When it comes to the world of comics, there are all kinds of heroes. In the city of Gotham in particular, we know Batman is always around to save the city. However, a number of different vigilantes have aided the DC icon over the years, including one named Batgirl.
Because their names are so similar, it's only reasonable to wonder if Batgirl and Batman are related outside of their superhero activities. But are they actually related, or are they both just members of the "Batfamily"?
Is Batgirl related to Batman?
Over the years, a number of women have donned the mantle of Batgirl, but none of them have been directly related to Batman. The first "Batgirl" appeared during the 1960s, called "Bat-Girl." The character, Betty Kane, was the niece of Kate Kane (Batwoman) and only created as a love interest for Robin. The Kane family is related to the Wayne family by blood — Kate is Bruce's cousin on his mother's side.
However, "Bat-Girl" was eventually retconned to become Bette Kane/Flamebird, Batwoman's occasional sidekick.
So, the first official Batgirl was technically Barbara Gordon, who is the adopted daughter of Gotham's police commissioner James Gordon (biologically his niece, but Barbara was orphaned as a child in a car accident). The Gordons aren't related to the Wayne family at all.
After Barbara Gordon is shot and paralyzed by the Joker in the comics arc The Killing Joke, Cassandra Cain steps into the mantle of Batgirl with Barbara's mentorship during the No Man's Land story arc. Cassandra is the daughter of two of DC's greatest assassins: Lady Shiva and David Cain, both of whom were employed by Ra's Al Ghul.
Being raised by assassins, Cassandra was taught never to speak, and to instead read people's body language. Cassandra and Barbara work together to strengthen her social skills as her martial arts prowess thrives. Eventually, Cassandra is adopted by Bruce Wayne and briefly gives up the mantle of Batgirl. During this time, Stephanie Brown steps into the role of Batgirl.
Stephanie Brown is the daughter of the villainous Cluemaster. Steph initially starts her superhero career as the Spoiler, a mysterious hero always "spoiling" her father's plans. She later becomes Robin after Tim Drake is briefly forced to give up the mantle, but is shot and killed by Black Mask before being revived by the Lazarus Pit. After her recovery, Stephanie assumes the Batgirl mantle under Barbara's mentorship.
Until the 2011 retcon of Barbara Gordon's paralysis, Stephanie Brown was the most recent Batgirl.
Over the course of the Batman comics, there are other women who don the Batgirl costume, including Huntress and Harley Quinn. However, none of these characters were in the suit long enough to make a lasting impact, and none where ever directly related to Bruce Wayne/Batman or the Wayne family.
Who is the best Batgirl?
Who is the best Batgirl is one of the oldest debates in DC Comics history. If the internet is an indication, it looks as if the top two options are Cassandra and Barbara. Both characters have a long list of accomplishments to their names, so it's not always easy to compare and contrast.
Barbara created the Batgirl costume on her own and crafted a legacy that has lasted to this day. But Cassandra's skills and willpower to use them for good is a strength that deserves to be admired as well. Both of these women stand on their own and bring dynamic elements to the character.
Currently, Barbara Gordon acts as both Oracle, an information broker and internet hacker, and Batgirl, thanks to her miraculous recovery from paralysis. Stephanie Brown is back in the mantle of Spoiler, and Cassandra alternates between acting as Batgirl or Orphan, retaining her all-black costume either way. In the mid-2010s, Cassandra also used the moniker Black Bat.
You can check out more of these leading ladies in their current Batgirls ongoing series!