As Mark Twain once said, “What would men be without women? Scarce, sir…mighty scarce.” From allies to antagonists the Batman universe boasts some of the most interesting female characters in the comic book universe. While at its core Batman is about a quest for morality these female characters have served to help The Bat understand the nature of his own sense of morality and desire. Like Batman, these characters are facing their own dilemmas and by doing so hold up a mirror to Batman’s own struggles. A really foxy mirror.
5. Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl
Introduced simultaneously through comic books and the 1960s television series, Barbara Gordon is the daughter of Commissioner Gordon. Librarian by day, card-carrying female crime fighter by night, Gordon did not share the tortured past held by Batman. Gordon was just a happy-go-lucky addition to the sunny Batman family before Alan Moore got a hold of the series taking it in a darker and more realistic direction.
Batgirl had a minor but helpful role in the whole universe until 1988’s The Killing Joke in which the Joker shoots Gordon through her spinal cord in an attempt to drive Commissioner Gordon insane and prove to Batman that anyone’s morality can be swayed. This incident became popularized outside of the series in a trope called “Women in Refrigerators” named after the incident where the Green Lantern finds his girlfriend Alex DeWitt dead in the refrigerator. The movement became popularized by fans who were tired of seeing beloved female characters killed, beaten or depowered for the sake of a male character’s storyline.
Comic writer and editor Kim Yates, along with her husband John Ostrander, kept Gordon alive and living with a disability. She then became known as The Oracle and used her computer hacking skills to aid various superheroes. Gordon’s character being confined to a wheelchair has been controversial within the comic book world with some writers wanting to reinstate Batgirl and others championing a character with a disability within the universe DC relaunched the character in September 2011 with her mobility restored.
With or without a disability Gordon has been a popular character and positive female role model since her debut. She has been integrated fully into the Batman and Superman universes and played a role in the debate about women in comic books.
This article was first posted on July 25, 2012