Batgirl's Mindwipe Did Not Go Over Well With DC Comics Creators

In Meta-Messages, I explore the context behind (using reader danjack's term) "meta-messages." A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I'll give you the context behind one such "meta-message." This time around, we look at how a controversial change in Batgirl's status quo drew some ire from other DC Comics creators.

Right from the introduction of Batgirl, her secret identity made her stand out, in the sense that her true identity was a secret to Batman and Robin while their secret I.D.s were similarly secret to her. This allowed the comics to do a bunch of those classic "Maybe she'll find out his secret identity in this issue!" type stories, as seen on the cover of Detective Comics #363...

In that issue, however, Batman revealed his "true" identity as Bruce Wayne because he knew Batgirl was being bugged and if he made it obvious that he was PRETENDING to be Bruce Wayne (by adding some makeup to make it look like his Bruce Wayne face was a put on) then he knew Batgirl wouldn't believe it and therefore wouldn't shout it out loud over the bug (yes, that's obviously some extremely strained logic, but hey, he was right, right?).

When the caper was over, Barbara Gordon fascinatingly noted that she actually wasn't all that interested in figuring out Batman's secret identity, but she seemed confident that she COULD if she wanted to...

As it turned out, she must have at some point over the years, as in Batman Family #3 (by Elliot S! Maggin, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Vince Colletta), the issue ends by revealing that in the years since, both Batgirl and Robin knew each other's identities (and if you know Robin's secret identity, then you would have to be a pretty big moron to not also know Batman's)...

I don't know why, exactly, but it appears clear that that decision did not sit well with someone in editorial at DC Comics, as within a couple of years, there was a specific story in Detective Comics (back when it took over the anthology format of Batman Family) in issue #489 (by Jack C. Harris, Don Heck and Vince Colleta), where Batgirl loses her memory. Robin eventually helps her regain her memory, but in the process of doing so, he asks if she would be willing to erase the parts of her memory where she knew Robin and Batman's secret identities and she actually agreed!!

That's kind of crazy, right? What a weird thing for Robin to ask!

The story was not received all that well. Editorial noted it in the letter column for Detective Comics #494....

It is rare to note that a story caused some controversy among DC Comics creators. The problem for Batgirl is that the anthology format was dropped soon after this story. While Batgirl was able to remain a back-up story until 1982, eventually she lost her regular feature in the series. So how would the issue be addressed?

Detective Comics #526 celebrated the 500th issue by Batman in Detective Comics and it guest-starred pretty much everyone in the Bat-family. Gerry Conway wrote it and Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala drew it. This was one of Batgirl's very rare appearances between her back-up feature ending and her hanging up her cape for good in the Batgirl Special #1 in 1988.

In it, Conway revealed that not only that she still remembers Batman and Robin's identities, but that it is pretty much an insult that they ever thought that she COULDN'T figure it out...

That's a fairly direct response over the reactions that a number of DC Comics creators had when the initial twist was put into place to keep Batgirl from knowing their identities.

If anyone else has a suggestion for a future Meta-Messages, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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