Shell's guide to... Batgirl

This is part two in my series of comic book character guides to. My first one is here and was a guide to Catwoman. Today I am going to give you a guide to Batgirl...


1. Bat-girl was originally introduced alongside Batwoman as a sidekick to counter the accusations of homoerotic subtext between Batman and Robin! They were intended to be their love interestes respectively. 

2. Aside from those few early appearances she next showed up on the third series of the 1960s Batman TV show played by Yvonne Craig and became a hugely popular character.

3. The character of Batgirl was then properly introduced in the comics as Barbara Gordon who first appeared in 1967 and was the daughter of Gotham Police commissioner (and Batman ally) Jim Gordon. 


4. Her first appearance was in Detective Comics #356 and depicted her driving to a costume party dressed as a female Batman when she helps stop a kidnap attempt of Bruce Wayne. 

5. After that Barbara has a taste for crime fighting although Bruce tells her to stop as she's a girl. Barbara doesn't listen.

6. Aside from her Batgirl persona Barbara is the head of Gotham City library having a Ph.D in library science. So that's Dr. Gordon to you.

7. Batgirl became increasingly popular with comic book readers who wanted her to feature in her own stories. DC responded by posting an open letter in the back of a Detective Comics issue saying: "I'd like to say a few words about the reaction some readers have to Batgirl. These are readers who remember Batwoman and the other Bat-girls from years back ... They were there because romance seemed to be needed in Batman's life. But thanks to the big change and a foresighted editor, these hapless females are gone for good. In their place stands a girl who is a capable crime-fighter, a far cry from Batwoman who constantly had to be rescued [by] Batman."

8. Over the next few decades Batgirl appears regularly fighting in the Justice League, Worlds Finest, and alongside Batman and Superman.

9. In the early 1970s she reveals her alter ego to her father Commissioner Gordon as well as serving as a member of the United States House of Representatives.

10. Batgirl gets her first starring role in 1975 in a new series called Batman Family. She works as part of a duo with the original Robin a.k.a Dick Grayson. 

11. In 1985 DC reboots all it's characters and makes Barbara Gordon Jim Gordon's niece of whom he adopts for.... reasons....?! 

12. In 1988 Batgirl Special #1, a one shot issue, Batgirl is for some reason retired. 

13. This is where it gets controversial. In the same year she appears in The Killing Joke by Alan Moore. Despite not being a part of the story, the Joker shoots and paralyses Barbara Gordon to prove a point to Batman.

14. This story still causes heated debates today about using violence towards female characters as plot devices to further male characters stories. Legendary comic book writer Gail Simone has been particularly vocal about it over the years coining the term 'women in refrigerators'  after a storyline in a Green Lantern comic where he finds his girlfriends mutilated body in a fridge. It's well worth looking up what Gail has to say on the subject, she makes some great points. Alan Moore has since said he regrets the treatment of Batgirl in The Killing Joke, but it is still a sore point amongst fans.


15. Comic book writer Kim Yale wasn't happy with the treatment Barbara had been given, and with the help of her husband comic book writer John Ostrander, brought back Barbara as the Oracle. One of the first prominent comic book characters to have a disability Oracle was the go to for information, and computer hacking wizard who happened to be wheelchair bound. (I'll talk more about the Oracle another time.)

16. Whilst Barbara took on the mantel of Oracle a few women took on the role of Batgirl. Most notably Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown. (I will do a separate guide to to both characters some time!)  

17. In 2011 DC rebooted all of their comics with The New 52. It retold all the characters origins and allowed a jumping on point for new readers. During this relaunch Barbara Gordon takes on the role of Batgirl again.

18. In this new reboot Barbara is said to have regained the use of her legs at a clinic in Africa and the story continues three years after with her role as Oracle still as canon and suffering with PTSD and with Gail Simone as the writer. 

19. In the New 52 Batgirl also joins the rebooted Birds of Prey, alongside Black Canary and Huntress. 

20. In 2014, after 5 popular volumes Batgirl is rebooted again. This time Barbara is depicted as a Ph.D student moving to Burnside (a hipster borough of Gotham). Although this series is a lot lighter it features her struggles with PTSD and also ties in her time as Oracle by featuring Barbara using her computer skills to investigate criminals. (Also it features the beautiful artwork of Babs Tarr). 

21. Batgirl of Burnside runs for three volumes until in 2016 when DC was rebooted again under the title or Rebirth. Hope Larson took over the writing of Batgirl but continued with the same feel and tone as Burnside. 

22. Batgirl also appeared as a main character in Rebirths reboot of the Birds of Prey, this time called Batgirl and the Birds of Prey a sisterly gang of tough crime fighters, as well as being part of the DC Bombshells run.

23. Barbara Gordon is a much loved character not only for her fighting abilities but also for her fierce intelligence and kind nature. She is often depicted as a slightly awkward bookish nerd who is often self deprecating and a big admirer of Batman. She is capable, strong, and is a great leader.
And this brings us bang up to date with Barbara Gordon and Batgirl. Now for some recommended reading...

1. Batgirl the Greatest Stories Ever Told. This is a collection of early Batgirl stories that aren't essential but make a fun read. You're best bet of finding this is in a local comic shop.
2. Showcase presents Batgirl Vol.1 (here) A collection of some of her earlier appearances at an affordable price.
3. Batgirl Vol.1 The Darkest Reflection. (here) This is a great point to start with Batgirl and is the first volume of the Gail Simone run and goes on for 5 volumes. 
4. Batgirl Vol.1 Batgirl of Burnside. (here)This is the start of the Stewart/Fletcher/Tarr run and is another great starting point, especially if you want something a little lighter. This is collected into 3 books.
5. Batgirl Vol.1 Beyond Burnside. (here) This is the first book of the current run of Batgirl stories and so far is collected into 2 books.
6. Batgirl & the Birds of Prey Vol.1 (here). Girl power, female friendship and general badassery!

Other...
1. Batman '66. Batgirl is introduced in series three of this classic TV show.
2. Birds of Prey (2002). Batgirl features in the fun animated TV series based on the Birds of Prey and is well worth looking up on YouTube.  
3. Batman Lego Movie. Batgirl also features in this years Lego movie and is pretty badass!

So that's my guide to Batgirl. Hope you enjoyed it! Next time: Black Canary.


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