Yvonne Craig, the original Batgirl
Yvonne Craig passed away this Monday evening at her home in California, due to complications from breast cancer. She died at the age of 78.
On her official site, Yvonne’s family stated, “She wanted to spend all of her energy concentrating on winning her battle. She was adamant about this and wanted to tell her story when she was cured and feeling better.”
“She had been in chemo almost continuously for the past two plus years since being diagnosed and that had weakened her immune system as well as her body.”
Yvonne Craig was the first Batgirl to be portrayed on screen. Her role as Barbara Gordon paved the way for strong female characters throughout the decades and has continue to be an influence to this day. Yvonne began her career as a ballet dancer. Her first on-screen appearance was in a 1958 episode of “Perry Mason”. She went on to star in several films such as Kissin’ Cousins, It Happened at the World’s Fair, and The Young Land before taking on her iconic role as Barbara Gordon in season three of Batman. Craig also starred in several popular TV shows from Kojak, Starsky and Hutch to portraying Orion named Marta in Star Trek. After her TV and film career, Yvonne went into real estate . She also continued to voice the character of Grandma in Nickelodeon’s “Olivia” until 2011.
Craig’s portrayal of Batgirl is what sits with fans the most. Her character has inspired artists and creative minds everywhere, some, like Alex Ross, even paying tribute in their work. Others, like Cameron Stewart, the current writer of the ongoing Batgirl series, has also paid tribute in during his run.
Cameron Stewart shared some kind words on Twitter,
Ah, Yvonne Craig passed away. Forever the best Batgirl. Our version has a lot of little tributes to her.
— Cameron Stewart (@cameronMstewart) August 19, 2015
Gail Simone, who was the writer for issues #1-34 of the New 52 Batgirl series, shared some encouraging words,
Today is a very good day to find your inner Batgirl and do something brave.
— GAIL SIMONE (@GailSimone) August 19, 2015
Gail also wrote an amazing tribute to Yvonne Craig which was featured on Playboy.
Gail states, “The editors asked how I wanted her to move, and to fight, and suggested several martial arts possibilities. No, no, no, I said. She moves like a dancer, a ballerina… because Yvonne Craig was a dancer and a ballerina.”
It’s pretty clear how much Yvonne’s role as Batgirl has influenced the masses. Before there was Helen Slater’s Supergirl, Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, or Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow there was Yvonne Craig.
I was born in the late 80’s so I missed the initial debut of her character in the 1967. However, I can recall when I was first introduced to the series as a kid. When I was younger, my brother and I would sometimes visit my grandparents during the summer and they only have about five channels. One of those channels would air reruns of the classic Batman series. I remember when I first saw her on TV, it was like a little 6 year old with a crush, similar to the Pink Ranger, if you are my age. As I got older, It was a different type of appreciation.
It was more about seeing how much these super-heroines could kick as much ass as their male counterparts, sometimes better. Between this series and The Animated Series which debuted in ’92, Robin always felt second fiddle to Batman but this character, this Batgirl, Yvonne Craig, could hold her own and could have very well been the star of their own show. In fact, I enjoyed the team-ups with them two, much more than I did between Batman and Robin and it was because of Yvonne. Even though the show only lasted one season while she was on, it stuck with me. It’s because of Craig’s Batgirl that I have followed the character in the DC universe, as much as I have with Batman, long into the current Stewart/Babs Tarr run.
Yvonne is a pioneer in the super-heroine universe. I believe that many characters to this date wouldn’t be the same without her laying the foundation, and for that we thank her.