Saturday, May 26, 2012
YEAR 1967: BATGIRL
Although in some reminiscences Julie Scwhartz claimed that he didn't even remember the Bat-Girl of the Jack Schiff period, I find it interesting that the above cover-copy emphasizes a "new Batgirl," suggesting that someone in the organization did remember the previous version (who'll get a separate writeup at some future date).
Despite all other versions to take the Batgirl name, the Barbara Gordon version remains the best-known one to the general public thanks to her appearances on the live-action television series. Indeed, the Gordon version seems to have evolved in response to a demand from the TV producers, according to a reminiscence from Carmine Infantino:
" Batgirl came up in the mid-’60s. The “Batman” TV producer called Julie and said Catwoman was a hit, could we come up with more female characters? Julie called me and asked me to do that. I came up with Batgirl, Poison Ivy and one I called the Grey Fox, which Julie didn’t like as much." The show's producers liked the Batgirl concept and introduced the character in the third and final season of BATMAN. The character in the teleseries was understandably somewhat jokier in tone, but was still admirable in terms of her ability to defend herself from assorted vile villains.
So well known is the character that I won't go into her specific history and abilities here. I will note that though the Gordon Bargirl was a dynamic and charismatic figure in comparison to the BATMAN series' previous distaff knock-offs, that charisma became dissipated when she gained a semi-regular berth of a backup series in DETECTIVE COMICS. Some of these stories were decent enough formula, but over time they became less and less memorable, and so did the character. A period when Barbara Gordon became a senator, however laudable as an idea, failed to ignite fannish enthusiasm for the character.
Ironically, Alan Moore's use of Gordon as a throwaway victim in the graphic novel THE KILLING JOKE proved the best thing that could have happened to Barbara Gordon in terms of making her popular with a new fan-base-- though of course the credit for rethinking her as "Oracle" goes to Kim Yale and John Ostrander. Oracle will receive a separate writeup.
At present, DC's "new 52" features the Gordon Batgirl in a new series which does seem to fulfill much of the potential that was wasted in the 1970s.
A quick aside about dates: comic books are the only media whose publication dates are unreliable, in that they're generally dated three months ahead of their actual appearance. Thus the "1967" date on DETECTIVE COMICS #359 is inaccurate, in that the magazine actually appeared on newstands in Nov 1966. However, because I can't be entirely sure that everything is dependably dated exactly three months ahead-- so that a comic with a March date might be either December of one year or January of another-- I've decided to continue dating characters' comic-book apperances by their somewhat unreliable publication dates.