I’m going to start this feature off this week with a personal comment. It came as quite a shock yesterday to see the news spread about the death of Yvonne Craig, forever immortalized as Batgirl from the 1960s Batman TV series. For many years, I (and many of you) have watched those episodes from the final season, where Batgirl came to life. When it was in heavy rerun rotation during my childhood, it was always a guessing game during the show’s opening credits whether we would see the red-haired hero ride across the screen, letting us know that this would be one of the Batgirl episodes. In my mind, she will forever be 30 years old, alternating roles as mild-mannered librarian Barbara Gordon and purple-spandex clad hero Batgirl. She brought new energy to a show that had peaked quickly and then died due to overexposure. Her presence may have added a spark to the cast, but it was’t enough to save the series.
But Yvonne’s impact went far beyond the 26 episodes of Batman. For many people, she was the FIRST female hero. Not the first in comics, mind you, but the first captured on film for the masses. Before Scarlett Johansson, before Helen Slater, and even before Lynda Carter, there was Yvonne. For the last five decades, she served as an inspiration for kids of all ages, especially girls, that superheroes was not just for boys. Girls could wear a cape and mask. Girls could ride a really cool motorcycle. Girls could hit a villain so hard, that a word balloon would jump out to emphasize the impact of her fist.
I know I attended shows that Yvonne was a guest at in the past. Did I go speak to her? Sadly, no. Maybe it was fanboy nerves, maybe it was funds, or maybe I had other things to do at the con. Regardless, my opportunity is now gone to say “thank you” for her work. Thank you for inspiring a generation of fans, of both girls and boys. Thank you for showing that women can be heroes, too! Thank you for being on a show that I can still watch and enjoy with my daughter. Thank you for accepting this role at such a young age, perhaps knowing that it would one day become part of the first line in every obituary printed this week.
If you are still reading this (and I thank you if you are!), please take this to heart. If there is a guest (actor, artist, writer) at a convention or a show that had some kind of impact on your life, go up and let them know. Don’t feel obligated to purchase something, especially if it’s out of your price range. It doesn’t cost anything to tell someone “thank you”. Let that person know that their roles or illustrations or stories resonated with you. They will appreciate, and you will appreciate it too.
God bless you, Yvonne! The streets of Gotham are safer because of you. Now, on to the review. – JM
First Published: July 2007
Contents: Batgirl stories from: Detective Comics #359 (January 1967), #363 (May 1967), #369 (November 1967), #371 (January 1968), #384 (February 1969), #385 (March 1969), #388 (June 1969), #389 (July 1969), #392 (October 1969), #393 (November 1969), #396 (February 1970), #397 (March 1970), #400 (June 1970), #401 (July 1970), #404 (October 1970) to #424 (June 1972); World’s Finest Comics #169 (September 1967) and #176 (June 1968); Batman #197 (December 1967) and #214 (August 1969); Justice League of America #60 (February 1968); The Brave and The Bold #78 (June-July 1968); Adventure Comics #381 (June 1969); Superman #268 (October 1973) and #279 (September 1974); and Superman Family #171 (June/July 1975)
Key Creator Credits: Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, Frank Robbins, Gil Kane, Don Heck, Curt Swan, Mike Friedrich, and others
Key First Appearances: Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Jason Bard
Overview: Meet Barbara Gordon, librarian and daughter of Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon. With an invitation to the Gotham City Policeman’s Masquerade Ball, Barbara is making a female-fitting version of the Batman costume. While on the way to the ball, Barbara encounters a robbery in progress, and jumps in to stop the crime. Later on, she can’t stop thinking about the rush she experienced as a crime-fighter. Making her costume more practical for physical activity, Barbara joins the Dynamic Duo as a protector of Gotham City, as Batgirl.
Early on, Batgirl was brought in every couple of issues to help Batman and Robin with whatever case they may be working on. But her popularity grew as a character, earning her a back-up feature role in the pages of Detective Comics. While most of these stories are one-and-done, towards the end of this run an ongoing story arc was introduced by Frank Robbins and Don Heck. Barbara reveals her secret identity to her father, who being a good cop had already deduced her secret. Barbara gets elected to Congress to help represent Gotham City in Washington, D.C.
Why should these stories be Showcased?: Batgirl was created at the request of the producers of the Batman television show, hoping to add a new female character to the show’s third season. Appropriately enough, her first comic appearance was titled “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!” The show helped cement Barbara Gordon’s place in the Batman universe, and the writers and artists found ways to take advantage (albeit slowly) of this incredible character. This is a great volume to own, and share with readers of all ages. My only complaint about this volume is the cover image they chose for this volume (Page 1 from Detective Comics #371). Seriously, could DC find a more sexist image to use? I understand that Batgirl was not used on many covers during the time frame that this book covers, but the covers to Detective Comics #359 or #369 would have been much better choices to use over the cover image above.
If you like this volume, try: tracking down a copy of The Brave and the Bold #33 (June 2010), during the J. Michael Straczynski run on the book. This story is set in the days prior to the events of Batman: The Killing Joke (and if you need info on why that book is important, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog). Zatanna has had premonitions of events coming up in Barbara Gordon’s life, so she and Wonder Woman take Babs out on the town for a night of fun. Cliff Chiang draws a beautiful yet realistic female figure, and was a perfect choice for this issue. This issue was collected in the Team-ups of the Brave and the Bold hardcover, which collected the JMS issues of The Brave and the Bold.
The full review can be found at EssentialShowcase.com.
To find the original issues, or reprints, of Batgirl’s early appearances, check with your local comic book. In the Midwest, I strongly recommend Clint’s Comics in midtown Kansas City. Clint’s has been in business for nearly 50 years at the intersection of Main St. and Westport Rd. The back-issue selection is incredible, and what you see in the store is just a small fraction of their total inventory. In addition to the back issues, Clint’s stocks current issues, trade paperbacks, toys, T-shirts, and more. Check out Clint’s Comics to build your own essential collection!