Val’s Toy Chest- Yvonne Craig 1937-2015

BG1967

This wasn’t a column I thought I would have to write for years to come, but this is the sad reality, much as I would have preferred it not to be. I wrote this piece the same night that I found out about Yvonne Craig’s death and here it is in its entirety:

My world is a little less bright today. This morning (August 19th) as I was waking up to get myself ready for another Wednesday morning at Forbidden Planet I had gone on my phone to check Facebook as I am wont to do. I’ve been rewatching the classic Batman TV series since I received the entire series as a Christmas gift. My favorite season of the entire series is the 3rd Season, which, if you know your Batman history was the season that introduced Yvonne Craig as Commissioner Gordon’s daughter: Barbara, who by day was a librarian but at night was Gotham City’s “best-dressed crimefightress” Batgirl. Anyway, as I’ve been rediscovering the series I started liking pages on Facebook, finding all sorts of websites discussing the classic TV show and also digging out any related books on the show. One specific Facebook page that I liked was an Yvonne Craig fanpage which not only covered her Batman work but other stuff she had done as well.

It was early- maybe around 6 in the morning when I noticed the page had a post where the author wrote that he was “saddened to say that Yvonne Craig died August 17, 2015.” My mind was reeling from the news, Batman(’66, as it has been known since merchandising for the show started back in 2013) has been a huge part of my life since I was a kid. I have a vague recollection of watching it sometime during 1984 or 1985 on Channel 5 WNYW. I can remember one thing clearly from that mostly hazy(fitting, considering the villain’s motif) memory and that was the cliffhanger shot of Batgirl chained in Lord Ffogg’s dungeon from the episode “The Foggiest Notion.” I never saw the resolution of that cliffhanger on WNYW, but would eventually catch the entire run of 120 episodes on both the Family Channel and WPIX 11 during the Batmania revival of 1989. I recorded all of the special event nights that The Family Channel did where they would run a two hour block of episodes(usually on a Friday). It was during one of those nights where I remember seeing my ‘first’ episode with Batgirl. The episode: “Ring Around the Riddler” aired after the Penguin and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds Three-Parter. I loved seeing the different opening credits with Batgirl kicking the thug and her cycling across the screen on her BatgirlCycle. Something about the character and her laughing in the face of danger while being glamorous and feisty appealed to me. I was hooked on Batgirl and Yvonne Craig from that moment on- to the point that I ended up watching both of the films she made with Elvis Presley. As a kid during the 80s and 90s, I spent quite a few weekends watching my recorded Batman episodes on VHS and eventually I only watched season 3 because my attachment to the Batgirl character and Yvonne’s portrayal, was so deep. Keep in mind that this was shortly after “The Killing Joke” had come out and Batgirl the comic book character was a distant memory leaving us the wheelchair bound Barbara Gordon who hadn’t yet- but would become, Oracle. I wore out a couple of my tapes from constantly rewatching them and didn’t have a way to replace the episodes as most channels had stopped airing Batman by the early ’90s. By the time Batman made its way back into syndication, I didn’t have a VCR anymore and I DVRed the Batgirl episodes to relive my childhood affection for her and the show. Thankfully the series is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now after years of legal wrangling and red tape.

As I got ready to go to work, inspiration struck– I dug out my purple and yellow Batgirl logo shirt to wear and I make the decision to show as much of the third season as possible on the TV at work during my shift. I had a need to do something to honor one of my childhood heroines. I got to start the day out with the initial aired Batgirl episode: “Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin” and made it all the way through to the notorious Season 3, Episode 19 “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” which not only has the infamous Siamese Human Knot Bat-Trap but is also extremely sexist seen thru modern eyes. I finally capped the whole marathon with the rarely-seen “Batgirl” pilot film that had been used to sell the character to the execs at ABC. Now as I type this out, I’m at home with the recently released Yvonne Craig Batgirl figure from Mattel, the NJ Croce Bendable figure, and a copy of Yvonne’s autobiography: “From Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond.” I am at the very least grateful that I got to meet Yvonne back in 2000 at a comic convention at Madison Square Garden where she signed and inscribed the aforementioned book to me. I’m also pleased that her legacy will live on not only because of the character she helped shape but also because she was truly a pioneer for female action heroes on the screen. The demand for new product from her era of Batman, along with forthcoming pieces featuring her as well as the series’ upcoming 50th Anniversary will help to ensure that her iconic turn as Batgirl will forever be emblazoned in her fans’ hearts. I will treasure all of it along with the memories and joy that Yvonne’s Batgirl has brought me for nearly three decades.

The Terrific Trio has become the Dynamic Duo again. Rest in peace, Yvonne.

A dedicated fan.

Val’s Top 5 Yvonne Craig as Batgirl moments:

5. Batgirl shows up outside of Lord Ffogg’s estate to aid the Dynamic Duo- The Londinium Larcenies

4. Batgirl’s astonishment at the Batcave after she and the Dynamic Duo are de-flattened- The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra

3. Batgirl fights the Penguin and his goons after both have finished racing the Wayne Foundation Handicap- A Horse of Another Color

2. Batgirl takes on the Cossacks on her own before getting ambushed by Egghead and Olga and forced to perform a Saber Dance with frosted swords- The Ogg Couple

1. Batgirl crashes the Penguin’s headquarters as he tries to dunk Batman and Robin into a vat of acid- Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin

 

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