Sunday, September 2, 2018

Retro Review: Detective Comics #359 (1967) - "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!"

Changing the Game

Written by: Gardner Fox
Art by: Carmine Infantino, Sid Greene, and Gaspar Saladino
Cover Price: 12¢
Release Date: January 1967

Batgirl is such a fun character and one of the big ones that I earmarked for a bunch of retro reviews.  I already did the debut of Bat-Girl (insert link here), so now I can jump into the Batgirl most know and love...Barbara Gordon.  There are a bunch of characters that have roots in television and movies, but Babs debuted in comics as an introduction for her first television appearance a few months later in the Batman ‘66 series.  I loved the ‘66 Batgirl so much (played by the lovely Yvonne Craig) and must admit, I had a crush on her as a little boy seeing her in first crush if I remember correctly.  She was smart, pretty and kicked butt and that’s all I needed to start my lifelong love of the character.  So, here is her debuted in Detective Comics…

The story opens with Barbara Gordon doing the final stitching of her Batgirl costume for the Policeman’s Masquerade Ball that night and right away you can't help but fall in love with her spunky attitude.  She is so excited to show everyone that she isn't just some dull librarian and really can’t wait to see what her father, Commissioner Gordon, thinks.

Meanwhile, Killer Moth’s gang have captured millionaire Bruce Wayne in his limousine and it's a good thing Babs drives by...well, it isn't really since we all know who Bruce is, but Barbara certainly doesn't.

While Barbara uses her judo on the thugs (she tells us in this issue she is a brown belt!), Bruce slips away to become Batman. When he returns, he takes care of the baddies, but they still get away.  It's one of those bittersweet moments for Barbara, however, as she got the thrill of being a caped crusader, but now has to go back to the dull life of a librarian.  She didn't even get to go to the Ball!

We continue with Bruce getting a letter from Killer Moth saying last night was "just a sample" and if he doesn't cough up $100,000, he'll be a goner.  Wait a second!  When did Killer Moth write this letter? Bruce is reading it to Dick during breakfast...the next morning. Did he know his guys were going to screw it all up days ago and wrote it?  Did he slip it under the door this morning?  

Batman then goes around town and asks all the other filthy rich men if they have had run-ins with Killer Moth and we learn two things...most have already paid the $100,000 and Bruce is easily the youngest, best-looking guy in the Gotham Rich Guys Club.

We head over to Moth Mansion quick to see Killer Moth's awesome candle wax throne before going back to the Mansion to see...Bruce Wayne's murder?!?!  Luckily, Barbara has shown up with a rare book that Bruce wanted and quickly changes into Batgirl in one of the greatest pages ever.  Screw you Superman and your phone booths!  Babs is where it's at with her fashionable costume change.  I read the narration like it was an announcer at a fashion show..."Batgirl will have no problem turning all the bad guy's heads in her smart outfit that even includes a skirt that turns into a cape..."

Batgirl springs into action to stop Killer Moth, but we find out that Bruce isn't really dead (really?  lol) and Babs is ruining the plan.  Batman finally grabs her and everything is okay as they follow Killer Moth (in the incredible Moth Mobile) back to Moth Mansion.

After the Dynamic Duo gets trapped, Batgirl again shows up and saves the day.  The three of them then find Killer Moth (thanks to Batgirl's perfume) and beat the crap out of him with the patented Batman and Robin double punch!  The issue ends with Commissioner Gordon very impressed with the new female member of the Bat Family, something that makes Babs very happy...even though Jim ends up throwing a bit of shade at his daughter in the end.

This issue is such a classic.  Batgirl comes out of the gate swinging and it's made clear that she can kick ass with her fists, feet, and brains.  I love her inner monologue that is a mix of excitement and cockiness since she knows she is the smartest one in the room even when she is standing next to Batman.  She is one of the best superheroes period and this issue gets that right from the start.

Carmine Infantino's art is so good.  Batgirl looks great and I already mentioned the page with her switching her clothes into the Batgirl costume, but Batman and Robin look great as well.  I loved seeing Dick eating breakfast with his "D" sweater on!

Bits and Pieces:

A first appearance done to get Batgirl into the Batman '66 show that does so much right.  Fox and Infantino set the bar high for the new caped crusader and she comes off as smart, tough and totally awesome.  Every DC fan should read this issue.


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