The Batman TV series that debuted in 1966 was a huge success, but by the second season the ratings had started to slip. The producers wanted to introduce a female character for the third season, so DC Comics created Batgirl as a new character for both the comics and the small screen.
Batgirl was really Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Police Commissioner Gordon. Having received her Ph.D. in library science form Gotham State University, she was the head of the Gotham Public Library. Like Supergirl, she was older than conventional sidekicks but still younger than typical suprerheroes.
While this new character was more popular than Betty Kane, the original Bat-Girl who appeared in comics from 1961-1964, she was unable to save the television series. And though it seemed that things had improved somewhat for female heroes since the day of the hyphenated Bat-Girl, Barbara still had to deal with the misogyny of Batman and Robin—and the writers.
One entire story revolved around the fact that Batgirl, as a woman, was inherently and irrevocably vain. This weakness impaired her crime fighting, and the only way to make up for it was to use her feminine sex appeal to distract her enemies long enough to get the upper hand. The mind reels!
Chauvinism was commonplace in comics of the 50s and early 60s, but it surprised me to see an entire plot based around it in 1968. Considering that the struggle for women’s rights continues over 40 years later, I probably shouldn’t find it so astounding.
Illustrating one playing card a day using characters found between 1957-1967 in DC Comics. Tomorrow: Robot Man of the Doom Patrol!