Yes it has been a decade since the one true Dark Knight Damsel first made her comics debut. Barbara Gordon may have been the first to go by the name Batgirl (if you don’t count Bat-hyphen-girl Betty Kane) but it is Cassandra Cain who in the last decade has shown that she is the Dark Knight Damsel.
She is one of the most underappreciated (By creators, not fans) characters in comics today. Cassandra should be a member of the Bat Family on par with Dick, Tim, and Babs but superstar creators like Grant Morrison and Jeph Loeb have consistently neglected her.
A new Batgirl series is debuting in August and if it is not Cassandra Cain under the mask, I want to show how stupid that is on DC’s part by showcasing her to the maximum here.
Cassandra made her debut in May 1999 in Batman #567. So from here on out I will be doing posts spotlighting her comic appearances and her awesomeness as a hero and a character. Starting with her debut issue:
Batman #567 was published about a year before I got into comics (and subsequently got into Batgirl) so this is the first time that I have read this issue. It is written by Kelly Puckett with art by Damion Scott.
Despite the cover, Cassandra does not appear in her Batgirl costume; instead Helena Bertinelli (The Huntress) is featured at the beginning of the issue in the Batgirl costume before being stripped of the mantle by Batman. The Huntress took on the Batgirl identity briefly during the No Man’s Land Story (You know the one where Gotham is a No Man’s Land after the cataclysmic earthquake) but without permission of the Bat family. It is just a sight for sore eyes to see Batman in his nineties all black with the yellow bat logo costume. That was and always will be my favorite costume for the Caped Crusader.
Anyways, we then flash to Oracle who is worried about one of her field agents, who hasn’t returned from a mission. Apparently Babs sent this field agent into a potentially dangerous Courier situation. Can you guess who that agent is?
That’s Cassandra’s first appearance right there ladies and gentleman. I love this scene because it shows just how Batman-like Cassandra is. She has this sneaky creepy way of moving around but in the end has good intentions. (I mean come on she just wanted to give Babs an apple)
We learn Cassandra’s weakness on the next page as Barbara hold up a flash card with the word “Stop” on it and Cassandra tries to say it. She doesn’t understand language (and soon we will learn doesn’t speak any language at all).
Commissioner Gordon shows up and interrupts the lesson so Cassandra goes for a little walk outside only to see someone that she instantly recognizes – David Cain, her father.
Knowing he is up to no good, Cassandra keeps an eye on him. Apparently David Cain’s mission is to kill Gordon but things don’t go as planned.
Cassandra may not understand language just yet but she is still a smart cookie; she knows that David Cain would never shoot her. Or could it be that she is such an extraordinary heroine that she is willing to die to save Gordon’s life? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
Scott is a good artist that I haven’t seen much of lately. Does he work for Marvel now? I don’t know.
Cut to a few pages later and Gordon is interrogating Cassandra about who tried to shoot him. Cassandra draws the Mark of Cain for him and then points to herself. It is Oracle who first figures out that David Cain is Cassandra’s father.
Gordon orders that Cassandra be locked in a room while he goes after Cain just in case she tries to become a human shield again (Ya right like you could ever lock Cassandra Cain in a room) but she escapes before they can do so and runs into her dear old daddy.
Cassandra and David fight (this is the first time we see her incredible fighting skills in action) and Cassandra flashes back to a particularly troubling moment from her childhood.
I love how Cain raised her to be the ultimate killer yet he still dressed her in a pink dress and pigtails! One can see in Cassandra’s face just how disturbed the young girl is at what she has done. This is a girl who does NOT enjoy killing people (Didio would later forget this when he ordered turning her into a killer after Infinite Crisis and pissed off every single one of her fans – and yes I am sure it was his dumb ass idea). All of the memories and fighting with her father leads Cassandra to scream out her very first word!
I love the throwback to beginning of the issue where Babs was trying to teach her this very word. It shows how Cassandra is overcoming her training and upbringing as a living weapon and realizing she is a human being – something that she always has been; a human being who wants to stop men like her father; a perfect future member of the Bat Family.
Cassandra jumps out the window taking her father with her; at the same time we are shown panels of her as a little girl sucker punching her father like the bad ass that she is and runs away.
The issue ends with a “to be continued” as they are both falling out the window. Wow! I have to say Puckett really blew me away with this issue. He managed to dive deep into this character in just one issue and by the end of reading this you really get a feel for her. She is a complex character; both a bad ass fighting machine and a girl with a heart of gold who just wants her father’s evil ways to STOP.
I wonder if readers knew she would be Batgirl? There was certainly internet at the time so there must have been speculation. Anybody know or remember?
Stay tuned for next time when we will cover Detective Comics #734; the second part of this story.