My first session students have finished their three-week course, but the new group is just beginning. Meanwhile, my official unofficial researcher, John Wells, provides more answers to your questions?
As of Crisis:
- was Commissioner Gordon aware that his daughter Babs was Batgirl?
- did Batman know Batgirl’s secret ID?
- did Barbara Gordon know Batman and Nightwing (nee Robin)’s secret IDs, or no? Has she ever momentarily known?
- was Barbara Gordon still a Congresswoman?
Yes to all four questions.
According to 1998’s LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE #10-11, the Commissioner figured out his daughter’s secret almost immediately but didn’t tell her that he knew. The Killer Moth/DETECTIVE COMICS #359 version has since been reaffirmed in SECRET FILES & ORIGINS GUIDE TO THE DC UNIVERSE 2000 (and evidently will be again in the forthcoming BATGIRL: YEAR ONE) so we can regard the LEGENDS story as, um, a legend.
In any event, the Commissioner’s protectiveness of Batgirl in the flashback in 1999’s BATMAN & SUPERMAN: WORLD’S FINEST #5 suggests that he suspected the truth early on. What cinched it, though, was his team-up with Batgirl in 1971’s DETECTIVE COMICS #416-417. Batgirl blundered badly in the latter issue, calling out “Dad” as she knocked him from the path of a bullet. Though Babs convinced herself otherwise, the Commissioner had heard what she said and was keeping his new-found knowledge to himself.
“I never told her,” Jim Gordon recalled in 1995’s BATMAN CHRONICLES #1. “I never wanted to admit it to myself. But I found the mask and the cape among her things. And there was no lying to myself anymore.”
Coupled with that subplot was a new one, first introduced in DETECTIVE #421‘s Batman story, where posters touting “Babs Gordon For Congress” littered the backgrounds of the story. Everything came together in #422’s “Unmasking of Batgirl”, a landmark that actually permitted Batgirl to steal the cover from Batman. With her father gearing up for a run for Congress, Batgirl found herself echoing his desire for tougher laws after a run-in with an unrepentant ex-convict. In a disappointingly brief climax, Batgirl barged into her father’s office, yanked off her mask and announced that she was replacing him on the ticket.
And so, in “Batgirl’s Last Case” (DETECTIVE #424: June, 1972), despite the mob’s best efforts, dark horse Barbara Gordon won the election and flew off to Washington. Her Batgirl days, she believed, were over. Waving goodbye at the airport was her boyfriend Jason Bard. Now a full-fledged private eye, he stepped into the vacancy in the back of DETECTIVE COMICS with #425.
Elliot S. Maggin promptly revived Batgirl against the Washington, D.C. backdrop (1973’s SUPERMAN #268), creating a momentum that culminated with 1975’s Batgirl-Robin team-up in BATMAN FAMILY #1. In the epilogue, Robin’s suggestion that Batgirl hang up her cape was greeted with a demure thank you. Then, she knocked the wind out of his lungs with a kiss that left the Teen Wonder too stunned to offer further advice.
The first issue had featured Dick Grayson workings as Babs’ aide while he was on break at college and the duo that had been only casual acquaintances in Gotham became friends in Washington. As it had in the first issue, verbal sparring between Batgirl and Robin closed out BATMAN FAMILY #3‘s episode. Addressed by a smug Robin as “Congresswoman”, a momentarily flustered Batgirl shot back, “You can call me Babs — if I can call you Dick!” No further comment was needed. With two high-profile redheads from Gotham now living in Washington, it’s amazing that everyone hadn’t made the connection.
Obviously, Batgirl could deduce Batman’s true identity based on Robin’s. And Robin presumably spill the beans to Batman. It was full disclosure all around.
In what was intended as a return to the good old days, Jack C. Harris’ story in 1980’s DETECTIVE COMICS #489 stripped Batgirl of her memories, all of which were restored to her by Robin in the epilogue — with one exception. Rather than restore the knowledge of his and Batman’s true identities, Robin told Babs that he’d be “more comfortable” if she didn’t know! Oooo-kay. In the Gerry Conway-scripted DETECTIVE #526 (1983), Batgirl showed up at Wayne Manor to consult with Robin. Responding to the Teen Wonder’s surprise that Batgirl was again aware of his and Batman’s true identities, she curtly informed him that “I’m not stupid — and I am a detective.”
To date, aside from the LEGENDS OF THE DCU story, we’ve seen nothing to indicate that things happened any different in Batgirl’s current history than they did originally. The pivotal post-Crisis story THE KILLING JOKE makes it clear that Barbara knew that Bruce Wayne was Batman while a flashback in BATMAN ANNUAL #13 shows Babs openly discussing her Batgirl activities with her dad not long before TKJ.
In post-Crisis continuity, Babs should technically have been too young to serve in Congress so Barbara Randall created an explanation in the form of “an obscure old law” from 1946 known as the Knight Dependents Bill. “My accelerated schooling and college degree allow me to register as a candidate,” Babs explained. [In DC’s current compressed timeline, it’s presumed that Babs completed someone else’s term in office and didn’t serve a full term.] A nice story in 1991’s HAWK & DOVE #23-24 even had Barbara return to her old Washington stomping grounds.
The Knight Dependents Bill, incidentally, is a subtle nod to 1940s heroine and former Freedom Fighter Sandra (Phantom Lady) Knight, whose father was a politician. Here’s the scenario that may have prompted that bill:
Following the death of Senator Harold H. Knight, several diverse forces, including Senator Thomas (Black Condor) Wright and (through intermediaries) the soon-to-be-dismantled O.S.S. lobby for Knight’s daughter Sandra (a.k.a. O.S.S. operative Phantom Lady) to complete his term. Too young to hold office, Sandra is allowed to take her father’s seat thanks to the Knight Dependents Bill.
It seems to me that both Batgirl and Phantom Lady had the same writer in the latter half of the 1970s. Now what was that name again ?
I just reread the O’Neil/Adams run of GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW and Carol Ferris is still in a wheelchair at the end of the series. How did she get out of it? Black Canary never uses her sonic powers, either. Did she have them back then? And whatever happened with Ollie Queen’s mayoral campaign?
1) Shortly after Black Canary was nearly killed by a drunk driver (FLASH #219), Carol was flying to Metropolis on business. She was unaware that the star sapphire of the Zamarons was on loan to the Metropolis Museum. This may have had something to do with what happened next. While looking down from her seat in the plane, she had a hallucination in which Superman appeared to kill Green Lantern. Determined to avenge her lover’s death, Carol sought out the gem, became Star Sapphire and fought to a draw with the Man of Steel before teleporting away. Carol awoke with no recollection of the past twenty-four hours and WALKED to a newsstand where she learned from a headline that GL was alive and well (SUPERMAN #261).
Obviously, the star sapphire restored Carol’s ability to walk but this was never addressed in that story or any others. Hal would certainly have figured that out but he had to let Carol assume it was an act of God.
2) Originally, Denny O’Neil conceived Black Canary’s sonic power as a side-effect of Dinah Lance’s journey to Earth-One. She used the powers in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #75 and JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #77 but couldn’t control them … her reason for NOT using them in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #78. In JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #80 (May, 1970), Dinah finally decided they weren’t reliable. “I’d better forget about it, and depend on my stand-bys — judo and wits.” And, after using the powers one last time in the Bob Haney-scripted BRAVE & BOLD #91 (Aug.-Sept., 1970), that’s just what she did. Len Wein finally revived the Canary’s sonic powers in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #110 and Elliot Maggin began utilizing them in ACTION #446.
In current continuity, Dinah got her powers as a teenager (as recounted in SECRET ORIGINS #50) and had them when she joined the JLA. Since Black Canary’s pre-Crisis reason for not using her powers has no relevance, she presumably never stopped using them. On the other hand, two months after JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #80, Black Canary was hypnotized by Joshua and narrowly resisted killing Ollie (GREEN LANTERN #78). She was still doing plenty of soul-searching in GREEN LANTERN #79 and even considered a career change (GREEN LANTERN #83). Who’s to say that Dinah didn’t also choose to restrain herself from using her sonic cry for a time as an extended psychological exercise to see if she could survive with only “judo and wits?”
3) After initially deciding to run for mayor (GREEN LANTERN #87), Ollie — along with Superman — was pulled into the past where Effron the Sorcerer tried to make GA the puppet ruler of his tribe. At the end of the story, Ollie accused Supes of having staged the whole thing to symbolize the pitfalls of politics and told him that his “plan” worked — he’d quit the race (WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #210). And, yeah, that’s every bit as lame as it sounds. Since Elliot Maggin wasn’t the regular GA writer at that point, I suspect Julie Schwartz forced him to junk a subplot that Denny wasn’t interested in.
Anyway, Ollie went on to open a public relations firm called Queen Promotions (ACTION #421) and a law-and-order candidate named Whitney Spencer entered the race. After multiple attempts on him and his supporters (WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #244, WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #246), Spencer evidently dropped out. And that’s when Jack Major approached Ollie again. This time, he agreed to see it through to the end (late 1977’s GREEN LANTERN #100, an inventory story originally slated for early 1976’s FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #14).
The campaign turned ugly and exposed dark secrets in Jack Major’s past. Amidst charges of ballot tampering, Clark Kent turned up evidence that Ollie had won but, unbeknownst to GA, Dinah asked him to kill the story. She’d rather see him on the streets as Green Arrow than end up like Mayor Major (WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #255).
Ralph Halstead ended up in the mayor’s office (WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #255) but didn’t serve his full term. Thomas Bolt was mayor in DETECTIVE COMICS #560-565 (1986) but died in his costumed alter-ego of Steelclaw.
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