I thought it would be interesting to look at the history of Batgirl in the animated world as I dive into the episodes and comics of the week.
Her first appearance in an animated show was 1968’s Adventures of Batman. She was voiced by Jane Webb and her costume is pretty close to what know as Batgirl’s costume now. She had a yellow bat symbol and gray outfit with a blue cape.
The second time she was animated was in 1977s The New Batman Adventures of Batman. This time she was voiced by Melendy Britt. This would also be the last time we would see an animated version of Batgirl until 1992. Her costume is very similar to The Batman Adventures version but her hair is a little curlier and the color of her costume is less gray and more purple.
It wouldn’t be until November of 1992 that we would see an animated Barbara Gordon. Her debut on Batman: The Animated Series was in Heart of Steel.
This is a strong debut for Babs in the Batman: TAS world. Her character is mischievious while on a mission to save her father with Batman’s help. Overall, I think they get the vibe of Babs down while laying a good foundation for future appearances.
Her next appearance in Batman: The Animated Series will be in I Am The Night. Unlike Heart of Steel, I Am The Night was also shown during prime time. The episode debuted on 10/9/92 and its prime time debut was 12/13/92. (I specifically remember watching this during the prime time slot because it was 2 days after my 10th birthday. It is kind of weird how you remember stupid things like that.) In I Am The Night Barbara is seen bedside in the hospital next to her father. After Heart of Steel, this sort of feels like a step down for her. The ending scenes were my favorite Barbara scenes but the scene of Batman losing his cool was my favorite in the episode.
We would not see Barbara Gordon again until 1993’s Shadow of the Bat. This time Barbara returns her roots that were seen in Heart of Steel, but this time there is something a little different. In the first scene, she is in the gym practicing gymnastics while talking to her father. I like this scene as it gives background to Barbara. This is the most character-building we have seen for Barbara Gordon. The groundwork has been there in the previous episodes but now we know more about her, even if it is something small like gymnastics. Her feistiness is on full display as well. More importantly, we are introduced to Batgirl! She isn’t in her official costume yet but it is very close to the costume worn in the 1968 rendition. When we finally see her in the full costume it is sort of a mix between the 1968 and 1977 versions. This makes a lot of sense considering the futuristic 1930s vibe of Batman: The Animated Series. One thing that I find interesting about all 3 versions of Batgirl’s outfit is that her eyes are exposed. This is a stark contrast to Batman’s white eyes in the mask that cover Bruce’s eyes. I personally enjoyed Batgirl’s first outing. She makes some mistakes but she is a fast learner and does help out along the way.
Batgirl Returns is the final episode of Batman: The Animated Series. This sho was not going out on a whimper but a loud roar. Fan-favorite villains make an appearance, Joker, Two-Face, and Penguin. Catwoman shows up and even teams up with Batgirl! While I want to see Dick and Babs settle down and live happily ever after, Batgirl and Catwoman are a fun on-screen duo.
I do enjoy Melissa GIlbert as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl. I agree it is a shame that she didn’t come back for the Mr. Freeze movie.
I will be back with my thoughts on the comics later tonight or tomorrow.