Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Retro Review: Batman #139 (1961) - "Bat-Girl" Review

Compact Hero

Written by: Bill Finger
Art by: Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris
Cover Price: 10¢
Release Date: April 1961

Usually, when talking about the first appearance of Batgirl, you hear about the Batman '66 television show, Barbara Gordon, and Yvonne Craig.  I still remember getting excited when her awesome motorcycle would zip across the screen telling you she'd be appearing in that episode when watching reruns of the show.  Well, this isn't that Batgirl.  Nope, this is Betty Kane and she came about six years prior to Ms. Craig and went by the odd-looking "Bat-Girl".  She ended up disappearing from comics a couple years later, but we are here to look at her first appearance in Batman #139...

The story opens in mid-fight with Batman, Robin and Batwoman beating up members of the Kobra Gang.  At this point, they just appear to be gangsters with a predilection for dressing up in snake based luchador masks and capes to go along with their dapper three-piece suits.  That's the problem with the world these days, nobody dresses up to commit crime anymore.

Kobra Gang...Looking Sharp!

While it looks like they have the upper hand, one of the gang turns on the "Electronic-Ring" which looks like a movie camera but snares the trio in a green electric current lasso of sorts.  We don't get any explanation of it because, within seconds, Bat-Girl jumps through the window (which is huge and really high up) and saves the day before leaving just as quickly. 

What is this?  A room for giants?!?

Back at the Batwoman lair, Betty reveals that she is Bat-Girl to her Aunt, who is Kathy Kane, Batwoman.  You would think that she would be cool with it, but NOOO!  After getting some background on Betty and how she figured out Batwoman's identity, Kathy goes to Batman to figure out what to do.  Batman's answer...lie!  Yep, he tells Batwoman to string Betty along with the promise of being Bat-Girl without ever having any intention of it happening.  Way to go Bats!


We get a page of Betty doing her best to be the greatest darn sidekick that will never be before she uses the training to one-up Batman and Batwoman and figure out where the Kobra Gang Hideout is.  It's not time to throw it in the Bat Family's face just yet because she ends up being captured (because a crime boss' cigar will always win over an inflatable tiki doll) but still uses her smarts (and origami skills) to get help.

Foiled by the cigar!

Batman, Robin, and Batwoman show up to kick more Kobra butt and Bat-Girl gets in on the action.  Betty may have gotten herself captured and almost shot, but hey, she showed some real moxie and Batwoman promises her that one day, she just may be her sidekick.  I still think she is lying through her teeth, but I'm not a trusting soul.

This is a pretty quick moving and ridiculous introduction to Bat-Girl.  Robin seems to like her, but that's probably because she is just the girl version of himself, complete with girl-like gadgets.  The art is darn good and it's really cool to see this fancy dressed Kobra Gang, but there just isn't enough meat to the story to really get excited over.  It's no wonder the character just faded away.

Bits and Pieces:

While there are some laughs to be had here, you'll be laughing at the issue, not with it.  The art is good, but the introduction of Betty Kane, Bat-Girl, is not going to blow your mind.  This issue is cool to check out as a curiosity but is far from a must read.


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