For years, the name "Batman" has been connected to various blockbuster movies, video games and TV shows. The character is also responsible for introducing an array of pop culture heroes and villains like Robin, Nightwing, Joker, Harley Quinn, all of whom have been featured on screen one way or another. However, one character who has been sorely neglected for some time who is finally about to get her due is Barbara Gordon's Batgirl.
Following her appearance on the Batman series of the '60s, we wouldn't see Batgirl on the screen again for decades, outside of the occasional animated project. Then, Batman and Robin happened, introducing the character of Batgirl, but not Barbara Gordon, which was a depiction widely trashed by fans. We got another shot at a live-action version of the character in the short-lived Birds of Prey adaptation that aired on The WB/CW network. While Dina Meyer's portrayal of Barbara Gordon was widely praised by fans and critics, the show didn't make it past thirteen episodes. It was announced that Joss Whedon would be writing and directing a Batgirl feature film in the very near future, so CBR is brushing up everyone's knowledge of Batgirl history with these 15 little-known facts.
15 SEVEN WOMEN HAVE TAKEN UP THE BATGIRL MANTLE
In comic books, civilian identities of superheroes change from time to time. This is usually caused by the retirement or death of one hero who wishes to pass on their heroic identity to another to carry on the fight against evil. While Barbara Gordon wasn't the first Batgirl, she is the most memorable among the half dozen of women who have assumed the identity.
Betty Kane was the original Bat-Girl back in the early '60s but the character of was revamped to coincide with the popularity of the Batgirl on the '60s Batman TV series. Barbara would keep the identity for the next twenty years until the events of The Killing Joke, in which she was paralyzed after being shot by The Joker. Helena Bertinelli, Cassandra Cain, Charlotte Gage-Radcliffe, Stephanie Brown, and, most recently, Tiffany Fox have assumed the Batgirl persona throughout the years.
14 BATGIRL DEBUTED ON TV BEFORE SHE WAS IN THE COMICS
The original Bat-Girl and Bat-Woman were tossed as the Gold Age of comics came to a close, which lead to a change in leadership at DC, beginning a slightly more serious Silver Age. It was at this time that the Batman TV series starring Adam West was picked up for network television, camp and all. Who could forget the on-screen comic-style sound effects and Batman's go-go dance? It was a very silly show, but it had a huge influence on the comics of the time.
DC editor Julie Schwartz was asked to come up with a new female character in order to get more female viewers into the show. One of the producers suggested that the character be the daughter of the already-established Commissioner James Gordon. She would work as a librarian, but eventually would adopt the identity of Batgirl. Thus, Barbara Gordon's Batgirl was born.
13 BARBARA GORDON GAVE UP BEING BATGIRL TO BE A POLITICIAN
Barbara Gordon had retired from her role as Batgirl on several occasions, with one of the most memorable being when she decided to change her career and go into politics. In a storyline that mirrored the real life struggle of equality for working women going on at the time, Barbara hung up her tights to start a new chapter in her life after coming out to her father in the '70s.
After being elected to the United States House of Representatives, Barbara jetted off to Washington, DC. Gotham had lost not only Commissioner Gordon's daughter, but Batgirl herself. However, as with most of the retirement stories in comic books, Barbara wasn't gone for too long and returned to Gotham, and her life as Batgirl, the following year.
12 BOOSTER GOLD TRIED TO SAVE BATGIRL FROM THE KILLING JOKE
The Killing Joke is one of the most infamous storylines in comic book history, which sees Joker finding out who Batgirl really is, hunting her down and shooting her, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Despite the general reaction of being an unnecessary act of violence perpetrated against a female character, it is most often depicted in the DC Universe as an inevitability.
However, the story "Ladies' Night" from The Brave and The Bold anthology series, took place just before The Killing Joke. It shows Zatanna having a vision of Barbara being crippled, her and Wonder Woman agonizing over the fact that they weren't able to change the course of history. Furthermore, in the pages of Booster Gold, we saw the time-traveling hero make multiple attempts to stop Joker's attack on Barbara. Unfortunately he fails every time, with the implication being that it was something meant to happen.
11 THE FIRST LIFE SHE SAVED WAS BATMAN'S
While Barbara's entry into the Batverse was created with the '60s TV series in mind with Yvonne Craig taking on the role, Barbara Gordon was introduced in the comics in issue #359 of Detective Comics. Her transition into Batgirl was by complete accident, a fluke costume she made for a party, but it is one she hasn't back down from since.
Barbara had dressed up as a female version of Batman and inadvertently intercepted Killer Moth's attempt to kidnap the Caped Crusader. She put her skills as a police officer's daughter to good use, rescuing Batman and then helping him defeated Killer Moth. While Batman initially dismissed Batgirl's crime-fighting ways based solely on her gender, she's proved herself time and again until he changed his mind.
10 THERE HAVE BEEN THREE LIVE-ACTION VERSIONS
Yvonne Craig's debuted as Batgirl in the '60s wasn't the only live-action depiction fans received. The next would come in the form of Alicia Silverstone in 1997's dreadful Batman & Robin. While the movie itself was a box office and critical flop, Silverstone's charmless performance as Alfred's niece turned Batgirl was underwhelming and uninspired.
However, Barbara would get another chance to appear in the flesh when The WB (now The CW) picked up Birds of Prey in 2002. Dina Meyer was cast as Barbara Gordon, this time as Oracle, who acts as a mentor and information broker to younger heroes, Huntress and Black Canary. Oracle would resume her Batgirl persona on a few occasions throughout the series with the aid of a techno-implant that allowed her to temporarily walk again. While the show only lasted one season, Meyer's portrayal of Barbara is considered one of the best parts.
9 SHE WAS BEST FRIENDS WITH POISON IVY
Poison Ivy has been a thorn in the Bat-family for decades, pun intended. A character who is seen more as an anti-hero, Poison Ivy typically uses her powers against individuals who have harmed the environment or eco-sphere. She's also been a long-time companion of Harley Quinn's. However, did you know that she and Batgirl used to be BFFs?
While this isn't explicitly detailed in the comics, several episodes of The Batman Animated Series revealed that not only did Poison Ivy and Batgirl go to the same high school, they were also best friends. Barbara was the Grade-A student and stellar gymnast, while Pamela Isley spent a lot of time in the science lab, leading to an accident that gave her the power to control plants and project pheromones. Barbara saves Batman from Ivy's mind control, then the two take down her former classmate.
8 THE NEW 52 GAVE BARBARA HER LEGS BACK
As if crippling Batgirl wasn't controversial enough, when the The New 52 came around and gave her back the ability to walk again, it tore open some old wounds for fans. While The Killing Joke had still happened, we ended up with a very different Barbara Gordon who was once again doing back-flips off buildings. Batgirl had gotten her own solo title again, but the younger, more modern, Barbara was able to walk again thanks to experimental physiotherapy.
Gail Simone, series writer, had spent years crafting Barbara's new superhero identity as Oracle, had also defended the decision to have up and walking around again. The treatment Barbara had undergone in South Africa appeared to have worked wonders on her. Simone states the story is based on real life cases of rehabilitation, but it still didn't go over well with fans who had been supporting Oracle the past 23 years.
7 HER BEST FRIEND IS TRANSGENDER
When it was announced earlier this year that Joss Whedon would be helming a Batgirl movie based on the New 52 version, fans were ecstatic and even more so at the possibility of having Barbara Gordon's best friend, Alysia Yeoh, being featured in it. In a groundbreaking portrayal, Alysia was introduced early on in Batgirl's solo series has Barbara's new roommate. An activist, painter and aspiring chef, Alysia quickly becomes Bab's closest friend and confidante, leading Alysia to eventually come out to her as trans.
Alysia has proved to be a popular character among fans based on the (rare) positive characterization of a transwoman in comics and her compassion. The character was so popular, she was even carried over into the later series Batgirl of Burnside, which saw her marry longtime love, Jo.
6 SHE WAS ENGAGED TO DICK GRAYSON
One of Batgirl's suitors was Dick Grayson's Nightwing, the original Robin. Having fought together side by side with Batman for years, Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson seemed to be an inevitable pairing. Though, when they were younger and attended the same school, they didn't always see eye to eye, especially when they were fighting over Bruce Wayne's attention.
The two got together soon after Dick swapped his identity from Robin to Nightwing and after Batgirl's traumatic experience in The Killing Joke storyline. The two would eventually be engaged, but broke it off due to the constant dangers of being superheroes. Although, in several parallel realities, readers have seen the two of them married. They remain the best of friends and an impressive fighting duo to this day.
5 FANS HAVE PROTESTED OVER BATGIRL REGAINING HER MOBILITY
While many fans embraced Barbara Gordon's Batgirl regaining her mobility following an experimental surgery to help her walk again, there are some fans who felt it was a betrayal of the Barbara Gordon character. Despite being paralyzed, she continued fighting crime for decades under the codename Oracle, a computer whiz and information broker who worked with various heroes in the field. As the wheelchair-bound Oracle, she became an inspiration to people with disabilities.
There's a Tumblr dedicated to making arts, crafts even food related to Oracle in order to emphasize how much of an inspiration she is to the fan community and how people would feel if they no longer had that role model to look up to. Some critics feel like Oracle is a stronger character than Batgirl ever was, because becoming Oracle had given her a personal reason to fight crime, something Barbara had not had as Batgirl.
4 BATGIRL'S CIVILIAN JOB WAS AS A LIBRARIAN
From a hotshot journalist to a billionaire playboy, many DC characters have pretty cool day-to-day aliases. Sadly, Barbara Gordon spent her days telling people to be quiet and collecting overdue fines as a librarian at the Gotham City Library. This actually turned out to be a clever analogy of the women's rights movements of the '60s and set the character apart from other shallow heroines. Ironically, it's the perfect cover, as no one would expect the local librarian to take up martial arts and fighting crime.
While we haven't seen much of Barbara's librarian past these days, she is much more accustomed to surfing the web and putting her tech skills into practice in the fight against evil. The British Film Institute even ranked Barbara in their list of "10 Best Librarians On Screen," although we can't imagine there would be much competition.
3 THE NEW 52 ERASED TWO FORMER BATGIRLS
Of all the women who have worn the cowl besides Barbara Gordon, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain stand out as the most unique. Stephanie is the only person to have played both Robin and Batgirl, and Cassandra was the first Batgirl to get her own solo series. However, DC's New 52 not only took Barbara out of her wheelchair, it also completely erased the Batgirl careers of Stephanie and Cassandra (for a time anyway).
At first, it made sense to give Barbara Gordon her rightful time as the "iconic" Batgirl, but fans cried sexism when the four male Robins had made it into the New 52 reboot while two of the Batgirls were dropped from existence. Stephanie would eventually return in 2014 under the alias of Spoiler and Cassandra returned the following year under her Orphan moniker.
2 YVONNE CRAIG'S BATGIRL NEARLY HAD HER OWN SPIN-OFF
Yvonne Craig's turn as Batgirl was so popular that ABC even considered her own spin-off from Adam West's Batman series. Even though she had only appeared in a handful of episodes, she frequently stole the spotlight from West, which was no easy feat. The was was a camp-fest and Craig's purple suit and witty one-liners went hand in hand with its over-the-top tone.
Both DC and executive producers of the show wanted to give Craig her own show. Unfortunately, when Craig joined in 1967, it was the show's final season and any plans for a Batgirl continuation were dropped. NBC had stepped in, hoping to broker a deal but it turned out that someone has already destroyed all the sets. So, NBC deemed it too expensive start all over again and pulled the plug. Such a shame.
1 BATGIRL DATED SUPERMAN
Batman and Superman are one of the most notorious partnerships in comic book history. Whether they're fighting next to each other as members of the Justice League or trying to kill each other in some parallel reality, fans can't get enough of this dynamic duo. Although, Superman had turned his attention to another member of the Bat-family at one point.
While Barbara Gordon was taking a break from being Batgirl, she was elected as a member of Congress and moved to DC. After a night of crime-fighting, Batman suggested to Superman that he (Clark Kent) may want to take Barbara out the next time he was in DC covering a story. The two ended up going on a date, which ended up with them donning their costumed identities to fight a bad guy. There was no follow-up date.
Which of these facts surprised you the most? Let us know in the comments!