Batgirl has been a staple of the Batman mythos for decades, much like Much like Robin, the boy/girl wonder — though for not quite as long. The one near-constant of this title is that the girl in question usually ends up as the current Robin’s girlfriend. That might not be so bad, except the role sentences the unsuspecting Batgirl a slew of terrible fates (in no particular order): being shot, paralyzed, raped, tortured to (apparent) death, and even wiped out of existence. Mostly.

Regardless, I’m sure fans everywhere remember when the very first Bat-Girl, Betty Kane, burst onto the scene with her red, green, and gold outfit.


Read on to see more about Batwoman’s sidekick, and her not-quite-as-long-as-Robin line of unhyphenated successors.


Since the alphabet is the building block of our language, the Powet Alphabet is the building block of what makes us geeks.

Betty Kane
First Appearance: Batman #139

Betty Kane was the first, and technically only Bat(hyphen)girl. But just who was she? If you’re like me, you probably have never heard of her because her existence was eradicated (or rather, greatly modified) as a result of the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Dick Grayson was often accused by critics (and perhaps even by fans) of being Bruce Wayne’s young, underage lover — and not just because he had a clever name. The response to these accusations was the creation of a duo of crime-figthing chicks to serve as respective love interests for the Dynamic-But-Totally-Not-In-That-Way Duo: The adult Kathy Kane as Batwoman (introduced 1956, Detective Comics #233), and her young neice Betty Kane as Bat-Girl.

Far from having the same traumatic background as Bruce Wayne (definitely a first for women in Batman comics, and sadly the last as we’ll soon see), Kathy Kane was a circus performer and wealthy heiress. She was also overwrought with ridculously unhelpful feminine traits as can only be imagined in the 1950s: instead of a utility belt, Batwoman carried a purse full of weapons disguised as cosmetics, but didn’t have the same bad-ass factor as Sarah Jane Smith’s sonic lipstick.

Betty Kane’s Bat-Girl wasn’t much better; she got the attention of her aunt Kathy by figuring out her itentity as Batwoman, and convincing her to be trained as her sidekick. Betty chose her Bat-Girl costume design and color scheme to ape the already-ridiculous pixie-like outfit worn by Dick Grayson (to win his affections obviously), yet somehow managed to be more sensible and less creepy at the same time.

Whether or not you want to think of them as beards for what may have been justified accusations, these characters formed the basis of the many (occasionally more long-lasting) interpretations that would be imagined in the decades to come. If you didn’t know that there even was a basis, don’t feel bad — their existence was not something that DC Comics was particularly proud of, which is why they were quietly dropped in 1964 when Julius Schwartz decided to do a little Silver Age house cleaning.

Where are they now?

With the dust settling from Crisis on Infinite Earths, many such embarassing characters of the Silver Age were put to rest forever. Betty Kane, having already been succeeded (in name only), was particularly ripe for this fate, but one hanging chad remained that spared her from complete oblivion — a prominent role as a member of the Teen Titans West.

The solution? Betty Kane became Mary Elizabeth “Bette” Kane, and was rebranded as Flamebird — the other half of the Superman-inspired Nightwing duo. (If you recall R is for Robin the Boy/Girl Wonder, Dick Grayson’s own reasons for his identity as Nightwing underwent a similar rewrite post-crisis.) This time an unrequited love interest for Dick, she had transformed from one Robin-inspired character into another. Not much of an improvement.

I’d be remiss not to mention what happened to Kathy Kane, especially because I LIKE HER A LOT. The original Kathy Kane was wiped out of existence thanks to the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Different versions of her have come into existence on and off in comic books and other media but the one that stuck first appeared in 52. In the events after Infinite Crisis, a new Batwoman was seen prowling the streets of Gotham while Batman and Robin (then Tim Drake/Wayne) were off training for a year. Now styled Kate Kane, she is much younger than her original incarnation, and cousin to Bette Kane — although one could argue that her stepmother Catherine Kane is the Lionel to Kate’s Lex Luthor.

This new Batwoman has no direct connections to Batman, other than being inspired to take to fighting crime in his name. Her outfit was much more sensible than the original; even with bat-nipples, you wouldn’t dare mess with her. She was a trained martial artist and soldier. I mean, ex-soldier. The biggest change was the same reason she was expelled from the military: Kate Kane was discharged under the now-defunct Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law.

You know, for being a lesbian.

Fifty years after her inception, story of Kathy (and Betty) Kane has come around from “proving” the not-gayness of Batman and Robin to coming out of the closet herself. And I say, good goddamn work! I don’t think I could stand another doe-eyed socialite wannabe crimfighter going gaga over these guys. Those sorts of women always end up dead. Or worse.

Hey, speaking of which…

Barbara Gordon
First Appearance: Detective Comics #359

Barbara Gordon is the saucy redhead you probably think of when someone mentions “the first Batgirl”. Technically, that’s correct, as she is the slightly-less-first-but-still-first-Bat-Unhyphenated-Girl. But who cares about technicalities?

Barbara’s story is pretty well-known. Unlike her namesake, she was no one’s sidekick, but rather an independent crimefighter that Batman took to mentoring. She also succeeded where Betty Kane failed, and won the affections of Dick Grayson.

What might not be as well-known is that Barbara Gordon was originally a creation for the Adam West Batman series, and only crossed over into comics when her existence had been secured.

Barbara Gordon’s career as Bat-Girl ended, along with her ability to walk, at the end of the barrel of a gun during The Killing Joke.

Where is she now?

Barbara has never walked again (except here and there), much less returned to her role as Batgirl — although she mentors new ones from time to time. After a visit from Batman jarred her out of her self-pity for being shot, she took on the identity of Oracle, master hacker and sexy librarian/information broker for the 21st century. She also keeps in pretty amazing shape and fighting condition, and knows how to use it if she needs to.

She is also the leader of the now-relaunched Birds of Prey, which typically consists of — as a baseline — Black Canary and Huntress. She never does manage to get it off with Dick Grayson again (despite his proposing more than once), so I guess she and Betty Kane really do have that in common.

Oh hay guyz, speaking of Huntress!

Helena Bertinelli
First Appearance: Shadow of the Bat #83

Helena was already a known element within the Bat-family as the Huntress — albeit the metaphorical red-headed stepchild of the Bat-family. (I guess that would be Barbara, but she’s the red-headed stepchild that everyone likes.)

She is more literally Bruce Wayne’s daughter… at least she was on Earth-2 before the Crisis on Infinite Earths — the same Earth-2 to which all of Batwoman and Bat-Girl’s stories were relegated after 1964. In this reality, the original Helena Wayne was the child of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, and — gasp — a love interest for Dick Grayson! In this world, Dick was still Robin into adulthood, later taking on the role of Batman (sorta kinda) after the death of Bruce Wayne.

Much like Betty Kane, Helena was recreated post-Crisis, this time as the daughter of a mob family. She also got a slew of ever-increasingly horrifying backstories to back up her bad-assitude, becoming the poster-child for the horrors that Batman writers inflict upon women. Due to this and many, many, many other factors (besides that he’s just a jerk), Batman never fully trusts her or lets her into the Bat-club like the many other members. Rather than get slapped around, she largely keeps to herself, or hangs out with Babs and the Birds of Prey.

That is, until she decides to play Batgirl after Gotham is decimated by an Earth Quake during the No Man’s Land storyline. Predictably, once Batman finds out, he’s a total dick to her and forces her to quit.

Where is she now?

Going back to the original Huntress, Helena’s Earth-2 counterpart is still alive… sort of. After Infinite Crisis and the events of 52, it was revealed that there is still an Earth-2, although not quite like the one that existed before Crisis on Infinite Earths. Like “new Earth”, Earth-2 was rebooted after Infinite Crisis, and now exists as one of the 52 multiverses. In it, Helena Wayne still exists, although this time it’s heavily intimated the she’s really the daughter of that world’s Kathy Kane and not Selina Kyle.

Helena Bertinelli still hangs out with Babs and the Birds of Prey. She still lets Bruce Wayne get under her skin, although I’m hoping with his “resurrection” he’ll learn to be less of a dick. At least… I hope he does.

However, despite her brief sojourn, this is not the last we would see of this particular Batgirl outfit.

Cassandra Cain
1999-2006, 2009
First Appearance: Batman #567

By far my favorite Batgirl ever, Cassandra Cain is the daughter of Batman villain David Cain, whom he trained from birth to be an assassin. To hone her skills to perfection, Cain found a way to force young Cassandra to use the speech centers of her brain to “read” body movement as language, making her the deadliest assassin ever — and largely (literally) untouchable. It also meant she had a few things to teach the Bat-family, although they teach her how to speak… and love. More or less.

Cassandra was the titular star of her own ongoing Batgirl comic for 73 issues, which in this writer’s opinion was pretty excellent — especially the frenetic artwork.

Where is she now?

That’s a good question.

After they canceled her series, DC seemed to lose their way with Cassandra Cain. She was briefly brought back as the new inexplicably-evil leader of the League of Assassins. Thankfully, it was later retconned in a Teen Titans East storyline that she was just under some advanced mind control from Deathstroke (seriously, what IS his deal with terrorizing those kids, anyway?), but she was forever marred.

She did pass on the mantle, however there’s one more stop we need to make before we get there.

Charlotte Gage-Radcliffe
First Appearance: Birds of Prey #96

Bringing Bat-Girl and Batgirl together, a redheaded kid named Charlotte Gage-Radcliffe appeared in the Birds of Prey headquarters wanting to be the new Batgirl. Literally, she appears right behind Barbara Gordon; Charlotte can teleport. That makes her the first (and only) meta to take on the title.

However, much like Helena, Charlotte was never officially sanctioned. But I mentioned Helena, so I’m gonna mention Charlotte dammit!

I was personally unhappy with this new Batgirl, mostly because I was still upset with the treatment of Cassandra Cain, and it really seemed like she was going to be the new thing. Instead, Babs gets smart and refuses to let Charlotte use the name, but sees her value (Charlotte was a big fan of the Birds of Prey, AND a meta!, after all) and agrees to train her as new superhero Misfit.

But that all ended in 2009, along with the original Birds of Prey book after 127 issues.

Where is she now?

I’d be lying if I said I cared much, but I suppose I should perform my due diligence!

Charlotte more or less disappeared with the Birds of Prey (although the latter now has a new comic series, so at least there’s that), although she appeared briefly in Teen Titans. Those former Batgirls and the Birds of Prey/Titans, I tell you what!

The interlude is over, and we meet again at the intersection of Cassandra Cain and Barbara Gordon.

Stephanie Brown
First Appearance: Batgirl #1

We mentioned it for R is for Robin, and it’s still true: Stephanie Brown is back from the dead as the all-new Batgirl, and head of her own title. As we well know, Stephanie is used to being abused by the Bat-family (and Bruce in particular, given the need to fake her own death after brutal torture at the hands of the first Black Mask), so it’s pretty surprising she’d want to have anything to do with them. However, when given the chance to take up the mantle from Cassandra Cain (quite directly), she does not refuse.

Barbara agrees to mentor her, making Stephanie the fourth Batgirl (present or former) to join the Birds of Prey

Where is she now

Remarkably not dead, and still in her own ongoing title! Still being trained by Barbara Gordon on how to wear purple with aplomb… not that Stephanie didn’t remember how to do that from her spoiler days.

It was the reason, supposedly, that Stephanie never had a shrine in the Batcave, but Bruce never knew she wasn’t dead. Or maybe he suspected. Either way, sloppy writing and/or lies.

Now you know everything about Bat-Girl and the many Batgirls… so far. Every layer we peel back on the Bat-family onion just shows more weirdness. This might not be the last you’ve heard of them in the Powet Alphabet.