Yesterday, we learned that Avengers helmer and Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon is in talks with Warner Bros. and DC Films to direct a standalone Batgirl movie in their rapidly growing DC Extended Universe, and the world rejoiced. Whedon is a natural fit for the material, a known comic buff who’s spent a career creating stories about powerful female leaders. That and, you know, directing two of the highest grossing comic book movies of all time. For such a knowledgeable superhero veteran, the question becomes, from where in the decades of Batgirl‘s run will Whedon take his inspiration? While Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon and superhero sleuth in her own right, is the best known Batgirl, several other characters have taken over the mantle over the years.
Entertainment Weekly reports that Whedon’s Batgirl movie will indeed focus on Barbara Gordon and draw inspiration from The New 52, DC’s recent run of revamped classic comic book characters that kicked off in 2011. The report says Whedon will look to the New 52 as “a starting point,” so expect him to bring his own spin to the material should the movie make.
Gordon’s character has famously had a rough go of it. First introduced as a sidekick to Batwoman in 1961, Batgirl — or Bat-Girl, as she was called — was a socialite by the name of Betty Kane. But the character really took of in 1967, when “the new Batgirl” was introduced in the Detective Comics title The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl! with the shocking reveal that Jim Gordon’s daughter would suit up and defend Gotham City with Batman and Robin.
The rebranded Batgirl hit the pages just as she was introduced alongside Adam West‘s bam-pow Batman in the third season of the classic camp TV series. The character’s popularity skyrocketed and she landed her own stories, as well as popping up across the DC universe in Superman and Justice League. Until the ’80s came along and put a bullet in her back.
Alan Moore‘s iconic Joker-centric comic Batman: The Killing Joke saw Barbara Gordon kidnapped and crippled by the Crown Prince of Crime in a controversial storyline that Moore himself has since denounced. While Barbara Gordon’s career as Batgirl was put to a stop, she carried on as a key Gotham vigilante under the name of Oracle, a hacker who uses her intelligence to dig up key information for her superhero pals. While Gordon was out of the action, she remained a key player in the DC universe, lending her skills to Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Justice League America, Green Lantern and a number of other DC titles during her tenure. During that time, a number of characters took over the title of Batgirl until DC’s New 52 reboot put Barbara back in the suit.
Which brings us back to the New 52, the comic book reboot that “cured” Gordon of her paralysis with an experimental surgery and gave her a solo title once again. Gail Simone built up the classic character as a modern woman, pursuing higher education and coping with her lasting trauma from the Joker’s attack. The character was revamped once again to huge success in 2014 when writers Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart, and artist Babs Tarr came on board and gave Babs a lighter tone and a bit of a hipster makeover in what’s known as the “Burnside” era.