Batgirl, a DC Comics monthly series published from 2000-2006, was the first ongoing series to star the character Batgirl, who had existed in the comics continuity since 1967. The starring character was Cassandra Cain, the second woman to hold the Batgirl mantle, which she assumed in the Bat Family Crossover Batman: No Man's Land.note
Cassandra Cain had been raised by her father, notorious assassin David Cain, in complete language deprivation. She was never spoken to or taught to speak or read, and as such became adept at interpreting body language, able to deduce complex thoughts and emotions from minute movements. This made her an almost unmatchable fighter, since she could predict where you would strike before you began to move, but also made her completely unable to communicate with other people.
When her father had her commit her first murder (at the age of six), she read the victim's dying spasms and understood the horror of killing, and ran away. She wound up in Gotham during the "No Man's Land", when the city had been damaged by an earthquake and formally severed from support or authority of the United States government, and received tutoring and care from Oracle (Barbara Gordon), who had been the first Batgirl before she was crippled. When they learned of her history, Oracle and Batman adopted her into the Bat-Family and gave her a costume as Batgirl.
The series focused on her ongoing adventures in crimefighting, as well as her relationships with the other Bat characters, as she attempted to adjust to her new life and heal from the abuse she received as a child. It was cancelled in 2006 and briefly revived for a six-issue limited series in 2008. A young-adult graphic novel, Shadow of the Batgirl, was published in 2020.
Cassandra Cain made her movie debut in 2020's Birds of Prey as a member of the titular team, played by child actress Ella Jay Basco; however, the film character is In Name Only, she's a kid pickpocket with no hint of Cassandra's comics backstory.
- DC Extended Universe
- Birds of Prey - portrayed by Ella Jay Basco.
- Gotham - debuts in the fifth and final season.
- DC Universe Online - voiced by Mindy Raymond.
- Batwheels - supporting character, voiced by Leah Lewis
- Justice League - makes a voiceless, uncredited cameo in "The Savage Time".
- Young Justice (2010) - her first proper appearance.
This comic series provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Cass's father, notorious assassin David Cain, raised her in complete silence and forced her to kill a man when she was six years old. When he would get angry at her he would shoot her and likewise played "two for flinching" with guns. Despite this, the two of them do love each other, something that Batman doesn't seem to grasp.
- Achievements in Ignorance: While fighting the Joker, Cassandra was initially losing. Cassandra is able to analyze fighting style and predict an opponent's next move, but the Joker has no fighting style - even he doesn't know his next move!
- Alliterative Name: Cassandra Cain
- Alternate Company Equivalent: Cassandra's background is frequently compared with X-23, both being younger female counterparts of their respective franchises' most popular characters, subject to backgrounds of abuse intended to turn them into Human Weapon killing machines ultimately leaving them severely psychologically and emotionally damaged, and left to find a way to heal and grow as individuals.
- Amazon Brigade: Some of the Gotham street gangs that Cassandra fights are composed solely of women, particularly a gang of Metahuman women working for Doctor Death.
- Artistic License – Biology: Cassandra's enhanced body language reading ability results from her not learning to speak, so the language centers of her brain instead wired themselves to reading the most minute of movements. However verbal and non-verbal communication is handled by two completely different and unrelated parts of the brain.
- The Atoner: She works as a vigilante because she feels regret for her first kill.
- Awesomeness by Analysis:
- The first time she fights the Brotherhood of Evil, Cass almost dies. After a little bit of training using the information in Batman's supervillain files, their rematch is a Curb-Stomp Battle in her favor.
- This is also how she defeats Ravager, since her normal Combat Clairvoyance is ineffective against her for unknown reasons, analyzing her fighting style and taking advantage of her need to please her father.
- Back from the Dead: Twice, both times by Lady Shiva.
- Batman Grabs a Gun: One Villain of the Week causes people to go on killing sprees with a device that makes them hallucinate a situation where they would be willing to kill. When he uses it on Cassandra, it causes her to hallucinate Batman being killed by the Joker, after which she nearly tears out his throat, before the illusion is broken and it's shown that she was about to kill the man who caused the hallucinations in the first place.
- Black-and-Grey Morality: Tarakstan is ruled by an oppressive regime supported by foreign interests who have hired Dr. Death to build them biological weapons (One of which turns dead bodies into oil), and it is opposed by a local terrorist organization that kidnaps foreign businessmen and executes hostages.
- Boyfriend-Blocking Dad: Batman is extremely protective of Cass, and has even threatened boys who show an interest in her. This poses some problems when Cass is the one doing the pursuing, especially when the boy is also under the protection/tutelage of Superman.
- Brought Down to Normal: She lost her ability to read body language in favor of normal language comprehension. She gets it back several issues later.
- The Cape: Hard to see from the costume, but she's got probably the strictest Thou Shalt Not Kill of any Bat-family member.
- Captain Obvious: When Superboy wonders how Batgirl managed to discover his secret identity, she first just says "detective," but later also points out that he told her where he lived when they first met.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: Training from Hell by the League of Assassins. She is described as borderline superhuman, can bring a wall down, can outrun a Batarang (thrown by herself), can ignore the shock of a bullet and has nearly Spider-man level reflexes. Thanks to her Combat Clairvoyance, Cass is by and far away the best hand-to-hand combatant of the Batfamily, being one of the few people who can match and potentially defeat Lady Shiva with martial arts alone. Which makes sense, given that she's Shiva's daughter.
- Color Animal Codename: Cass at one point went by the name Black Bat.
- Combat Stilettos: Cass once wore Barbara's original Batgirl costume in the hopes that it would help her understand why people reacted to her as they did. She looked beautiful in it (As Robin would not stop commenting), but the high-heels proved horribly impractical to fight in, and she tripped while fighting a pair of common muggers. Even Barbara admits that they were a horrible idea, and she explains that she should have done away with them and worn simple boots instead.
- Combat Clairvoyance: Cass's body reading ability includes this and takes it to the next level.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Cass is the darkest of all the Bat characters, wearing a costume of solid black the includes a full-face mask, and frequently terrifies the people she meets even more than Batman. However, she is the one most dedicated to not killing, and is just as helpful and well-meaning as all the other heroes.
- Daddy's Girl: Both with her biological father David and her adoptive father Batman.
- Dating Catwoman: She seems to reciprocate Tai'Darshan's attraction towards her, but it never goes anywhere due to his Heroic Sacrifice.
- Defiant to the End: After her first fight with Shiva ended badly we have this internal monologue:Cassandra: Uh-oh. Kill shot. Nothing I can do. Guess I could still... spit in her face.
- Driven to Villainy: The "Black Wind," head of a terrorist organization in Tarakstan, joined the insurgents after the oppressive regime killed his entire village at the behest of foreign interests who wanted the oil beneath their village.
- The Empath: Non-psychic example: her body-reading skill is so great she can sense what other people are feeling.
- Fatal Flaw: Several. She is illiterate until the end of her series and her understanding of normal social interaction is minimal at best. She had a death wish for a while as well and towards center of her first series did not see a life for herself beyond the mission, to Oracle's horror.
- First Kiss: When Spoiler tells Cass that she gave her baby up for adoption (An event that has since been quietly dropped from continuity) Cassandra admits that she has never even been kissed. In a later issue she rides a train to Smallville for the express purpose of kissing Superboy, but they keep getting interrupted and she eventually realizes that she is really just looking for friendship.
- Glass Cannon: When she lost her Combat Clairvoyance, her skills suffered so much that Batman considered her not worthy of being an active crimefighter. Her offense was as strong as ever, he noted, but without the ability to predict and dodge, her defense virtually non-existent.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: When Cass accidentally ingests the designer drug "Soul," which exaggerates a person's fundamental nature (The good become blissful and passive, while the bad become angry and violent), her internal selves war for control. The "bad" Cass, dressed in red, points out that Cass has every right to be angry and violent given her history, and that her supposed "family" is no better than all the scum she fights on a daily basis. The "good" Cass, dressed in white, points out that her friends are trying, even if they do not get it quite right, and that all they have ever asked in return is that she try as well. The gang of Soul-sellers that are watching her point out that she has good and evil inside of her and they are fighting for control. The bad side wins.
- The Greatest Style: Like her mother, Cassandra possesses a natural gift in Combat Clairvoyance, which has been enhanced even further by making it the ONLY form of communication she fluently understands. This turns out to be a crippling weakness, however, as when this gift is removed from her, her martial arts ability becomes still pretty good, but not great.
- Interrupted Kiss: Cass rides a train to Smallville seemingly for the express purpose of getting a kiss from Superboy, but they keep getting interrupted. When they finally get to have the kiss, neither of them wants it; Cassandra realizes that she was really just looking for friendship, and Superboy admits that he was terrified of kissing her.
- Kick Chick: To a minor extent. She uses kicks more often than punches, but not to an extreme.
- Living Lie Detector: Batman uses Cassandra as this during their trip to Tarakstan.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
- Cassandra's abilities are explained as a result of her Training from Hell, except that her mother, Lady Shiva, has the same abilities despite not having her training. Furthermore, she is capable of things that just shouldn't be physically possible for a human, such as effortlessly punching a zombified Joey N'bobo in half. Whatever she is, she's definitely not a metahuman, but mystical factors are not ruled out.
- Stephanie's "ghost" might be a hallucination, but she tells Cassandra some things that she had no way of knowing herself. The problem is, Stephanie was later revealed to be Faking the Dead...
- Misery Poker: After Stephanie opens up to Cass about having Cluemaster for a dad, she's incredulous to learn Cass's father is one of the most feared assassins on the planet.Steph: When my dad was mad at me, he'd lock me in the closet - what did yours do?
Cass: Shot me.
[they both crack up laughing]
Steph: Oh man, I can't beat you at anything.
- Mistaken for Superpowered: Cassandra Cain is an ordinary human being who happened to be born with the hereditary gift to "read" human body language. Her father then heightened that ability via abusive Training from Hell to the point that her ability to read people is so strong that she appears to have Combat Clairvoyance. When fighting a group of federal agents, they mistakenly believe her to be a "metahuman" because of how effortlessly she dodged their gunfire.
- Moment Killer: Superboy's first "date" with Batgirl (If it could so be called) kept getting interrupted by such things as Martha Kent, a low-flying plane and an attacking telepathic monster.
- Muscles Are Meaningless: After feeling up a brick wall to search for the thinnest point, she proceeds to knock it down in two hits despite having an overall slim physique.
- My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: Cassandra's near-death experience in "Dead Weight" involves Spoiler telling Cass the story of Cass's own life.
- Near-Death Experience: Cassandra has two near-death visions of the (supposedly) dead Stephanie Brown in the latter stages of the series.
- Nonchalant Dodge: Since she can read where her enemies will strike, her most common method of defense is simply moving away.
- Not the First Victim: David Cain raised his daughter Cassandra Cain to be the perfect assassin by depriving her of the ability to read, write and speak properly and brutally punishing her for failure. Later, Cass would discover that she was not the first child Cain tried to make into an assassin, merely the first one he succeeded with. One of the kids Cain had abused was a boy called "Mad Dog" who was the closest thing to a success before Cass.
- Odd Friendship: Cass and Stephanie Brown, the Spoiler, form one of the oddest pairs there is. Their history is superficially similar, both are the children of supervillains who decided to fight back against their fathers, but Stephanie is a girl from the suburbs with a normal, if depressing, childhood.
- The Paralyzer: Cass uses a punch on a specific nerve to keep Spoiler out of the most problematic fights.
- Parents as People: Cass's parental substitutes, Bruce and Barbara, are shown as such. Bruce understands Cassandra more than most people, but he can be a bit too hard on her and in some ways enables her self-destructive behavior. Barbara wants Cassandra to be happy, but doesn't grasp that Cassandra's idea of happiness isn't the same as hers. Both of them seem to be projecting quite a few of their own feelings onto her.
- Pregnant Badass: Lady Shiva was one.
- The Quiet One: it's rare to get more than a sentence out of her in one go. She talks plenty in her internal monologues after her language center is telepathically "unblocked", and she speaks more as time goes on.
- Qurac: Tarakstan, a former Soviet republic where the oppressive regime is supported by American interests and opposed by a local terrorist organization.
- Recycled IN SPACE!: The origin and extent of Cassandra's abilities makes her readily described as a Shōnen Martial Arts Manga protagonist IN A BAT COSTUME.
- Rock–Paper–Scissors: In a flashback in "The Doll's House", David Cain proves young Cassandra's fluency in body language by having her beat a linguistics professor in rock-paper-scissors 98 times in a row. When re-introducing herself to the professor years later, Cassandra reminds him who she is by flashing the three symbols at him.
- Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: One of the top 5 hand-to-hand fighters in the world, but could not speak or read.
- Screams Like a Little Girl: Superboy, it turns out, goes "Eek!" when surprised.
- Self-Parody: Cass's internal battle between good and evil was accompanied by exaggerated parodies of Cass' perception of the other Bat-characters. The Oracle fantasy spouts about love, the Batman fantasy spouts about "the mission," and the Robin fantasy will not stop talking about how sexy Cass looked in Barbara's old Batgirl costume.
- Ship Tease: With Superboy, and occasionally Robin. Once in a blue moon with her eventual successor Steph. A number of issues hint at romantic feelings for Bruce, which is awkward when coupled with the fact that he's her adoptive father, though justified when you remember that Cassandra has a hard time understanding the distinction between such feelings.
- Superior Successor: To Lady Shiva, by design.
- Taking the Bullet: While Brought Down to Normal, Cassandra jumps in front of an automatic weapon in order to save a hired killer from accidental friendly fire, nearly killing her.
- Tell Me How You Fight: Another aspect of her extreme training.
- Thou Shall Not Kill:
- Even more than Batman, since she knows exactly what one feels during those final moments.Cassandra: Terror. Then... nothing.
- At the very end of the series, it's left ambiguous if she breaks her rule against Lady Shiva or not. Though her recovery during One Year Later implies that Cassandra did decide to resurrect her against her wishes.
- Even more than Batman, since she knows exactly what one feels during those final moments.
- Tyke Bomb: Was born and raised for the sole purpose of being the perfect fighter. It took well...until she actually killed someone.
- Villainous Lineage: Cassandra's father is David Cain, notorious assassin, and her mother is Lady Shiva, one of the deadliest martial artists in the world. Cass herself is steadfastly committed to fighting crime and never taking a life.
- Violence Really Is the Answer: When given her first chance to do detective work, she does not know how to do it, until:Barbara Gordon: Of course, you can just beat up every mob in Gotham until you find the right one
Cassandra: [smiling] Hmmm...
- World's Best Warrior: Aside from her mom and Richard Dragon, she is generally accepted to be the best hand-to-hand combatant with normal human physical abilities in the mainline DCU.