Character Highlight: The Batgirls
There have really been two different women to put on the Batgirl uniform and go by that name. The one who created it and the one who borrowed it. Both of them drastically different from the other and each is going to be talked about here.
The first is one is Barbra Gordon. Everyone who knows who Batgirl is knows about her. Unlike the Robins, she was not some adopted kid taken in by Bruce. She is the Niece or Daughter of Commissioner Gordon. (Niece or Daughter depends on which version we are talking about). Growing up with Jim led her to have a strong sense of justice.
Going to school she developed amazing skills with computers and as a gymnast. Still not on Dick Grayson, but still on the level she was able to keep up with Batman. Worth noting it did take some time for her to earn the confidence and trust of the Bat before she became part of that family. How long also depends on which version.
Before too long, she became one of the tech experts that Batman came to rely on when in the field. It’s not that Batman couldn’t hack a computer or do some other tech work, he would rather let her do it. Eventually, her skills with advance tech grew enough that she had begun to outpace her mentor. I wrote an article about the different things every Robin had that separated them, she was a techie.
Her time as Batgirl ended (and it seemed like it would be permanent) when the Joker shot her in the spine. The shot paralyzed her and left her confined to a wheelchair. (This incident occurred in the Killing Joke and if you want to read into it, that is one of the best comics to read) He didn’t even know he had just nearly killed one of his foe’s greatest allies. He wanted to drive Jim Gordon insane.
At first, that seemed to be the end of Barbra Gordon. She did pick up Eskrima, Brazilian Stick Fighting, so she could defend herself from her chair if need be. Of course, as with anyone in the Bat-family, the mission must go on. She took on a new mantle, the Oracle.
Taking up residence in a bell tower, that was outfitted by Bruce, she provided intelligence and information for the whole Bat-family. Before too long her ‘clients’ expanded to any hero she felt needed her help. At one point creating her own response team that included Powergirl. She became an invaluable asset in the war on crime worldwide.
Her information gathering skills, along with hacking skills, reached the point that was considered one of the two best in the world. The only person who competed against her was a villain info broker called ‘Calculator’. Both that villain and her time as Oracle was mimicked by Felicity, the show Arrow. Even Calculator was eventually repurposed to be a villain that opposed her.
Barbra’s time as Oracle came to an end during a massive shift in the DC universe. A lot of things were rewritten and left a lot of things in the air. This time is called the new 52 and it included giving Barbra her legs back. It didn’t take away her time as Oracle, it just explained away her paralysis as Bruce using some kind of tech to heal her legs. She now gets to wear the cape and cowl again.
During her time as Oracle, another person borrowed the name and imagery. It was during a time that almost all of Gotham was leveled and declared ‘no longer apart of America.’ The story arc is called No Man’s Land and it gives an interesting critique on the nature of civilization. The new Batgirl showed up and started helping where she could. Not asking anyone’s permission.
Of course, she eventually needed to get the Bat’s and Barbra’s permission. It started with them turning a blind eye to this silent version of the of a former companion. Eventually with a confrontation between them. It wasn’t long once her identity was revealed and on account of her time already serving in the role that she was allowed to do it.
Her name is Cassandra Cain. Now she goes by Black Bat a member of the Bat team that is international. Her mother and father are of interest David Cain, a skilled assassin inside the Ra’s army of ninjas, with Lady Shiva being her mother. Both of whom are some of the most dangerous unpowered fighters in the world.
As mentioned before she was a silent version of Batgirl. It wasn’t by choice. Her parents never taught her to talk, but only how to read body language. They wanted her to be the best martial artist in existence and felt that learning to talk would be a waste of time. Due to this negligence the speech centers of her brain never really developed. This was eventually corrected by Martian Manhunter.
Between the two Batgirls, she lived up to the reputation of her lineage. When writing the top five unpowered martial artists, she sits on every list. Even when you include Deathstroke and Ra’s Al Ghul. Her training in tactics and further fighting skills was increased by her time with Batman. Of course, he didn’t just teach her how to fight but gave her a why. To the point that she has taken on the name Cassandra Wayne. (Not Legally adopted like some of the Robins, but out of respect.)
As an added note, there were other Batgirls. They existed and one or two did contribute in some way. However, they are not on this list because their time ether didn’t contribute to the world at large, was short or may have been unwritten by the New 52 rewrite. I am only writing about the two that I know for sure still exist.
Dreamers and Schemers, let me know if you have any other DC, Marvel or even Image comics you wanted to be highlighted.