Showcase Presents Batgirl TP Volume 01 including the work of Neal Adams and Gardner Fox (graphic novel review)

Beautiful actress Yvonne Craig passed away in August 2015. She played the slave girl Marta in classic ‘Star Trek’ episode ‘Whom Gods Destroy’ (1969) but was best known for playing Batgirl in the third and final season of the camp/pop-art 1960s ‘Batman’ television series. That being so, I thought a review of the ‘DC Showcase’ edition of Batgirl would be an apt tribute. Rumour has it that she cared enough about the character to protest to DC when Alan Moore had her brutalised in ‘The Killing Joke’.


The stories in ‘DC Showcase Presents: Batgirl’ are lighter in tone than that, certainly at first. She didn’t get her own strip to start with but featured in those of other heroes, usually ‘Batman’. Her first appearance was Detective Comics # 359 in a tale entitled ‘The Million Dollar Debut Of Batgirl’. Barbara Gordon, daughter of the esteemed Commissioner of Gotham City, is a quiet librarian. For a costume party, she makes herself a Batgirl outfit but, en route to the do, she happens across Bruce Wayne being attacked by Killer Moth and his gang. They are running a protection racket where they beat up millionaires. The ‘masked maiden’ saves Bruce. Later the ‘dominoed dare-doll’ gets more involved in the case and acquits herself well enough to earn Batman’s respect and approval. Gardner Fox wrote the script and the assorted soubriquets for the heroine. Carmine Infantino drew her shapely form.

Her ‘shapely form’ was useful in issue Detective Comics # 371 ‘Batgirl’s Costume Cut-ups’ when she used her legs to distract a criminal fighting Batman. The overall tone of this story is not one likely to win approval from modern feminists. Batgirl fails to catch bad guys because she is distracted by mud on her uniform or her mask slipping or some other ’womanly’ concern The splash page for it makes the cover of this ‘Showcase’ edition. It’s probably worth mentioning that Neal Adams did the art for World’s Finest # 176, a four-way team-up with Superman, Supergirl, Batman and Batgirl.

Batgirl featured in Justice League of America # 60’s story ‘Winged Warriors Of The Immortal Queen’. It’s the usual Gardner Fox routine of splitting the JLA into sub-teams to perform individual missions but I thought Mike Sekowsky’s art was a bit influenced by Gil Kane, some of the figure poses being similar. Gil Kane was the first artist when Batgirl got her own strip in Detective Comics # 384 (Feb. 1969) and did his usual stylish job, beautifully inked by Murphy Anderson. This was a fairly regular 8 page back-up strip with one story normally spread over two parts. Most of the scripts are by Frank Robbins but Mike Friedrich started it off and Denny O’Neil contributed a few. These pages by Kane and Anderson are definitely the artistic highlight of the book as they do beautiful work. Kane is also inked by Vince Colletta, who does a good job in his own restrained manner. Frank Giacoia does a couple of issues but his heavy style doesn’t really suit Kane‘s pencils, though he’s an excellent inker for many and my favourite on Kirby. Don Heck took over the pencils from Detective Comics #408 (Feb. 1971), initially inked by Dick Giordano but later doing it himself, as he preferred. Heck isn’t on anyone’s list of all-time greats but he was a pro and turned in a competent job.

The stories are the usual crime and detective stuff, small-time gangsters rather than big-time super-villains. They are dated in the sense that the concerns of the time are reflected. A big-time gangster from a bygone age is fictionalised in a film called ‘The Stepfather’ in 1970. It took me 0.0001 seconds to get that reference. There are also a couple of yarns which feature rebels who want to bring down ‘The Establishment’. Denny O’Neil is sympathetic to the revolting students in Detective Comics # 400-401, while Frank Robbins is not to the gun happy cop-haters in # 416-417. The former adventure closes with hints that Batgirl might want to get to know Robin better but nothing comes of it, at least, not in this book. The other contemporary concerns that get an airing are drug smuggling and corrupt politicians. The Batgirl back-up strip concludes with her leaving Gotham City to become a member of the U.S. Congress.

The last three stories are from ‘Superman’ and ‘The Superman Family’ with art by Curt Swan, who was getting pretty good by this stage in his career and scripts by fan turned pro Elliot S! Maggin. Batgirl teams up with Superman, Batman and Supergirl in various adventures. They were okay.

Sometimes you hear a film is rubbish, watch it and are pleasantly surprised. That was my experience with ‘DC Showcase: Batgirl’. I read it with low expectations but they were exceeded. Not something to rush out and buy but if you like Silver Age DC and happen across a copy, it’s worth considering.

Eamonn Murphy

September 2015

(pub: DC Comics, 2007. 520 page graphic novel softcover. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN-13: 978-1-40121-367-1)

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