The internet was set a-buzz with the first photo of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne – also known as Batman – in the upcoming Zack Snyder film Batman vs. Superman, a sequel to last year’s Superman reboot Man of Steel. The caped crusader has been rebooted over and over on the big screen, having been played by five different actors – Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, and Affleck – since the 1989 Tim Burton film was first released. Wayne’s origin story has been filmed multiple times, along with various different villains from his expansive rogue’s gallery. Unfortunately, in all of the dark knight’s recent film escapades, only once have any of the impressive female heroines that populate Gotham City been given a big-screen treatment; unfortunately, it was in the colossal flop Batman and Robin, which featured a Batgirl named Barbara Wilson – who is not a character from the comic books. That film flopped due to the script and tacky production, and unfortunately it is the only example of a female Bat-hero fans have gotten on the big screen. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy also failed to include any female heroes, so perhaps now that the franchise is again being redone from scratch, maybe now is the time. These powerful women are distinctive, exciting characters who would bring a much fresher take than the same old Bruce Wayne story.
The first and most obvious choice is Barbara Gordon, the original and most famous Batgirl. The daughter of Batman’s ally Commissioner Gordon, Barbara was an highly intelligent and resourceful young woman who took on the identity of Batgirl to help Batman and Robin fight Gotham’s most dangerous criminals. When fans think of Batgirl, they probably picture Barbara, both due to her years combatting crime as well as her numerous appearances in Batman: the Animated Series as well as other related media. Barbara’s story took a harrowing turn when The Joker came to her home, knocked on her door, and shot her a point blank range, crippling her and confining her to a wheelchair for years. During this time she became Oracle, a different kind of hero. A computer expert, Barbara was able to help stop crime from her ‘perch’, leading a team of powerful female heroes known as the Birds of Prey. Recently, Barbara has regained her ability to walk, and has returned to fighting crime as Batgirl. Though she struggles with the trauma of The Joker’s shooting, she continue to fight the good fight.
Kate Kane is better to known to comics fans as Batwoman. She, like many heroes, experienced profound tragedy in her youth. She attended military school, where she received training that would later help her fight Gotham’s seedy underbelly. Kate has the distinction of being one of the few openly LGBT heroes – she is a lesbian. Recently, DC Comics stirred up controversy when the would not allows the Batwoman writers to let Kate marry her girlfriend, though they claimed this was simply because interesting superheroes could not have stable personal lives.
Cassandra Cain is an enigma of a character, and certainly one of DC Comics’s most mysterious and fascinating. The daughter of two of the world’s deadliest assassins, she was trained to be an expert in martial arts, but was not allowed to speak or have human contact during her training so that she could become the world’s foremost killer-for-hire. To atone for her crimes, she donned a cowl and became Batgirl in the period when Barbara was crippled, remaining mute for years before eventually learning to communicate normally. In the years since, she has continued to fight, confronting her family while doing so.
These intriguing women are just a few of the many – Stephanie Brown, Helena Bertinelli, and others could all be prime candidates for a silver screen adaptation – who make the Batman universe more layered and interesting than so many other comic book characters. The female characters have just as much darkness, depth, and determination as Bruce Wayne himself, and it is about time at least one of them joined the other heroes on the big screen.
Commentary by Alex Warheit