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Less than a year before her passing in 2015, actress Yvonne Craig was chatting with Closer about the enduring nature of the Classic TV series of the 1960s Batman, starring Adam West in the title role, Burt Ward as his sidekick, Robin, and Yvonne herself in the dual role of librarian Barbara Gordon and TV’s first superheroine, Batgirl. The complete 1966 to 1968 superhero series had been issued on Blu-ray at the time, which explained the excitement about the show at the moment, but not the fact that people still loved it so many decades after its debut.
The new Batgirl was Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon. Her early appearances portrayed her as an inexperienced, if enthusiastic, crime fighter, but by the 1970s Batgirl had matured, displaying a keen intellect, robust athleticism, and burgeoning detective skills. After winning a seat in the U.S. Congress, Gordon relocated to Washington, D.C., although she still occasionally appeared as Batgirl. As Batman comic books grew grimmer throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it was felt that Batgirl’s existence weakened Batman’s, and Gordon hung up her cowl.
By the time she resurfaced in Alan Moore’s graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke (1988), revisions to the DC universe had made her the niece—not the daughter—of Commissioner Gordon.
In that story, the Joker, Batman’s most-maniacal foe, exacted revenge on his enemy by rampaging against those close to him. The Joker shot Gordon, leaving her paraplegic. Some readers at the time accused DC Comics of misogyny, as this brutal attack on Batgirl followed the poignant but violent death of Supergirl in DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985). In reality, this tragic moment ushered in a new era for Gordon as a character. In Suicide Squad no. 23 (January 1989), she became Oracle, a behind-the-scenes crusader whose development of a vast computer information network, along with her photographic memory and her uncanny hacking abilities, enabled her to ferret out information to help other heroes.
A new Batgirl was introduced in Batman no. 567 (July 1999), when Gordon befriended a teenage girl who happened to be the daughter of a notorious assassin. Cassandra Cain had been expertly trained in martial arts and other modes of combat, but she wished to break free of her violent heritage. The intervention of Oracle and Batman helped reshape Cain’s destiny, and she assumed the mantle of Batgirl. Cain was briefly involved with the villainous League of Assassins, but it was later revealed that she had been drugged and under the mental control of the mercenary supervillain Deathstroke at the time. In Batgirl no. 1 (2009), Cain relinquished the Batgirl identity to Stephanie Brown, formerly the costumed crime fighter known as the Spoiler.
Subsequently, in Grant Morrison’s Batman, Incorporated series, Cain adopted the name Black Bat to work as part of Batman’s international crime-fighting network. When DC rebooted its entire superhero line in 2011, Barbara Gordon—no longer paralyzed—returned to her costumed identity in a new Batgirl series.
Alicia Silverstone calls out ‘hurtful’ body-shaming she suffered for ‘Batman & Robin’
After skyrocketing to stardom as the lovably shallow Cher in “Clueless,” Alicia Silverstone booked her next major film gig as Batgirl in 1997’s “Batman & Robin.”
But the media called her another name: Fatgirl.
Silverstone, who was 20 when Joel Schumacher’s critically panned comic-book adaptation hit theaters, recently reflected on the body-shaming she suffered early in her career in an interview with the Guardian published Saturday.
“They would make fun of my body when I was younger,” she said. “It was hurtful, but I knew they were wrong. I wasn’t confused. I knew that it was not right to make fun of someone’s body shape, that doesn’t seem like the right thing to be doing to a human.”
Some of the abuse the “American Woman” star endured at the time involved tabloids printing the cruel nickname as well as paparazzi shouting it while hunting her down for photos. She also recalled being asked about her bra size during an interview.
Batman, American comic strip superhero created for DC Comics by writer Bill Finger and artist Bob Kane. Batman debuted in May 1939 in Detective Comics no. 27 and has since appeared in numerous comic books, comic strips, and graphic novels; on television in a camp live-action series and a critically acclaimed animated program; in electronic games; and in brooding, atmospheric films.
The Caped Crusader in the Golden Age
The origin of Batman, which was not revealed to readers until the character’s seventh comic book appearance, is now a familiar tale. As prosperous physician Thomas Wayne, his wife, Martha, and their young son, Bruce, exited a Gotham City movie house after a nighttime showing of The Mark of Zorro, they were robbed by a thief brandishing a pistol. Dr. Wayne attempted to protect his wife, but the panicky gunman murdered the adult Waynes as their horrified son watched. The grief-stricken boy dedicated his existence to avenging his parents’ murders by “spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals.” After years of training his mind and body to perfection—Bruce, having inherited his father’s millions—mulled over a crime-fighting disguise that would terrorize lawbreakers. A bat flapping through an open window was deemed an omen, and the original tale’s end caption heralded, “And thus is born this weird avenger of the dark…this avenger of evil. The Batman.”
The success of Batman’s appearances in Detective Comics led to an eponymous spin-off title that debuted in the spring of 1940. Ghost artists such as Jerry Robinson and Sheldon Moldoff illustrated the additional material, but, due to the terms of his contract with DC, Kane would receive the credit for such work. Finger, who was responsible for some of the most-recognizable elements of the Batman mythos, would not be acknowledged as a cocreator of the character for more than 75 years. Batman no. 1 introduced two villains who would become integral components of the character’s history: the sneering clown prince of crime, the Joker, and the sultry princess of plunder, the Catwoman (although she was called “the Cat” during her initial appearance). Batman and Robin were soon challenged by a growing contingent of odd antagonists: the Scarecrow, Penguin, and Riddler were just some of the rogues who repeatedly took on the “Dynamic Duo.”
Batman and Robin’s synchronized acrobatics and deductive mastery dazzled readers, as did their arsenal: they each sported utility belts containing the tools of their trade, including Batarangs (bat-winged boomerangs), Batropes (for climbing and swinging), and an assortment of other devices. For transportation, the Dynamic Duo used a variety of bat-themed vehicles warehoused in the secret Batcave beneath the heroes’ grand home, Wayne Manor. By 1942 Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon—in a reversal from the early days of the comic, when he had ordered his officers to fire upon Batman—was summoning the hero into action by illuminating the nighttime skies of Gotham City with the Bat-Signal.
The Dynamic Duo’s burgeoning popularity could not be contained in two magazines alone. They soon appeared in DC’s World’s Best (later World’s Finest) Comics and in 1943 swung into their own newspaper strip. In addition to their comics appearances, they segued into movie theatres in two serials, Batman (1943) and The New Adventures of Batman and Robin (1949), and guest-starred on several episodes of the radio program The Adventures of Superman in the mid-1940s.
Superhero comics declined in popularity after World War II, and Batman was one of three DC Comics characters to maintain his own series, the others being Superman and Wonder Woman. Despite Batman’s resiliency (and the emergence of artist Dick Sprang, whose interpretation of the Joker remains one of the classic renditions of the character), the 1950s were unkind to the cowled crime fighter and his sidekick. The challenge came not from a costumed nemesis, however, as the biggest threat facing Batman—indeed, all comics—was psychiatrist Frederic Wertham. In his polemic against the industry, Seduction of the Innocent (1954), Wertham charged that comics morally corrupt their impressionable young readers, impeaching Batman and Robin in particular for supposedly flaunting a gay lifestyle. Wertham wrote, “They live in sumptuous quarters, with beautiful flowers in large vases, and have a butler.