A child prodigy; Cassandra Cain was conceived and trained from birth with the intention of creating the perfect bodyguard for Ra's al Ghul. After many unsuccessful attempts to train children from birth in martial arts to make them inculcate it like a native language (the most successful being the abandoned child The Mad Dog ), David Cain, a member of al Ghul's League of Assassins, decided the right genes were necessary to create this "One Who Is All". Cain searched for the perfect mother for this child, finding her in the Wu-San sisters of Detroit, who practiced martial arts with each other nearly every moment of their childhood in a type of sister's language.
Cain sympathized with the younger sister, Sandra, when he noticed that she held back out of love for Carolyn. To "help" Sandra reach her full potential, Cain murdered Carolyn, then lured Sandra into an ambush by the League of Assassins, where he defeated her. Cain spared Sandra from death on the condition that she bear his child, and leave her for him to raise. Awed by the potential heights she could reach in her physical talents now that Carolyn was gone, Sandra agreed to Cain's bargain in order that she might go on to become the unstoppable force of nature known as Lady Shiva: creator and destroyer. Shiva's hope for her child was that she might one day grow to be the one force that could stop her reign of destruction.
Trained by her father, assassin David Cain, to be the ultimate martial artist and assassin, Cassandra was not taught to speak. Instead, the parts of her brain normally used for speech were trained so she could read other people's movements and body language and predict, with uncanny accuracy, their next move. This ability lives up to her namesake; Cassandra in Greek mythology had the gift of seeing into the future, but was cursed so that nobody would ever believe her predictions. This closely relates to her capability of 'seeing' her opponents' next move at the cost of being (initially) unable to speak. This also caused her brain to develop learning functions different from most, a form of dyslexia that hampers her ability to read and write.
When she was 8 years old, Cain decided his experiment had progressed far enough for him to test Cassandra's abilities in the real world, and took her to kill a businessman. At the time, Cassandra had no idea what she was doing and believed it was only a game (an interpretation in keeping with her own reaction to what happened, and matching the interpretation of Alfred Pennyworth, an expert on children who saw a tape of events). After striking a deathblow, she "read" the target as he died, and saw death as he saw it. "Terror and then... nothing". In addition to scarring her emotionally, she realized murder, like Cain's profession, was wrong, and she ran away from her father.
After spending the next ten years homeless, beating herself up mentally over what she'd done, Cassandra came to be one of Oracle's agents in the No Man's Land Gotham City. After proving herself by saving Commissioner Gordon's life, she was given the Batgirl costume with the approval of both Batman and Oracle. She became Barbara's ward.
Batman eventually learned about Cassandra's past when Cain transmitted a video he had made of the murder to the Batcave, but Batman nevertheless continued to accept Cassandra after she took several bullets to save the life of a hired assassin, proving her devotion to protecting human life.
In 2000, Cassandra became the first Batgirl to get her own ongoing self-titled comic book series (the Barbara Gordon Batgirl having been featured in a couple of one-shot releases). A telepath "rewired" her brain to think with words and understand English (although speaking properly took longer, and she still could not read or write) at the cost of her ability to predict and read people. This left her unable to defend herself in a fight, as that part of her style relied completely on her ability to read moves, not the "strategies, patterns, and tricks" employed by Batman and most other martial artists.
Fearing that she would meet a fate similar to former Robin Jason Todd, Batman refused to let Cassandra wear the Batgirl costume and patrol the city until she could learn adequate defensive skills, which he estimated would take at least a year of work. She soon discovered that assassin Lady Shiva could read people like she used to be able to, and asked her to reteach her. Lady Shiva accepted, on the condition that in a year they would have a duel to the death. Knowing that she would never kill again and would most assuredly lose, but preferring to be "perfect for a year" rather than "mediocre for a lifetime", Cassandra accepted and Lady Shiva retaught her in a night.
One year later, Cassandra kept the appointment - and died within minutes. Then Shiva restarted her heart, having realized that Cassandra "wanted" to die (although not why), and wishing for a fight Cassandra would try to win. In the ensuing battle, Cassandra realized that Shiva had her own death wish, and defeated her, although she spared Shiva's life. Batman regards Cassandra very highly. During War Games, he relied heavily on her to help control the violence of the gang war in Gotham City. Following War Games, Batgirl moved to Blüdhaven with Tim Drake (the third Robin) at Batman's suggestion and with his financial support (Nightwing had been injured during the crisis, and the Gotham City Police Department had declared all costumed heroes illegal). There, Deathstroke took on a contract from the Penguin to kill Batgirl and decided to let his daughter Rose (the current Ravager) do the job instead. Cassandra beat Rose by playing on her emotions to leave her open for a critical strike, giving Deathstroke no choice but to get her medical attention. During all this, Cassandra started developing friendships and even a very short lived relationship with a boy named Zero. Unfortunately, her friends would all later be killed in the Blüdhaven disaster.
During this time, Cassandra also went undercover for Batman in the Justice League Elite, working under Sister Superior sister of the deceased Manchester Black- and assorted anti-heroes as a superhuman 'black ops' team, working to track down and eliminate metahuman threats to the populace before they went public, masquerading as an assassin named Kasumi. During this time, she worked with Batman's old fellow JLA members Green Arrow and Flash, and formed a certain bond with Coldcast, who was the first person she revealed her real identity to. Although he was subsequently accused of murder, she and the rest of the team soon realised that he had been manipulated by renegade Elite member Menagerie, who was also being manipulated by the spirit of Manchester Black as he tried to drive his sister to destroy London. As the JLA fell, the Elite, united by the spirit of the deceased Manitou Raven, freed Vera and vanquished Black, although the team disbanded after this last mission.
Cassandra gathered evidence that indicated that Shiva could have been her mother, and sought out Shiva to confirm this. After being proclaimed by Nyssa al Ghul as the "One Who Is All", the students of the League of Assassins split their allegiances, half following Shiva and the others Cassandra. In the ensuing confrontation, Cassandra was mortally wounded by her "adoptive brother" The Mad Dog while heroically saving one of the students under her leadership. Shiva revived Cassandra in the Lazarus Pit, then answered Cassandra's questions on her parentage. When Cassandra asked Shiva if she had killed more people since their last battle and Shiva said that she had, Cassandra asked if she would ever stop. Shiva responded "It's why I had you," and Cassandra agreed to fight her to the death once more.
In an evenly matched battle, Cassandra managed to break Shiva's neck, paralyzing her. She appeared ready to place Shiva in the Lazarus Pit, but Shiva pleaded with her not to do so. In response, Cassandra impaled Shiva on a hook hanging over the pit, apparently killing her. Although Cassandra's intent regarding this action is unclear, whether to kill her or let her fall into the pit and be revived, it has been confirmed that Shiva is alive in One Year Later. Cassandra then abandoned the identity of Batgirl and returned to her life as a wanderer.
52: World War III
Deathstroke approaches Cassandra and preys on her desire for a loving father as well as her feelings of abandonment. Following the events in Infinite Crisis, Cassandra was left behind while Batman, Robin, and Nightwing left for their year long trip and Harvey Dent was charged with protecting Gotham instead of her.
One Year Later
"One Year Later": Cassandra Cain. Art by Freddie E. Williams II. Cassandra took on the role of a villain by becoming the head of the League of Assassins following the One Year Later continuity jump, as established in Robin #150 (2006). She has used her position as head of the League to draw in Tim Drake, the third Robin, as an ally. She began killing former students of her father, David Cain whom she deemed unworthy and used Robin to free David and reunite with him. She then urged Robin to kill David, and join her in leading the assassins, but when Robin refused, she shot her father herself. She and Tim then eventually engaged in a final battle where she maintained the upper hand. The fight came to an abrupt end, however, when an explosive device detonated, leading Cassandra and Robin to flee in different directions. Robin returned to find David missing, and all the ninjas' necks snapped. Tim manages to record the conversation he had with Cassandra, using it as evidence to clear his name with the police. Unfortunately it would also brand Cassandra as a murderer.
Cassandra also recently appeared in Supergirl #14, battling the title character, (Kara Zor-El), in her role as leader of the League of Assassins. She is hired by an unknown figure (later revealed to be the supervillain Dark Angel) to kill Supergirl, and attempts to do so by kidnapping Supergirl's friend, Captain Boomerang. Supergirl arrives at the League's Tibetan headquarters to confront Cassandra, previously unaware of the kidnapping. Cassandra, in her Batgirl identity, attacks Supergirl, wielding twin swords that emit red sun energy, which sapped away Supergirl's powers. Just as Cassandra prepares to deliver the killing blow, Kara mysteriously extrudes crystals from her body which wound Cassandra. What happened to Cassandra following this particular story was not explained.
This story is shown to follow Robin One Year Later, as in Supergirl #14 there is a file in the Batcomputer titled 'Cassandra Cain & the League of Assassins', showing this takes place after she battled Robin. In Teen Titans vol. 3 #44, it revealed that Cassandra battled Supergirl first, before attacking Teen Titans with the Titans East.
Cassandra also reappears in Robin, having done some business with Dodge, a wanna-be superhero with teleportation powers, who was injured and put into a coma when he interfered on one of Robin's cases. Having awoken, Dodge seeks revenge against Robin and is approached by Cassandra to steal a drug which gives humans metahuman strength for her, in exchange for money. After Dodge leaves, Cassandra and a mysterious ally (possibly Deathstroke), make plans to use the package Dodge delivered, to create an army. Whether this takes place before or after her battle with Supergirl or the Titans East storyline is unknown. Cassandra makes another appearance, when she murders the corrupt businessman who has been producing the meta-drug and who Robin was unfortunately unable to take down legally. From a distant rooftop, Cassandra quietly tells him "you're welcome Tim."
Cassandra is also on the roster of Titans East and is once again wearing the Batgirl costume. Cassandra remained in the role of a villain, under the command of Titans East's leader, Deathstroke. It is revealed in Teen Titans vol. 3 #43, that she is being drugged by Deathstroke. In issue #44, after a rematch with the Ravager and a brief confrontation with Robin, Robin injects a counter serum (prepared in case Deathstroke regains control of his daughter again) to Cassandra. She apparently regains control over herself, with a desire of revenge by killing Deathstroke for violating her like Ravager and Terra before her. In Issue #45, Cassandra is allied with the Teen Titans (to which Miss Martian comments that she is more in control of herself now), and faces Slade, Match, and other former Titans East teammates, before being subdued by Risk. Soon after, Cyborg, Raven, and Duela Dent summon former Titans Nightwing, Donna Troy, Beast Boy, and Flash (Bart Allen), who joins in against Slade's team. Batgirl attempts to kill Deathstroke, but is stopped and knocked unconscious by Nightwing, who demands that Slade face the courts. Unfortunately, Deathstroke escapes from the Titans with the help of Inertia, and after the battle is over, Batgirl and Duela Dent both vanish without a word.
Batman and the Outsiders
After a long absence, Cassandra Cain retakes the Batgirl mantle joining the Outsiders at Batman's request at the end of Batman and the Outsiders #2. Cassie has moved into the Outsider's apartment, but has not shown much desire to interact with her teammates socially. Almost immediately after asking Batgirl to join, Batman also offers membership to Green Arrow who is furious to learn that the former leader of the League of Assassins is on the team as well. While on a mission, Green Arrow and Batgirl battle one another, and end up gaining an unusual sort of respect for one another.
Vengeance and Batman R.I.P.Prior to the events of Batman R.I.P Cassandra moves into Wayne Manor and attempts to re assimilate with the Bat-family. However she continues with the desire to kill her father and Deathstroke for what they did to her. She uses the Batcomputer to locate them but is attacked by Nightwing, who claims she cannot be trusted. Robin and Batman give her the benefit of the doubt.
While searching for Cain's base, Cassandra discovers a mystery woman who is revealed to be Batgirl's half-sister, who rebelled against Cain. This half-sister had tried to kill Cain many times without success. They pool their resources together but are caught by Ravager. The three women agree to work together and continue the search for their fathers. They eventually find a training school run by Cain and Deathstroke that is filled with more of Cassandra's "sisters." During the fight that follows, they discover that Deathstroke has rigged the building to blow. Cassandra places listening devices at the school and learns that the intended use of the training school girls was to "cripple the meta-hero community," leading Cassandra to believe Oracle is the target of the plot.Cassandra races to Platinum Heights, Oracle's new base of operations, and locates Cain on an opposite rooftop with a sniper rifle in his hand. Cassandra engages in one-on-one combat, breaking his hand and sending him over a ledge. Cain holds on for a few minutes before losing his grip. Cassandra attempts to save him and sees that he has only fallen to a ledge a few feet below, where he is detained by Batman, who had followed her to Platinum Heights. Because she tried to save Cain, Batman accepts her into his family again and states he will officially begin the process to adopt and make her his daughter.
Soon after Cassandra becomes Wayne's legal daughter, Batman disappears during the events of Batman R.I.P. As a result of his disappearance the Outsiders have been left in disarray with the loss of their leader. Batgirl, believing that Batman brought her in as a contingency, takes command of the team, while they attempt to locate Batman. During his absence, the rivalry that began between Nightwing and Batgirl reached its climax, leading to a fight between the pair. Alfred however arrived and broke up the argument, reminding them both that Gotham needed both of them to keep things together. Following this, Nightwing and Batgirl have at last appeared to have put aside their differences.
Batman was reported to be supposedly killed during an encounter with Darkseid, thus leaving Dick Grayson, Cassandra Cain, Jason Todd and Tim Drake orphaned once more. Without Batman present, Batgirl leaves the Outsiders, who are taken over by Alfred. Batgirl however continues working with the Outsiders, along with a host of other heroes in protecting Gotham, which has exploded into chaos following the loss of Batman.
Several months after Batman's death, Cassandra began to find herself disillusioned with her life as Batgirl. Having already lost yet another father in her life, particularly one that she had a much better relationship than with Cain, Cassandra began to question why she continued to fight. After teaming-up with Spoiler one night, Cassandra then handed over the mantle of Batgirl to Stephanie, and vanished.
Becoming Black Bat
Tim Drake is revealed to have been in regular contact with her, implying that she is now an anonymous agent to Batman. Following Bruce Wayne's public announcement about his intention to create a global team of Batmen, Tim visits Cassandra in Hong Kong, where she has been acting as an anonymous vigilante. He attempts to persuade Cassandra to return to Gotham now that things have returned to normal, but she refuses, saying that Stephanie needs the Batgirl role more than she does. Just before departing, Tim gives Cassandra a copy of her old costume and tells her that if she chooses to stay and fight crime in Hong Kong, he hopes she will do it while wearing a Bat-symbol.
In Grant Morrison's Batman Inc. series, it is revealed that Cassandra has taken Tim up on his offer and joined up with Bruce's new group, now wearing a heavily modified costume that uses her original outfit as a base. She now uses the name of Black Bat, and is shown contacting Bruce after bringing down a heroin-smuggling operation in Hong Kong.
Cassandra's next appearance was in the first issue of the Gates of Gotham series, a new supervillain named the Architect destroys three Gotham bridges with the help of explosives smuggled from Hong Kong, resulting in the deaths of dozens of civilians. Feeling guilty over her failure to stop the explosives from leaving China, Cassandra returns to Gotham and partners with Red Robin, Dick Grayson, and Damian Wayne (the new Robin) to bring the Architect to justice. During a stakeout at Oswald Cobblepot's night club, Cassandra is mocked and berated by Damian, who tells her that he is a better hero and that Bruce likely sent her to Hong Kong as a demotion. Despite Damian's hostility toward her, Cassandra ultimately saves his life after pulling him out of the club mere seconds before it is destroyed by a bomb. After Dick discovers that the Architect plans to flood Gotham and kill thousands of civilians, Cassandra and Damian work together to dispose of the explosives that were supposed to sink the city. Once the Architect is defeated and captured, Cassandra implies that she intends to stay in Gotham rather than return to Hong Kong.
Cassandra later infiltrates a tournament for hired killers and rescues Red Robin, who had been captured and was about to be raped by the sister of Ra's al Ghul. After rescuing Tim, Cassandra apparently kills him with a katana, thus winning the tournament for herself. It is later revealed that she had merely faked Red Robin's death in order to allow him to escape. The two then travel to Hong Kong in order to catch a 10-year old assassin known as the Cricket, but are easily defeated. Just as Cassandra and Tim fall into unconscousness, the Cricket vows to face them again someday, and tells them that he hopes they will put up a better fight next time.
Critical reception of the One Year Later storyline had been mixed. In general, the portrayal of Tim Drake has been praised, whereas Cassandra's depiction "rings false even given the One Year Later". Upon being asked if Cassandra's characterization was editorially mandated, writer Adam Beechen stated that "When I came to the book, I was told that the first arc would deal with presenting Cassandra as a major new enemy for Robin. From there, I worked out the details of just how that would come about with our initial editor, Eddie Berganza, and then his successor, Peter Tomasi." In a followup interview, he clarified further, stating "They didn't present me with a rationale as to why Cassandra was going to change, or a motivating factor. That was left for me to come up with and them to approve. And we did that. But as far as to why the editors and writers and whoever else made the decision decided that was a good direction, I honestly couldn't answer."
In recent interviews and press conferences, Dan DiDio and others have stated that Cass will "be going back to basics," like in her early adventures before she was able to talk. Later, Geoff Johns was quoted saying: "We will be addressing in Teen Titans exactly what the deal is with her. Is she a bad guy? How? Why? She was a completely different character before “One Year Later,” so let’s find out what happened."
In protest, some fans have created websites or written web comic satires to organize and express their dissatisfaction. These actions have not gone unnoticed to the DC Comics editorial leadership. According to Wizard Magazine #182, the storyline was "one of the most controversial changes to come out of DC's 'One Year Later' event", and "fans rose up in arms, organizing websites and letter-writing campaigns to protest the change." Dan Didio commented "I'm glad to see there was a reaction created, it shows that people care about the character and want to see something happen with her".
The aforementioned news of Deathstroke drugging Cassandra has the potential to remove or at least explain much of the controversial factors of Cassandra's turn. Yet as this particular plot is still unfolding, the reasoning may change further still.
In October 2007, DC announced that Cassandra would be taking up the Batgirl identity as a member of the Outsiders in the upcoming Batman and the Outsiders ongoing series to be written by Chuck Dixon, which appears to, or is hoped to, begin resolving the controversy.
In February 2008, Dan DiDio revealed during a convention panel that writer Adam Beechen will be writing a new Batgirl mini-series. Beechen himself states that the story will answer all the questions from the last few years, and will address all of the questions of why Batgirl has been acting the way she's been acting, and set the stage for new Batgirl adventures to come.
Costume & equipment
Her costume as Batgirl was composed of black skin-tight leather. Her mask covers all of her head with the exception of the eyes, which were darkened, and symbolic stitches surround the mouth of the mask. Instead of Barbara's yellow bat-logo, Cassandra had a hollow, yellow-rimmed one. This costume was originally created and worn by the Huntress in the early stages of "No Man's Land".
Like the other members of the Bat-Clan, Cassandra also wore a yellow pouched utility belt, which contained grappling hooks, batarangs, mini-explosives, tracking devices, a hand-held computer, binoculars, plasti-cuffs, and smoke pellets. However, Cassandra rarely used any of these devices during her career as Batgirl.
As Blackbat, Cassandra wears a modified version of her Batgirl costume, with a pointed domino mask similar to Huntress, a tattered looking cape, and instead of gloves she wraps her hands in bandages, similar to Ted Grant, Wildcat
Titans East showed some slight differences in Cassandra's costume, such as a yellow interior to her cape, as well as a classic "capsule" utility belt as opposed to the pouches. However, in Teen Titans #43, the once hollow bat-symbol appears to have been filled in and her cape is once again completely black, and there is a new line of stitching going up the forehead of her cowl that was not there on previous costumes. This particular version of the costume may only be the a result of the artist's interpretation, as her appearances in Supergirl and Outsiders had Cassandra in her standard Batgirl costume.
Training and abilities
Cassandra Cain has arguably the most prestigious training of any martial artist in the DC Universe. As a child, Cassandra received intensive training by her father, along with several other members of the League of Assassins, including Bronze Tiger, Merlyn the archer, and a series of instructors hired by Cain, including Alpha. Upon taking the mantle of Batgirl, she was trained further by Batman, Oracle, Black Canary, and then by Lady Shiva, and has received supplementary instruction from Onyx. She was also very briefly trained in detective methods by Tim Drake during their time in Blüdhaven.
In Batgirl #14 the writer, Kelley Puckett, places Cassandra in a position within the story in which her skills are analyzed by a group of government experts. Through this panel, the creative team reveal to the reader that the character is written as having no metagene. Her genetic status was felt to be incompatible with her recorded abilities by one of the experts, however, who stated: "Her individual moves are borderline human. It's her aggregate speed that's metahuman. Look -- humans can throw a 100 miles-per-hour fastball, smash concrete blocks with their heads, and run 4.2 forties. What they can't do is all of that at once. It's not so much physical as... as mentally impossible. Too much to coordinate."
As a side effect of Cain's abusive training, Cassandra's brain developed learning functions different from most. Having been brought up by Cain deliberately without speech, the communication centers of her brain learned body language instead of spoken or written language. Thus, she originally had as much trouble learning spoken and written language as a normal individual would have in learning body language. Although she was able to learn some very basic things ("no," "yes," "me") the same way a normal person can learn to recognize smiles and frowns, it took a telepath rewiring her brain to teach her to speak and understand English. Even then, she only spoke with extreme difficulty (very falteringly, short sentences with long pauses, frequently using the wrong words, etc.). The unusual way in which she was raised resulted in a form of dyslexia that hampers her ability to read and write. In Batgirl #67 Oracle performed a number of tests on Cassandra, determining the severity of the problem:
“ "The language centers of your brain are all over both hemispheres. Not centralized like with most people. When you try to read or write, your brain doesn't know how to keep it cohesive." ”
This, however, may have been retconned. In Robin #149 it is revealed that both Cassandra and Tim Drake had been taught by Batman how to communicate using Navajo code, a code requiring that its user be able to speak English and Navajo, as well as be able to read and write in both languages. Since she had apparently learned this code from Batman, she would have had to possess these skills during her time as Batgirl. However, in light of the fact that her new ability with the written word is seen only once, and is not referenced again, this may have simply been a mistake and not a retcon.
In other media
Cassandra has yet to make a named appearance in the DC animated universe or other DC cartoons. However, a girl matching Cassandra's appearance did appear briefly as one of Bruce Wayne's assistants in an alternate timeline seen in the Justice League episode "The Savage Time." The creators of the show have stated that this was an uncredited cameo.
Cassandra, or rather, Cassie, makes a possible voice only cameo in Batman: Arkham Knight as a voice message on Bruce Wayne's voicemail. In it, she states she had a fun time with Bruce Wayne and admits he's nothing like what the papers claim about him, and offers to have him meet some friends of hers.