Barb Wire is sometimes assumed to be just one of the “bad girls” characters that were popular during that time, and often judged by her looks (especially with the P. Anderson association). Actually reading the books reveals a more interesting character, though.
This profile covers all of her comic book appearances as to this writing. I’m missing but some promo material. There are small continuity discrepancies between the 1990s series and the 2010s series, but they’re trivial to patch over.
This profile is now presented in two parts since it was slightly too long. So it continues in part #2.
- Real Name: Barb Wire.
- Former Name: Barbara Ludwika Rose Kopetski.
- Note: Two different middle names were given, so we robertbrucebannerized .
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: Charlie (brother), unnamed father, unnamed mother (deceased), unnamed babciu (grandmother, deceased).
- Group Affiliation: None.
- Base Of Operations: Hammerhead Bar and Grille, Steel Harbor.
- Height: 5’7” Weight: 135 lbs. Age: 33-ish.
- Eyes: Quite blue. Hair: Quite blonde.
The bulk of the action in the CGW universe takes place in four US cities. Barb is based in Steel Harbor (pop. 784K and falling), sometimes nicknamed “metal city”.
We suggest that you read our Gangs of Steel Harbor article for more context about the place. But the general idea is that’s it’s a failed, crime-heavy city that has been going feral for decades. Two key power players are street gangs with superhuman members, the Primer Movers (led by Mace Blitzkrieg) and the Wolf Gang (led by Hunter).
Barb Wire has ties with with the Wolf Gang. She also can be considered a power player in Steel Harbor politics. This is in part since in the past she has employed redoubtable superhuman bouncers, the Machine and Motorhead.
Powers and Abilities
Barb Wire has lightning reflexes, panther-like speed and agility, and remarkable strength for her size. Barb can knock out or at least stun even a big guy with just one punch or kick. She reliably can beat up four or five strong, tough brawlers at once. She is incredibly skilled with :
- Large motorbikes.
- Strikes-heavy martial arts.
- Muscle cars.
- And other macho stuff.
She is also an experienced and successful bounty huntress, and a good acrobat. She remains highly focused even in the messiest fights. However, she’s a mediocre business manager.
Barb reportedly has a unique knack when it comes to learning how to use weapons and vehicles. It is said she can master any such piece of gear within less than an hour. This is but weakly supported by the material. Namely, she once learned to accurately aim a strange piece of vehicle-mounted artillery within a minute of seeing it.
She is assertive, attractive, charismatic, streetwise and has a strong personality. These traits make her a personality in Steel Harbor, and she has numerous allies
She’s sharp and crafty, and is good at deviously planning ahead. Her bouncy blonde image will lead most to underestimate her smarts, which is… unwise.
Good old arsenal
Barb Wire’s core equipment during the 1990s was :
- Shades and biking leathers.
- Paired Colt M1911A1 Argentine Modelo 1927 .45 ACP.
- “Tracer bullets” aka “smart bullets”. These are armoured tracking bugs fitted into .45 ammunition. They are generally shot into cars so Barb can then track them with a compass-like receiver on her bike.
- Cell phone w/headset – which back in 1993 wasn’t common in the US.
- Armoured Indian 841 motorcycle. Barb has several big vintage American motorcycles, retrofitted with bullet-resistant lightweight armour plating designed by her brother. Her main one is a vintage, rebuilt 1941 Indian 841 (with a “BARB” vanity plate), though she also owns a modified 1930 Excelsior and of course several rare Harleys.
- Both Barb and Charlie have a tracer implanted within their body. It can be tracked with the same receiver as the the “smart bullets”.
When preparing for a mission, she will often use equipment beyond these basics. Examples have included :
- Modified Mossberg 500 Tactical pump-action shotgun. The one that was seen had a shortened barrel, a pistol grip and no stock, an unusually heavy heat shield, and a 5-shells holder on the top. One such weapon is kept in an Old West-style saddle holster on her current motorcycle, and it is her usual weapon when she expects heavy combat.
- Smith & Wesson .44 magnum M29 with 6,5” barrel A high-calibre revolver she occasionally uses for heavy combat.
- Holdout magnum revolver. Nowadays this would likely be something like a Taurus Tracker in .44 magnum A relatively light and compact revolver with a 4” heavy barrel, which Barb packs when she needs something more discreet in hand than her big gleaming Colts.
- Over/under 12-gauge shotgun. A hefty Savage shotgun kept at the bar, along with a bandoleer of shell that doubles as a gun sling. Though not the best choice in an extended gunfight, it can double-tap with powerful ammunition.
- Ingram M10 .45 machine pistol. Barb Wire always keeps one in the saddle bags of her ride, presumably with one or two extra clips.
- Jim Bowie-type fighting knife.
- Barb Wire is occasionally seen with a submachinegun – likely a H&K UMP45 or MP5K.
- A lightweight line is stored in a compact spool that can be towed by .45 ACP bullets. The spool can be attached to the side of one of her Colts, and I assume there is some sort of “bullet catcher” attachment that is fitted over the barrel so the shot will trail the line and embed it into whatever obstacle it hits.
- Typical surveillance “shotgun” microphones.
Charlie is Barb’s brother. He’s probably the younger sibling, since Barbara is protective of him. He’s blind, flaky, good-looking and technologically gifted. His job is to maintain and improve Barb’s arsenal and vehicles. He’s not a computers man, though the Machine eventually procured a braille keyboard and a voice synthesiser so Charlie could learn.
Charlie developed an alcohol problem. But during the 2015 series he stated that he’d been dry for six months.
Charlie is capable of building comic-book-style super-tech. But this is expensive and everything has to be built by hand. Except for the “tracer bullets” above, Barb doesn’t like using such equipment. She can’t wrap her head around, and trust, gear that seems to come from a sci-fi serial.
Still, this tech can be necessary in her least favourite kind of job – recapturing superhumans.
Examples of such advanced gadgets :
- “Stun grenade” aka “sleepers”. A modified Russian RPG-7 with a warhead that generates an incapacitating electrical field.
- Power-dampening goggles. Once fitted on someone’s head they’ll probably neutralize their superhuman abilities.
- A modified M16 rifle using gas cartridges to shoot a sort of harpoon, towing a line spooled within a cylinder under the barrel. It seems to drain and knock out people with electrical powers, sucking their energy into the cylinder.
- Charlie even made realistic holograms projectors or blasters . But his sister would only use this stuff is there was no alternative.
The original Hammerhead Bar And Grille
Barb’s main business interest was an industrial building converted into a bar. It had ample floor space with a stolid red brick construction, large and visible industrial piping hanging from the ceiling, resilient furniture, a stage for a band, etc.
It had a well deserved rep as a rough place with some dangerous lowlives. Especially when Barb and her bouncers were away. The main attractions were of course cheap beer and hard rock. However the original Hammerhead was already considered by some to also be a key place in Steel Harbor, where being seen and hammering out deals would enhance one’s street rep.
The basement of this building was huge. It was likely intended to be an industrial storage space, with vehicular access ramps for deliveries. This is where Barb’s brother Charlie spent most of his time, and where Barb stored her arsenal and vehicles. There were at least two stories above the ground floor, and the main room of the bar was circled by an elevated walkway.
Barb’s fleet includes :
- A genuine restored 1924 Ford Model T.
- A rebuilt BMW Sahara . It has its sidecar, on which was retrofitted a Six-Pak multiple-barrels machinegun, facing backward. There still is room for a sidecar passenger.
- A 1956 T-Bird .
- A 1959 Cadillac Coupe , supposedly once owned by Montgomery Clift .
Alonzo has been Barb Wire’s employee since she dropped out of college. He seems to be 4-5 years younger than she is. He’s just an ordinary bloke and an avowed coward. But he can drive okay and can apparently play a passable bass guitar.
Alonzo was Barb’s helper and driver when she became a skip tracer . He then became the gopher at the Hammerhead Grille and Bar. At the Hammerhead, he apparently worked for food and shelter.
Alonzo looks shaggy and harmless, which often allows him to avoid trouble. Barb frequently used that to have him in reel in quarries.
Alonzo was also involved in a band called Death March. Death March amounted to little for 10+ years, though Barb Wire often gave them gigs at the Hammerhead. Death March exploded in the college charts circa 1995, resulting in a major case of ego inflation for Alonzo and his buddies. However, it seemingly cratered soon after.
Alonzo was still working for Barb Wire as of 2016, again as a general helper and driver.
The depictions in the 2015 series are more grounded. This is presumably because Barb has steered clear of superhumans for a year or two. The main differences are :
- The vehicles fleet seems down to a few bikes, and a van for her helpers. Perhaps she sold her cars to pay the Hammerhead’s bills. Her usual bike is an Indian (though maybe not her old one), but she also owns a high-performance crotch rocket when speed is essential.
- Her equipment is now much closer to what you’d expect from a real-world bail enforcer. Normally it’ll be :
- The pistol that is briefly seen (next to a box of 9x19mm ammo) evokes a SIG P228, though she seldom uses it. The pepper spray is much safer on every level.
- Charlie is still technologically gifted, but no longer appears to build comic-book equipment.
- She now works with a few guys, but she’s the point woman. The helpers are mostly there to help wrap up, run surveillance, run interference and the like. They also have first aid qualifications. Her musclemen are called Bruno and Mealoa. Alonzo is still around, driving the van.
- Her crew also includes a camera operator (Tony Tanaka), as Barb sells the footage as an additional income source. They are often accompanied by a network representative named Guy, who seems to be Cajun.
Barbara “Barb Wire” Kopetski’s father is a former steel worker and U.S. Marine . He reportedly fought in Korea, but is now bed-ridden and suffers from Alzheimer’s. Barb’s mother was a cop, who died in unknown circumstances. Barb was also close to her babciu (grandmother), who took her bowling.
Between her parents and her tough home town, little Barbara grew up an all-American fighter. She also inherited such traditional tastes as big chromed motorbikes, fast cars, high-caliber guns and heavy metal.
While Steel Harbor was prosperous — even booming — when Barb was a little girl, the situation soon soured. By the time she was a teenager, the town was already in dire shape.
Apparently she briefly tried to live in the outside world during her late teens or early 20s. But that did not work out and she came back to the Harbor. One suspects that she spent a year or two at a college outside of Steel Harbor.
After dropping out of college, a young Barb came to work for the ageing Michael O’Brien, the most reputed bounty hunter in town. This apprenticeship worked well, but O’Brien was an alcoholic with wandering hands. As a result, Kopetski beat him up and became a skip tracer on her own. She was assisted by Alonzo, then a teenager.
During that time Barb was also Hunter (Wolf Ferrell)’s lover. Hunter was already a noted gang leader, with remarkably disciplined troops. But he presumably yet had to recruit his superhuman lieutenants. While Kopetski seemed proud of being with the handsome, smart and feared Hunter, they eventually broke up in violent circumstances.
The very first contract the Barb closed solo was locating one Avram Roman, who would later become the Machine. With information from Hunter, a fair bit of luck and a lot of guts, Barb did capture the superhuman Roman. However, Mick O’Brien and his crew came after her to get Avram, and the situation degenerated.
Barb had Alonzo call Hunter just in time. Though Avram and Kopetski were captured by the O’Brien crew, the bounty hunters were surrounded in turn by the Wolf Gang. After the skip tracers left, Barb let Avram leave. They had saved each other’s life during the fighting, so she couldn’t apprehend him in good conscience.
Gaining in stature
Barb Wire became Steel Harbor’s #1 skip tracer, displacing O’Brien. Two friends proved to be key assets in this. After their breakup she rebuilt professional bridges with Hunter. And the mysterious Machine often sent her information about the most elusive skips.
She also took to running a large bar, the Hammerhead. The bounty payments kept the Hammerhead running despite the perpetually-depressed economy in Steel Harbor.
Inevitably, Barb Wire got involved in the high-powered gang warfare that dominates the embattled town.
Her first documented job was nabbing Ignition, a psychotic pyrokinetic working for the Prime Movers. Nobody else dared to confront Ignition and his entourage. But Barb Wire felled them with a non-lethal rocket-propelled grenade built by Charlie.
But she had underestimated the wealth and pull of the Movers. Ignition was back on the street within less than an hour and looking for revenge. Barb’s friend the Machine helped repulse the attack, and the bounty huntress tracked Ignition to his hideout. There she spied on Mace Blitzkrieg disciplining Ignition.
Mace also mentioned that he would soon conquer the whole town. Deducing that he would start with the Wolf Gang, Barb Wire rode to warn them. However, superhuman Wolf Gang members who did not know her tried to stop her. By the time she could reach her ex, the Movers were practically there and the Wolf Gang was overrun.
1993 gang war
Despite their superhuman OGs and heavy firepower, the Wolf Gang and the neighbourhood were taking a murderous pounding. At that point the other bouncer of the Hammerhead Bar and Grille, Frank Fletcher aka Motorhead, came looking for Barb.
Fletcher’s frequent absences had recently led Kopetski to fire him. Frank’s no-shows were caused by massive telekinetic powers swelling within him, resulting in crippling migraines. His power enhanced by the latest painful episodes, “Motorhead” Fletcher dispersed the Prime Movers. He then asked for his job back, and he and Barb worked something out.
After another major clash with the Prime Movers to defend Barb and the Wolf Gang, Motorhead had to leave town. His tremendous power made a normal life impossible and threatened to turn the Hammerhead and Barb into targets for even more powerful parties.
Barb Wire then attempted to collect a bounty on a minor superhuman biker leader. Calling himself Fearless, he had the power to remove fear from people for a short while through his touch. Barb got rid of his suicidally fearless one-percenters , and cornered her prey.
Fearless used his fear-suppressing touch on himself and overwhelmed Barb. She was forced to exploit his fearless state to dare him to do a suicidal jump. Fearless was killed in the fall, costing Barb the bounty but saving her life.
Born to be wild
Barb then got into trouble caused by Deathcard. This assassin was piggy-backing on her manhunting skills to find and kill his targets. She expertly turned the tables on him, though Deathcard escaped.
Some time after that, Mace Blitzkrieg learned that Fletcher had left. Mace launched a major terrorist campaign in Steel Harbor, razing several police precincts with car bombs and putting the police in a state of siege.
The situation worsened when Titan was sent in by the Federal government. Titan was beginning to suffer from a major nervous breakdown, which also increased his immense power. He thus got into a pointless fight with the Wolf Gang. Their leader Hunter called Counterstrike, a superhuman friend who had gone corporate. Counterstrike held his own for a while, but was eventually overcome.
The catastrophically escalating situation was halted by Motorhead, who came back to Steel Harbor after hearing about the earlier bombings.
Welcome to the Machine
Some time later, the government project behind the transformation of Avram Roman into the Machine tracked him down to the Hammerhead. The Machine wanted to face them alone to protect the Kopetski siblings – the only persons treating him like a man.
Barb nevertheless investigated and joined the conflict. She arrested the Federal agent hunting down the Machine.
Knowing he was ineluctably becoming less human with each passing day, the Machine eventually left. He asked Barb to tell his father, who had gotten wind of his survival, that he was dead.
Hard liquors and fire do not mix
During a subsequent case Barb got careless. She nearly got killed by a common punk, which cost her more than she made from the bondsman.
She decided to concentrate on running the Hammerhead full-time and drop the whole skip-tracing business. She had the bar renovated, set up events and gigs for local bands. She even started wearing dresses and being “Ms. Kopetski”. The Hammerhead remained in the red, though.
Barb improved the cash flow by working full-time on developing the bar for a while. Yet the financials remained sickly. Furthermore, she craved adrenaline and spent more and more time at the gym. Feeling betrayed by her inability to stick with the bar, some of the staff angrily left.
Things came to a head when Maureen Skach, the new Ignition, came to the Hammerhead to avenge the first Ignition. Since Barb was away, Skach grabbed Charlie instead.
Barb quickly found her brother, but was outmatched by the powerful Ignition. The bounty huntress nevertheless killed Skach’s psychotic and heavily armed sidekick. She then managed to take Ignition down by rigging up a taser staff hooked up on a large generator.
Barb Wire returned to occasional bounty hunting and skip-tracing to stay in the money. During that era, the Mask came to Steel Harbor. Despite the Mask’s sheer power, Barb and the Machine energetically took the green-faced psychotic nuisance down. Kopetski finished the Mask off with a solid kick to the testicles with her steel-shod cowgirl boots on.
Barb then tracked down the superhuman Reddy Kilowatt into the city of Arcadia. She bagged him with the help of the local, supernatural vigilante Ghost (Elisa Cameron). Intuiting that the gruff Cameron felt lonely, Kopetski gave her her card as a gesture of friendship.
Ghost did contact Barb Wire when she came to Steel Harbor to locate a runaway girl. The pair eventually tracked the kid down, though she turned into a monster who begged Ghost to kill her after spouting some enigmatic warnings. Ghost left, since Barb acting friendly and ignoring her brooding and spectral behaviour made her feel awkward.
Peace in our time
A truce between the super-gangs then proved lasting. Barb seized the occasion to further pivot toward running the Hammerhead.
This is continued in part #2 !
Helper(s): Rafael Sant’anna Meyer, Pufnstuff, Capita_Senyera, Darci.
Source of Character: Dark Horse’s Comics Greatest World (CGW) books and related appearances.