Why Knightfall Is The Perfect Nemesis For Barbara Gordon

Batman’s rogues gallery is an essential component of The Dark Knight’s mythos, pushing him to evolve into a more sophisticated crime-fighter. In a similar vein, other members of the Batman Family have developed relationships with villains that are unique to their story, clashing against their ideals and forcing them to adapt.

Over the years, Barbara Gordon has earned her fair share of enemies as Batgirl and Oracle. One of the most compelling villains to challenge Barbara in recent history is Knightfall, with the character serving as a dark mirror to what the original Batgirl stands for.

A twisted sense of justice  

Before she became Knightfall, Charise Carnes was an innocent, affluent girl who came from the prestigious Carnes family. Her father had earned a fortune through real estate and living a corrupt lifestyle, extorting businesses and bribing judges. Charise knew her father was no saint, but it didn’t stop her from loving and idolising him.


When she met a young man called Trevor who didn’t care about her family riches, she fell in love. The relationship ended in tragedy, with Trevor using Charise to get close to her family and forcing her to tie up her parents and little brother so he could murder them. Charise was forced to watch him carve up her family and be framed for their murder.

This experience caused Charise’ mind to break. She realised that that only punishment fit for crime was death. She wanted to learn how to get inside the minds of criminals, so allowed let herself be framed and was sent to Arkham Asylum at the age of 18.

During a breakout, Charise observed one of the Asylum’s most violent inmates murder several guards over a two-day period. She also spent time learning psychological torture techniques from Barbara’s brother James Gordon Jr.


Confident that she could shape Gotham to her will, Charise used the lessons she’d learned from her father to be released from Arkham. Her mission was clear. As Charise Carnes, she intended to use her family money to transform the city into an urban utopia. As Knightfall, she’d do whatever necessary to torture and kill criminals to clean up the streets.

Confrontation with Batgirl

 Free from prison, Knightfall funded a group called the Disgraced to be her eyes and ears in Gotham. Charise used them to capture Trevor and lock him up so she could torture him for what he’d done to her family. Knightfall also took the knives he’d used, wielding them as a symbol.

After watching Batgirl for a time, Knightfall made her an offer to join her crusade. When Batgirl refused to kill, Knightfall ordered her Disgraced to slaughter her. Barbara fought back with the help of Melody McKenna, a detective who’d formerly been working for Knightfall and had a change of heart about her methods.

During a bloody confrontation, Batgirl managed to overcome Knightfall and her Disgraced, but Charise escaped, planning to continue her quest to eliminate all crime in Gotham.


A dark reflection of Batgirl

 Knightfall’s motivations and backstory provide an interesting contrast to Barbara’s viewpoint on the world and they do share many similarities. Both of them grew up idolising their fathers and cared for them unconditionally. Charise and Barbara both suffered traumatic events at a young age, with Charise watching the murder of her family and Barbara being crippled by The Joker.

Charise even has a brotherly relationship with James Jr, seeing him as a mentor who taught her how to navigate the criminal world. In contrast, Barbara does love her brother but recognises that he’s too dangerous to be free and that prison is where he belongs.

In her own mind, Knightfall believes what she’s doing is for the good of Gotham. She wants to make a positive difference with her wealth but is too unstable to see that her methods go too far. This complexity, combined with her intellect and connections, make her the perfect adversary for Barbara.

A war between the Disgraced and the Birds of Prey would make for a fantastic storyline. Read The Comic Vault’s article on why the Birds of Prey are a symbol for female empowerment and learn more about Barbara’s teammates. 

Author: thecomicvault

A place for superheroes, positive mental health and pop culture references. Unlock your inner geek and step inside.

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