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The Legacy of Batwoman and Batgirl: Heroes of Gotham

In the world of DC Comics, there are many iconic superheroes who have fought against evil and protected the innocent. Among them, two characters stand out as prominent members of the Bat Family: Batwoman and Batgirl. Both women have distinctive personalities, skills, and costumes that reflect their identities as crime fighters. However, their origins, histories, and roles in the comic book universe have varied over the years, and have stirred debates among fans and critics. In this article, we will explore the legacy of Batwoman and Batgirl, compare their attributes, and answer some frequently asked questions about them.

Who is Batwoman?

Batwoman, also known as Katherine “Kate” Kane, is one of the latest incarnations of the female vigilante who was first introduced in 1956. Created by writer Edmond Hamilton and artist Sheldon Moldoff, the original Batwoman was named Kathy Kane, a love interest for Batman who adopted a similar costume and gadgets to help him fight crime. However, this version of Batwoman was eventually criticized for being too derivative and sexist, and was retired in 1964.

Almost 50 years later, DC Comics relaunched Batwoman as a lesbian Jewish woman named Kate Kane, who served as a former soldier and heiress to a military fortune. Written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by J.H. Williams III, the new Batwoman debuted in 2006 as part of the series “52” and quickly gained a cult following for her complex personality, sharp wit, and stunning visual presentation. Unlike her predecessor, Kate Kane was not romantically linked to Batman and had a troubled family past, including the loss of her mother and twin sister. She also had a romantic interest in Maggie Sawyer, a veteran police detective who later became her fiancee.

In her solo series, Batwoman faced various threats to Gotham City, from organized crime syndicates to supernatural beings. She teamed up with other heroes like Wonder Woman and the Question, and also confronted her own inner demons related to her identity, trauma, and relationships. Batwoman also became the first LGBTQ character to headline her own solo series since the New 52, and received critical acclaim for her bold and innovative storytelling, as well as her representation of marginalized communities.

Who is Batgirl?

Batgirl, on the other hand, has been a more complex and diverse character than Batwoman in terms of her incarnations and adaptations. The first Batgirl was introduced in 1961 as Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham City Police Commissioner Jim Gordon. Created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Carmine Infantino, Barbara was a skilled librarian and martial artist who donned a bat-themed costume to help Batman and Robin solve crimes. Unlike Batwoman, Barbara was not portrayed as a romantic interest for Batman, but as a trusted ally and protege who earned her own respect and recognition.

Barbara Gordon became a fan favorite character and remained the main Batgirl for several decades, until she was shockingly paralyzed by the Joker in the 1988 one-shot “The Killing Joke”. The traumatic event, which showed Barbara being shot and sexually assaulted by the Joker, drew widespread controversy for its treatment of the female character and its use of violence as a plot device. Barbara then retired as Batgirl and took on a new persona as Oracle, a master hacker and strategist who assisted other superheroes through technology and information. Oracle became a symbol of resilience and adaptation for disabled readers, who appreciated her intelligence, compassion, and leadership.

However, Barbara’s Batgirl legacy did not end there. In 1999, DC Comics introduced a new Batgirl named Cassandra Cain, a former assassin raised by her father to be a killing machine. Cassandra was trained to read body language and movements to anticipate attacks and evade danger, but was not taught to speak or write properly. After saving a senator’s life, Cassandra renounced her violent past and joined Batman and Oracle as a superhero. Cassandra’s Batgirl series, written by Kelley Puckett and illustrated by Damion Scott, was praised for its kinetic action sequences and emotional depth, as well as its representation of an Asian-American protagonist.

In 2011, DC Comics relaunched their entire universe as the New 52, and revamped the Batgirl series with a new creative team and a new character arc for Barbara Gordon. In this version, Barbara was healed from her paralysis by experimental surgery and resumed her role as Batgirl after three years as Oracle. Written by Gail Simone and illustrated by Ardian Syaf, the new Batgirl dealt with Barbara’s psychological trauma, physical limitations, and family dynamics as she tried to balance her crime fighting and personal life. The series also introduced new supporting characters, such as Alysia Yeoh, Barbara’s bisexual roommate, and James Gordon Jr., Barbara’s homicidal brother. The New 52 Batgirl received mixed reviews from fans and critics, who praised its inclusivity and humanization of Barbara, but criticized its uneven tone and plots.

How do Batwoman and Batgirl compare?

While Batwoman and Batgirl share some similarities, such as their fighting skills, tech gadgets, and affiliation with Batman, they also have significant differences in terms of their background, personality, and audience. Here are some comparisons between the two:

– Origin: Batwoman and Batgirl were created in different decades and contexts, which affected their initial purpose and reception. Batwoman was originally designed as a romantic foil to Batman, a concept that was later scrapped due to its sexist implications. Batgirl, in contrast, was an independent and proactive character who challenged gender stereotypes and represented a new generation of comic book heroines. However, Barbara Gordon’s storyline as Oracle was also praised for its innovation and diversity, as it explored disability, technology, and female empowerment.

– Identity: Batwoman and Batgirl have distinct identities as women, LGBT, and non-white characters, which have resonated with different audiences. Batwoman has been praised for her representation of diversity and for breaking barriers as a lesbian superhero, as well as for her complex and relatable personality. Batgirl has also been applauded for her representation of different ethnicities, sexual orientations, and abilities, as well as for her role as a mentor and role model for younger readers. However, some critics have argued that Batgirl’s recent iterations have lost their edge and uniqueness in favor of more conventional superhero tropes.

– Costume: Batwoman and Batgirl have iconic costumes that reflect their individual styles and stories. Batwoman’s costume features a red and black bodysuit with a bat emblem, a red wig, and a cape with serrated edges. Batwoman’s costume has been praised for its bold and striking design, which emphasizes her feminine and fierce aspects. Batgirl’s costume, on the other hand, has varied over the years, from the classic purple bodysuit with a cowl to the more recent black costume with a yellow bat symbol. Batgirl’s costume has been criticized for its impractical or sexualized aspects, but also celebrated for its adaptability and creativity.

– Relationships: Batwoman and Batgirl have had different relationships with their allies, enemies, and lovers. Batwoman has had a romantic interest in Maggie Sawyer for most of her publication history, which has been a source of controversy and celebration for LGBTQ representation in comics. Batwoman has also had complicated relationships with her father, her twin sister, her former lover Renee Montoya, and Batman. Batgirl, on the other hand, has had various romantic interests over the years, such as Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and Luke Fox, as well as close ties with other Bat Family members like Nightwing, Robin, and Spoiler. Batgirl has also had her share of enemies, from the Joker and the Birds of Prey to her own brother and father.

Overall, Batwoman and Batgirl are two of the most versatile and interesting characters in the DC Comics canon, who have evolved and adapted to different eras and audiences. Whether you prefer the fearless and romantic Kate Kane or the brainy and badass Barbara Gordon, there is a Batgirl or Batwoman story that you can enjoy and appreciate. As Gotham City faces new threats and challenges, we can count on these heroes to continue their legacy of justice and courage.


Q: Is Batwoman going to be on TV or in movies?
A: Yes, Batwoman has already appeared in several TV shows and movies, such as “Batman: The Animated Series”, “Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman”, “Justice League Unlimited”, and “Batman: Bad Blood”. However, the most recent and notable adaptation of Batwoman is the TV series on The CW network, which premiered in 2019 and stars Ruby Rose as Kate Kane. The show received mixed reviews but has been praised for its representation of LGBTQ characters.

Q: Is Batgirl still paralyzed?
A: No, in the New 52 continuity and the current DC Universe, Barbara Gordon has regained the use of her legs through controversial surgery and is able to walk and fight as Batgirl again. However, her past as Oracle is still part of her history and has shaped her character development.

Q: Who is the best Batgirl/Batwoman?
A: That’s a subjective question and depends on personal preferences and interpretations. Some fans and critics prefer Barbara Gordon as the classic and iconic Batgirl, while others praise Cassandra Cain as the most badass and unique Batgirl. Similarly, some fans and critics prefer Kate Kane as the modern and progressive Batwoman, while others think that the original Kathy Kane was underrated and deserves more recognition. Ultimately, all of them are valid and interesting characters who have contributed to the legacy of the Bat Family.

Q: Will Batgirl and Batwoman ever team up?
A: There have been instances where Batgirl and Batwoman have teamed up in comics and other media, such as in the animated movie “Batman: Bad Blood”. However, their relationship has not been consistently portrayed as friendly or antagonistic, and the logistics of their collaboration depend on the context and the story. In general, both Batgirl and Batwoman tend to work better with their own allies and missions, but it’s always possible that they could cross paths again in the future.