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New studio execs slay 'Batgirl,' but she's been through tougher fights

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Leslie Grace (@lesliegrace)

Updated August 6, 2022 at 12:01 PM ET

This week, superhero fans were shocked to learn Warner Bros. Discovery had shelved its $90 million production of Batgirl. The superhero film had already been shot and was in post-production, but the new executives at the studio decided to prevent it from being released theatrically or on HBO Max.

"We're not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it. And that's it. I mean, particularly with DC, where we think we want to pivot and we want to elevate and we want to focus," studio CEO David Zaslav told investors in a second-quarter corporate earnings call on Thursday.

Early reports had suggested the film was being trashed as a tax write-off.

Afro-Latina actress Leslie Grace, who played Batgirl, posted a photo of herself in costume on her Instagram account. And she wrote, "Querida familia! On the heels of the recent news about our movie Batgirl, I am proud of the love, hard work and intention all of our incredible cast and tireless crew put into this film over 7 months in Scotland. I feel blessed to have worked among absolute greats and forged relationships for a lifetime in the process! To every Batgirl fan - THANK YOU for the love and belief, allowing me to take on the cape and become, as Babs said best, 'my own damn hero!' #Batgirl for life!"

WHO IS BATGIRL?

Batgirl, whose alias is the bespectacled librarian Barbara Joan Gordon, was introduced in the 1960s by Detective Comics (later DC Comics) as the daughter of Gotham City police commissioner James Gordon. She's a do-gooder who outsmarts masked criminals, alongside Batman and Robin,

The DC Database website notes that in the comic book storyline, Barbara Gordon crafted her own bat suit as a costume for a masquerade ball, including high heel boots, a cape and tactical gadgets. Having been trained in martial arts, she first assists the dynamic duo in defeating the villain Killer Moth. Batman and Robin then ask her to be a part of the Batfamily.

In the 1988 graphic novel and 2016 animated film Batman: The Killing Joke, the villain Joker shoots Batgirl in the spine, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Later, the character becomes a technical advisor, computer expert and information broker under the moniker Oracle. In 2011, as part of DC Comics The New 52 relaunch, Barbara Gordon recovers following a surgical procedure and returns as Batgirl.

There was an earlier "Bat-Girl" introduced in 1961, a caped crusader whose alter ego was Mary Elizabeth Kane, or Bette Kane. Her character was the niece of Kathy Kane, or Batwoman, and she became her sidekick. Batwoman and Bat-Girl were introduced as romantic interests for Batman and Robin, and some have suggested it was to counteract speculations that Batman and Robin were gay. A decade later, Bette Kane became a member of the Teen Titans, and she later assumed the guise of Flamebird.

Actress Yvonne Craig as Batgirl in the TV series 'Batman', 1967.
Len Trievnor / Getty Images
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Actress Yvonne Craig as Batgirl in the TV series 'Batman', 1967.

Meanwhile, Bette Kane's character was replaced by Barbara Gordon in 1967. On the 1960s television series, Batgirl became an iconic pop figure, played by Yvonne Craig. That version of the bat characters was satirical, with campy dialogue and POW! fight scenes. She made her debut on the episode "Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin." Batgirl, who rode a motorcycle and whose true identity was known only to Batman's trusty butler Alfred Pennyworth, was said to have been added to boost sagging ratings and attract female viewers.

On television and films, Batgirl has also been played by Savannah Welch, Dina Meyer, and Jeté Laurence, and has been voiced by Melissa Gilbert, Tara Strong, Mae Whitman, Kimberly Brooks and Briana Cuoco, among others. In the series Titans, Barbara Gordon appears as the new police commissioner of Gotham City. In the 1997 film Batman & Robin, Alicia Silverstone also dons the Batgirl costume to play Barbara Wilson, Alfred's niece.

In the newest but unreleased Batgirl film, the superhero (Leslie Grace) was to have teamed up with Batman (with Michael Keaton reprising the role) to fight the supervillain Firefly (played by Brendan Fraser).

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: August 6, 2022 at 12:00 AM EDT
An earlier version of the story incorrectly identified voice actress Tara Strong as Tara Stoner.
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Mandalit del Barco
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.