Batgirl: The Greatest Stories Ever Told
Writers: Gardner Fox, Frank Robbins, Elliot S! Maggin, Bob Rozakis, Kelley Puckett and Devin Grayson
Cover: Alex Ross
Distributed By: DC Comics
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
The other day, I found myself in Barnes & Noble with a gift card to spend and what should catch my eye but a graphic novel I had never seen before, Batgirl: The Greatest Stories Ever Told. Now, I should mention that Batgirl has long been a favorite of mine…and not the new Batgirls that have taken on the mantel, but the original Barbara Gordon Batgirl. So, despite the decidedly unattractive Batgirl featured on the cover, I decided to pick up this graphic novel whose back cover stated that held within were a collection of Batgirl’s greatest adventures by the most popular Bat-creators of all time.
Batgirl: The Greatest Stories Ever Told goes all the way back to her debut in Detective Comics #359 in January 1967 and spans decades, ending in Legends of the DC Universe #11 which hit the stands in December 1998. There are ten stories in all, the last two stories coming from a two-part tale. There are 160 pages of Batgirl adventures to be had in this graphic novel and I couldn’t wait to dive on in.
Things start off great with the original “origins” tale of Batgirl. We see her as a librarian looking to change people’s image of her as a dull, quiet girl by wearing a sexy crime fighter outfit she made by hand to the Policeman’s Masquerade Ball. Along the way to the ball, she spots Bruce Wayne being attacked by Mothman and she steps into the fray to save him. Feeling empowered and inspired, Barbara Gordon decides to make some improvements to her masquerade ball costume and become a true crime fighter.
We move on to later adventures as Batgirl goes undercover to catch the Orchid Killer, runs for political office, and fights alongside Robin to take down a nuisance criminal who claims to be the daughter of the Joker. These tales mainly take place in the 1970s and, although a tad bit campy, are the stories I best remember that turned me on to Batgirl in the first place.
We then jump ahead two decades to a story featured in Batman Chronicles #9 called Photo Finish. We meet a newly revamped version of Batgirl who has never met Robin before. There is a bit of flirting as usual between the two as they attempt to capture a mall thief while Batman fights with Catwoman. But this particular comic, in my opinion, the artwork was sub-par and the campiness was dialed to a notch much higher than the 70s comics.
We finish things off with Folie Deux, a 1998 two-part comic that features a new “origins” tale for Batgirl, a much younger Barbara Gordon who rebels against her adopted father, Commissioner Gordon. One who, when approached by Batman and asked to stop her vigilante crime fighting, offers Batman an ultimatum - train me and let me loose when ready, or I’ll keep fighting crime my own way. While I like this idea as to how Batgirl came about, I still feel that the original story was the best. After all, who better for a sexy crime fighter that knows how to handle herself in a fight than a quiet librarian.
I loved that you could see the evolution of the times through each successive story in this collection. From the hair - love Barbara’s buns in 1967, long before Princess Leia was sporting them in A New Hope - to the clothing to the culture itself. You can see the evolution of woman to from someone taken less than seriously to a tough, assertive, no-nonsense individual ready to take on the world.
So what’s my beef with Batgirl: The Greatest Stories Ever Told? Well, aside from the cover, it’s the title. While I liked the stories contained in this graphic novel, I can’t exactly agree that these are the greatest Batgirl stories out there. Why did we leap two decades from the 70s to the late 90s? Were there not any decent Batgirl tales up until Barbara Gordon retired her costume in 1988? While I did enjoy reading some of the older stuff, it would have been nice to see some of the more modern age comics featuring Batgirl up until she is put out of commission in The Killing Joke. Speaking of which, wouldn’t that particular storyline, although heavily featuring Batman, have been the sort of tale you would finish this graphic novel up with, considering that it was her run-in with The Joker in this story that transformed Barbara Gordon into what she is today, hanging the Batgirl persona up forever and taking on the mantle of Oracle? The title is not an accurate representation of the content, but the graphic novel is still enjoyable and I recommend it to any fan of Batgirl/Oracle. This is a great way to get to know the heroine we all love so much.