Yvonne Craig, best known for playing the first live action Batgirl – and a very spirited version of the character at that – passed away Monday in her home. She was 78.
Her take on Batgirl not only popularized the character, but – having hit television screens about a decade before Linda Carter donned the famous Wonder Woman suit – her prominence in the show was a significant step for women as a whole: this was really the first time the public had seen a female superhero pop right off the pages of a comic book.
The addition of Batgirl to the campy TV show Batman was a means to give that series a bit of a boost, and it worked: Craig embodied that character with an immeasurable amount of zeal and confidence. In the show, Batgirl was known for taking down notorious criminals right alongside the Dynamic Duo, sometimes, coming in on the scene to save her male co-stars from some deadly trap. Just as often, she’d find herself in need of rescue as well. Through it all, her performance was so full of charm and life, as she seemed to believe that she was invulnerable to injury or capture merely because she was doing the right thing, and she was a bit prim and proper when she warned the show’s iconic villains that she was going to escort them to prison. Her Batgirl might be remembered today for personifying that super-heroine in distress archetype – but the character never began or ended an often two-part adventure as someone who wasn’t bold, confident. The Batgirl of that show was always poised and inquisitive, and was never set back by a defeat.
Though version of the Bat-woman character had existed in the panels of DC comics years before the show aired, the iconic character of Barbara Gordon/ Batgirl was created for both the screen and the printed page at that time. Craig’s take on the character was so popular that she almost earned her own spin-off show, the pilot of which was filmed and is probably out there on the internet somewhere.
Craig was a hard-working and prolific young actress. About the same time that she was escaping from deadly traps as Batgirl, she had a memorable guest turn in a third-season episode of the original Star Trek television show as an Orion Slave girl who wanted to kill Captain Kirk. She also appeared in Man from U.N.C.L.E, Starsky and Hutch, Fantasy Island as well as a couple of Evlis Presley films.
Clearly, she was a staple in Hollywood and many producers could see not just how beautiful she was, but how talented she was. Today, she’s remembered mainly for bringing a female superhero to the screen with aplomb. All these years later, with the live-action superhero genre more popular than ever for both television and movies, that’s not a bad thing to be remembered for. Even as Jena Malone takes up the mantle as Barbara Gordon for the upcoming Batman v. Superman film, Craig’s version of the character will always remain the most iconic version of the character.