Favorite Female Characters in Literature # 4: Batgirl

Favorite Female Characters in Literature # 4: Batgirl

OF COURSE Batgirl is going to make it into my top five. Everybody knew she would be in here somewhere. She’s a girl detective, and to me, that’s GOLD. And, I’ll be upfront and say that when I think of Batgirl, I’m normally thinking of Barbara Gordon. There have been a lot of other Batgirls, of course, and some of them are great characters… really interesting with personalities of their own. But, for me, when I think of Batgirl… it’s Barbara.

So… what do I like about the character? I mean, sure, she’s a girl detective, but should that really count? The thing about detectives in comics is that they rarely do any detective-ing. Batman is considered THE detective in comics (he first appeared in Detective Comics and has been there for 70+ years, after all) and the rest of the Bat-Family are right up there with him. But, the reputation, I’m sad to say, is undeserved. It’s HARD to write a detective in a comic book format. I know. I’ve been there. There’s only so much room for clues and for drawn out searches. Stories in comics have to move so fast that being a detective, even for Batman, usually comes down to a trail of muddy footprints, with a mud that comes ONLY from one certain place in an area of five square yards, where the murderer happens to be standing right now, just waiting to blurt out a confession the moment a hero starts punching him. At least that’s better than the other old standby of assembling disparate clues (a chewed up tennis ball, a TV Guide Magazine from March of 1976, two thumbtacks and a half-eaten Twinkie) and dumping them into (snicker) the Crime Computer, which then spits out the name of the criminal and where he’s having a drink right now.

So… it’s not like Batgirl has been doing much in the way of real detective work. She does less than in most Nancy Drew paperbacks, which are geared for young readers and where clues tend to take the bent of murderers accidentally leaving their driver’s license behind at the scene of the crime. So, I dunno, I guess it’s just the idea of a girl detective more than an actual girl detective. I suppose I’m fine with that, as any good writer knows that fiction is a collaborative effort with your reader. Your readers ARE going to fill in some holes… and you can only hope that you’re guiding the readers to fill in the holes the way you’d like.

Really love the colors, here.

Above art by 89G

Sorry, Betty / Bette Kane, but you don't make the "Batgirl" cut. Oh, also... have fun with your upcoming years of continuity hell.

I suppose the main reason I like the Barbara Gordon Batgirl above the others is that she has a little more joy in her life. A bit more capability to laugh. Some of this, of course, is hooked to the era in which she was created... the writing styles of the time. The other girls in the cowl really are fascinating, though. There isn't a Batgirl that I wouldn't love to write.

Did I already post this Colleen Coover piece in the Supergirl blog? I forget if I did. Also, I don't care if I did. I love this piece. I love it because it now only has Supergirl using her power of flight to help her friend Batgirl, but because I love the idea of Batgirl walking around with a bunch of balloons. More comics should showcase balloons. Who doesn't like balloons?

Pretty girls get their own asteroid. Them's the rules.

Above art by Ink4884 (Peter Nguyen)

Wonder Woman and Batgirl fighting over Batman's affection. And the poor guy has to pretend he doesn't love it. I love this classic material (this one illustrated by Bob Brown) but I'm a bit uncomfortable with thoughts of Batgirl and Batman linked romantically. It's a bit too close to "I'm Batgirl... and I was created to LOVE YOU."

I suppose the central aspect of the character of Batgirl, for me, is the fact that she doesn’t have any powers. There isn’t a crutch she can fall back on; if she gets hit by a bullet, she’s hit… if she gets punched in the face, she’s gets bruises and broken bones. It’s the same reason that makes Batman an interesting character to me… the fact that Batgirl and Batman play in a world full of supervillains, and if they don’t act smart, it’ll be over for them. Between alien invasions, gorilla invasions, giant robots, and all sorts of “I will rule the world” types who have super-strength or ultra-speed or the ability to conjure ghosts from their Underoos, Batgirl still says, “Well… what the hell. I can bench press two hundred pounds. Think I’ll put on the costume and start jumping off buildings.”

Boom! There she goes!

Look! A James Jean Batgirl cover! And the cover above this one was by Marcos Martin, meaning that Batgirl gets to have covers done by two of my favorite artists. I love how, in this cover, Batgirl is smacking the shit out of a guy three times her size, and doing so in a casual manner while looking to the viewer with a "And there's plenty more where THAT came from!" expression.

Don't have a lot of space to dwell on it, here... but there's been gallons of really wonderful Batgirl material done in the field of animation. Hats off to the writers, artists, voice actresses!"

Classic Mike Sekowsky illustrated Batgirl. In this one, she's fighting Queen Bee, who has turned the the Justice League into insect thralls, like ya do. I love that last panel of Batgirl laying a bitchslap on the entire Justice League. Also, only in the Golden or Silver ages of comics could anyone get away with a word balloon containing "... drained my rod of power."

Poor Batgirl starring in one of the stupidest battle scenes of all time, and losing it, as a tiny winged Batman clocks her on the ankle, and the Flash is, ummm.... super-vibrating her rear end.

There is a LOT of awesome Batgirl cosplay out there. The most amazing thing about this one is not that she's this young and still understands the value of the upshot for noble drama, but... is she standing on the back of a horse?

I'm going to be dropping in a few indy artist versions of Batgirl throughout the post. I always love seeing how artists interpret iconic characters. The good thing about Batgirl is, she IS iconic... you can play around with the character design as much as you want. As long as you have a girl with a bat on her chest, she's essentially Batgirl.

Above art by DoctaJules. Below is by Chris Lensch.

It's like... you CAN'T go wrong when you're designing Batgirl.

HA HA HA! Okay... I take that back. You can go horribly, abyssmally and ridiculously wrong. Pardon my language, but holy fuck does this smell and look like ass.

More Batgirl related cosplay. I love this image, but I see it as more of a non-Barbara-Gordon cosplay, because of the haunted / emo expression. A Barbara Gordon Batgirl has SASS.

BOOM! There ya' go! Sass!

Detective Comics # 359, where it all began for Batgirl, as far as I'm concerned. I like the look of concern and dismay on Robin's face. "A girl? Awww, man! She's going to absolutely RUIN the razors I use to keep my legs smooth and silky." I do think it's amazing that a female character is being introduced and she's nearly completely covered up, while Robin is back there showing as much skin as possible. Bagirl's costume is almost wearable in actual combat, excepting only that super high heel.

Well, Robin. Looks like you were right. Women do nothing but RUIN MEN'S LIVES.

Look, another picture of Detective Comics # 359... this one being read by Adam "Sexy Batman" West, and Yvonne "I'm Batgirl & Welcome to Puberty, boys" Craig. I am envious of Adam's slacks.

I always love when writers try to make sense out of costume changes. Her handbag reverses into a weapons belt! Her skirt becomes a cape! Her beret becomes a mask! I suppose it makes more sense than the Flash keeping his entire costume in a ring. A ring called Cop Out.

A motorcycle with tassels, lace, and a big ribbon. Cuz that's how the Batgirl roll, yo.

A startling transformation!

Her dress is as tight as her costume. This was from a day and age where absolutely no women's clothes were comfortable. Prior to 1967, the number one pickup line a guy could use was, "Seriously, don't you want to get out of those clothes?"

I have fond memories of watching reruns of the Batman television show when I was a kid. I wonder how I would have felt about the show if I'd known it would be responsible for nine thousand mainstream articles about comics that started out with, "BIFF! BANG! POW!"

Too Torrid For Tots, indeed! When you count reruns, the Batman television show, with Batgirl and the various Catwoman actresses, helped to escort nearly 25 years worth of teenagers into puberty and considerations of fetish gear.

A Batgirl knockoff-thingy from the time. An interesting look at the phenomena. The only thing I can think would be equitable in the modern world would be Harry Potter or Twilight, except the Batman / Batgirl craze had people donning fetish gear instead of pretending to be British schoolchildren or dousing themselves in sparkle and acting dour and uninteresting.

I think we all know that Burt Ward would have much rather hung out with Batgirl over Batman.

One of my all time favorite covers. Love the design on this... let's you know Batgirl's attitude right as you go in. A woman like Batgirl, in the world she's in, HAS to have an in-your-FACE attitude, or she'll get blown away in a world of superpowers.

For the second consecutive post, there are multiple images by artist Mike Maihack. And, why not, doesn't this image just make you want to grab a rope and swing along with Batgirl? It looks like fun!

Mike Maihack’s blog which is fun and has good things.

Batgirl in the spotlight, looking none too pleased about it. Art by Kevin Nowlan, who has always been able to bring an eerie sort of supernatural feel to his characters. When he draws Batgirl, it's easy to consider a criminal being scared of a non-powered redhead in a jumpsuit.

The pencils for the above piece. I always find it fascinating to see works in progress.

More Nowlan Batgirl. You see what I mean about the whole supernatural feel to the character. I get the feel that Batgirl can summon the dead, here... or at least turn into an actual bat, or mist, or a bat-wraith.

Extremely well done Batgirl cosplay. When I first saw this image it was small, and I thought it was another piece by Nowlan. When I enlarged it, I realized it was cosplay, and it was, again, a time when I could consider being scared of Batgirl if I was a criminal. She looks spooky, here. She is Batgirl. She is the night. The creepy / sexy night.

More work by Mike Maihack. In one strip, he gives them more personality than is seen in most entire comics. I really would love comics more if the characters were characters, rather than insertable fight elements, which leads to projects like Avengers vs. X-Men, which, to me, is not much more than really well done fan fic. In fact, having typed that, I feel bad because it made it sound like I have something against fan fic. I don't. Sometimes people turn to fan fic precisely BECAUSE they want more from the characters, rather then the fights.

Bruce Timm LOVES drawing him some Batgirl. Yes he does. And I personally thing he's really good at it. This comic is one of my all-time favorite Batgirl comics, and one of my all-time favorite Batgirl covers.

A Bruce Timm Batgirl is sultry as all hell.

And she's confident as all hell.

She has boundless energy.

And her costume fits REALLY well.

This cover is quite often (and quite rightfully) singled out for its glaring sexism, but no one ever seems to ask another important question... just what kind of weirdo sex ballet is Robin doing back there?

Batgirl showing a little leg, compliments of artist Phil Noto. The colors here are just grand. I wish more colorists / artists would understand the value of solid grade colors. This piece would have been ruined by a mad splash of background colors vying for attention, rather than complimenting art.

Who hasn't fallen in love with some version of Batgirl, or ALL versions of Batgirl? I plan on my romance to never ever end.


#25: Scarlet Witch

#24: Chance Falconer

#23: Vampirella

#22: Tigra

#21: Jean Grey

#20: Kitty Pryde

#19: Janet van Dyne

#18: Mary Jane Watson

#17: Hermione Granger

#16: Death

#15: Modesty Blaise

#14: Black Widow

#13: Sue Storm

#12: Fantomette

#11: Millie (the Model) Collins

#10a: Blonde Phantom

#10b: Betty & Veronica

#10c: Lois Lane

#10: Wonder Woman

#9: Nancy Drew

#8: Burma

#7: P’Gell

#6: Supergirl

#5: Emma Frost

#4: Batgirl


I’ve been thinking about women, lately. Women characters in comics. Women creators in comics. Female characters in literature. And pretty girls riding around on bicycles or walking along the sidewalk, etc, etc. Because of this, I’ve decided to make An Entirely Useless List. Why is it entirely useless? Because it’s my top 25 female characters from comics and literature, and such lists change at whim and at a breakneck pace. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to quantify favorites… the term favorite is far too malleable. A list of my best friends from high school, for instance, would not include anyone with whom I’m currently in contact. Times change. Still… I’m making the list. Why? I suppose I just like thinking about women.


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6 Responses to Favorite Female Characters in Literature # 4: Batgirl

  1. Keith

    Batgirl: Year One is one of the best comics ever. The motion comic version gets frequently play on plane trips.

  2. Paul Tobin

    It’s been too long since I’ve reread it. Might have to grab it up again!

  3. Dean

    I’m pretty sure that the girl in the first cosplay photo (right after ClooneyBatman)is wearing a Cassandra Cain Batgirl costume. The silhouette Bat-symbol is a dead giveaway. And Cass was always a bit mopey.

  4. Paul Tobin

    Yeah. You’re right. And she WAS a mopey girl!

  5. Do you suppose that the character’s name is an impediment? “Girl” isn’t a big problem with Power Girl, but then there isn’t a Power Woman bopping around in the DC universe.

  6. Paul Tobin

    I never quite know how I feel about that girl / woman thing. I tend to use “girl” for any woman under the age of 300, but I can see how it screws things up.

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