Batgirl Promotional Short
Originally Published June 11th, 2003
In 1968, the producers of Batman wanted to introduce a new character, Batgirl. This six-minute "mini-episode" was produced to convince ABC executives that adding the new character would work and was not a pilot for a proposed spin-off. Includes the entire short.
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Contrary to popular belief, ABC was never shown a pilot episode for a proposed Batgirl television series. An eight-minute promotional short was instead created to introduce the character of Batgirl to ABC executives, in an attempt to get her into the Batman show that was entering its third year.
William Dozier, producer of the popular Batman, decided to add Batgirl to the series in an attempt to pull in young female viewers. At the time, the series was widely watched by young males and Dozier was of the opinion that a strong female character could bring in an equal number of female viewers.
ABC was impressed with the promotional short and Yvonne Craig was added to the cast of Batman for its third season (1967-1968), playing the dual roles of Batgirl and Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Commissioner Gordon. Unfortunately, Batgirl's first season would be Batman's last. Despite the addition of Craig, the series (which had already been cut down from bi-weekly broadcasts) dropped from consistent top ten weekly rankings to the fifties by January 1968.
In the short, the Batgirl costume worn by Yvonne Craig is a variant of the costume that would appear later in the Batman series. The promotional short is the only time this original suit is seen. As the short begins, the narrator introduces us to a librarian at the Gotham Library. The library is somewhat empty, a few librarians, a handful of patrons.
The librarian has just found a book for none other than Bruce Wayne himself, who needs the book to prove something to another millionaire in the library, Roger Montros. The librarian turns out to be Barbara Gordon, daughter of the Comissioner Gordon. While chatting, Bruce points out his ward, Dick Grayson, and then says goodnight, off to prove his point.
While he is doing so, some of the men sitting around another table discuss kidnapping one of the millionaires in the library. Bruce Wayne is ruled out; he's far too close of a friend to Batman, so the other millionaire will have to do.
Bruce and Dick get up to leave, but before doing so they take a look at the four men sitting at the other table, the Killer Moth and his men. It looks like it's time for Batman and Robin to show up.
After they leave, the library closes, and the other librarian on duty leaves, leaving only millionaire Roger Montros, the Killer Moth and his thugs, and Barbara are left.
Commissioner Gordan calls to talk with his daughter, and after he does, Barbara goes to put away a book. The thugs discuss how they should kidnap Roger Montros and they finally decide that the thugs will attack and subdue him, while the Killer Moth takes out Barbara. Roger Montros is knocked out and Barbara is thrown into a closet. Little do they know that inside the room is her own secret closet.
Before the Killer Moth and his men can leave, Batman and Robin show up and take out three of the four thugs. The Killer Moth, the only one still standing, simply pulls out a gun-like object and points it at the Dynamic Duo! Instead of firing bullets, however, it creates a cocoon around the crime fighters, effectively eliminating their threat. Trapped, it looks like the end for Batman and Robin...
Meanwhile, Barbara has begun transforming into Batgirl: her suit, which she has on under her regular clothing, her cape, which is actually her skirt turned inside out, and her mask, which she takes off a coat rack and brings with her.
Once outside, fully transformed, the now raven-haired Batgirl smashes in through a window into the library, exchanges a few words with Robin, and then defends herself against the thugs.
She then frees Batman and Robin with her electronic Batgirl compact with a laser beam, which destroys anything. The three crime-fighters take on the thugs one last time. While Robin finishes things up, Batman takes a moment to ask Batgirl who she is. Batgirl's response? Her identity shall remain a secret, just as Batman and Robin are mysteries to her.
After the thugs are taken care of, Batman tells Robin to call up Commissioner Gordon and tell him they've dispatched with the Killer Moth and his Mothmen, with the help of Batgirl, who has vanished. Batman ponders aloud if they've seen the last of her.
The short ends with Batgirl riding her Batgirl cycle, complete with a bat-shaped mirror, towards her next adventure, which just so happened to be a role on Batman for its third season and final season.
As shorts go, the Batgirl promotional was above average. At only eight minutes, the short introduces the character, shows her powers, and allows her to retain her mystique without rushing anything.
There is no mindless expository explaining where Batgirl came from or how she came about, that would be saved for episodes of Batman. All that needed to be shown in the short was that Batgirl would be a good addition to the cast, and it did that.
Barbara to Batgirl
The Killer Moth, however, has to be one of the most pathetic villains ever created. Additionally, despite being a superheroine on par with Batman and Robin, Barbara Gordan's Batgirl never actually hits any of the bad guys. Rather, she uses books, a rolling globe, or a falling bookcase to incapacitate the bad guys. She gets in a few kicks, but nothing more.
At the end of the day, the short was enjoyable. Granted, the lines are corny ("No Boy Wonder, I'm Batgirl." or "You are no longer alone, Caped Crusaders!"), however, it is nothing more than the usual fare for the campy Batman. The music is there, the fight scenes are full of BAMS! and POWS!, and Robin even gets to throw in a "Holy [insert rest of phrase]!" or two.
Watch a pair of rare ABC promos for Batman, advertising the second and third seasons. The second promo introduces Batgirl:
For many years, I have known that a short "mini-episode" of "Batman" was filmed in early 1967 in an attempt by the producers to convince ABC to add the Batgirl character for the 1967/68 season. Until now, I (who was a youngster when the series aired and was a confirmed Bat-addict!) had never seen any portions of it.
Contrary to what some people think, Batgirl was not created expressly for the TV show. She was created, like "Batman" himself, by cartoonist Bob Kane and first appeared in an issue of Detective Comics published in the Fall of 1966, some months after the TV show had become a huge hit. As was the case on TV, the comic-book Barbara Gordon was a young librarian working at the main branch of the Gotham City Public Library. However, the comic-book Barbara Gordon has shoulder-length red hair, whereas the Barbara Gordon of the TV series had short brunette hair, as did actress Yvonne Craig.
Yes, Killer Moth WAS the villain in the 1966 comic-book story that introduced Batgirl, but the storyline of the promotional film was very different from the comic book story. In the comic book story, Barbara Gordon was enroute to a costume party wearing a "Batgirl" outfit, but had a run-in with Killer Moth, managing to escape. She enjoyed crime-fighting so much that later in the story, she encountered Killer Moth again, and helped Batman and Robin defeat him. I'm not 100% sure, but it may have been the only time KIller Moth appeared as a villain in the comic book.
Near the end of the comic-book story that introduced her, Batgirl pursued Killer Moth on a motorcycle, but in the comic book, her motorcycle was referred to as the "Batbike". Perhaps the producers of the TV series were concerned viewers would think upon hearing the word "Batbike" that Batgirl rode a bicycle, but for whatever reason, on TV her motorcycle was referred to the "Batgirlcycle".
Hopefully, the entire 1966-68 "Batman" series will be released on DVD in the near future. And when it is, I'm sure the complete "Batgirl" promotional short will be included as an extra with the third-season (1967/68) episodes.
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Last Updated April 26th, 2006