Since his debut in 1939, Batman has become one of the most iconic characters in comic book history and in all of pop culture. Through the years, the Dark Knight has mentored and fought alongside many sidekicks. Robin, Nightwing and Red Hood are often the first names that come to mind. However, several other heroes are beloved members of the Bat-Family. For example, Batgirl and Batwoman are two of the most underappreciated members of Batman’s team of supporting characters. Thankfully, Kate Kane is finally getting a chance in the spotlight. Kate Kane recently made her Arrowverse debut in the “Elseworlds” crossover and she’s getting her own show. Batgirl will be in the upcoming Birds of Prey movie but, instead of Barbara Gordon, fans will see Cassandra Cain. Still, it shouldn't be long before Barbara makes her long overdue big screen debut (The Birds of Prey screenwriter, Christina Hodson, has been tabbed to write a script for Batgirl).
As two of the most notable members of the Bat-Family, Batgirl and Batwoman are often compared to each other. Many fans argue that Barbara is better than Kate because the former has history on her side. Others argue that Kate is a more fresh character that represents a progressive society. Barbara has fan-favorite relationships, like her romance with Dick Grayson, while Kate is more of a lone wolf. So, which one is the superior hero? CBR has decided to take a look at 10 reasons why Batwoman is better than Batgirl and 10 reasons why Batgirl is better.
20 BATWOMAN: RELATIONSHIP WITH POLICE
This point can be considered a bit of a wash. Barbara Gordon’s father is Jim Gordon, so it’s safe to say that Batgirl has a good relationship with the police. Meanwhile, Kate Kane’s relationship with Renee Montoya also allows Batwoman to have a fairly productive association with the police.
Renee is one of Gotham’s most notable police officers and she has teamed with Kate several times throughout the years in order to fight crime. The two characters also had a romantic relationship which ultimately fell apart. Regardless, having a bond with one of Gotham’s best cops is certainly a check in the plus column for Batwoman.
19 BATGIRL: DAD IS JIM GORDON
The relationship between Batman and Jim Gordon is one of the most famous bonds in DC Comics. The two characters have been connected from the start where Batman goes, Jim is likely to follow. Naturally, DC expanded this relationship so that it included Jim’s family. As Jim’s daughter, Barbara Gordon’s relationship with Batman is unlike anyone else in the Bat-Family.
Some interpretations of this bond have warped it in some weird ways, like the iteration seen in the animated adaptation of The Killing Joke. But, at its best, Batgirl is close with the Dark Knight and they have a strong teacher-student bond.
18 BATWOMAN: EMBRACES LOVE LIFE
Through the years, Batgirl has had a few remarkable relationships; her romance with Dick Grayson is one of DC’s most famous love stories. Recently, Barbara Gordon briefly dated Ethan Cobblepot, the son of the Penguin. But, overall, Batgirl’s love life doesn’t seem to influence her stories the way that Kate Kane’s does. Depending on the series, Kate’s date nights are frequently shown, which creates a more realistic character beneath Batwoman’s mask.
Featuring Kate Kane’s love life further makes her a dynamic character given that, by doing so, the writers are allowing her to represent a progressive society (just a few years ago, Kate’s dates probably wouldn’t be shown in the pages of a comic book).
17 BATGIRL: RELATIONSHIP WITH NIGHTWING
Maybe it’s wrong to essentially judge Batgirl on the merits of her relationships but she has some compelling connections. For example, the on-again, off-again relationship between Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson is one of the most notable romances in DC Comics.
Both Barbara and Dick are members of the Bat-Family. Their love story has experienced some peaks and valleys and, after Flashpoint, their romance was essentially reset along with most of the DCU. Nowadays, many fans still hope that, some day, the two heroes will legitimately end up together. Until then, depending on the continuity, the hints of their romance will have to do.
16 BATWOMAN: SOLO HERO
Batwoman has been associated with some teams and organizations; namely, she’s fought alongside the Bat-Family and she’s been a part of Batman Incorporated. But, by and large, Batwoman is a lone wolf. She’s not tied down by constant memberships to other teams. As a result, Kate Kane is better equipped to focus on her own missions, which makes her a more successful hero.
On the other hand, Batgirl has served with many of DC’s notable teams, like the Justice League, and she’s a leading member of the Birds of Prey. These associations are commendable but, when comparing these two heroes, Batwoman has the upper hand because she (mostly) stands on her own.
15 BATGIRL: HISTORY
When comparing Batgirl and Batwoman, history means something, Barbara Gordon, or Batgirl, has been a consistent part of the Bat-Family since 1967. Meanwhile, Kate Kane, or Batwoman, only debuted in 2006. History is on Batgirl’s side.
Many fans tend to prefer Barbara because she’s been around for such a long time. The years have given fans many Batgirl stories so they feel more connected with her than Batwoman. That feeling may change with time but, for now, Batgirl has the advantage in this respect. Some fans may argue that, because Kate is a newer character, she can provide opportunities for fresh stories. But Barbara’s history should be cherished.
14 BATWOMAN: TEAM PLAYER (WHEN NEEDED)
Though Batwoman tends to fight on her own, she can thrive on teams, too. When she does work with the Bat-Family, she’s a valuable addition to the team. Plus, for a while, she even co-led Batman’s team in Detective Comics.
In this series, the Dark Knight thinks so highly of Kate Kane that he asks her to help mentor a team of young heroes. The lineup includes Red Robin, Clayface, Spoiler and Orphan. Kate helps mold these characters into capable heroes but, unfortunately, the team falls apart due to Kate’s lethal actions (and Bruce's reaction to them).
13 BATGIRL: FIRMLY PART OF BAT-FAMILY
Beyond Batgirl’s history, Barbara Gordon also has an advantage over Batwoman in regards to each hero’s bond with the Bat-Family. Batwoman is often viewed as an outsider; she teams with the Bat-Family when necessary but she often stands apart from it. Batgirl is practically the polar opposite; she’s firmly connected with Batman and his network of heroes.
Batgirl frequently works with Nightwing and she has mentored Spoiler and Orphan. Even when Barbara couldn’t physically fight crime anymore, she remained firmly involved with the Bat-Family in her role as Oracle. Barbara thrives as part of a team, which is one of the many reasons she’s such a fan-favorite character.
12 BATWOMAN: SOLDIER MENTALITY
Above all else, the Dark Knight tries to keep his war on crime casualty-free, at least in terms of his direct crime-fighting methods. The Caped Crusader instills this code in his sidekicks and followers and, for the most part, they tend to obey. But, when a member of the Bat-Family breaks this rule, the consequences can be awful.
In Detective Comics, Batman gave Clayface a chance to be a hero. At first, Basil Karlo is successful but he ultimately relapses and returns to his villainous ways. Kate Kane takes him out an, subsequently, Batman is furious. But, using her military mentality, Kate sacrificed Basil for the safety of Gotham City. For better or worse, Kate saved lives with her decisive action.
11 BATGIRL: QUICKLY PROVES HERSELF
Plenty of characters take time to prove themselves as capable heroes. This pattern tends to be especially true in the Bat-Family. Typically, Batman’s sidekicks have to slowly earn the right to stand on their own. (Let’s ignore the argument that the Dark Knight tends to throw his sidekicks into combat when they could use more training.) Batgirl broke this trend, though; right away, she proved that she could fend for herself.
In Detective Comics #359, Barbara Gordon saves Bruce Wayne when Killer Moth tries to take him. In this story, Barbara was dressed in a feminine take on the Batman costume; when she rescues Bruce, the Caped Crusader takes notice.
10 BATWOMAN: MILITARY TRAINING
Many members of the Bat-Family rely on Batman’s training for their skills. Kate Kane acquired her abilities through different means. Kate attended West Point, where she received elite military training. Kate excelled in her classes; she was at the top of her class. Though she had to leave school because they disagreed with her status as a lesbian, she still went on to thrive using the skills she had gained.
It’s difficult to compare military training with Batman’s methods. But it’ safe to say that Kate’s lessons were quite different than the ones given by the Dark Knight. Kate is able to succeed without technology whereas Batman is noticeably augmented by his accessories.
9 BATGIRL: INHERITED CODE OF ETHICS
When it comes to her crime-fighting style, Batgirl heavily borrows from her father, Jim Gordon, who is arguably Gotham’s most famous cop. When Barbara Gordon was growing up, she constantly witnessed her father’s code of ethics and, naturally, Barbara went on to incorporate them into her own morals when she became a superhero.
Some fans may argue this influence is a weakness; by following Jim’s example, Barbara is bound to suffer from the same potential shortcomings. However, for the most part, Batgirl has been a successful hero and her code of ethics, including her sense of duty and justice, is a significant reason why.
8 BATWOMAN: ADDS DIVERSITY TO DC
When the new version of Kate Kane arrived in 2006, she took the world by storm. As one of DC’s first big-name lesbian heroes, she was quite a controversial character. Over the years, this controversy has (mostly) faded away; now, Kate is one of DC’s most popular characters and she’s getting her own show in the Arrowverse.
With society becoming more accepting of diverse characters in the media, Kate is a perfect choice to symbolize this shift. She’s a beloved hero and, as a member of the Bat-Family, she provides countless storytelling possibilities. Batwoman is primed to become even more prominent in DC’s famed collection of heroes because she represents modern society.
7 BATGIRL: MENTORS SPOILER/ORPHAN
Spoiler and Orphan are two of the most recognizable members of the modern Bat-Family and they owe a lot of their success to Barbara Gordon. Barbara has mentored Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain and, in some ways, she has been even more instrumental in their training than Batman himself.
Batwoman has mentored some characters, too, but Batgirl’s mentees are more successful. Both Stephanie and Cassandra have followed in Barbara’s footstep as Batgirl, which further speaks to her legacy. Spoiler and Orphan were both on Batman’s team in Detective Comics and, while the team crumbled, their inclusion showed how much Batman values their skills.
6 BATWOMAN: STANDS ON HER OWN
There’s something admirable about heroes who purposefully follow in the footsteps of others. Barbara Gordon, after learning of Batman’s adventures, became a crimefighter in her own right. But, given this motivation, she would always find herself in the Dark Knight’s shadow. While Batwoman was also inspired by Batman, she struck out on her own and tried to avoid Barbara’s path. As a result, Kate Kane has been able to make a name for herself because she’s remained fairly separate from Batman and his sidekicks.
While Batwoman was quickly incorporated into the Bat-Family, she’s never been a part of the inner circle because she’s not “one of them.” Kate wouldn’t have it any other way.
5 BATGIRL: FRIENDSHIP WITH IVY
Batgirl isn’t just known her for relationships with her fellow heroes. She also has a notable bond with one of Batman’s famous villains, Poison Ivy. Nowadays, Pamela Isley tends to weaponize plants in order to get revenge against a society that continues to exploit them. But, once upon a time, Pamela was best buds with Barbara Gordon.
At least in Batman: The Animated Series, these two characters were best friends in their teenage years. They went to the same school, where Barbara was an excellent student and Pamela was a devoted young scientist. Unfortunately, Pamela’s love for science placed her in a freak lab accident, which gave her superpowers. The rest, as they say, is history.
4 BATWOMAN: OUTSIDER PERSPECTIVE
Many fans point to Batgirl’s firm connections to the rest of the Bat-Family as one of the reasons she’s better than Batwoman. But Kate Kane’s status as a relative outsider can be considered one of her greatest strengths. Many of the Dark Knight’s sidekicks become blindly loyal to him; after he trains them and works with them, they stubbornly follow him through thick and thin. Batwoman doesn’t suffer from this potential liability.
As previously mentioned, Kate is her own hero. She’ll work with Batman and his allies but she’s able to separate herself from the team’s typical dynamic, which consists of blind obedience to the Caped Crusader.
3 BATGIRL: RIVALRY WITH EVIL BROTHER
Plenty of heroes have to fight evil siblings. However, the rivalry between Barbara Gordon and James Gordon Jr. might just take the cake. From an early age, James displayed psychopathic tendencies; he seemingly harmed everything from animals to one of Barbara’s friends. Eventually, James becomes a bonafide criminal and Barbara has to work with her dad to take her brother down. James Jr. later kidnaps Barbara and severely wounds her. James Jr. also attempts to harm Barbara’s mother and, again, Batgirl has to stop him.
Few superheroes have to deal with such a painful amount of inner-family turmoil and Barbara deserves some credit for persevering despite the best (or worst) intentions of her brother.
2 BATWOMAN: FAMILY TIES
Unsurprisingly, both Batwoman and Batgirl have strong connections to Batman. Batgirl is Jim Gordon’s daughter, which creates a compelling relationship between the Dark Knight, Jim and Batgirl. But, in a way, Batwoman has an even more intimate relationship with Bruce Wayne. Kate Kane is Bruce’s cousin; Martha Wayne was Kate’s aunt.
Given the tragic way that Bruce lost his mother, Kate holds a special place in his heart (she’s one of the few remaining relatives on Martha’s side remaining in Bruce’s life). Blood is thicker than water; though Batman and Jim Gordon have a close relationship, it’s hard to top the familial link between Bruce and Kate.
1 BATGIRL: TENURE AS ORACLE
When the Joker hurt Barbara Gordon in The Killing Joke, it seemed that Batgirl’s career was over. She was paralyzed, so she’d be unable to fight crime on the streets. Enter Oracle. Barbara took on a new role as a source of information for various superheroes. As Oracle, Barbara proved herself to be an intellectual genius who had mastered computers and other technology. Using this knowledge, Barbara would share information with other heroes and members of law enforcement.
Plenty of characters would have given up if they were in Barbara’s shoes. But the former Batgirl persevered. Though Barbara eventually returned to her old role, she proved her worth in a fresh way when she became Oracle.