The Batman Review: Batgirl Begins, Part One (S3E01)

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Original Airdate: September 17, 2005
Writer: Michael Jelenic
 Brandon Vietti
Special Guest Villain Reviewer: Lauralot

And we’re back, folks. Who’s ready for another thirteen riveting reviews of Kids WB’s second-most successful Batman cartoon?

Joker cricket

So. Season Trois. With Batman now in Gotham’s good graces and the “threat” of the GCPD snugly boxed away, the showrunners needed a new gimmick development to keep viewers hooked and the beast known as Mattel appeased. No problem, right? The stage was perfectly set for a certain Boy Wonder to swing into the hearts and minds of children everywhere, as he’d been doing for the last sixty-odd years. Best of all, Robin was about as gritty and realistic as Scooby-Doo, so there was no way the Nolan movies would’ve called dibs-

Image result for teen Titans 2005
“No, but I did. Get in line, pal.”


Yes, to the dismay of some (and the relief of many more), Teen Titans was still going strong and making it very clear that other shows could pry Robin out of its cold, dead hands. This left The Batman‘s showrunners up guano creek without a paddle, until some brave but unremembered soul in their midst recalled what history’s very first Batman show did to shake up its third season.

And just like that, they had their out.

Greetings, citizens!  Lauralot here, current torturer of Marvel characters in fan fiction, but before that, torturer of the Bat-verse!  And long before that, a kid who ran around her yard pretending to be Batgirl, because what else is a ginger girl in the nineties going to do when she plays Batman especially when her sister’s already claimed Batman, the Joker, Two-Face, and everyone else all for herself?

In 2005, however, I was exactly none of those things.  I was a freshman in high school who caught the occasional episode of Teen Titans on TV, but who had mostly been caught up in the explosion of manga and anime popularity in the West.  I’m not even sure if I realized The Batman existed at the time.  Which is, in a way, a blessing; I’d have inevitably compared it to That Other Show that I grew up with, and I’d have inevitably found it wanting.  At least now, I can give the show a fair shake.

As fair a shake as I can manage, anyway, given that Barbara Gordon is my favorite character in all of comics and once I finally jumped back on the Bat bandwagon in 2008, I quickly devoured anything and everything I could find that had to do with her.  So my standards might be a bit unreasonably high.  

Part of me really wonders what it would’ve been like if The Batman came out in the 2010s. Between Twitter and Tumblr, you’d probably have a larger, or at least more concentrated, fanbase willing to stick up for it. But on the other hand, it did randomly boot a woman of color from the cast and try to replace her with a white Batgirl and… oh dear God. You get the feeling Dan Didio was taking notes at the time and casting glances at Cassandra Cain?

I get the feeling DiDio’s taking notes whenever something unfortunate happens to a lady hero.  Come to think of it, wasn’t 2005 the year DC revealed that Leslie Thompkins deliberately let Stephanie Brown die to teach Batman a lesson?

Yeah.  It may be best if I don’t derail the whole review with a vitrolic rant about that.

So, Barbara Gordon!  She’s had a number of origins over the years, with probably the most well-known being Beatty and Dixon’s Batgirl: Year One.  Which, by the way, is the most awesome origin, but for comparison purposes with “Batgirl Begins”, it’s probably best to use That Other Show’s “Shadow of the Bat” episodes.  They’re both two parters of an animated series as opposed to single issue comics or miniseries.  They also both feature Barbara suiting up to help her father, although “Batgirl Begins” is a literal rescue mission, whereas “Shadow of the Bat” has Barbara trying to save Jim’s reputation after he’s been jailed on suspicion of taking bribes.

What’s interesting to me about “Batgirl Begins” is that, unlike in many other Batgirl origins, Barbara isn’t just in costume when circumstances around her force her to react.  In her original comic introduction, Barbara was on her way to a costume party that Killer Moth crashed.  In “Shadow of the Bat,” she was pretending to be Batman at a rally when gunfire broke out.  And the New 52 origin by Gail Simone had Barbara throw on a mock-Batsuit for protection when the police station was under attack.

Here, Barbara decides to become a Bat to try and save her friend, and then creates the costume.  That’s pretty cool, and it reminds me of Barbara’s introduction on the Adam West show.  Both times, there was no circumstance thrown at her while she was in costume.  It was just Barbara being awesome.

Like a lot of things on The Batman, Babs’ big coming-out party hasn’t aged flawlessly, but I have to give the writers credit for at least one thing: they did not short-change her in the enemy department. Sidekicks, especially in a franchise as villain-driven as Batman, are easy to write off when so few of them have worthwhile enemies of their own – hell, the closest thing Babs had in the comics was Killer fucking Moth

I think you mean the greatest villain in all of comics.

Baaah. Anyways, the Adam West show mitigated this by spotting her Penguin (supposedly the writers’ favorite), but The Batman saw and raised with…

Y’know what, why don’t we let the lady introduce herself?

Poison Ivy

The genesis of Poison Ivy was, admittedly, not that impressive. Her creator? The worst Wonder Woman writer ever. Her concept? “Hey, what if Bettie Page stalked Batman?” The poor girl didn’t even get a proper origin until more than ten years after her debut, and at a different writer’s hands, to boot.

But about ten years after that, things started looking up.

For now was the age of the British Invasion, of the Vegetable Theology, of DC Comics realizing that they’d better start milking everything Alan Moore had written, because their former golden boy wouldn’t come back with a blowtorch to his feet. Magic- and plant-themed characters (the more obscure, the better) became the new in-thing, allowing some nobody called Neil Gaiman to swoop in and turn Ivy into a veritable goddess with the entire plant kingdom at her beck and call. This boosted her juuust enough to get scooped up by That Other Show, and the rest is history.

Ivy is the last real Arkham A-lister to get The Batman‘d, and the choice to tie her debut with Batgirl’s strikes me as fitting, if not long overdue. They both popped up in 1966, right around the time America realized this “women’s lib” thing wasn’t going to leave anytime soon, but despite all the thematic potential (deliberately plain-Jane bookworm vs. glamorous, fame-hungry seductress) and the fact that superhero comics practically invented the Designated Catfight, they remained perfect strangers to one another. In fact, to my knowledge, they’ve squared off exactly one other time. In 1978.

George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Alicia Silverstone, Uma Thurman, and Chris O'Donnell in Batman & Robin (1997)


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