(Barbara Gordon) (Earliest -1967/68)
Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) debuted in 1967 – during the Batman craze. The Batman comics were to develop a new, female character that the TV show could use.
Batgirl was a minor hit. Howbeit :
- It would be decades before she’d actually get her own comic. Or her own (animated) TV show.
- By the 1980s, Batgirl lost her steam. Her appearances became scarce, and it was eventually decided to dispose of her.
Yet Barbara Gordon would make an unexpected return…
Here we’ll discuss Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) as she existed on Earth-1 before the Crisis on Infinite Earths. If that sentence reads like gobbledygook, see this article.
We’re not gonna cover 20 years of Batgirl in a single article. If only to spare the thumb of smartphone readers. So this first profile covers the earliest, 1967-68 state of Batgirl.
For more Batgirl articles and their order, see our guide to Batgirl writeups.
The earliest Batgirl (B. Gordon) appears in stories that combine :
- Silver AgeSuper-hero comics from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. DC Comics nonsense for children.
- An attempt at emulating the campy Batman TV show. Albeit doing so without the actors’ comedic delivery is a challenge.
- Boomer generation gender-based comedy. Though it’s not as bad as it could be since Batgirl is portrayed as serious and cerebral.
- Real Name: Barbara Gordon.
- Former Aliases: Mighty Girl.
- Other Aliases: The captions were determined to give her alliterative, habitually asinine kenningsA metaphorical/poetic phrase used instead of a thing/person’s plain old name.. These included “masked maiden”, “raging young tigress”, “dominoed dare-doll” (yes, really), “mystery maiden”, “battling beauty” and “bat-beauty”.
- Known Relatives: James W. Gordon (father), Thelma (mother, deceased), Anthony (older brother, officially deceased).
- Group Affiliation: Occasional associate of Batman and Robin.
- Base of Operations: Gotham City.
- Height: 5’6″ (1.67m). Weight: 121 lbs. (55 Kg.).
- Eyes: Blue. Hair: Red.
Powers & Abilities
Ms. Gordon is a highly qualified librarian, with extensive general and scientific knowledge.
She seems to also be in charge of acquisitions for the Gotham Public Library, which means a robust knowledge of bibliophily.
Though she wears glasses, the correction seems slight.
She’s an excellent seamstress.
Barbara is highly observant. She has both sharp senses and a keen deductive intelligence. Before you could say “dominoed dare-doll”, she had become a competent sleuth.
The human library
By the third full Batgirl story, her photographic memory appears.
At this stage, it means that she has a chance to recall in detail information from the thousands of books she’s read. But it’s not so absolute that she doesn’t need to double-check.
In practice, this ability is a minor variant of Batman’s ability to remember incredibly obscure facts to crack a case.
Barbara is trained in practical, combat-capable judo – with an emphasis on throws. This was rare back then.
She is a solid acrobat.
Batgirl also put herself through an intensive exercising regimen. This gave her significantly greater strength and endurance than you’d expect from a 120 lbs. person.
Ms. Gordon further mentions that she’s on a protein diet to build up strength. This was already a thing back then, with the Stillman Diet (the ancestor of the Atkins and others). But it was somewhat niche.
If you’re extraordinarily nerdy, you could seize this off-hand mention to hypothesise that in the DC Universe there exists a method based on Herr Doktor Krieger’s Wunderessen. And that this obscure, specialised diet is what is used by the smaller adventurers (such as kid sidekicks) to gain an unrealistic level of strength for their mass.
Batgirl often uses acrobatics for mobility across the battlefield. And to gain momentum to attack lesser opponents.
Barbara Gordon can apparently do whatever she wants with parts of the Gotham Library. For instance :
- She converted a large closet into a sewing and dressing room for her costume.
- She turned a storeroom basement into her private gym.
During this era, she wears trick clothes to speed-change into costume :
- A blue beret that can be unrolled to become her mask and headgear.
- Yellow booties whose brim can be unrolled up to become bat-boots.
- A red pencil skirt that can be quickly removed, then reversed to become a short cape.
- A handbag that can be reversed to become her utility belt and side bag. Said side bag holds small weapons, but seems a bit too bulky.
- A featureless black bodysuit. Worn under her skirt and a light sweater, this looks relatively inconspicuous.
Barbara drives a generic late 1950s sports convertible. In the trunk, she keeps a bat-motorbike, complete with bat-logo.
This one-rider sports motor scooter has an oddly impractical “longhorn” handlebar. So a real-world equivalent might be an older Cushman motor scooter .
(If you want something that feels more realistic, a Vespa 180cc Super Sport would have been a cool yet sensible choice. But it’s clearly not what’s drawn).
Batgirl once added a small, basic sidecar for Robin.
The scooter has special multi-coloured headlights that serve as tracking devices. These allow her to :
- Inexplicably tail a given car, as if following a track.
- Inexplicably detect “crooked activity” going on nearby.
- Inexplicably track a shrunk, insect-winged Batman.
After a few months, the little motor scooter with funky headlights occasionally gets replaced by a racing motorcycle. The shape evokes a Harley-Davidson Aermacchi racing bike .
Batgirl produced the following :
- A “laser strafer”. A sort of spinning top with laser beam emitters all along its circumference. It seemed meant to dazzle and lightly burn nearby people, but it was underpowered.
- A “chemical bomb”. Payload unknown.
- A spray of adhesive goo meant to entrap one foe. Possibly derived from Killer Moth’s weapon.
All these weapons are seen but once.
There’s an implication that she’s the one building and modifying her gadgets and vehicles.
Batgirl is still inexperienced at that point. So she occasionally needs to be bailed out, or misses a beat. But she rescues Batman and Robin about as often as they rescue her.
Like in the TV show, the stories are low-stakes. So she’ll seldom do more than go against a handful of thugs.
And even that can prove challenging. Since it’s 1960s TV show style fight choreographies, not The Matrix or Once Upon A Time In China.
And if you’re not happy with this here musical theme, I can *sing* it. So just smile and nod.
History (part 1)
Barbara Gordon lost her mother when she was very young. She was raised by her father, police officer James “Jim” Gordon, and eventually her big brother Tony.
The circumstances of Mrs. Gordon’s death are unrevealed. None of the Gordons ever spoke about her in the published material.
Jim Gordon would eventually become Commissioner of Gotham City.
Good morning Smallville
When Barbara was 7 or so, her dad sent her to Camp Smallville, a country camp for big city kids. Her older brother Anthony attended as a camp counsellor.
The wee tyke almost drowned after overestimating her swimming abilities. But Superboy (Clark Kent) came in just in time to save her.
The bookish, nerdish kid then fantasised about being a super-heroine. This resonated with a mystical crystal hidden in Superboy’s cape – as he had just returned from fighting the far future wizard Mordru.
This is a job for Mighty Girl !
When Pete Ross and Clark Kent staged a ghost appearance to spook the kids as per camp tradition, the magic activated. Barbara became Mighty Girl, and eagerly rushed in to fight the “ghosts”.
Being a wee kid she had little control over her abilities, and disaster would soon ensue. But Superboy threw the crystal into space, depowering her in time.
Though lil’ Barbara was disappointed, Superboy told her that if she trained hard enough she could become a super-hero too. Without needing a magical crystal.
Lost in the Fogg
When Barbara was in her mid-teens, her big brother Tony left for a around-the-world journey on a balloon. However, it was in part a pretext to take photos of mainland China for the US gov’t.
Tony Gordon was forced down and imprisoned in China. The PRC eventually stated that he had died.
Howbeit, Tony eventually escaped and returned stateside. Yet he had to remain officially dead for diplomatic reasons.
In his new identity, he became a tour guide at the Smithsonian . But his family never learned that he was still alive.
All this and brains too
Meanwhile, Barbara Gordon went on to become a brilliant student. She earned a PhD at Gotham State, presumably in the new-fangled field of information science (previously “documentation science”).
Ms. Gordon graduated summa cum laudeLatin for “with the highest distinction”.. This was no trivial matter. When she graduated there were less than 5,000 women earning a doctoral degree per year, in the *entire* country. 90% of doctoral degrees were awarded to men.
She became Head Librarian at the Gotham Public Library. That gave her a lot of latitude as to her schedule.
However, her qualifications put a damper on her romantic prospects.
- Most men back then weren’t wild about extraordinarily qualified women.
- The stereotyping around librarians — a highly feminised profession, except at the most senior levels — was already strong.
Likewise, Barbara proudly held a first-rank brown belt (ikkyu) in judo.
While this is a junior rank, the number of women in the US who could seriously train in judo was tiny. And most of them had a husband or father who was a senior figure in the judo scene.
(Though there had been a surge of women getting melee combat training during the heydays of the suffragettes, this had receded. Even in France, one of the earlier judo adopters countries in the West, no woman held a black belt before Mrs. Levannier in 1951).
Later captions add that she also trained in karate. Back then, that likely meant either :
- Shotokan Karate from a Japanese instructor who had moved to the US.
- A mish-mash of styles (often including Korean and Chinese forms) from an American instructor, such as “American kenpō” karate.
Tired of being overlooked by men for being a brainy librarian, Barbara made herself a flattering Batgirl costume. She sought to cause a sensation at a society ball she and her father had been invited to.
As she drove there in costume, she spotted Killer Moth and his henchmen kidnapping fellow ball-goer Bruce Wayne. Rushing in, “Batgirl” took the henchmen down. That forced Killer Moth to flee as Batman (Bruce Wayne) was coming in.
This was the exact sort of excitement she had been craving. Library management was boring, and Barbara now dearly wished to become Batgirl again.
She greatly intensified her physical training. Ms. Gordon also made special articles of clothing she could quickly turn into her Batgirl costume.
History (part 2)
While delivering a rare book to Bruce Wayne, Barbara spotted Killer Moth. Batgirl rushed in to protect the millionaire.
But as it turned out, it had been a trap for Moth, set by Batman and Robin. Batgirl’s intervention thus allowed Killer Moth to flee.
The Dynamic Duo told her to stay behind as they didn’t want “a girl” to slow them down. Predictably, Batgirl disobeyed.
Once at the Moth’s hideout, she cleverly helped get the Duo out of a trap. Then found the criminal’s hiding place.
Some weeks later, Barbara realised that a criminal mastermind was transmitting crime plans to underlings within library books.
She foiled them, with Batman and Robin coming in when she lost the upper hand.
To lay a trap for the robbers, Batman pretended to reveal his identity to Batgirl. Since the criminals had planted a listening device on her costume.
To do so, he blindfolded her and took her to the Batcave.
The plan worked :
- The crooks went all-in to capture Batgirl, thinking that she now knew Batman’s identity. The entire ring was arrested.
- When Batman showed Batgirl that he was Bruce Wayne, he had traces of hair dye and disguise wax on his face.
- As hoped, Batgirl noticed these. She concluded that Batman couldn’t possibly be Bruce Wayne, and that this “disguise” was just a part of the trap.
Supergirl (Linda Danvers) and Batgirl were later beset by a strange, gaseous, giant hand. It shifted them into another dimensionOther realms of existence that are not our universe..
While they were away, the imps Bat-Mite and Mister Mxyzptlk got into a weird, Silver Age plan to ruin both Batman and Superman’s careers. So they could then decide who was the toughest.
That involved impersonating Batgirl and Supergirl. Which made it look like they were the ones impossibly bedevilling their counterparts, to take over their role.
Batgirl then intercepted a crew of thieves. Batman & Robin came in, but Batman slipped and accidentally swallowed swamp water.
Recognising the early symptoms of a swamp fever, Batgirl conspired with Robin. They knew that Batman would refuse to stop his nocturnal patrols, even though the fever would likely strike without warning.
Robin pretended to abandon Batman so he’d get to work with Batgirl instead. They patrolled ahead of him, taking down criminals so Batman would be safe.
After a week of this, Batman did abruptly collapse during a fight. But Batgirl and Robin saved him.
Catwoman (Selina Kyle) pretended to reform in an effort to seduce Batman. She weirdly assumed that Batgirl would be a rival for Batman’s affection.
Kyle staged multiple incidents where she arrested her own men to make it look like she was a heroine.
She also made Batgirl look like a fool, distorting light waves with catoptrics so she’d miss her every blow.
But Batgirl, Robin and Batman improbably escaped her traps and exposed Catwoman’s plot.
The sports spoilers
In early 1968, a gang patterning their crimes after sports (Sportsmaster fans, maybe) repeatedly struck Gotham. Even the Dynamic Duo had a hard time defeating them.
Batgirl also intervened. But she was embarrassingly ineffective as her “woman’s instincts” to straighten her appearance kept getting in the way.
However, Batgirl eventually proved her worth as she distracted the thugs by showing off her legs.
AH AH FEMALES RIGHT AH AH FEMALES AM I RIGHT OR WHAT.
The Queen Bee (Zazzala) then sought to enslave the JLA as her agents.
Batgirl saw Batman turned into a small, insectile critter. She shadowed him, but was felled by a miniaturised, insectilised JLA.
TransmogrifiedMagically transforming something into something else. by Zazzala, Batgirl joined Batman and Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) in stealing for the Queen Bee. But the JLA eventually turned the tables on their insectile enemy.
Batgirl and Wonder Woman (Diana of Themyscira) then teamed up to help Batman stop Copperhead. But it was one of these absurd, not-meant-to-fit-any-continuity Bob Haney stories. And there’s little we can use in that specific one.
His last trick
Celebrated master actor Ronald Jason became fatally sick. As his last and greatest performance, he disguised himself as two space aliens to trick Batman and Superman into fighting.
Though both heroes detected the trick, they humoured Mr. Jason by pretending to fall for it. As part of this, Batman enlisted Supergirl to oppose Superman. And so Superman recruited Batgirl.
Once the boasting actor had passed, the two men explained what had been going on to the girls, Robin and Jimmy Olsen.
Girl of bronze
As 1969 began, the 1960s Batmania was over.
The genre of Batgirl stories therefore changed. And she got her back-of-the-book, short episodic feature in Detective Comics.
These were detective/thriller stories, with a slight cinematic quality. While Silver Age stories continued to pop up, Batgirl had moved into the Bronze AgeSuper-hero comics from (roughly) the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. of comics.
These stories used the old “Hollywood Ugly” thing with Barbara.
That’s when a gorgeous woman wears glasses, doesn’t smile all the time, and has her hair in a bun. Which is widely yet inexplicably understood as meaning that her attractiveness is average.
In Babs’ case, the hair is done in two lateral buns, à la Princess Leia. And the glasses are small, square reading glasses.
Batgirl is serious, strong on deductive intelligence, determined, and cerebral.
Though she operates in a largely comedic genre, she’s played fairly straight in most stories. She conforms to the campy logic of the stories, but she only becomes a “comedy” character in gender-based ones.
Batgirl craves the excitement of pitting her intellectual and physical prowess against criminals. But she does that in a collected, methodical manner. She’s results-oriented.
Barbara is often seen at her father’s place. Perhaps they decided to share it since it was too large for Jim alone, and they didn’t wish to sell it. Or perhaps she just visits often.
“In my everyday identity, I’m the Head Librarian of Gotham City Public Library ! Everybody thinks of me as a ‘plain jane’ — a colourless female ‘brain’…”
“She’s roused my feminine curiosity… as well as my feminine intuition !”
“They’re playing radball, a soccer-on-wheels sport played in Austria !”
“The ball was a specially disguised bomb — that blew those doors off without a sound — possibly by shock concussion !”
DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
|Dex: 05||Str: 03||Bod: 03|
|Int: 06||Wil: 07||Min: 04|
|Inf: 03||Aur: 04||Spi: 05|
|Init: 016||HP: 030|
Acrobatics: 05, Artist (Sewing): 04, Gadgetry: 04, Martial Artist (incl. Techniques): 04, Scientist (Research): 07, Thief (Stealth): 04, Vehicles (Land): 05
Scholar (Bibliophily, Litterature), Headquarters (Gotham Public Library).
Batman & Robin (Low).
Head Librarian of the GPL.
- BAT-SCOOTER [STR 02 BODY 04, Extra-sensory tracking: 06, Flash (Stdy illum only): 03, Running: 06, R#2, Bonus: EST can also be used on vehicles, who don’t get an OV/RV].
- Laser Strafer [BODY 01, Flash (No Range, Area of Effect 1 AP): 02, Grenade Drawback].
- Adhesive spray [BODY 01, Glue: 03, Ammo: 01, Bonus: Glue has a Range of 2 APs].
For the SCOOTER’s EST Power, I’m assuming that she happened to have a criminal in her tracking system, and that “detecting a crime” was just that she happened upon that guy at a sus location.
Source of Character: 1960s DC Comics.
Writeup completed on the 23rd of March, 2023.