Batgirl has been one of most popular heroes ever created by DC since her first appearance in 1967. However, although Barbara Gordon is the most popular cowl-bearer, several characters have claimed that name throughout DC history.
As soon as 1961, DC was trying to introduce female versions of Batman and Robin. So, in Batman #139, Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff introduced Bat-Girl (with a hyphen). Betty Kane was Kathy Kane (Batwoman)'s nieve and biggest fan. Wishing to emulate her aunt, Betty made her own costume and gadgets and set out to fight crime.
Unfortunately the character didn't become popular and would make her last regular appearance in Detective Comics #322 (1963).
On 1966 Batman live-action show premiered and became an instant hit. Two years later, though, the ratings started to slip, and the show's producers asked DC to create a new Batgirl so she could be added to the series.
Thus, in Detective Comics #359 (January, 1967) debuted the most popular character to ever take up the Batgirl mantle. Created by Julius Schwartz, Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino after a concept by William Dozier, Barbara Gordon was James Gordon's daughter, as well as the head librarian at the Gotham City Public Library and a martial arts practitioner, Barbara lamented her boring life. One night she slipped on a Batgirl costume to attend a masquerade ball, and on her way she ran into Killer Moth attempting to kidnap Bruce Wayne. Barbara would interfere with the villain and help Batman and Robin bust Killer Moth's protection racket.
In the process Barbara realized she loved the thrill of crime-fighting and became another ally to Batman and Robin. Just like Batman and Superman were the World's Finest, Batgirl was often partners with Supergirl.
"Batgirl" became a regular backup feature in Detective Comics #384 (1969), as well as the Batman Family book, being finally retired in Detective Comics #519. Throughout those years, Barbara would change careers several times -becoming Congresswoman and later activist-, and would eventually reveal her identity to her father in Detective Comics #422.
Unfortunately, despite immense popularity, DC decided to retire the character in the early 80's, motivated by their plans to reboot their comic-book line. Some while after her final strip, Barbara Gordon would quit after a failed mission. In DC Comics Presents #86/Crisis on Infinite Earths #4, Barbara Gordon met Kara Zor-El for the last time and admitted she was frightened in the face of cosmic annihilation. In spite of her feelings of helplessness and worthlessness, Batgirl would survive the Crisis whereas Supergirl would die in battle in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. Batgirl delivered the eulogy in her funeral.
After the Crisis, the Batman franchise was soft-rebooted. Due to Frank Miller forgetting about Barbara Gordon while penning Batman: Year One, Batgirl's backstory was forcefully redefined in Secret Origins (Volume 2) #20 (1987). Now she was James Gordon's niece and adoptive daughter, and she was friends with Power Girl instead of Supergirl.
Shortly later, though, Alan Moore would be given permission to cripple Barbara Gordon in Batman: The Killing Joke. Prior to that, Barbara Kesel was hired to reveal the circumstances of Barbara's retirement in Batgirl Special #1, published as a send-off of Barbara's career as Batgirl. "The Killing Joke" came out only a few days later, featuring the Joker shooting Barbara through the spine.
Nonetheless, even though Barbara would be reinvented as Oracle by John Ostrander in Suicide Squad #23 (1989), DC still published stories featuring her as Batgirl during the 90's: Batman: Batgirl (1997), Batman: Batgirl (Volume 2) #1 (1998), The Batgirl Adventures #1 and Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl #1 (1998) are some few examples.
During Barbara Gordon's Oracle era, some other women tried to take up the Batgirl mantle: Huntres took the position in Batman: Shadow of the Bat #83 during Batman: No Man's Land but later relinquished it.
Created by Kelley Puckett, Damion Scott and Alex Maleev as a way to correct perceived flaws in the original Batgirl concept, Cassandra Cain was born to David Cain and Lady Shiva and trained to become the perfect assassination weapon. At age eight, Cassandra ran away and spent nine years wandering the world until she entered Gotham City when the city became a No Man's Land. After saving Commissioner Gordon's life from her assassin father, she was given the Batgirl costume with the approval of both Batman and Oracle.
Cassandra would be the first Batgirl to lead her own ongoing title. Batgirl Vol 1 started publication in April, 2000, being cancelled six years later. Afterwards, Cassandra would still star in a six-issues limited series. Batgirl Vol 2 ran from 2008 until 2009.
Daughter of third-rate villain Cluemaster, Stephanie tailored herself a costume, and creating the "Spoiler" identity, started working against her father. Stephanie took up the Robin identity for a short while until she was nearly killed by Black Mask and went into hiding for a while, eventually returning to Gotham and claiming her "Spoiler" identity.
After Batman's apparent death during Final Crisis, she was given the Batgirl's costume by her best friend Cassandra Cain, despite the whole Batman Family's total opposition, in Batgirl (Volume 3) #1 (October, 2009). Steph would star in Batgirl Vol 3 until its cancellation after twenty-four issues in October, 2011. During that while, Stephanie would earn the approval of the Bat-Family and would forge friendships with other heroes like Supergirl.
In the rebooted reality, Barbara Gordon had a new origin story, narrated in Batgirl (Volume 4) #0. Back to be James Gordon's biological daughter, Barbara idolized her father and craved for fighting crime like him, training hard both body and mind since she was a child. When she borrowed a Batsuit to put down a prison riot, Barbara earned Batman's attention and approval. Barbara spent one year crime-fighting with Batman and Robin until she messed up one mission and decided to quit. Later she would be shot through her spine by the Joker, and worked as Oracle for a while until she underwent surgery. Being able to walk again thanks to an implanted chip, and unwilling to be held by past trauma, Barbara got herself back in shape and took up her mantle, which hadn't been claimed by anybody during her retirement.
In November 2011 Barbara Gordon was given her own solo when Batgirl Vol 4 started publication. Issues Batgirl (Volume 4) #1 through Batgirl (Volume 4) #34 were written by Gail Simone, a run that gained notoriety for its darkness.
In Batgirl (Volume 4) #35, Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr were given creative control and opted for a more light-hearted and children-friendly direction. Sick of enduring trauma after trauma, Barbara decides to move to Burnside, Gotham's hipster neighborhood across the Gotham River.
Batgirl's fourth ongoing was cancelled in July, 2016 when Batgirl (Volume 4) #52 came out. In September, 2016, two new ongoings started publication, Batgirl Vol 5 and Batgirl and the Birds of Prey Vol 1. Batgirl's fifth volume was written by Hope Larson, who continued Cameron Stewart's approach. During Larson's run, Barbara would travel around Eastern Asia, enjoy a joint adventure with Supergirl, and would fight new and different villains.
"Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" was cancelled in July, 2018 after twenty-two issues. Batgirl's Larson's run was ended in Batgirl (Volume 5) #23. After some fill-in writers Mairghread Scott became Batgirl's new regular writer and decided a back-to-the-basics approach was needed, with Barbara wearing a new costume and back in Gotham and having darker adventures.
- A Barbara-inspired Batgirl showed up in Batman and Robin. Barbara Wilson was portrayed by Alicia Silverstone.
- Barbara Gordon made an appearance in Batman: Bad Blood
- In Batman: The Killing Joke (Movie), Barbara was voiced by Tara Strong.
- In Lego DC Super Hero Girls: Brain Drain she's voiced by Ashlyn Selich.
Barbara Gordon has been a recurring character in most of Batman media. Noteworthy examples include:
- Batman (1966 TV Series): Played by Yvonne Craig.
- Batman TAS: Voiced by several actresses.
- Birds of Prey (TV Series): Portrayed by Dina Meyer.
- Super Best Friends Forever (Shorts): Voiced by Tara Strong
- DC Super Hero Girls (Shorts): Voiced by Mae Whitman.
Batgirl has been featured in several games, usually Barbara Gordon, but Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown have been known to as well make some appearances.
- Barbara Gordon is a recurring character in the Arkhamverse franchise.
- Both Barbara Gordon and Stephanie Brown are summonable characters in Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure.
- Barbara is playable in the next Lego Batman's games: Lego Batman: The Videogame, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham and Lego Dimensions.
- Barbara Gordon is a playable character in Injustice: Gods Among Us (Video Game). Cassandra Cain is playable in the mobile version.
- Barbara is also playable in DC Legends.
- Cassandra Cain is playable in Batman: Dark Tomorrow.
- Cassandra is also playable in DC Universe Online.
Two novels have been published so far featuring Batgirl:
- Batgirl: New Hero of the Night (novel)
- Batgirl at Super Hero High (novel), a DC Super Hero Girls novel.
- Batgirl Recommended Reading