovered Batgirl was more than just a “pet” and rather a full-fledged member of the Bat Family.
4. ZERO HOUR
In 1994, “Zero Hour: Crisis in Time” did for future timelines in the DC universe what “Crisis on Infinite Earths” did for the multiverse: unify it into something easier to handle. In the crossover event, the supervillain Extant teamed up with Hal Jordan (who was now Parallax) to erase the timeline of history in order to create a new one. Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway’s series also brought some alternate versions of familiar characters like a merged form of Hawkman and a Barbara Gordon from a reality where she wasn’t paralyzed and still wore the Batgirl costume.
The new Batgirl almost sided with Parallax until the villain threatened to kill the young hero Damage to stop him from restarting the universe. When Parallax fired an energy beam, Batgirl jumped in front of it. She was killed, but gave Damage the time he needed to build up enough energy to rebuild the universe. Yes, in another reality, Batgirl died to save the universe; a much more heroic end than getting shot by a psychotic clown.
3. THE LAST BATGIRL
In 1988’s “Batgirl Special” #1, Barbara Randall Kesel and Barry Kitson created the last Batgirl story before her horrific injury in “The Killing Joke” called (appropriately enough) “The Last Batgirl Story.” The story was intended to give closure to Barbara Gordon before she was paralyzed, when some believed she would never become Batgirl again.
In the story, Batgirl flashed back to her encounter with Cormorant, a sadistic killer who came closest to killing her. Years later, she finds a man murdered in her library with Cormorant’s signature hat next to it. She fears he’s come back, even as a new series of murders strikes Gotham, all of whom are men who’ve raped or assaulted women. The new vigilante was called Slash, a woman who thinks men get off too easy, and wanted Gordon to help her. The issue packed a lot of action, as well as self-reflection, in which Batgirl faced her fears and wrestled with giving up her costumed identity. It was a powerful story, and one that tied up a lot of loose ends for her.
2. BATGIRL’S FIRST DATE
One of the longest-running storylines in Barbara Gordon’s life has been her romance with Nightwing. With both of them working closely under Batman, it only made sense for them to be attracted to each other. In Chuck Dixon and Greg Land’s 1999 “Birds of Prey” #8, we saw a more tender and emotional side of Batgirl.
When Black Canary got a call from a mysterious man, it turned out to be Nightwing, who flashed back to the first date (while insisting it wasn’t a date) between Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon. They went to the circus where he grew up, talked about their lives and shared a swing on a trapeze with a kiss afterwards. It’s totally a moment for fans of the Nightwing/Batgirl pairing, but also a rare moment to explore the two characters as people. No supervillains, no death traps, no fighting at all. Just two people getting to know each other and more.
1. ORACLE BEGINS
In 1996, “Batman Chronicles” #5 bridged the gap between “The Killing Joke” and “Suicide Squad” by telling the story of how Barbara Gordon became Oracle. “Oracle: Year One – Born of Hope,” (John Ostrander, Kim Yale, Brian Stelfreeze) picked up right when she lay in the hospital after the spinal surgery that saved her life. She struggled with her injury and what it meant, and her role in the Bat-family as more of a symbol than a human being.
As she learned to adapt to life in a wheelchair, she also came to rely on her computer systems and found a new freedom. When her father faced a metahuman with the power to connect her mind to electronics, Gordon created her new identity to stop her: Oracle. It’s a heart-wrenching story, but beautiful to see how Gordon regained her strength and grew into a new role. Some in the physically challenged community actually preferred Barbara Gordon as a wheelchair-bound superhero, and this story showed why.
What’s your favorite Batgirl moment? Let us know in the comments!