Barbara Gordon: The Most Important Member of the Bat-Family

Batgirl has a deep and complicated history as a character, and while there have been multiple Batgirls, we’re going to focus on Barbara Gordon. Barbara has been Batgirl, she has been Oracle, and she’s carried entire teams and operations on her own.

So let’s glide over a bit of her history and see if we can hack into the core of what makes Barbara Gordon the most important member of the Bat-Family.

Batgirl Begins

Just like many other longstanding characters, Batgirl has a few different origins. Not unlike Harley Quinn, Barbara Gordon was originally created for television, but the producers coordinated her live-action introduction with her debut in publication. She joined Adam West’s Batman TV series in the ’60s, just a few short months after her first appearance in Detective Comics #359.

Even on the TV show and her earliest appearances, Barbara was a prudent researcher, working as a librarian. She was able to navigate a swarm of information in order to pinpoint exactly what she, Batman, and Robin needed. This aptitude for strategy and intel is one of her most enduring character traits to this day.

In one version of her origin, Barbara Gordon was the niece of Commissioner James Gordon. She created her Batgirl costume in preparation for the policeman’s masquerade ball. On her way to the party, she actually saw Bruce Wayne being attacked by a villain. She used her skills in judo to fight off the villain, and eventually, she used her extraordinary detective skills to determine the identity of Batman himself. She was invited onto the team not long after.

In a more popular version of her origin, she is the daughter of Commissioner Gordon, as well as a world-class martial artist who is dead set on becoming a super hero just like Batman and Robin.

While fighting as Batgirl (including during the New 52), she accomplished incredible feats like defeating many members of the Court of Owls (and even convincing Talon to work alongside her), fighting the criminal Knightfall, and studying secretly under the crime lords of Gotham, from The Penguin to Bane, so that she could take down their organizations from the inside.

Becoming Oracle

One thing that remains a constant in Barbara Gordon’s history is one of DC’s darkest stories, The Killing Joke. The Joker paralyzed Barbara Gordon by shooting her and damaging her spine. In current comics, she has gone through experimental treatments allowing her to return to her position as Batgirl and relieve her paralysis with a cybernetic implant. But initially, this character-defining moment was severely traumatic, although that didn’t stop her from being an incredible hero working from the shadows of Gotham.

As Oracle, she doubled down on her decision to fight against crime. Her photographic memory, impeccable intuition, incredible technological abilities, and sheer dedication make her an asset — not just to the Bat-Family, but to the world.

Later, she was inducted into the Justice League for her skillset. She’s worked with the government to conduct missions with the Suicide Squad, Young Justice, the Teen Titans, and more. Largely anonymous in her operations, Oracle maintained an “eyes everywhere” position, providing intel, mission updates, and other invaluable assistance to her partners in the field.

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey

One of Batgirl’s greatest claim to fame, perhaps, is that she one of the founders of the Birds of Prey. You can read about the origins of the Birds of Prey if you want to go into more depth on their escapades as a team. Barbara’s contributions to this ever-evolving team have ensured its place as one of DC’s most iconic hero groups.

It’s important to note that even when Nightwing went off to fight crime in Bludhaven, Oracle continued providing intelligence for both him and Batman. And that didn’t stop her from helping the Justice League, on top of running the Birds of Prey. She was singlehandedly providing practically all of the technological upgrades, integration, and intel for four major teams.

Batgirl: The Perfect Student

Batgirl represents a generational change and the potential future. Barbara was the perfect student for Batman. She took every lesson he ever taught her and applied it tenfold. She learned how to learn from him, and how to push herself to the most extreme limits.

As Batgirl, even after her implant procedure, she risks everything for the people and the city that she loves. As Oracle, she applied the lessons he taught her in a new and innovative way. Her technological abilities far surpass any member of the Bat-Family, and her deductive skills rival even Bruce Wayne’s.

There is nothing that can stop Barbara Gordon. She’s taken down The Joker without the use of her legs. She’s hacked into government agencies that no one even knew existed. She is a rare talent and an asset that the whole of the Justice League could not go without, let alone the Bat-Family. Back in Gotham, her fellow Bat-Family members rely on her not only for tech support, but also for emotional stability.

Batgirl is the emotional support for Cassandra Cain, since she practically taught her how to be a kid. She’s been Dick Grayson’s fiancée and frequent partner. She is the glue holding all of them together. And honestly, this is only a small portion of what she’s actually accomplished throughout her many years in DC Comics.

What’s your favorite Barbara Gordon story arc? Connect with other Batgirl fans in our Local Comics Society Facebook Group, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!