After a few attempts by DC to bring in a female character to quash the homoerotic subtext that was being thrown around by comic fans when it came to Batman and Robin nothing really stuck. So when Batgirl, Barbara Gordon was introduced to the immensely popular 1966 television show with Yvonne Craig setting hearts aflutter and giving young girls a hero to look up to it was a no branier to add her to the comic continuity.Commissioner Gordon’s daughter Babs wore the cape and cowl for years until the events of The Killing Joke left her paralyzed but other characters have since taken the role with aplomb. So let’s see some of the great stories involving Batgirl then shall we?.
Cassandra Cain is a lot of people’s favourite incarnations of Batgirl and I can understand that as she was completely different to the others. Raised by Lady Shiva and David Cain, she was brought up to be a merciless fighting machine without the ability to read or even speak. Despite her upbringing she decided to fight for good and first appeared during the huge No Man’s Land event and became hugely popular. There are some retcon issues in this six issue miniseries and after extensive training she can now speak but hey ho the meat of this story sees her father attempting to murder Barbara Gordon. After she defeats him and has a chance to kill him, she actually shows mercy and spares him. This leads Batman to adopt her officially, giving her a loving family for the first time.
22. The Assassination Of Batgirl-1980
A short story in which Cormorant the assassin (who turns up years later….and on this list) sets up a weird dummy to explode if anyone but Batgirl touches it. As she tries to retrieve it from a flagpole she is attacked by a sniping Cormorant…..what a dick.
21. The Head Splitters-1971
This backup story in the pages of two Detective comics issues is a batshit insane bronze age piece of nonsense straight out of a Hammer Horror movie.A crazy wig maker is extorting money from people by using the wigs to torture people. Batgirl gets caught up in the action and her wig is set to crush! OH NO….absolute madness but so much fun.
20. Folie A Deux-1998
Another in a long line of writer’s takes on an origin story and this one comes courtesy of Kelley Puckett who is one of the less talked about of the mainstream writers of the 90s which is a shame as I liked his style. The art comes from the dynamic duo of Terry Dodson and Kevin Nowlan which is quite the 90s dream team. A quick two parter that nicely gets to the heart of Batgirl and her motivations.
Part of Stephanie Brown’s run as Batgirl, the first arc of which I’ll discuss later had lots of cool moments and side characters. One of those characters was a GCPD detective Nick Gage (not the wrestler) who seemed like he was going to be a love interest for Steph. In a wonderful reversal of tropes the badarse detective is saved like a baby by the beautiful young woman who makes light of the situation whilst striking and awesome pose. A great moment in the way too short series.
18. Father’s Day-2003
A really sweet issue in which Cass Cain goes to visit her horrendous father in jail and beats the shit out of him after finding out even more disturbing facts about him than we already knew. As I mentioned before Cass had a disgraceful upbringing filled with abuse and pain so at the end of the issue Batman walks into the cave with a little gift celebrating the anniversary of her becoming Batgirl. She rejects her biological birth date in favour of her birth within the bat family.
17. The Unmasking Of Batgirl-1972
A hugely important issue for bronze age Batgirl as it’s the one where she is elected congress in Washington D.C and it was a development that was more than a flash in the pan. They kept that story going for the better part of a decade. That Neal Adams cover makes it look like some creepy psycho sexual thing going on but that’s actually Jim Gordon in the chair and it’s not nearly as creepy as it looks.
16. The Last Batgirl Story-1988
A bittersweet sendoff for Barbara Gordon as Batgirl as this special one shot leads into the events of Alan Moore’s controversial and violent “The Killing Joke” where she was shot, humiliated and paralyzed by The Joker. When Babs is investigating a murder she comes face to face with an old villain who had once tried to assassinate her and we find out the emotional scars she has from that. She ends the story hanging up the cape and cowl and knowing what is just about to happen to her it’s all incredibly sad. Lovely art from Barry Kitson.
15. Black Canary/Oracle: Birds Of Prey: One Man’s Hell-1996
Again, not technically a Batgirl story as Babs was Oracle by this point but like I say the chances of me doing an Oracle list are slim so I’m throwing the odd Oracle story in here as Batgirl will always be a part of her. Chuck Dixon teams her up with Black Canary who hadn’t really been doing anything in the comics at this time and it turned into a hugely popular and fun team. A globetrotting adventure with some wonderful art from Gary Frank.
14. The Lesson-2011
Back to Bryan Q. Miller’s run examining Stephanie Brown as Batgirl and the best parts of this two issue arc look at the relationship between Steph and her reluctant mentor Barbara Gordon. Obviously Babs was the first Batgirl so is very protective of the cowl but her time as Oracle has helped her mature and she grows into the role and begins to become fond of Steph. At this point in the series they were full blown friends but due to Steph’s personal life mixed with the pressure’s of Batgirl she felt she needed to strike out on her own. That relationship was the heart of the series.
13. Day One-1993
Batman Adventures was a fun series that tied into the amazing Bruce Timm, Paul Dini animated series and this fun little one shot focuses on our girl. Fun fact for all the Harley Quinn fans out there (and there are loads now) this was her first appearance in the comics after her immense popularity on the tv show. A costume party is crashed by Quinn, Poison Ivy and Catwoman.
One of the most famous and notorious issues of Cass Cain’s ongoing series is this one where she takes on a group of C.I.A agents whilst defending a mystery man. She dodges bullets due to her insane ability to read body language she can see when they’re about to pull the trigger. She then proceeds to beat the living shit out of the entire group, leaving them lying in their own blood. She does it with a wry smile which makes it even more satisfying. So good.
11. Terror In The Third Dimension-2010
What a cool little issue this is that sees Supergirl come over to hang out with Steph Brown in the most casual “coming out to play?” way ever which is hilarious.Steph takes her for a wee tour of her college campus and they go to watch Dracula at the cinema and both bond over how lonely he is whilst the rest of the audience laughs at the cheesy nature of the movie. I won’t go into everything but let’s just say weird things happen and the duo have to go around Gotham slaying vampires….it’s loads of fun.
10. Photo Finish-1997
What a stunner of a cover from Hugh Fleming. This is a post crisis take on the first team up between Babs and Robin written by Devin Grayson as the cute duo stop a museum robbery and take down the culprits. Duncan Fegredo’s art is really adorable here and it really creates a good chemistry between Batgirl and Robin is off the charts. A really cool little one shot.
9. Silent Knight-2000/2001
After meeting Cass Cain in the events of No Man’s Land readers were hungry for more so she became the first Batgirl to get her own ongoing series. The first lengthy arc introduced people who had previously never seen her to the silent assassin and her insane skills. The excellent, horror movie-esque mask design, her violent methods and her lack of social skills made for a very different Batgirl than we had been used to . There’s an amazing scene where she teaches a thug a lesson by stopping his heart momentarily much to Batman’s shock until she brings him back to life with another punch to the chest only to tell him off and send him packing. Cass Cain was a complete badarse.
8. Batgirl Rising-2009
Poor Stephanie Brown, what a varied arc she had in her relatively short time as a character. She starts of as the vigilante known as Spoiler, then she gets a brief and doomed spell as Robin where she is brutally violated and murdered by Black Mask. This murder was later retconned in one of the most ridiculous and offensively stupid way I’ve seen in comics. Poor Leslie Tompkins was made out to be a psychopath just to bring Steph back but hey ho let’s talk about miss Brown’s shining moment. Her time as Batgirl was excellent this first arc gets things going wonderfully as Barbara reluctantly takes her under her wing, teaching her the ways of the Batgirl cowl.
7. The Dankest Reflection-2011
The New 52 was another reboot from DC set p to cash in on people who wanted to buy a number one issue….you know, like the geniuses at DC like Dan Didio and Jim Lee seem to constantly want to do. 52 new series all starting from scratch….but not really, some past stories will still be canon but we won’t tell you which one ok so you can figure it out yea?. It was a complete shambles but some great writers turned what should have been a disaster into something really good much like Scott Snyder’s first couple of years on Batman and Gail Simon’s excellent and dark run on Batgirl.In the case of this series, Babs had been shot by The Joker and had spent some time incapacitated but recovered due to an experimental surgery. Many people loved this as it brought the original Batgirl back to do what she created. Others were annoyed that one of the best icons of disability had gone as Oracle was no longer in the DC universe.
A stylish and entertaining elseworlds tale set in the swinging 60s where Elvis is the king of entertainment and JFK is in the white house. The dynamic duo of Batgirl and Robin….that’s BatGIRL and Robin are out there keeping tabs on police corruption and crime in the city of Gotham. It’s a dark, psychological noir thriller with intriguing takes on familiar characters. The change in backstories for our main characters is really different and changes how you view them within the story and created universe. As a fan of hard boiled noir this is is right up my street, it may be too grim and gritty for some but for me it’s a banger.
5.Oracle: Year One: Born Of Hope-1996
Yes yes another Oracle story, this one fills in the gaps that we never saw between her becoming paralyzed at the hands of The Joker and becoming Oracle. John Ostrander and Kim Yale were the writers that turned her into Oracle and they are brought in here a few years later to fill those gaps in the backstory. We see the struggle, the pain and the self doubt in Barbara before her heroic transformation in the behind the scenes hero we know and love. It was Yale’s last work before her untimely death due to breast cancer.
4. Out Of Control-1988
John Ostrander’s run on the original Suicide Squad series is iconic and loved by man for it’s varying directions and brilliant character development. Surprisingly though, the most notable of those developments came for someone who wasn’t even in the squad. This is the story that really brought Barbara out loud and proud as Oracle even though she had been in the background of previous issues. Here we learn how she has used her disability to become a brand new hero and what started as a violent, nasty and nihilistic piece of writing in The Killing Joke turned Babs into an inspirational figure. Ostrander is rightly lauded by fans of Babs for saving her from a thoroughly depressing time.
After the death of Babs brother James Jr.her father Comissioner Gordon is on a radge blaming her and chasing her down without realising it’s his daughter. As with all of Gail Simone’s run it’s dark and grimy which led to a drastic tonal change after this arc when the new creative team took over. I never took to the new creative direction as it was way too hipster friendly and aimed for the younger reader but that’s fine and I totally get why they did it. There was a lot of grim content in Simone’s run…..I love it though which says more about me.
2. On Wings-1999
For fans of the enduring romance between Nightwing (Dick Grayson, the original Robin) and Babs this is a classic as it details their first date. Chuck Dixon, master of the bat family in the 90s wrote it and it shows that he has such an affinity and closeness with the characters. It’s romantic, humorous and filled with really sweet dialogue. Dick takes Babs to Haly’s Circus where he grew up and they have a fun time playing around with the acrobat instruments. She even makes a joke about not liking clowns…..eesh.
1. Year One-2003
Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty keep up the tradition of excellent Year One stories, this one focusing on Barbara Gordon’s rise from the frustrated daughter of Jim Gordon to caped hero we know and love. Babs is a talented and intelligent young graduate who wants to follow her father’s footsteps in the GCPD but is constantly overlooked for promotions due to sexism and her father’s over protective nature. A masquerade ball in which she dresses up as a “female Batman” leads to a chance encounter with Killer Moth in which she handles herself well and decides to actually give this hero business a go. Dixon had a wonderful grasp on the Bat Family and his characterisation of Babs is just fantastic as she navigates a man’s world and makes it her own. Marcos Martin is the artist which is great and the inking by Alvaro is beautiful. An absolute must if you are looking for a place to start and if you’re a fan and haven’t read this one……hell’s wrong witchooo?!
Another one down and on to the next one. Hope you enjoyed this look at my favourite Batgirl stories and as always if you want to discuss it or request any lists just give me a shout @swing_kinker cheers. x