1967: Batgirl

Detective_Comics_359My second entry for 1967 is all about one of Batman’s closest allies and one of the most popular women in comics: Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon. While not the original (the original first appeared in 1961, but was removed from continuity when Batman was returned to his darker roots) or the last, Barbara Gordon is the name most associated as being Batgirl. She was written into the comics because a certain campy Batman TV series of the time wanted to add her character to the cast. Batgirl first appeared in comics in the story “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl” printed in Detective Comics #359. The story was written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Carmine Infantino (who also drew Deadman’s first appearance) and was published in January of 1967. Her first television appearance was on the 3rd season premiere of Batman entitled “Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin”. It aired on September 14th of the same year.

Her comic origin introduces us to Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon and successful Librarian. She makes a Batgirl costume for the police masquerade ball, but never makes it. As she is driving to the ball, she happens upon the kidnapping of millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. She confronts his attackers, Pupa and Larvae, henchmen for Killer Moth. After saving him, Bruce Wayne disappears and Batman appears, and helps to ward off the henchmen, claiming to have taken Wayne to safety. The next day, Bruce gets a ransom letter stating that if he doesn’t give Killer Moth 100,000 dollars he will be killed. He and Dick Grayson question other millionaires and finds out he is not their first victim. He is the tenth and if Killer Moth hadn’t targeted Batman inadvertently, he himself could have become a millionaire. So he sets a plan into place. At the mansion he waits for Killer Moth to come to him. Meanwhile, Barbara comes across a book in the library that Bruce had been waiting for. When she delivers it to Wayne Mansion, she discovers Killer Moth, his henchmen, and a dead Bruce Wayne. They begin to fight when, again, Batman, now along with Robin, comes to her aid. The criminals escape, and Batman and Robin follow them back to their hideout. Before leaving, Batman’s sexism betrays itself as he tells her “No, Batgirl! This is a case for Batman and Robin! I’m sorry — but you must understand that we can’t worry ourselves about a girl…”. As Batman and Robin follow Killer Moth, Batgirl also trails, which is fortunate, because after she arrives she is able to save the Caped Crusaders from a antigravity room (all villains have those… right?) with her magnetic boots (clearly a must have if villains have antigrav rooms). In the end, Batgirl helps find Killer Moth and put an end to his schemes, but Batman pulls out… “Good job, I was about to do that myself” type praise. The issue ends with Batman telling Commissioner Gordon how good of a job she did, and Gordon looks at his daughter and says “If only you could be more like her”. Gordon… Come on!

batgirl66The TV introduction of Batgirl (portrayed by Yvonne Craig) is a little less simple in some ways, but in others maybe a little too simple. Barbara is still a librarian, she is still the daughter of Commissioner Gordon, and Batman still doesn’t know who she is under the mask. The plot goes as follows: The Penguin wants to marry Barbara to gain some sort of immunity by being the Son-in-Law of the Commissioner. So, just before meeting Bruce Wayne and her father for a night at the opera, Barbara is kidnapped just outside her apartment. She gets taken to one of Penguin’s hideouts… in the adjacent apartment. After revealing to Barbara his plan, he sends his goons to kidnap a minister. I know, it’s a terrible scheme, and more dangerously cheesy than a bag of Cheetos, but in this wacko world, it almost works, if it hadn’t been for more wackiness. Instead of pinching the priest, they nab a man who was in a meeting with the pastor and pretended to be him. That man? No one other than the great Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred hits a button on his belt (and does nothing to conceal it) that signals Batman and Robin to his location. Barbara sneaks over her apartment through the window ledge and changes to her Batgirl costume that is hidden behind a fake wall. When Batman and Robin arrive at the scene they have the ever-so-important mid episode fight. Thinking they have won, Batgirl sneaks away and Batman attempts to free Alfred and Barbara, whom they don’t know is not there. However, before they are able to pick the lock, Penguin knocks them out with some umbrella sleeping gas. Knowing that his cover is blown at that location, the Penguin and his goons grab everyone (with the exception of Barbara, who they mistake a wedding dress mannequin for), throw them out the window into a truck and take off. Batgirl then sneaks back into her apartment, goes into a secret room in her apartment and retrieves a purple, pimped out motorcycle. Cut to the new hideout, and we find Batman and robin hanging over a pot of boiling water. The crooks are going to pursued Barbara to go along with the plot by having her witness the deaths of the heroes. The add Alfred to the mix and are about to come across the mannequin when batgirl enters the room. She is able to free the Dynamic Duo and they have one last brawl. In what is probably the coolest scene of the episode, even Alfred gets a few punches when he boxes the Penguin, and wins! As the fight winds down, Batgirl approaches Alfred, whom she revealed her secret too earlier, and swears secrecy from him. He is the only one to know the secret of all 3 heroes, but they don’t know each others yet. She then slips away, because they can question her. In further episodes it gets to be an annoying habit.

Both intros have similarities and differences. Big differences, in the comic she happens to fall into the role of Batgirl, in the TV show, it looked like she put a lot of effort in before hand, with the revolving door, the secret room, and the motor cycle with a freight elevator. That isn’t something easily come by in an apartment. In the comic she just follows along and plays it by ear, in the show she does some scheming of her own. Big similarities, that Batgirl comes across the plans of the villains accidentally, that she has a bike, that she is able to find the villain hideout and save Batman and Robin, and most importantly… terrible henchmen. In the comic, the henchmen are named Pupa and Larvae, and in the show the henchmen all where shirts that say “Henchmen”.

Ever since 1967, Barbara has been a force with in the DC universe. She is Batgirl through to the late 80’s when she got shot by the Joker in the spine. after that she is crippled and in a wheel chair, but she helps out Batman and the heroes of Gotham as Oracle, by supplying them with any information and technical expertise when they need it. Recently, with the launch of The New 52, she returned to being Batgirl.

imageTo the right is a reshowing of the art that Don Sparrow did for this week, which includes Batgirl in the middle.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a message, let me know what you think.

Images from http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/



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