27 April 2012

Onscreen History of Batgirl and Other Bat-Women

There have been Batwomen and Batgirls, but none more famous than the Batgirl who grew up to be called Oracle, Barbara Gordon. Lets take a look at the onscreen history of Barbara Gordon and various other Bat-femmes Fatale.

In the early 1960's, Batwoman Kathy Kane gained a sidekick Betty Kane AKA Bat-Girl. But in 1966, the Barbara Gordon character was introduced, partially as an editorial mandate to coincide with the introduction of a new female hero on the 1966 Batman TV show. Babs comic debut occurred in Detective Comics #359.

Before appearing in the series in 1967, Batgirl starred in a short promotional pilot in which she battled Killer Moth transforming the Dynamic Duo into the Triumphant Trio.

Batgirl went on to star in all 26 episodes of the 1967-8 season of Batman, but Batgirl's inclusion was not enough to stave off series cancellation.

Though she did manage to get her own theme song.

In 1968, Batgirl appeared in several episodes of The Adventures of Batman (later retitled Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder), a pseudo animated spin-off of the 1966 series.

Holy act of Congress! Actress, Yvonne Craig would appear as Batgirl one last time in 1972 as the star of a public service announcement urging equal pay for women in the workforce. 

Batgirl made her next animated appearance in the 1977 series, The New Adventures of Batman in which she had to not only put up with Batman and Robin, but the advances of the dim-witted Bat-Mite.

The 1980's was a dark time for Batgirl. Not only was she shut out of any onscreen appearances, but in the 1988 graphic novel, Batman: The Killing Joke, Barbara Gordon was shot and paralyzed by the Joker leading to her comic book transformation into a computer genius character named Oracle. Although subsequent to these events, other female characters have donned the Batgirl costume in the comics, none have yet to grace the airwaves. Regardless of comic book events, in 1993 Barbara Gordon assumed the role of Batgirl on Batman: The Animated Series in the two-part episode Shadow of the Bat. Batgirl would appear also play a substantive role in the 1998 direct to video Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero.

In 1997, Batgirl made her theatrical debut in Batman and Robin; however this Batgirl did not have the traditional alias of Barbara Gordon. Instead, the film's Barbara Wilson was the niece of Alfred Pennyworth.


During the run of The New Batman Adventures from 1997-8, Batgirl made several memorable appearances sporting a redesigned costume such as in the classic episode Over the Edge.

Batgirl also starred in a memorable team-up with Supergirl in the series Girl's Night Out episode in which the duo took on bad girls Livewire, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.

Barbara Gordon played a large role in 1999's Batman Beyond as well as in the 2000 Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker direct to video. Not only was Babs presented as the future Police Commissioner Gordon, but some story gaps were filled in between the events that transpired between The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond. Her time as Batgirl was not all fond memories for Barbara.

In the 2000 Gotham Girls animated web series, Batgirl would once again appear along side Harley and Ivy, with additional appearances by Catwoman and Zatanna. To this day, the webisodes remain online and viewable at the WB's website.

Although the use of supporting Batman characters was limited on the Justice League, the 2002 season one finale, The Savage Time, showed an alternate universe version of Barbara Gordon  in lip-lock with Dick Grayson. Additionally, alternate versions of the Robin Tim Drake, and Batgirl Cassandra Cain were shown frolicking in the background. What a happy Bat-Family.

In 2002, Batgirl got another chance at live-action in the failed semi Smallville spinoff Birds of Prey. Drawing from events in the comics, the series presented a paralyzed Barbara as the brains of the Birds calling herself Oracle. In spite of her physical limitations, with the help of technological wizardry Barbara was eventually able to dress up again as Batgirl to face off against Lady Shiva.

Even though Batgirl did not appear in the 2003 direct to video Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, one scene depicted an awkwardly flirtatious telephone exchange between the still young Barbara Gordon and Batman.

The movie's mysterious and titular Batwoman had no connection to either Batgirl or the Batwoman from the comics.

Breaking from tradition, the third season of The Batman introduced Batgirl as Batman's first sidekick.

During the fourth season episode Artifacts, a flashback of a future set episode showed an older, wiser Barbara in her Oracle capacity.

 In 2010, Batgirl joined the ranks of Batman: The Brave and the Bold sporting her classic look.

Later in the series run, the body swapping adventure The Criss Cross Conspiracy introduced a Batwoman by the name of Katrina Moldoff modeled after the original look of the 1950's comic book Kathy Kane Batwoman. Once again, this Batwoman had no relation to Batgirl. With nearly 50 years of crime fighting under her belt, and the return of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl in the comics, its only a matter of time before Batgirl appears again onscreen.

UPDATE: 6 October 2011

In the Young Justice episode Homefront, both Bette Kane and Barbara Gordon made civilian cameos as schoolmates of Dick Grayson and Artemis Crock. Bette was the comic's original Bat-Girl, predating Barbara Gordon's hyphenless Batgirl.

Hopefully this is not the last we will see of these budding young heroines.

 UPDATE: 27 April 2012

 2012 has been kind to Barbara. First, she landed a starring role along side Supergirl and Wonder Girl in the Super Best Friends Forever shorts in which she takes the roll of the high energy Batgirl.

And in season 2, Barbara went from being a classmate of Robin's to his teammate as she donned  the Batgirl costume on Young Justice. Fighting alongside a different Wonder Girl, Batgirl would face one of her first challenges against intergalactic bounty hunter, Lobo.


  1. I must say, I found your blog a few months ago, and I read all the posts! You do an outstanding job. I especially love these "Onscreen History" write-ups.

    I do have a couple suggestions. I know this is an "onscreen" write-up, but, it would be nice if you always included both the 1st comic book appearance as well as the actor/actress who plays them in live-action incarnations, not just some of the times. But, I am nitpicking. Keep up the outstanding job!!!

  2. I also has found a The Wild World of Batwoman (1966) and The Batwoman [La Mujer Murcielago] (1968) movies with Batwoman in it)

  3. can you do firefly