First off, I will say that I enjoy the new Batgirl line and the stories of the young Barbara Gordon in modern loose fitting costume is a step in the right direction for women in comics. It shows that a normal looking girl without the aid of overdeveloped athletic body parts can still be a role model for readers and more than that, be popular.
But this blog is because I feel that there is one member of the Batman inner circle that has been treated poorly by DC Comics and the new 52 line in general.
Cassandra Cain; Batgirl. 1999 – 2006.
Cassandra Cain came into the Batman Universe in 1999, during the No Man’s Land storyline. She proves herself by saving Commissioner Gordon and is soon trained to become the new Batgirl. She has exceptional martial art skills but is mute and illiterate, only able to communicate through gestures. Oracle (Barbara Gordon all grown up and in a wheel chair courtesy of the Joker) takes her in as her ward. Slowly Oracle and Batman begin to unravel Cassandra’s past. She is the daughter of Master Assassin David Cain and Lady Shiva, trained to follow in their footsteps since she was a child. A video of an eight year old Cassandra is transmitted to the Batcave by David Cain, showing the little girl murdering a business man. Still Batman moves forward, believing there is potential in Cassandra to develop her into the Batgirl. Here is the morality issue of Cassandra Cain that makes her different from most of the other protégé’s of Batman. She does not take up crime fighting in memory of her murdered loved ones, but to atone for the murders she as a child has committed.
There are other differences between Cassandra and the rest of the Batman Universe. She was the first Batgirl to get her own comic book series. She is Eurasian. All the rest of the Batman family are Caucasian. The first minority Bat so to speak. Her comic series ran from 1999 to 2006 and to date is one of the most entertaining lines DC has ever produced. Details of Cassandra’s birth and childhood are revealed in the series and she learns to communicate, at the cost of some of her fighting skills. But she trains diligently to hone them at the cost of her social life. She finds it hard to be with people and to create friendships. Cassandra learns that Lady Shiva may be her mother and seeks her out. She learns that much of her abilities are those of Lady Shiva and asks for training from the assassin. Shiva agrees on the condition that they duel to the death one year after her training is done. In the battle Cassandra dies. But Lady Shiva realizes that she was holding back, she revives Cassandra in the Lazarus Pit and they battle again. This time Cassandra does not kill Lady Shiva but breaks her back, paralyzing her without killing her. With the truth about her past in her hands, Cassandra becomes even more withdrawn and eventually leaves Gotham and the Bat family for Hong Kong. It is there she becomes the Black Bat.
It is later shown that becoming the Black Bat and leaving Gotham was not Cassandra doing, but rather following orders from Batman, working on his behalf in secret. But this exile has the effect of removing her from her fan base and opening the door for a new Batgirl, fashioned more along the lines of the original. It is a blunder. No other Batgirl, except for the original herself; Barbara Gordon, has stirred comic fandom like Cassandra did or is likely to do so again. That is perhaps why the Batgirl comic we see out now is about a young Barbara Gordon.
Since then DC has never seemed to know exactly what it wanted to do with Cassandra Cain. They even brainwashed her for a time and turned her against Robin and made her a villain. This was met with mixed reviews. It was thought to be a cheap and final slap to a character that had done a lot for the Batman franchise when the other supporting cast was doing very little. Cassandra’s version of Batgirl is incredibly popular with cosplayers, a tribute from fans who have not forgotten her.
All in all, she deserved so much better. For a comic line as Batman is, dealing with orphans and their struggle to become a family, the casting off of Cassandra Cain was hypocritical at best and unreasonably cruel at worst.