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Batgirl is the name of several characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics, depicted as female counterparts to DC Comics superhero Batman. Originally created by Bob Kane and Sheldon Moldoff, the first incarnation of the character, the Bat-Girl—Bette Kane—debuted in Batman #139 (1961). Following the promotion of Julius Schwartz to editor of the Batman related comic book titles in 1964, the Bat-Girl character was removed from publication and subsequently replaced by the "new" Batgirl—Barbara Gordon—introduced in Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino's Detective Comics #359 entitled "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl" (cover-date 1967, released late 1966). The Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl made regular appearances in Batman related comics from 1966-1988 and is described as one of the most high profile characters to be published during the Silver Age of Comic Books. Following the editorial retirement of the character in Batgirl Special #1 (1988), Barbara Gordon is shot through the spinal cord and is left paraplegic by The Joker in Alan Moore's graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke (1988). Editor Kim Yale and comic book author John Ostrander later reinvent Barbara Gordon as Oracle- the premiere information broker of the DC Comics Universe and leader of the Birds of Prey organization.
In the 1999 limited series Batman: No Man's Land, the Helena Bertinelli character, also known as The Huntress, assumes the role of Batgirl until she is stripped of the identity by Batman towards the conclusion of the story. In 1999, a new character introduced during the No Man's Land series named Cassandra Cain, created by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott, becomes the third Batgirl under the tutelage of Batman and Oracle. Cassandra Cain was the first version of the Batgirl character to star in an eponymous monthly series, which was canceled in 2006, ending with Cain relinquishing her title as Batgirl. During the "Headhunt" arc of the Birds of Prey comic book series, the Charlotte Gage-Radcliffe character created by Gail Simone temporarily took the name of Batgirl, but is eventually forced to abandon the role by Oracle and subsequently adopts the alias "Misfit." Following the events of the limited series 52 (2006), the Cassandra Cain character has reclaimed her former identity as Batgirl.
Betty Kane (1961-1964)
Main article: Bette Kane
Bette Kane—the Bat-Girl—was introduced in Batman #139 (1961) as a love interest for Robin. The new character proved to be as unoriginal as her predecessor—the Batwoman, Kathy Kane—also created specifically to act as a love interest for her male counterpart, Batman. The creation of the Batman Family, which included Batman and Batwoman depicted as parents, Robin and Bat-Girl depicted as their children, the extraterrestrial imp Bat-Mite and the "family pet" Ace the Bat-Hound, lead the Batman related comic books astray, portraying situational comedy rather than action packed vigilantism. These characters, with the exception of Robin, were abandoned when new Batman editor Julius Schwartz concluded these characters were inappropriate. Schwartz had asserted that these characters needed to be removed, considering the Batman related comic books had steadily declined in sales, and restored the Batman mythology to its original conception of heroic vigilantism. Bat-Girl, along with other characters in the Batman Family, were retconned out of existence following the 1985 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths. However, even though Bat-Girl did not exist in the Post-Crisis continuity, a modified version of the character, Mary Elizabeth 'Bette' Kane, was introduced as the superheroine Flamebird, who continues to appear in DC Comics publications.
Barbara Gordon (1966-1988)
Main article: Barbara Gordon
The "new" Batgirl—Barbara "Babs" Gordon—depicted as the daughter of Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon, debuted in Detective Comics #359 (cover-dated 1967, but released in late 1966). In the debut issue, on her way to a masquerade ball dressed as a female version of Batman, Gordon disrupts a kidnapping attempt on Bruce Wayne by the villainous Killer Moth, attracting the attention of Batman and leading to a crime-fighting career. This new character, jointly created by Editor Julius Schwartz, artist Carmine Infantino and author Gardner Fox, was a collaboration between DC Comics and the Batman television series of the late 1960s which aired on ABC. When television producer William Dozier sought to renew the Batman program for a third season, he asked Schwartz for a new female character to be introduced in the comic book medium, which could be adapted into the television series in order to attract a female audience. The new version of Batgirl was written as an adult, having earned a doctorate in library science and maintaining a career as head of Gotham City Public Library. As Batgirl, Barbara Gordon proved to be more popular than the previous Bat-Girl and Batwoman characters. Following the reboot to DC Comics continuity after the conclusion of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barbara Gordon is described as the original Batgirl, considering the character histories of Bat-Girl and Batwoman had been erased. Barbara Gordon appeared as Batgirl in both Batman and Detective Comics, as well as various DC Comics publications unrelated to Batman. The character also received a starring role in the Batman Family comic book series which debuted in 1975, where she becomes part of the "Dynamic Duo: Batgirl & Robin" with Dick Grayson. Described as one of the most popular characters to appear in publications during the Silver Age of Comic Books, Barbara Gordon appeared as Batgirl regularly from 1966 to 1988, and is frequently featured as Batgirl in "flashback" stories in current DC Comics publications. After relinquishing her role as Batgirl in the 1988 one-shot comic Batgirl Special #1, Barbara Gordon is shot through the spinal cord and crippled by the Joker in Batman: The Killing Joke. Editor Kim Yale and author John Ostrander revive the character under the guise of Oracle—a free-lance information broker and expert hacker— in Suicide Squad #23 (1989). As Oracle, Barbara Gordon is written as an ally to various DC Universe superheroes, but is most notable as the founder and head of operations of the Birds of Prey organization.
Helena Bertinelli (1999)
Eleven years after the editorial retirement of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, a new version of the character is introduced during the maxiseries Batman: No Man's Land (1999). The new Batgirl is revealed to be Helena Bertinelli, an established DC comics superheroine alternatively known as the Huntress. Within the storyline, an earthquake levels Gotham City, and as consequence, the government declares the city a No Man's Land, causing Batman to abandon Gotham. To bring order to the city, the Huntress assumes the mantle of "The Bat," discovering criminals feared her more as Batgirl than they did when she was the Huntress. When Batman returns, he officially dubs her "Batgirl" and said if she failed him, she would have to give up the costume. When Batgirl fails to protect Batman's territory from Two-Face and his gang of over 200 criminals on her own, he holds her personally responsible and strips her of the mantle. After reclaiming her identity as the Huntress, Bertinelli would later join Oracle's Birds of Prey, thus giving the group two former Batgirls.
Cassandra Cain (2000-2006)
Main article: Cassandra Cain
Depicted as a martial arts child prodigy, Cassandra Cain is written as a young woman of partly Asian descent who becomes the third in-continuity Batgirl, with the approval of both Batman and Oracle, following her introduction in Batman: No Man's Land. Cassandra Cain wears the same Batgirl costume worn by Helena Bertinelli. Cassandra Cain's character history is deeply complex and highly unique compared to other Batman supporting characters. Raised by the assassin David Cain, Cassandra Cain was not taught spoken language, but instead taught to "read" physical movement. Subsequently, Cain's only form of communication was body language. The parts of the character's brain normally used for speech were trained so Cain could read other people's body language and predict, with uncanny accuracy, their next move. This also caused her brain to develop learning functions different from most, a form of dyslexia that hampers her abilities to read and write. Despite Cain's disability, author Andersen Gabrych describes the character's unique form of language to be the key factor in what makes Cain an excellent detective; the ability to walk into a room and "know" something is wrong based on body language. During the first arch of the Batgirl comic book series entitled Silent Running, Cassandra Cain encounters a psychic who "reprograms" her brain, enabling her to comprehend verbal language, while simultaneously losing the ability to predict movements. This issue is resolved during the second arc of the series, Batgirl: A Knight Alone, when Batgirl encounters the assassin Lady Shiva who agrees to teach her how to predict movement once again. Six years after its debut, DC Comics canceled the Batgirl comic book series with issue #73, ending with Cain relinquishing her role as Batgirl.
Charlotte Gage-Radcliffe (2006)
Main article: Misfit (DC Comics)
After a cameo appearance in Gail Simone's Birds of Prey #96 "Headhunt Part One," and at the conclusion of Birds of Prey #97 "Headhunt Part Two," a "new" Batgirl emerges in Gotham City resembling Barbara Gordon's incarnation of the character. A citizen within the story assumes she is the "real" Batgirl, referring to the Barbara Gordon Batgirl who originally operated in Gotham City. A Gotham City police officer asserts the "redheaded" Batgirl had not been seen in years and that her official police file had been closed. In the following issue Birds of Prey #98 "Headhunt Part Three" The Huntress and Black Canary accuse Oracle of secretly resuming her former role as Batgirl, however, Oracle refutes their accusations. The Batgirl currently operating in Gotham City is later revealed to be a teenager named Charlotte Gage-Radcliffe, a young girl with inherent superpowers. After encountering Oracle face to face, Gage-Radcliffe is forced to abandon her career as a vigilante by the original Batgirl. However, the character later returns to the Birds of Prey organization in issue #101 under the alias "Misfit," becoming the third former Batgirl to join Oracle's Birds of Prey.
Cassandra Cain returns (2007-Present)
When DC Comics continuity skips forward one year after the events of the limited series Infinite Crisis, Cassandra Cain is revived as leader of the League of Assassins, having abandoned her previous characterization as an altruist. The character's progression from heroine to villainess angered many of her long-term fans and was accompanied by heavy criticism. Cain reprized her role as Batgirl in the "Titans East" storyline of Teen Titans, where it was discovered that she had been influenced by a mind-altering drug administered by supervillain Deathstroke the Terminator. Following the conclusion of the storyline, DC Comics has restored Cain's original characterization as a superheroine and the character has been given a supporting role in the comic book series Batman and the Outsiders.
Adaptations in other media
A pop culture icon, the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl has been adapted into all media relating to the Batman franchise including merchandise, television, animation and feature film. The Barbara Gordon Batgirl, jointly inspired by producer William Dozier and DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz, appeared in the final season of the live-action Batman television series in 1967, promptly following the character's comic book debut. Barbara Gordon's Batgirl made her first animated appearance in Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder in 1968 and was also adapted into its successor animated program The New Adventures of Batman in 1977.More recently, Barbara Gordon appears as Batgirl in the series of animated programs and animated films which comprise the DC Animated Universe; these include Batman: The Animated Series,Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, The New Batman Adventures,In addition to recent animated adaptations, the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl served as the inspiration for the character Barbara Wilson in the 1997 feature film Batman & Robin. In addition, the short-lived Birds of Prey television series, which aired on The WB network in 2002, features a paralyzed Barbara Gordon donning her Batgirl costume after creating a device that allows her to walk.