Barbara "Babs" Gordon
Roger C. & Thelma A. Gordon (deceased);
niece and (later) adopted daughter of James W. Gordon and Barbara Gordon (divorced)
James, Jr. (cousin & adoptive brother)
Detective Comics #359, January 1967
Character Created By:
Gardner Fox & Carmine Infantino
at the request of the producers of the Batman TV show
(Infantino also co-created Black Canary some twenty years earlier)
green eyes, red hair, 5'11" tall, 130 lbs
Base of Operations:
college student, librarian, computer expert
(pre-Crisis: Congressperson, lobbyist)
genius-level intellect, photographic memory, expert at research & analysis, brown belt in Judo, background in gymnastics & dance, and excellent general athletic abilities
none, though she often worked with Batman & Robin
B A T L I N K S
Visit the site of one of the world's most dedicated Barbara Gordon fans! Mickey is a long-time supporter & friend of Birdwatching and has great pictures and collecting info on the Dark Knight Damsel. The rest of his site (dedicated to theatre rather than comics) is also quite cool.
Which came first, the late-1960's TV Batgirl or
the late-1960's comic book Batgirl? Dunno for sure, myself (Anyone? Bueller?
Anyone?) — Ah! Thank you. I have been informed that the comic book
Batgirl did come first, as the dates (below) prove; however, she was created
for the comic books specifically at the request of the TV series people
who wanted to incorporate a Batgirl into their series. The dates are as
follows: Barbara "Batgirl" Gordon debuted in Detective Comics #359
in January 1967; her TV self debuted in September 1967.
I personally don't care how she got here. She's a fabulous, fully-realized character and even if DC didn't come up with the idea for her themselves, when set to the task, they outdid themselves and far outdid any live-action version yet seen. (We also have the TV series to thank for the resurrection of Alfred, the Batman's faithful über-butler and perhaps the best non-"hero" supporting character in the DCU).
Barbara's first dabblings in the hero business were the stuff of childhood fantasy. While her best friend Marcy came up with the roles, Barbara became them, dreaming of becoming a superhero — Rocketgirl! Marvelousgirl! Supergirl! or maybe... Batgirl.
After losing her mother in a automobile accident when she was only a preschooler, Barbara slowly lost her father to grief and alcoholism. He died when she was a preteen, and she was forced to leave Marcy & her Ohio childhood behind to go and live in Gotham City with her Uncle James and Aunt Barbara.
The two-part Legends of the DC Universe story "Folie a Deux" revised this story yet again. Instead of losing her parents separately, the story portrays her losing both of them in the car accident (caused in part by her father's drink-influenced recklessness, a detail which does maintain — or at least implies — the unhappy childhood which would result from living with an alcoholic) when she was somewhere in the vicinity of eight or nine years old and going to live with her uncle and aunt at that time.
Either way, however, it was after she moved to Gotham that she discovered her uncle (who became, soon after, her adoptive father) was no ordinary policeman. He knew — was maybe even friends with — the Batman! Inspired by equal parts hero-worship and ambition, she set out immediately upon this discovery to train herself to become the Batman's partner and did not waver from her goal for the next several years until college and more "grown-up" dreams sidetracked her.
Again, the Legends story revises this, actually running more closely to the animated Batgirl's origin but with some "real" Batgirl history mixed in. I wish they'd stop doing this. Anyway, she is now portrayed as tripping her way into becoming Batgirl even before starting college. But! Since it doesn't come up, we shall assume that fate — in the guise of Killer Moth — still intervened and jump-started her career. To surprise her father and to relive the childhood excitement of pretending to be a superhero, Barbara designed and made a fully-functional "Batgirl" costume to wear to the policeman's masquerade ball, but on the way there, she happened upon a crime in progress and, instinctively, she leapt into action.
She saved Bruce Wayne from... well, apparently some rather sticky cleaning bills, and she met Batman again. He was his usual, charming self... it wasn't a pretty scene.
But the adrenaline rush was addicting. She started to go out at night as Batgirl, looking for trouble and putting a stop to it whenever she could. It didn't take long for Batman (or her father) to figure out who she really was. But confronting her and making her actually stop proved harder than the Dark Knight expected and, in the end, it was she who won the confrontation while also convincing Batman to train her.
For the next few years, wherever Barbara's "real life" took her, Batgirl went, too. She had wild adventures, captured all sorts of villains and baddies, teamed up with the original Boy Wonder on a number of occasions, and eventually won the Batman's respect and became one of the few to know his true identity — both equally impressive achievements.
Batgirl appeared in very few post-Crisis stories, and as a result, most of her pre-Crisis adventures are still "canon." Examples of the exceptions to this would be her friendship and adventures with the pre-Crisis Supergirl — though it has been speculated that the self-doubts she had about her effectiveness as a superhero which led to her retirement as Batgirl a few months before her crippling encounter with the Joker were a direct result of her feelings of failure at being unable to save Supergirl. She didn't remember the cause of those feelings, post-Crisis, but the feelings remained to undermine her self-confidence, just as her near-fatal (and pre-Crisis) encounter with Cormorant also played a role in her decision to retire.
Her old friend Marcy turned up in her life just at the time she was seriously questioning her effectiveness as Batgirl and during Marcy's visit, "The Last Batgirl Story" took place. She conquered the foe she feared most — Cormorant — and was able to put Batgirl behind her with no regrets.
But, of course, the final nail in Batgirl's coffin (so to speak) was driven in by the Joker, and the awful irony of it was that the Joker was, in effect, gunning for Commissioner Gordon and for Batman and did not even know that he had crippled his past opponent Batgirl. She only mattered to him in this scheme because he could use her — Barbara Gordon — against her father. This did not help her battered sense of her own effectiveness at all and she spent the next several months physically recuperating as much as she could while also hiding from the world, feeling defeated and useless. It wasn't until she discovered how powerful a tool the computer could be in her expert hands that she found her new purpose in life and her new identity. Oracle.