Well, that happened fast. Amid the maelstrom of criticism the DCEU has faced in recent months, Warner Bros. threw down the gauntlet and decided to welcome Batgirl to the arena. Not only will this integral member of the Bat family arrive via a solo movie in 2019, but it will land in theaters under the tutelage of Joss Whedon, resident Marvel director and Avengers extraordinaire.
With pre-production underway and a frontrunner actress already on the map, Batgirl is (somehow) well past the concept stages. Though many factors about the movie are unknown, the most pressing question remains: which Batgirl will we be meeting? As we look back at her many iterations from Bette Kane to Cassandra Cain, we encounter some of the strangest moments in the history of Detective Comics. She may not be as famous as Catwoman or Robin, but Batgirl has been involved in some truly scandalous events during her tenure in Gotham and beyond.
Here are the 15 Most WTF Batgirl Moments Of All Time.
16. Getting Paralyzed By The Joker
The world of comics is filled with retcons. Major deaths are reversed, heroes turn bad, and villains become good. However fleeting most superhero stories may be, the paralyzing of Barbara Gordon is forever. Batman: The Killing Joke is a stain on the life and times of Batgirl. Though many fans loved the graphic novel (and the recently-released animated movie), a more vocal swathe of viewers despised its hostile sadism and unrelenting torture of its heroes. Even the author, Alan Moore, has admitted to questioning some of his artistic choices, the abuse of Barbara Gordon chief among his regrets.
The infamous moment came out of nowhere. While Barbara enjoys a night at home with her father, James Gordon, the Joker arrives unannounced and shoots her in the stomach, paralyzing her on impact. After kidnapping the Commissioner, the Clown Prince of Crime sets about stripping Barbara and taking nude photos of her broken body. These pictures would later be used in the Joker’s psychological attacks against her father. The Killing Joke made Batgirl into a punchline that few fans found funny.
15. Joining A Nudist Colony To Capture Catwoman
In Fabian Nicieza’s bacchanalian adventure, The Cat and the Bat, Barbara is hot on Catwoman’s heels for stealing Commissioner Gordon’s secret notebook. It’s a paper-thin plot, but it serves a single, titillating purpose: to make Barbara Gordon go to extreme lengths in pursuit of justice. Though Nicieza’s story sees Batgirl early in her career and anxious to prove her mettle, we quickly learn that her desperation exceeds her modesty.
When Catwoman takes refuge in a nudist combine, Barbara enters the clothes-free zone and decides to play by their rules. Though she could easily stay in-costume and capture Kyle, she strips down to her birthday suit and struts her stuff for all to see, covered only by well-placed cornucopias. However humiliated she may be, Babs somehow keeps her sense of humor, “Mortified, stupefied, petrified, but not paralyzed.” As the fully-nude battles begin, however, you can’t help but wonder if you’re reading a legitimate Batgirl comic or some really twisted fan-fiction.
14. Shattering Superboy’s Nose
Cassandra Cain and Superboy may have enjoyed a cruise-liner romance, but that was a flash in the pan. This darker, meaner, and tougher Batgirl has always had bigger fish to fry. When she teams up with Superboy for a midnight adventure, she can’t be bothered to keep up with the Kryptonian’s sorry sense of humor. While flying alongside Batgirl to the scene of the crime, he makes weird Mastercard commercials references: “you’re supposed to say ‘Priceless.’ Don’t you get those annoying e-mails?” Like Clark Kent getting overeager with Lois Lane, Superboy already wants Cassandra to finish his sentences.
But then he keeps trying his luck. He brags about his “tactile telekinesis” and how he can “take a sip of milk and fire it out of my tear duct.” Pump the brakes, bro. Without saying a word, Batgirl stops her work, grabs him, then slams him into the pavement. If only Superboy had shut up, the beatdown would have ended there. After taunting Cassandra about her relationship with Robin, Batgirl approaches Superboy, tells him to “focus,” then lines up a pro-set karate chop that shatters his nose. You had it comin’, dude.
13. Getting Tortured by Black Mask
Barbara Gordon’s treatment in The Killing Joke is truly brutal, but it’s a wonder that Stephanie Brown’s abuse at the hand of Black Mask isn’t as widely known. As the third Batgirl in the esteemed Bat family, Stephanie Brown carried the biggest burden of all: toiling relentlessly to prove her worth to Bruce Wayne. Though she would ultimately achieve her goal, Stephanie would only realize her true value as she lay on her death bed.
The events that got her there are harrowing. As Stephanie jeopardizes Batman’s well-laid plans for saving Gotham City, she incites a full-blown domestic war and gets kidnapped by Black Mask. While strung up by chains in his underground lair, Batgirl is subjected to all manner of inhuman practices. Black Mask unravels a kit of operating tools, drills, and knives as he assures his victim, “The night is quickly passing and we’ve so much to do.” Though Stephanie would manage to escape from this dungeon, she would ultimately succumb to the wounds inflicted by Black Mask and die in Batman’s arms.
12. Ripping Her Tights To Distract Her Enemies
It was January 1968, and Gardner Fox, Gil Kane, and Sid Greene succeeded in creating one of the most unabashedly misogynistic comics of all time. It must be seen to be truly believed, but we’ll give you a snapshot of this classic Silver Age story. The adventure starts with Batgirl hot on the heels of Gotham’s worst criminals. Though she nearly succeeds in capturing them, the Masked Maiden’s disguise gets knocked out of joint and her suit gets covered in mud. While Batgirl cleans up her act, Batman and Robin are forced to save the day. After sorting out her superhero suit, Batgirl admits, “my vanity betrayed me…it wasn’t personal vanity that made me adjust my headgear-it was an instinctive female reaction!” To salvage her reputation, she sets out on a solo mission to “prove I can overcome my feminine instincts by sheer concentration!”
In short, Batgirl hates herself. During the climax of Detective Comics #371, Batman and Robin summon Batgirl’s assistance as they fight a gang of crooks. Unfortunately, all Batgirl can do is bemoan her “even bigger [problem] – a run in my tights!” As she bends over to fix up her legs, Batman, Robin, and the brawling thugs stop and stare. Though the Dynamic Duo is convinced that she did it on accident, Batgirl later admitted, “I tore my tights deliberately – to give me an excuse for showing off my leg and distracting those crooks!”
11. Almost Assassinating Supergirl
When DC introduced the “One Year Later” storyline, all bets were off. Skipping the details on 12 months of events gave the writers carte blanche and total creative freedom. This made for both some compelling adventures — and some equally disturbing transitions. Before this sudden shift in the timeline, Cassandra Cain was killing it, and she had one of the best solo series of any superhero (let alone the only Batgirl to have one). Through the years, Cassandra had become a staple of the Bat Family and a key player in the fight against evil in Gotham.
Oh, what a difference a year makes. In Robin #150, we learn that Cassandra Cain leads the League of Assassins. Upon her introduction, she claims to have killed off Nyssa al-Ghul (allegedly by car-bomb, no less) en route to becoming a vindictive villain in the making. She declares, “There’s no Batgirl anymore,” as she orders public executions and beats the snot out of her victims. What set her off in the interim between being Batgirl and becoming a serial killer? While serving as a gun-for-hire on behalf of Dark Angel, Cassandra sought to execute Supergirl. As she prepared to stab her with red-sun emitting katanas, Cassandra realizes that she has lived in her father’s shadow her whole life. This drives her to stop fighting for anyone but herself. Enter Batgirl in berserker mode.
10. Her Rooftop Rendezvous with Batman
For all of the horror and outrage that The Killing Joke inspired, the film adaptation earned even louder disapproval. By adding a cliched and bizarre sex scene between Batman and Batgirl, writer Brian Azzarello utterly compromised the father-daughter dynamic between Bruce and Barbara. If their relationship wasn’t quite familial, then it was at least framed in the lens of mentor and student. For decades, Batman and Batgirl had been nothing but platonic, battling criminals as coworkers, not lovers. On a midnight rooftop in Gotham City, however, their relationship got an upgrade.
As the scene plays out early in The Killing Joke, Batman lambastes his pupil for her naivety in the line of fire. Barbara defends herself, but when Batman banishes her from the fold, she fights back, kicks him, straddles him then kisses him. Before a gargoyle audience of one, Batgirl rips off her costume and proceeds to consummate the relationship. Fans were not thrilled.
9. Almost Executing The Joker
After paralyzing Batgirl and ruining her career, it was only a matter of time before the Joker would have to answer for his sins. Though the day of reckoning was a certainty, it took 20 years for his judgment to come. In Batgirl #15, Barbara Gordon has finally regained her stature. No longer bound to a wheelchair as Oracle, she is as strong as ever and more driven to exact revenge on the Clown that disabled her.
Though her physical abilities were restored, Barbara once again found herself in the web of the Joker’s corruption. Having hatched a plan to force Batgirl to marry him, the Joker took Barbara’s mother hostage. The Clown’s ultimatum is clear: become my bride, or let Barbara Sr. die. Batgirl chooses the nuclear option and unleashes years of repressed violence into her enemy. She punches his spleen, cracks open his face, then whips out a pistol and holds the Joker at gunpoint. Moving the weapon from his head to his lower back, Barbara aims “right in [the Joker’s] abdomen. Damage the spine, but not sever it.” Though she nearly pulls the trigger, the Clown reminds Barbara of her mother’s imperiled life and succeeds in talking her down. Later, in Batgirl #16, we are introduced to an image we never dreamed possible: Batgirl and the Joker standing at the altar.
8. Sleeping With Bruce Wayne (While Dating Dick Grayson)
Batman Beyond reinvigorated the animated world of the Dark Knight. Had its comic-book follow-up let sleeping dogs lie, however, nobody’s feelings would have gotten hurt. Though the show introduced a totally new situation for this punk-rock Batman, most viewers wondered why Dick Grayson never showed up in a single episode. Bruce Wayne had taken up the mantle as mentor to Terry McGinnis, so you’d expect his first sidekick to make an appearance now and then.
The story behind Dick Grayson’s absence wasn’t addressed until Batman Beyond 2.0, the comic released in lieu of the animated series’ cancellation. As it turns out, Barbara Gordon and Dick were enjoying an intimate relationship that even saw the former Boy Wonder shopping for engagement rings. In the middle of their affair, however, Barbara made a crucial error and slept with Bruce Wayne. When Robin returned, she continued dating him only to learn that she was pregnant with a Bat-baby. Proving his complete inability to handle such a delicate situation, Bruce took it upon himself to inform Robin of the situation. Dick punched out Bruce, Barbara had a miscarriage, and the Batman/Robin dynamic was fundamentally changed.
7. The Cover of Batgirl #41
In the summer of 2015, everyone was talking about Batgirl. DC Comics had just released a variant cover for Batgirl #41, and every social media channel was ablaze with outrage. The image in question shows the Joker holding Barbara Gordon at gunpoint, the barrel of his pistol pointed south as he draws a bloodied Glasgow smile on her frightened face. Though the cover is a direct callback to The Killing Joke, many onlookers interpreted the image as a glorification of Batgirl’s abuse. While not equivocally stated in Alan Moore’s graphic novel, many readers suspect the Joker sexually abused Barbara after gunning her down in her apartment. The proof is in the pictures he used to torture Commissioner Gordon.
However you slice it, the famed cover of Batgirl #41 hits too close to home. If it’s not a celebration of those tragic events in Batgirl’s history, it’s an unwelcome reminder of what she experienced. Following the uproar from armchair journalists and commentators across the country, DC Comics pulled the cover from print.
6. Getting Stabbed By Her Stepbrother
Fun fact: Commissioner James Gordon’s son is a psychopath. Though he was introduced as an infant in Batman: Year One, he became a more prominent character in the Batgirl series. In his youth, James Jr. gets his kicks killing tiny animals and dissecting them for pleasure. In his adolescence, he becomes a prime suspect in the strange disappearance of Barbara’s close friend, Bess Keller. As he nears adulthood, James becomes a vagabond and leaves Gotham City to “clear” his head.
Upon his return, however, James Jr. becomes a full-blown serial killer and a stain on the Gordon family. When he isn’t attempting to poison babies, he tortures adults and gets hopped up on medications that enhance his insanity. After staging a distraction to get to Barbara, James kidnaps his step-sister with an intent to kill. Brandishing a pair of butcher knives, he stabs her in both legs, clean through her major arteries. Though the initial wounds don’t kill her, James angled the blades in such a way that removing them would result in her instantly bleeding out. Shortly before Batman arrives on the scene, Barbara gets a chance to retaliate and stabs her demented relative in the eye.
5. All of Batman & Robin
Batman & Robin may be a disaster from start to finish, but few moments could outshine the disturbing relationship between Alfred Pennyworth and Batgirl. While creeping into the Batcave one night, Barbara sets off some laser tripwires and is welcomed by a pre-recorded video of her “uncle” Alfred. This virtual simulation has the butler stuttering here and there, but the whole video makes Alfred seem desperate and lecherous. When Barbara says that she wants to partner with Batman and Robin, the virtual Butler gets quite excited and admits to having prepared for such an occasion. As he tells her, “[I] took the liberty to create something in your size.” Uh oh.
Without asking any questions, Barbara happily replies, “suit me up, Uncle Alfred.” The infamous sequence that follows spends the better part of a minute zooming in on Batgirl’s new threads, examining all the places Alfred took the time to thoroughly examine. Once she’s in the suit, Batgirl drags the movie down to new depths with eye-roll inducing quips like, “You’re about to become compost.” Rest assured, you have a low bar to clear, Mr. Whedon.
4. When Brainiac Possessed Her
Following the events in The Killing Joke, Barbara Gordon was sidelined as a superhero. Thanks to a bit of imagination, however, she returned to the scene as Oracle, the behind the scenes tech guru who helped other heroes win the day. Though Babs was bound to a wheelchair and far from the front lines, however, trouble continued to find her.
After severing relations with Batman and moving to Metropolis, Barbara gets possessed by the Superman villain, Brainiac. Given her knowledge of computer science and cybernetics, Barbara becomes an easy target for Brainiac to infect her. Like the girl in The Exorcist, Barbara Gordon does her best to ward off the artificially intelligent demon that possessed her. Though she ultimately wins the day and casts Brainiac from her mind and body, Barbara finds that she has inherited cybernetic powers and can control digital mainframes on a physical level. That’s the good news, but with Barbara Gordon, it’s never just good news.
After seeking the medical help of Doctor Mid-Nite, Barbara found that she could actually move her toes. Encouraged by the apparent healing of her body, she grew ecstatic that she might be able to regain control of her whole body. Unfortunately, the toe-wiggling proved to be just a residual effect of Brainiac’s attack, and Barbara was left the cold reminder that paralysis is forever. (Forever excluding company-wide reboots/retcons, of course.)
3. Almost Killing Her Mother
The life and times of Cassandra Cain shows some of the most twisted events in DC Comics. Long before she would become Batgirl, Cassandra was born to David Cain and Lady Shiva. As far as “meet-cute” stories go, the relationship between Cassie’s parents is a recipe for disaster. A lethal assassin, David Cain longed to produce a bodyguard for Ra’s Al Ghul. When he saw a potential mate in Sandra Wu-San, Cain killed her competitive sister and demanded she bear his child. With no other option before her, Sandra agreed, gave birth to Cassandra, then fled the scene to become the Lady Shiva of comics lore.
Like a Greek tragedy, these bitter seeds yield cruel fruit. When Cassandra enters adolescence and becomes a well-trained assassin on her own, she asks her mother to teach her how to read people’s minds and anticipate their movements. Shiva agrees with a caveat: in exchange for the lessons, Cassandra will have to fight her to the death the following year. When the designated 12 months go by, Shiva engages in battle against her daughter and effortlessly kills her. After reviving Cassandra (only because she felt her daughter lost on purpose), Shiva is soundly defeated and Cassie nearly twists her mother’s neck.
2. Being Created to Stop Gay Rumors About Batman
It didn’t take long for people to start asking questions about Batman and Robin. Considering their characters had only been created fifteen years prior, it says a lot that Frederic Wertham saw a need to publish his 1954 book, “Seduction of the Innocent.” Though the Caped Crusaders were just one part of the psychiatrist’s study (chapters on Wonder Woman’s love of bondage and Superman’s fascism were also explored), Wertham bluntly stated, “Batman stories are psychologically homosexual.” Given the still-taboo nature of homosexuality in the mid-20th century, this was a scandalous claim.
Upon surveying the swathe of highly suggestive images between Batman and Robin, it’s not hard to see where Wertham got his thesis. However jaded our modern sensibilities may be, it’s really hard to explain panels like this. It’s no wonder, then, that many scholars speculate Batwoman and Bette Kane’s Bat-Girl were created specifically to quell the gay rumors circling Wayne Manor. As soon as the women entered the picture, Batman and Robin’s adventures grew more comedic, and a curious amount of time was dedicated to showcasing the “feminine beauty” of Batwoman and Bat-Girl.
1. When Robin Got Too Randy
When Crazy Quilt locks Robin and Batgirl in a crate, the mating dance begins. Batman’s ward does his best to act cool, but pressed up against the girl of his dreams, his vital signs run a step ahead of his better judgment. While looking like a caged animal in heat, Robin can’t keep his eyes off Batgirl’s form-fitting suit. Deflecting the attention like a pro, Batgirl ribs Robin by asking, “I’ve always wondered: what’s with the pixie boots and short pants?” Undoubtedly wounded by essentially being called Peter Pan, Robin defends himself, “It makes bad guys think I’m just some goofy kid. Their underestimation gives me an extra element of surprise.”
Speaking of surprise, Batgirl gets one of her own as she tells her cellmate, “that better be your utility belt pushing against my leg.” Seconds later, when Batman frees the pair from their confinement, Robin stands sheepishly while swaddling himself in his cloak. Just look at that grin.
What other Batgirl moments reach WTF territory? Let us know in the comments!
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