Ranking Animated Adaptations: Barbara Gordon


In the fifth installment in my series ranking the different animated adaptations of Batman characters, I focus on Barbara Gordon.  A co-creator of the character was just in the news for the release of statues based on his artwork, and Rosario Dawson was just cast to play the part in the upcoming Lego Batman movie, so what better time to focus on Babs than right now?

In order for a character to qualify for my rankings, they must appear in at least four of the following five franchises: The Timmverse, The Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Beware the Batman, and Batman Unlimited.  Barbara appears in all the above except for Batman Unlimited.  Let’s get started on ranking one of Batman’s closest allies and one of the most popular heroines of all time.

Next: #4: The Brave and the Bold...

4. Barbara Gordon in Batman: The Brave and the Bold

Barbara’s first appearance in this series actually came in one of the cold openers the series is famous for.  As Batgirl, she rescues Batman from a death trap set up by Killer Moth.  This is actually a flashback of the first time she ever met Batman, but it is said that they have fought as partners for a while by present time.

She is featured again later on in the second season when she and Nightwing team up to take down Batwoman, Felix Faust, and The Riddler after Batman and Batwoman swap bodies.  I was actually a pretty big fan of this version of Batgirl.  Mae Whitman did a good job voicing her, she had some good fight scenes, and the one episode where she had a big role was one of the series’ best.  However, this version of Batgirl falls at the end of the list due to the series writers under-utilizing her character, much as they did with Dick Grayson as well.

Next: #3: Beware the Batman...

3. Barbara Gordon in Beware the Batman

Beware the Batman really liked to change the status quo, and that included with their adaptation of Barbara.  In this series, Barbara was essentially a Batman and Katana super-fan.  She gets kidnapped by Tobias Whale, and when Batman and Katana are able to rescue her, it earns them the trust of Commissioner Gordon.  The series decided not to have Barbara go out in the field as Batgirl, but rather she began helping Batman and Katana as Oracle, working behind-the-scenes as their tech guru.

Her biggest moment in the series comes when she hacks into Ra’s al Ghul’s Ion Cortex, taking Gotham City out of darkness.  The quintessential Barbara Gordon voice actress Tara Strong voiced her in this series.  I did come to really like the take on Barbara where she goes straight to being Oracle, but it couldn’t surpass some of her classic animated Batgirl adaptations.

Next: #2: The Batman...

2. Barbara Gordon in The Batman

The Batman also did a somewhat unique take on the character.  Unlike in canon, Barbara is actually Batman’s first sidekick in this series in order to eliminate confusion with the fact that Robin was still appearing in Teen Titans at the time of her introduction.  Barbara first appears in the third season as a high-school student, and she is friends with Pamela Isley.  Once Pamela becomes Poison Ivy, however, Barbara adopts the mantle of Batgirl.  She fights crime alongside Batman throughout the season, but she doesn’t yet know his secret identity.  Once Robin debuts in the fourth season, Batgirl is let in on Batman’s secret identity and becomes more of an official partner.

In the episode “Artifacts”, which takes place in the future, we get to see her as Oracle assisting Batman and Nightwing.  Over the course of the series, she develops somewhat of a brother-sister relationship with Robin.  In the fifth and final season of the series, the character begins college and is therefore no longer a show regular, but she did team up with Batman to take down The Terrible Trio in one of her best appearances in the series.  Danielle Judovits did an excellent job voicing Barbara in this show, I liked the origin story the series gave her, and her suit (which resembles quite a bit the one she is currently wearing in the Batgirl of Burnside comic arc) was pretty cool.  However, this adaptation came up just short of cracking the number one spot.

Next: #1: The Timmverse...

1. Barbara Gordon in The Timmverse

As you could say about The Timmverse’s take on probably a majority of Batman characters, they adapted Barbara Gordon to the small screen almost perfectly.  Barbara makes her Timmverse debut in Batman: The Animated Series when she helps Batman defeat the evil computer H.A.R.D.A.C.  She later dons the Batgirl mantle for the first time in the two-part episode “Shadow of the Bat”, as she attempts to clear the name of Commissioner Gordon when he is framed by Two-Face.

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Barbara got one of the more minor re-designs for The New Batman Adventures, but she did get a very different-looking Batgirl suit.  She also becomes a more official member of the Bat-family, now knowing Batman’s secret identity and operating from the Batcave. Throughout the series, she has a complicated romantic relationship with Dick Grayson, the real ending of which was chronicled in a flashback in the episode “Old Wounds”.  Another excellent Batgirl episode from The New Batman Adventures is “Girls’ Night Out”, when she teams up with Supergirl to take on Livewire while Batman is away from Gotham.  Barbara also plays critical roles in the Timmverse direct-to-video films Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.  A new element was added to Barbara when she is featured as the new police commissioner in Batman Beyond.  There was so much depth to her character in this franchise, and we got to see her fight crime all throughout the continuity.  The Timmverse wins again.

Next: Ranking Animated Adaptations: Mr. Freeze

With Bruce Wayne himself my first favorite, Barbara Gordon is probably my second-favorite member of the Bat-family.  She is also the one character that I have ranked so far where I can say that every adaptation to date has done the character justice.  Let me know in the comments below what your favorite adaptation of Barbara is, and be sure to stay tuned to Caped Crusades for more installments of these rankings and for all your Batman news!