Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of Barbara Gordon wearing a cowl and hitting Gotham’s streets as Batgirl. For five decades, different iterations of Gordon have graced comics, television both live action and animated, and was played by Alicia Silverstone in 1997’s Batman and Robin.
Barbara Gordon, though a beloved and long-standing member of the Bat-family, is not the only character to use the name Batgirl. The very first standalone Batgirl comic was led by as Asian American character named Cassandra Cain, a woman less idealistic than Barbara, and, as co-creator and penciler Damion Scott tells Inverse, “almost as dark as Batman” himself.
Scott says Cassandra still feels like his daughter, and that a dark personality like hers still isn’t common among female superheroes. He also says he’d love to see her appear in DC films or television, ideally played by Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim). “Barbara has a lightness to her, and it stood as great contrast to Batman’s more broody nature. Cassandra, however, is almost as dark as Batman. I really enjoyed drawing a female character with that kind of heaviness to her atmosphere.”
The daughter of two supervillains, born to work as a bodyguard and assassin, and trained from birth as a killer, Cassandra Cain was introduced to DC Comics in 1999, as a minor character in during No Man’s Land crossover era. Scott’s relationship with her began during those early days. “I was working in the Bat offices during No Mans Land,” he says. “One of my first stories featured Batgirl saving a couple from one of the Joker’s abandoned hideouts. I guess the editors liked the way I handled the character so they threw me in the list for potential Batgirl ongoing series pencillers. I won out and got the book.” Though he began as a general penciller on Gotham stories, Scott became particularly attached to Cain’s story. “It was awesome. I loved the idea of working on a monthly series that had no precedence. I would be creating everything. It took a lot of the pressure off, and I didn’t have to follow anyone. It was all my world to create.”
Introducing Cassandra in her own solo run was, in the ‘90s, a rare occurrence, as DC Comics was still leaning heavily on its roster of big name heroes, including Cain’s mentor, Batman. Batgirl’s run as Cassandra was a move now more familiar to contemporary Marvel fans, who have become accustomed in recent years to the publisher dropping new faces into classic titles. Scott says he was particularly surprised by the reaction Cassandra got from female readers. “I was surprised by how many women were into it. I tried my best to make her a real woman, not oversexualized or dainty. As a guy, creating something that the opposite sex can relate to is naturally a challenge. I guess my mom and sisters taught me well; they’re all women like Cassandra, made of steel,” Scott says.
Scott says, although the spotlight in 2016 will be on Barbara Gordon, something special still resonates with Cassandra, who currently operates in DC’s Rebirth comics as Orphan. “I think she was healing Batman in a way Barbara couldn’t,” he says. “They’re both scarred by a tragedy that has consumed them. Having gone through my own personal tragedy in losing my older brother, I know that the thing that helps the most is having a person who can relate to what you’re going through. Sometimes the best way to check ourselves is to see ourselves in someone else. I remember several moments, working on Batgirl, where I felt that between Bruce and Cassandra. Those are some of my favorite moments in the 32 issue run.”