Comic book fans around the world today mourn the loss of the 1960s Batman television series' Batgirl, Yvonne Craig. Her sassy and independent portrayal of Batgirl would shape the character for decades to come (in both animated TV shows and comic books alike).
Yvonne Craig had the distinct honor of being the first actress to ever portray a live action version of the Batgirl. However, this week on Monday her battle with cancer took her life quietly; she was 78 years old, at the time of her death.
The 1966 Batman television series is the thing of campy cult legend. When Yvonne Craig joined the show it was beginning its third and final season on ABC. The production values and budget were being slashed drastically and the producers felt that they needed to inject something new into the series to make it more interesting. Craig's portrayal of mild mannered librarian and daughter of the police commissioner Barbara Gordon by day and the strong and independent Batgirl by night would go on to make a huge impact on the fans and help to solidify the character of Batgirl, who had only debuted in the comic books six years prior.
Her experience as a ballet dancer helped Yvonne Craig to do her own stunts both in fight scenes and on her motorcycle on the Batman TV show. Batgirl emerged on television at a time when the women's lib movement was strong. Her character reflected the national mindset and her secret identity was never revealed to Batman and Robin. Batgirl always stood on her own two feet with her own costumes, gadgets and gear. Her final appearance as Batgirl came in 1973 when she was commissioned to do a public service announcement for the Federal Equal Pay Law.
Craig is also known by fans of the classic Star Trek series as the Orion Marta from the episode "Whom Gods Destroy". Her Marta character is a green, and slightly unstable, Orion slave girl that accompanies Garth of Izar, a shapeshifting baddie that eventually kills her character. Yvonne also found her way into several other iconic series, such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., McHale's Navy, My Three Sons and The Wild Wild West. It was her role in Batman, however, that made her a feminist icon and would prolong her fame until the time of her passing.
A statement from Yvonne's family has been posted on her official website:
Yvonne was a very private person, so from the onset of her battle with cancer, she decided to share with immediate family and very close friends. She wanted to spend all of her energy concentrating on winning her battle. She was adamant about this and wanted to tell her story when she was cured and feeling better. We all respected that wish.
The statement goes on to say:
Fight as she did; however, over the past two plus years, she still lost her battle with metastasized breast cancer that had gone to her liver. Her operation right before Christmas, removed portions of her liver and some tumors as well as her gallbladder (not infected but in the way) and honestly she never totally recovered from that and more malignancies showed up again much to our dismay.
She had been in chemo almost continuously for the past two plus years since being diagnosed and that had weakened her immune system as well as her body. This didn’t dampen her sense of humor or her spirit, she intended to fight and win this battle. In the end, her mind still wanted to fight but her body had given up.
Please celebrate Yvonne in your own way and the work she has left behind for you to continue to remember her by and enjoy.
The world has lost a legendary star of the small screen. The fan community has lost one of the kindest and most passionate actors to ever portray a comic book character. A great number of fans have had the pleasure of meeting Yvonne Craig on the convention circuit over the past few decades. (Yvonne felt so connected to her character that she even complained to DC Comics when the Joker paralyzed Barbara Gordon in "The Killing Joke". )
Thank you Yvonne for your contribution to the fandom. Our deepest condolences to Yvonne's family and friends. You can read her official obituary on her website.
R.I.P. Yvonne Joyce Craig: May 16th, 1937 - August 17th, 2015