A collection of Batgirl stories from her very first story in 1967 to the 1990s.

Writers: Gardner Fox, Frank Robbins, Elliot S. Maggan, Bob Rozakis, Davin Grayson, Kelley Puckett
Artist: Carmine Infantino, Sid Keene, Gil Kane, Murphy Anderson, Don Heck, Mike Grell, Irv Novick, Vince Collette, Duncan Fegredo, Terry Dodson, Kevin Nowlan

I confess: I don’t really know much about Batgirl. She was in some of the Batman cartoons but that’s about it. I’m far more familiar with Barbara Gordon as the wheel-chair bound Oracle. I think these stories are set in another continuity than the one I’m most familiar with. They’re all new to me.

While the collection starts with wacky and fun stories, the last two aren’t so good.

The collection starts, appropriately enough with Batgirl’s debut in “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl”: Detective Comics #359 in 1967. Barbara is the head librarian of Gotham library, wearing Princess Leia hairdo. 😊 She’s going to the policemen’s ball and has made a Batgirl costume for that. However, on the way she sees none other than Bruce Wayne attacked by Killer Moth and his Moth men. Barbara goes for the rescue and finds that she likes being a superhero, so she continues. She kind of helps Batman and Robin to capture the Killer Moth who is blackmailing millionaires.

She doesn’t have a tragic origin and I think that’s very appropriate for her. With nothing more than her Judo training and enthusiasm she’s just as capable of catching bad guys as Batman and Robin. Well, except that the males keep telling her to stop.

“The Orchid-Crusher” – Detective Comics #396 and “The Hollow Man” – Detective Comics #396 in 1970 is a two-part story where

Barbara hunts down a serial killer who kills young, redheaded girls.
This is pretty straight-forward story where we’re introduced to Jason Bard, a man who wants to be Babs’ boyfriend.

“The Unmasking of Batgirl” – Detective Comics #422, “Candidate for Danger” – Detective Comics #423, and “Batgirl’s Last Case” – Detective Comics #424 1972

Now this goes deep into the wacky country. In the first story, the “dominoed daredoll” encounters an ex-con who cons her again. At the same time, her dad is reluctantly running for congress. Babs becomes so disillusioned about her work as Batgirl that she decides to run for Congress instead of her dad, so that she can really make a difference. She also tells him that she’s Batgirl. The next two stories center around her campaign.

“The Invader from Hell” – Batman Family #1 1975
Barbara was elected into Congress and Dick comes to meet her there, just in time, too, because none other than Benedict Arnold seems to have come back from the dead.

“Startling Secret of the Devilish Daughters” – Batman Family #9 1977
Batgirl and Robin versus the daughters of Scarecrow, Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin!

“Photo Finish” – Batman Chronicles #9 1997: This story jumps to a different continuity. Batgirl meets Batman and Robin for the first time (again). While Batman is, er, busy with Catwoman (and yeah, the sexuality is almost dripping from the page, ew) he sends Robin to find evidence of her burglary. Batgirl tags along. They find the real burglar and managed to first get into each other’s way but finally bring him down.

“Folie a Deux Part One” – Legends of the DC Universe #10 “Folie a Deux Part Two” – Legends of the DC Universe #10 1998: The last story in the collection has gorgeous art by Terry Dodson, but the story is… not good. It again returns to the roots of Batgirl being a hero. This story reboots her as Commissioner Gordon’s niece whose parents died young and the Commissioner then raised her. Babs is an angry rebel teenager who convinces Batman to help her train. Gordon spies on her and finds out that she’s the Batgirl.

Interestingly enough, while Dick and Barbara have long been an off-again on-again couple, they’re not together in these stories. In fact, in Photo Finish, Dick (as Robin) is drawn quite a bit younger than Babs. In “Invader from Hell” Dick is still trying to persuade Batgirl to stop being a hero and they don’t know each other’s secret identities. But in the next story “Startling Secret of the Devilish Daughters”, they work together comfortably and know each other’s secret identities. But Dick has a girlfriend.

The problem here is that, especially in comparison to Batman, Batgirl doesn’t get to shine on her own. She doesn’t have a rogue’s gallery. She’s intelligent and skilled but battles ordinary criminals. This isn’t the Babs I know from Birds of Prey and I find it hard to believe these are really her best stories.

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