Barbara Gordon and her alluring alter ego, Batgirl, are celebrating their Golden Anniversary this year (Note: We're going by the cover date of her first appearance in Detective Comics #359, which was January of 1967).
To help steer the spotlight toward this spunky crimefighter in the spangly purple costume, we're taking a peek at Yvonne Craig's memorable Batgirl moments in the campy Batman TV series from the 1960s. Craig, who sadly passed away in 2015 at the age of 78, co-starred in the third and final '67-'68 season of ABC's Batman and appeared in a new opening credit sequence in cartoon form and in all 26 live-action technicolor episodes beginning on Sept. 14, 1967. Craig's sexy Batgirl was a refreshing addition to the Dynamic Duo, playing the sassy librarian daughter of Commissioner Gordon, and was featured in a number of excellent episodes, thwarting the nefarious goals of many diabolical supervillains aboard her frilly purple Batgirlcycle. Happy 50th Babs!
Here's what Craig said about her "girl-power" character in a 1967 Associated Press interview:
"And while Batgirl is an active type, she is also very feminine. None of that smacking people low with karate and gung-fu. In my opinion, three karate chops, and you’ve lost your femininity. If a girl goes on a date and a fellow gets fresh, she can’t very well give him a karate chop for a good-night. But if she ducks, she’s simply adept and feminine. Batgirl will be aiding and assisting Batman and Robin, not constantly rescuing then. I like that, too"
Check out my retrospective of 11 Batgirl episodes below and tell us which missions you remember most:
Episode #95: "Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin" - Sept. 14, 1967
The Penguin has the perfect recipe for pigeon pie as he kidnaps Commissioner Gordon's librarian daughter, Barbara Gordon, in this season opener introducing Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, complete with her hidden room, revolving walls and a far-out purple catsuit and cowl. The episode also reveals the mod Batgirlcycle in a secret freight elevator. Pengy tries to enact his plan to marry Barbara Gordon to give himself immunity for his crimes as the Commish's son-in-law but ultimately fails. Craig makes a colorful splash as the playful but competent crimefighter with a signature spunk and sass.
Episode #97: "The Wail of the Siren" - Sept. 28, 1967
World famous chanteuse Lorelei Circe, aka The Siren (Joan Collins), enchants Commissioner Gordon then sets her hypnotic high-pitched voice on Bruce Wayne to try and obtain the Wayne Family jewels and fortune. Batgirl and Robin team up to rescue the millionaire playboy in a fun romp that has Commissioner Gordon hiding in the Batmobile to discover Batman and Robin's secret identity and adds a lame plot to get Bruce Wayne to sign away his bank accounts. Siren's stunning note goes flat as Batgirl saves the day after her jazzy theme song pounds our brains. "Batgirl! Whose baby are you?"
Episode #101: "Louie, The Lilac" - Oct. 26,1967
Legendary funny man Milton Berle stars as Louie the Lilac, who attempts to corner the Gotham flower market by kidnapping a flower-power organizer, Princess Primrose, an old college friend of Barbara Gordon's, by brainwashing her with his patented Stupefying Aromatic Spray. The Dynamic Duo head to Louie's lavender-hued greenhouse hideout where they become the evening meal for a pair of monstrous man-eating lilacs. Alfred, privy to the secret identity of Barbara Gordon, tracks down the resourceful Batgirl to save the day and restore order to Gotham City while her persona begins to bloom.
Episode #102: "The Ogg and I" - Nov. 2, 1967
Vincent Price's Egghead and his conniving consort, Olga, Queen of the Cossacks, nab Commissioner Gordon and hold him for ransom in this first of a three-part episode. Egghead's ransom demands? A dime tax on every single egg eaten in Gotham City. As Eggy gathers his exorbitant egg tax, Olga's Cossacks rip off the Brass Samovar of Genghis Khan, only to discover Batman and Robin hidden inside the artifact. Alfred and Batgirl join forces again and deduce in fine Sherlockian-style how to find the kidnapped Gordon and the nearly "eggs-terminated" Batman and Robin as Egghead delays his capture by exploding onion-dosed eggs and vanishes with Olga, the Cossacks, and the ancient treasure. Splat!
Episode #103: "How to Catch a Dinosaur" - Nov. 9,1967
A madcap continuation of "The Ogg and I" episode, with Egghead, Olga, and the Cossacks illegally acquiring two pounds of radium to hatch a 40-million-year-old Neosaurus dinosaur egg with radiation and trample Gotham City with its incredibly low-budget creature. Batman and Robin home in on the hatchery using the Batmobile's radiation detector while Batgirl uses her purple cycle's Geiger Counter to guide her toward the same destination. The three engage the Cossacks in a thrilling threesome until Egghead threatens Batgirl's life with a lethal blade just as the dino egg begins to crack open and reveal the fake Batman-costumed Neosaurus inside. Typical of the third season's silly plots but hey, it's Batman and The Sixties!
Episode #104: "Surf's Up! Joker's Under!" - Nov. 16, 1967
This is one of my favorites of the final season, with a full complement of Batgirl and Caesar Romero's Clown Prince of Crime cruising around in a cool Jokermobile And yes, this is the episode where The Dark Knight "hangs ten" aboard a Bat surfboard on an epic two-foot wave! Joker kidnaps surfing champ Skip Parker, Barbara Gordon's beau, to steal his expert surfing skills using a Transferometer and Vigor Reverser. Batman and Robin require the services of the Batcomputer and deduce the location of the Joker’s secret lair. The highlight of this kooky episode is seeing Barbara Gordon in a revealing black bathing suit and watching Batman and The Joker square off in a surf-off at the World Surfing Championships at Gotham Point! Taking over the world via surfing never looked so fun! Cowabunga!
Episode #108: "Catwoman's Dressed to Kill" - Dec. 14,1967
Eartha Kitt's Catwoman explodes a Hair-Raising Bomb during a luncheon recognizing Gotham City's best-dressed women to wreak havoc on everyone's perfect hairdos, then tries to steal some fancy Gernreich dresses from the fashion show. Escaping the clutches of Batman and Robin, Catwoman traps Batgirl and straps her down in the Cat-lair with plans to cut her into pieces with a dressmaking pattern machine. Batman figues out Catwoman's next score will be stealing the Golden Fleece and has to figure out whether to rescue Batgirl or save the Fleece on the far side of town. Can you guess his solution to the conundrum? It involves Alfred, the world's oldest living hippie.
Episode #109: "The Ogg Couple" - Dec. 21, 1967
Here's the finale of the three-parter starring Egghead, Olga and her Cossacks snatching the precious Golden Egg of Ogg and the Silver Scimitar of Toras Bulbul at the Gotham City Museum. Next on their sinister shopping list? A shipment of 500 pounds of rare dehydrated royal caviar, a gift to the people of Gotham City by The Czar Of Samarkand, worth $200 an ounce and stored in the Gotham City Bank's cooled vault! Barbara Gordon does a quick-change operation and charges out on her purple iron horse to try and halt the caper. Olga traps Batgirl in her icehouse hideout and gets her to perform a bondaged saber Bat-dance with her hands tied, then tosses her into a giant ice kettle just as Batman and Robin arrive to save the day.
Episode #113: "Nora Clavicle and the Ladies' Crime Club" - Jan. 18, 1968
The wheels were coming off the Batman bus in this wackier than usual entry. Gotham City's Mayor Linseed replaces Commissioner Gordon with a womens rights advocate, Nora Clavicle. Her first action is to fire all of Gotham's law enforcement men including Batman and substitutes an all-girl police squad, allowing her to steal her way through the city. Batman, Robin and Batgirl locate her headquarters in an old knitting factory where they're captured by the chick cops and placed in a kinky Siamese Human Knot rigged with explosives. Kids, don't try this at home! Oh, and dont' forget about this episode's awesome army of bomb-carying mechanical mice.
Episode #118: "The Joker's Flying Saucer" - Feb. 29,1968
Caesar Romero's Joker is in rare form in one of the final episodes of the Batman TV series, offering a sci-fi slant with Joker enlisting the help of his mad-scientist cellmate, to build a flying saucer to instill fear amid the good citizens of Gotham. Dispatching his thugs to the Metals Research Wing of the Wayne Foundation, his crew tries to steal the rare light-weight beryllium stored inside. Barbara zips into her yellow and purple Batgirl getup and zooms off on the Batgirlcycle to save the precious metal. Batman and Robin bolt for the same scene but a sudden explosion engulfs the Batcave with thick green smoke. Joker's saucer boomerangs back to the launch pad factory where he's apprehended by the Dynamic Duo. This was Romero's last appearance as The Joker.
Episode #119: "The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra" - Mar. 7, 1968
This is the penultimate episode for the beloved Batman show and finds Ida Lupino's seductive Dr. Cassandra attempting to swipe the dazzling Mope Diamond from Spiffany’s Jewelry Salon in downtown Gotham. Batman, Robin, and Batgirl are struck with her psychedelic Alvino-ray gun, flattening the trio into one-dimensional doormats. Cassandra pockets the diamond while Cabala stacks up the squashed crusaders and slips them under Commissioner Gordon’s door. Alfred tells Gordon and O'Hara to mail them to the main post office where he'll pick them up and restore them with the Three-Dimensional Bat-Restorer in the Batcave. Meanwhile, Cassandra and Cabala go on a villain-springing spree and release Catwoman, Egghead, Penguin, Riddler, Joker, and King Tut from Gotham State Prison. The chapter ends with a wild battle royale against the entire crew of invisible arch-criminals until the lights go out.