Casandra Cain: Who is the New Batgirl?

Silent Knight

Batman:I need to know once and for all where your loyalties lie, Cassandra. With your father? …Or Barbara? …Or me?”
Cassandra:No. Not you. [points to the Bat-Symbol] This.”

Batgirl #50

An assassin waits on a Gotham City rooftop. He has been hired to protect a gang that is worried about Batman and friends capturing them. The assassin’s gaze sweeps the area, watching for threats. He glimpses something moving in the shadows. A Bat, a girl from the silhouette. He aims his gun at the do-gooder.

The assassin drops his gun as he dodges to avoid a Batarang. He lunges forward to punch the girl, but she blocks his attack and steps inside his guard. Lightning fast, she paralyzes his arm with a trio of nerve strikes. A punch connects with his throat and knocks out the assassin. Batgirl silently restrains him and descends to take down the gang.

Cassandra Cain is the newest Batgirl. She was raised to be the ultimate assassin, but became one of DC’s greatest heroes instead. So who is she? How did she become Batgirl? How does being functionally mute affect her heroics? Let’s find out.

Mark of Cain: Cassandra Cain’s Backstory

Commissioner Gordon:Cain shoots girls. He didn’t shoot you. Why? [realizes] You know him, don’t you?
[Cassandra points at the Commissioner and Barbara Gordon, then to Cain’s symbol and herself]
Barbara:You’re his daughter?

Batman: No Man’s Land

Cassandra Cain debuted in Batman #567 in 1999. She was created by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott. She is the second person to take up Batgirl’s mantle, not counting the time when Huntress stole the identity.

Cassandra Cain is the daughter of notorious assassin David Cain. The elder Cain planned to create the ultimate assassin by teaching her to only communicate via body movement. He never spoke to her or taught her how to read. The training gave Cassandra an almost supernatural ability to predict her enemy’s movements through their body language.

At the ripe age of six years old, Cassandra Cain was sent on her first assassination mission. She killed the target, but her body reading caused her to vividly experience her victim’s terror and pain followed by the nothingness of death. A terrified Cassandra disappeared and didn’t see her father for more than a decade.

A teenaged Cassandra arrived in Gotham City and began working for Barbara Gordon, the paralyzed former Batgirl. In exchange for her help, Barbara began teaching Cassandra to talk. Cassandra would later rescue Commissioner Gordon from her father, stunning the elder Cain by yelling at him to stop. David Cain escaped, but Batman was impressed enough to offer to train her as a superhero. With Barbara’s blessing, Cassandra Cain became the new Batgirl.

Daughter of Destruction: Cassandra Cain’s History

Batgirl: [narrating] “I’ll never take another life. Not even [Shiva’s]. So I’ll pretend to go all out… and then I’ll die. I don’t have to do this. I can still study Batman’s method. I can be good enough for the costume. I can be… mediocre. For a lifetime. Or perfect. For a year.”

Batgirl #9

Cassandra Cain was a perfect fit for the Batgirl identity, but she had no life outside of fighting crime, could barely communicate with anyone, and struggled to maintain Batman’s standards. One of these issues was fixed early on when Batgirl rescued a young psychic. He noticed the language centers of her brain were messed up and used his powers to fix them, granting Cassandra the ability to talk.

Cassandra was ecstatic, but grew horrified to learn her ability to read body language was gone. Her most defining trait had been destroyed. Luckily, Batgirl soon came across the infamous assassin Lady Shiva. Shiva had heard of Cassandra’s skills and came to Gotham to challenge her. Shiva offered to help Cassandra regain her skills in exchange for a duel to the death in one year’s time.

Cassandra regained her skills and returned to crime fighting as Batgirl. She refused to kill and planned to let Shiva kill her in their fight. Despite their ferocious battle, Lady Shiva murdered Cassandra. Shiva immediately resuscitated her. The warriors had a heart-to-heart talk, and Shiva helped Cassandra come to terms with her death wish.

This was not their last fight. While investigating David Cain’s other children, Batgirl learned Shiva was training them as assassins. Shiva admitted that she had the same death wish as Cassandra and had slept with David Cain to create an assassin capable of killing her. Cassandra Cain was Shiva’s daughter.

The two began their final fight. Cassandra ultimately defeated Shiva and granted her mother’s death wish by snapping her neck. To avoid breaking her vow against killing, Cassandra threw Shiva into the mystical Lazarus Pit, which resurrected and healed her. Cassandra then returned to Gotham, finally at peace with herself.

Language of Violence: Cassandra Cain’s Powers and Personality

[Batwoman has killed a villain, leading Cassandra to tear the Bat-Symbol from her uniform]
Cassandra:This symbol… special. Means don’t kill. Means never kill.

Detective Comics #974

Cassandra Cain is considered the DC Universe’s greatest fighter. Only Lady Shiva comes close. Batman has admitted that if he and Cassandra ever went all-out, she would win hands down. Her training and body reading abilities explain most of her advantage. Cassandra is also capable of superhuman feats of strength, speed, and agility, but has been confirmed to not have superpowers.

Cassandra also has challenges. She has spent most of her life unable to speak, read, or write. Even after her brain was rewired, she struggled to learn language arts. Her initial training is implied to act as a learning disability. Cassandra’s body reading also gives her limited empathic powers, causing her to feel the pain she causes others.

Cassandra Cain is stoic and diligent with a compassionate side. She sometimes struggles with her abusive childhood and has difficulty connecting with others, even when there are no communication issues. Cassandra wanted to die as atonement for killing the target in her backstory, but overcame her death wish with help from Barbara and a temporary death courtesy of Shiva.

The Actors who Play Cassandra Cain

Cassandra Cain’s appearances have almost all been in comics. She had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in the animated series Justice League. She appears in Young Justice: Outsiders using the codename Orphan.

Cassandra Cain hits the big time in Birds of Prey, where she is played by Ella Jay Basco. This version is a preteen thief, seemingly without combat skills who lacks the signature semi-muteness. In fact, she seems to be quite chatty.

Fans are unhappy with this portrayal. Many label the character as “Cassandra Cain In Name Only”. It’s certainly a departure from the traditional character described in this backstory, but maybe Birds of Prey can pull off this version. Either way, don’t bully Basco for how the character is portrayed. That’s a total dick move.

Didya get all that?

An assassin turned hero.

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