Know Your Batgirls
The only female member of the Batman family, Batgirl has been with the comic universe since the 1960s. She had always been linked to the Bat’s young protege Robin as a love interest but soon developed into a strong character of her own right. But like a large number of super hero identities, the Batgirl costume has been worn by several brave females who continued the good fight in their own unique way.
Here’s a short bio for some of the notable individuals who’ve donned the mantle of Batgirl.
Barbara Gordon was the adopted daughter of Gotham’s police commissioner Jim Gordon. Athletic, driven, and blessed with a photographic memory, Barbara trained in several martial arts when she was young after becoming obsessed with the city’s vigilante, Batman. Her chance came when the masquerade party she attended, dressed as a female version of Batman, was raided by Killer Moth and his gang. Holding the billionaire Bruce Wayne hostage, they were almost successful in taking all of the charity event’s proceeds until “Batgirl” foiled their plans. While initially against her continuing to fight crime, Batman eventually relented and allowed her to join his family.
Barbara would share many adventures with Batman and Robin up until her near-fatal shooting at the hands of the Joker that left her paralyzed from the waist down. With her crime fighting days seemingly over, Barbara found another way to contribute. Using her brains, the former Batgirl transformed herself into a superb hacker and information broker for the super hero community. Assuming the monicker Oracle, Barbara continued the good fight by providing timely information and data to the Bat and his allies.
Helena Bertinelli is more famously known for being the Huntress, an unforgiving vigilante who specializes in mob-related crime. Born within the Bertinelli crime family, Helena broke free from her family’s criminal roots and struck out on her own as a crime fighter after being inspired by Batman. But what is not commonly known is that for a short while, she donned the costume of Batgirl.
During the event known as No Man’s Land, Gotham city suffered a devastating earthquake and was declared a “No Man’s Land” by the US government. The city was carved into territories by the villains Batman had battled through the years while Batman was away from the city using his Bruce Wayne persona to convince the federal government to help Gotham. With the Dark Knight gone, his allies did all their best to maintain order in the lawless city. For her part, Helena masqueraded as Batgirl to fight crime, discovering in the process how effective the bat symbol was against criminals. Her tenure as Batgirl ended when she lost Batman’s territory to Two-Face and his gang. Batman confronted her about the lost territory, which led to a heated argument between the two. Refusing to continue following Batman’s orders, Helena gave up the Batgirl suit and resumed her old alias as the Huntress.
Born to the pair of lethal assassins David Cain and Lady Shiva, Cassandra Cain was raised to be the ultimate assassin. Intended to be a bodyguard to Ra’s Al Ghul, she learned how to be a lethal killing machine from a very young age. She was not taught how to speak and in effect, the parts of her brain normally used for speech was harnessed into reading body movements instead. Because of this, Cassandra gained the uncanny ability to read or predict the next moves of her opponents. She left her father’s tutelage after being ordered to take a life. The shock of reading the person’s life slowly ebb away made a huge impression on Cassandra and it left her emotionally scarred.
During the No Man’s Land event, she saved Commissioner Jim Gordon’s life from an assassination attempt by her father. Impressed with her skills and dedication to saving lives, Batman gave his approval for her to wear the Batgirl costume. She began working closely with the original Batgirl, Oracle, up until the apparent “death” of Batman. Unable to handle the lost of her “adopted” father, Cassandra quit as Batgirl and handed the costume to a friend of hers.
That friend was no other than Stephanie Brown, on and off girlfriend of the third Robin, Tim Drake. Daughter of the criminal Cluemaster, Stephanie did not follow her father’s evil ways and instead became the vigilante known as Spoiler. She assisted the Bat family with a few missions, and for a while even became the first female Robin when Tim Drake gave up the role. However, she was fired by Batman when she disobeyed an order which resulted in saving his life. Deemed unfit by the Dark Knight, she responded by stealing one of his contingency plans to deal with the city’s criminal gangs in order to prove herself. The plan went awry though and resulted in a citywide gang war. Stephanie was captured by the crime boss Black Mask and tortured near death. She later escaped but “died” in a hospital bed with Batman at her side, who acknowledged her as a real Robin.
After almost a year, it was found out that her death was simply faked. Stephanie returned to Gotham and resumed her Spoiler identity up until Cassandra Cain passed the torch of Batgirl to her. Her vigilante activities soon earned the attention of Oracle, the original Batgirl. She first tried to dissuade Stephanie’s attempts at being a super hero by threatening to disclose her secret identity to her mother, but after Stephanie proved her mettle, Barbara finally relented and even helped by upgrading Stephanie’s gadgets and furthered her training. When Batman finally returned, he revealed that it was under his orders that Cassandra passed the mantle of Batgirl to Stephanie.
We now reach full circle as the current mantle of Batgirl is now back to Barbara Gordon. After the events of “Flashpoint Paradox”, which DC comics used to reboot all of their existing titles under the New 52 banner, Barbara’s story has been completely rewritten. In the new timeline, she’s now the biological daughter of Commissioner Jim Gordon. Barbara was still shot by the Joker but overcame her disability after 3 years and went back to being a crime fighter. Not much is known as of the moment about what bits of her original story was carried over, but DC is slowly fleshing out stories of her new adventures in her solo title Batgirl Volume 4.
To know more about the other lesser known Batgirls, click here.
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