clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cassandra Cain is a low-key powerhouse in the comics

A penniless pickpocket can also be the world’s greatest martial artist

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.


With Birds of Prey screaming into theaters, we’re shining a spotlight on the DC Comics movie’s cast of characters — from A to Zsasz. There are some long histories behind some of the superheroes and villains, but here’s everything you need to know about Cassandra Cain:

What is Cassandra Cain’s origin story in the comics?

The daughter of two of the DC Universe’s greatest assassins, Cassandra was her father’s experiment. Could he raise a child in such a way that her brain could read physical movement as if it was language? This is comics, so the answer was “Yes.” The first time he ordered her to kill Cassandra “read” her dying victim’s body language and resolved never to kill again.

In exchange for a childhood of trauma and only learning to speak when she was a teen, Cassandra is one of the best martial artists in the DC Universe — maybe the best. Barbara Gordon eventually chose her to become her successor as Batgirl.

She went through some continuity ups and downs after that, including being erased from existence, but these days she’s still kicking around Gotham City as the vigilante known as Orphan.

Who created Cassandra Cain?

Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott created Cassandra in 1999, and she became the star of the first ongoing Batgirl series, which ran for over 70 issues between 2000 and 2006.

In 2015 the writers and artists behind Batman and Robin Eternal brought Cassandra back to continuity with a similar origin story (minus the part where she got to be Batgirl).

What are Cassandra Cain’s powers or abilities?

Cassandra is possibly the greatest martial artist in the DC Universe. Her upbringing allows her to read body language as if it were speech, giving her an uncanny ability to predict her opponent’s movements.

Who plays Cassandra Cain in the movie?

After small appearances in Veep and Teachers, Ella Jay Basco makes her big screen debut in Birds of Prey. Her character is completely different in the film. Birds of Prey reimagines Cassandra as foster child who has turned to pickpocketing to fund her lifestyle. And while she’s really good at pickpocketing and comebacks, she doesn’t seem to have any supernatural powers.

How powerful is Cassandra in the comics?

When Batman needed to get back in shape after Bane broke his back, Lady Shiva was the only martial artist in the world good enough to challenge him. Cassandra once one-hit-KO-ed Lady Shiva with a single punch from a broken arm.

What Cassandra Cain comics should I read?

Batman #567 (1999)

The movie-iteration of Cassandra Cain is a world away from the way the character first appeared in this comic, where she was a mute, withdrawn enigma who hid violent — possibly even deadly — impulses, making her ideal fodder for future success in the hellhole that is Gotham City.

Batman and Robin Eternal #1-26 (2015)

After watching her father David Cain defeat his former employer — and child abuser — before falling into an active volcano, Cassandra mourns her father’s death in classic superhero fashion: by taking on his costumed identity as the new Orphan, marking her superheroic debut in DC’s rebooted New 52 continuity.

Shadow of the Batgirl (2020)

The latest comic book incarnation of Cassandra comes in this new YA-focused graphic novel that gives her a more accessible, more heroic outlook while streamlining her backstory into something perfectly suited for movie audiences looking for something more.