Barbara Gordon's Batgirl – which, let's be honest, is THE Batgirl – made her million-dollar debut 50 years ago in Detective Comics #359 (cover date January 1967). Yes, we know that technically means she hit the street in late 1966, but we're going by DC's marking of the anniversary (BTW – we’ve already ordered this).
Batgirl is, and always will be, my favorite superhero. In a medium where characterization often exists in only one of two extremes, she's a jumble of complexity and contradications -- fierce and strategic while maintaining an endearing joie de vivre; wise beyond her years yet innocently naive. Batgirl is, quite honestly, the best: she's arguably more intelligent than Batman. And where Batman had billions to help him become the world's greatest detective/fighting machine, she did it all herself. Plus, she made library science cool.
And she's always looked really, really great. Thus, our ranking of all of Barbara Gordon's Batgirl outfits across various mediums.
Rules: Other realities/timelines count, but only ones where Barbara Gordon was a costumed Batgirl (i.e. not a Green Lantern, etc.). If she shared a look in a cartoon that basically matched another medium (example: The Filmation cartoon of the early '70s basically matched her '70s look, one LEGO Batman Batgirl matches her Burnside look, etc.), we didn't count it.
Note: I think I got everything, but please let me know any misses in the comments.
I'm not a fan of the animation style here, which admittedly taints my judgment on the look. Batgirl looks like an alien here. Normally I'm a huge fan of weird belts and skirts (see Duo Damsel) but here it looks like a little girl playing dress-up in a bad way.
In this alternate reality, Barbara's parents are murdered so she takes on a Bruce Wayne-esque quest for justice with bloody furor. The shoulder pads are way too sharp (if she landed the wrong way, wouldn't she stab herself?) and part of Batgirl's charm is seeing her hair.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
The use of yellow is weird here. Like, if you are gonna use it, use it. I always thought this outfit looked clunky and Mad Max-y, not sleek (which is how I like my Batgirl).
Another Elseworlds story, except this one set in the swinging '60s. This is a very different look for the character – midriff, no cape. I feel like I'm supposed to like this more than I do. While it's fun for the two appearances we got, it proves Batgirl is best with a cape. Also I'm just not into the bare navel. Too easy to take a bullet there.
The Bombshells series is really just a delight, and Batgirl's 1940s interpretation is no exception. Despite some similarities to what I don't like about the Thrillkiller version of Babs -- the exposed midriff -- it works here, perhaps because Bombshells is all about taking the 1940s pinup motif and twisting it on its head.
In almost every way, this is an exact replica of the New 52 Batgirl look, but her hair always looked greasy and like it smelled bad, hence the lower ranking.
Batman & Robin
We recognize this is Barbara Wilson, not Barbara Gordon, but let's be real. She's basically Barbara Gordon and the first (and only) time the character has been on the big screen as a real person. There are two versions of the outfit, one for the Poison Ivy fight and one for the Mr. Freeze fight. This is the better of the two. I guess the silver flourishes protect against the cold? Points for leaping and fighting in heels.
Side thought: I really, really wanted to like this movie but just can't. And my threshold is low, given I actually enjoyed Beyond the Poseidon Adventure.
LEGO Batman (Grey Bodysuit)
Akin to a her grey bodysuit version higher on the list, this is minus the yellow boots. Deal breaker for me in this color combo!
I'm surprised how much I like this outfit, given I prefer my Batgirls with a lot of yellow. The light inside of the cape helps, as does the contrast with black and grey. This outfit feels different while still honoring the spirit of the character.
DC Superhero Girls
First of all, big shout-out to this overall line because it's amazing. This look has Batgirl of Burnside elements but the cape is untraditional. It works for the target demo of young girls (of which I am not) but I personally like a flowing cape. This Batgirl's cape looks like it'd cut a bitch! Which may be the point. Also, the the hoodie ears make me think of Ralphie's Christmas outfit from Aunt Clara in A Christmas Story.
Batman:The Animated Series (Grey Look)
When Batgirl first appeared, she was bearing her familiar grey bodysuit ... but instead of yellow boots and gloves, she had blue ones. I prefer the yellow. Note: we're starting to get into nitpicky territory here.
Jim Lee dreamed up this new 15-year-old version of Batgirl. Cowl-less and extremely well-accessorized (perhaps the only superhero to ever work charm bracelets into her outfit), she meshed well with the constantly raining, dark look of the All-Star universe while retaining a sense of youthfulness.
Birds of Prey TV Series
We got some brief scenes of Dina Meyer as Batgirl in the short-lived Birds of Prey series, which marked the first time since 1968 the character had been portrayed by a real person. In a possible prescient psychic friends move, the outfit is very, very similar to that which would debut with the character's return to comics in 2011. The main difference is the gloves are really long. Inspired by this, perhaps?
Hipster Batgirl! People love this look. I was resistant at first – I'm conservative when it comes to my superhero outfits – but I've warmed up to it. It's Batgirl for a new generation, perfectly mixing the practical of a costume (which, duh, she'd have) with the sense of exuberance that is one of the greatest things about the character.
The New 52
The light and flexible armor look – which all the New 52 characters had – works well. I love this outfit so much because it screamed 'superhero' and, when this debuted, Babs hadn't donned the cape and cowl in 23 years. She was BACK. And this outfit – which honored her past but added a contemporary element – said so.
Batman: The Animated Series (Black Look)
Another look very classic to her longtime appearance in the comics, the main difference here is her cape is very short. For an animated representation of the character, this is perfect. It's young, dynamic and badass.
1960s TV Series
YES. A million times yes. Yvonne Craig's portrayal was my first introduction to the character, and the purple, sparkly body suit hooked me from the start. Of all the looks of the character, this was just pure fun. Also, the fact that Batgirl picked a red wig to help hide her secret identity just makes us love her more. Batgirl gives good wig game. That thing never moved. Drag queens, undoubtedly, found inspiration.
'60s-'80s Look (Black)
When Batgirl made her comics debut, her bodysuit was all black. It remained this way for most of the '60s and occasionally during the '70s and '80s, depending on the artist. When Batgirl debuted, her stories were pretty chauvinistic (some thugs were once distracted by her amazing "gams"), so it might be not a preposterous hypothesis to wonder if the flourishes of yellow (boots, gloves, etc) and, originally, her short cape, were to make the character comfortably feminine. If so, the character just flipped the script and the look made her appear MORE powerful.
'70s-'80s Look (Grey)
This was Batgirl’s dominant look throughout the '70s and early '80s. It's reminiscent of a time when comics were simpler and our heroes lacked any moral compunction. They were super. Not every threat would end the world or destroy the timeline and stories were allowed a beginning, middle and end that the current graphic novel market challenges. The world was a lighter, and a little more black and white. Yes, this is nostalgic preening, and I love comics for all the exact opposite traits I've just espoused. But when I see Batgirl with this outfit – so perfectly captured by Jose Garcia Lopez – I'm taken back to childhood. And I smile.
Happiest of anniversaries, Babs