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Continuing our look at superheroes and villains of times past in comparison to their modern counterparts, we come to one of the more consistantly popular Bat Family characters from the Silver Age: Barbara Gordon!

Truth be told, there was a Batgirl prior to Babs, Bette Kane, though the circumstances surrounding her creation are a result of that awkward time in comics history due to the infamous accusations of Dr Frederich Wertham. Specifically, Bette (and the original Batwoman, Kathy Kane) were originally introduced into the comics in order to deflect the accusations that Batman and Robin were a couple... by introducing a pair of women to be romantically related to. 'Cause if two people of the opposite gender are hanging out, they must be an item, right?

Born of homophobia, Bette and Kathy were eventually retired from the comics, for reasons Babs' co-creator Carmine Infantino recalled as "Bob Kane had had a Bat-Girl for about three stories in the ’50s but she had nothing to do with a bat. She was like a pesky girl version of Robin. I knew we could do a lot better, so Julie and I came up with the real Batgirl, who was so popular she almost got her own TV show." Indeed, Babs shares something with Renee Montoya and Harley Quinn in that she was originally created outside of the comics first before being integrated into them. In Babs' case, they wanted to draw some of the audience from the Adam West Batman show to the actual comics, so they created Babs as a kind of bridging character between the two works, even optioning the character in their pitch for getting the show a third season.

Well, how does the origin itself hold up? As we will see in 1967's Detective Comics 359: The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!

Bruce goes home, where the next day he receives a death threat from Killer Moth. Either he pays him $100,000, or he'll kill 'im. With the attack last night, Bruce deduces that Killer Moth may have tried this extortion scam before, and indeed finds other Gotham millionaires who decided to pay up rather than get kill by a man in a goofy costume. Amazingly, it turns out that Killer Moth manages to pull this off successfully TEN TIMES before Batman hears about it.

Batman decides on a plan to capture Killer Moth, telling Alfred to take a message to the designated drop off point while telling him to circulate that Bruce Wayne will be staying inside his mansion for the foreseeable future. The millionaire's refusal to pay is enough to get Killer Moth to send his gang around to Wayne Manor in order to make an example of him to the other victims of the extortion scheme.

Meanwhile, Babs has been perfecting her crimefighting persona, repairing her costume and continuing her martial arts training. However, discovering a book Bruce Wayne previously requested while in her civilian job as a librarian, she decides to just take it around to Wayne Manor in person, as you do. However, she discovers Killer Moth seemingly standing over Bruce's corpse with a smoking gun, so she leaps into action!

They fend off the Moth and his henchmen, only for Batman to berate Batgirl for spoiling their plan. See, the body was actually a life-like replica Bruce made of himself (as you do) to act as bait for the supervillain, but Batgirl coming in and wrecking up the joint threw their scheme out of whack.

The two superheroes rush off after the Moth, deflecting Batgirl's offer to help with the response "they can't worry ourselves about a girl". Babs doesn't take this lying down, and follows them on her bat-moped anyway, managing to track the pair to the Killer Moth's hideout and rescue them from a deathtrap. At this point the supervillain pretty much gives up and tries hiding, only for Babs to find him straight way behind a wall panel. Batman explains she was able to detect him by smell, as she got some perfume on him when she beat him up earlier.

Wow, everyone is kind of terrible to Batgirl in this story! Although they do appear to at least try and show that she's a competant supehero in her own right, even if the misogyny of her male counterparts is more than a touch grating.

Various elements from this story have been reused by various origins over the years, such as the inclusion of Killer Moth, her originally making the costume a costume party, and her willingness to keep trying to be a superhero despite Batman's insistance she stops (whoa, Stephanie Brown flashbacks).

The character would appear on and off for the next twenty years, with Babs retiring on and off over the years, where she even became a Congresswoman for a time. The Barbara Gordon version of the character was officially retired in 1988's Batgirl Special 1, and later that same year the Killing Joke happened, leading to Babs retiring from traditional superhero work for the next 30-ish years, until the 2011 reboot.

In terms of stories featuring Barbara's time as Batgirl, I think that Chuck Dixon's Batgirl: Year One is probably the best out of the ones I can think of, if you're interested.

Next up, the Riddler or Supergirl. You folks decide!
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