UPDATE: Batgirl has a Go Fund Me page for buying a new ride.
If you thought it was fake news that Batgirl lives in Delaware - think again.
This Batgirl is all grown up. Her true identity isn’t Barbara Gordon. It’s Tonya Case, 42, and she’s a mother of two.
Case’s origin story as Batgirl began in April. It all started, she said, when she inadvertently bought a real Batmobile.
In desperate need of a car, Case said she decided to shop on Facebook Marketplace, Facebook’s version of Craigslist. She saw a listing for a ‘94 Volvo that had been transformed into a makeshift Batmobile.
The car was modeled after the black and red Batmobile from the 1960s “Batman” TV show.
Case’s Batmobile came loaded with a rebuilt engine, bat-shaped headlights and customized fins that lit up. The interior came with a red and black dashboard and superhero T-shirts draped over the driver and front passenger seats.
Case said it wasn’t the fanciest ride. But she had been without a car for three years and, at only $500, she couldn’t pass it up.
“It gets me from point A to point B,” she said during an interview last fall. “I’m not the kind of person that has to have that flashy, expensive thing to get me around. And it’s a lot better than taking the bus.”
Then again, Case initially thought the design of the car was kind of cool when she bought it, she said. And so did her kids.
“I have a daughter and a son and they were tickled pink when they first saw the car, and they’re adults,” Batgirl said.
Bringing smiles to Gotham City
Case, a former ice-cream lady, said her desire was to make children happy when they saw her cruising the streets in the Batmobile.
“I like to put smiles on kids’ faces,” the Dover resident said. “I used to deliver ice cream for a little while, and that made kids smile, so I figured the car would go hand in hand with that.”
And it worked. Actually, adults liked the car as much as children, she said.
“Some stop to take pictures, or if I’m in traffic I can look up and see their cellphone in the rear-view mirror,” Case said, while parked outside of Camden Cigars in October.
Cars whizzed by the Camden shop. Some honked as they passed the Batmobile.
“It’s definitely a conversation piece,” Case said.
One Batmobile story really stands out to Case, she said. A woman saw the Batmobile in a parking lot when she was out and about with her son. The stranger asked for permission to photograph the car.
“I was kind of stunned,” Case said. “Then my son spoke up and said, ‘Wow, nobody asks to take a picture of it. They just take a picture.’”
But the woman wasn’t satisfied with snapping just one photo of the ride.
“She came back and said, ‘I took four pictures!’ Case said. “I said, ‘hey, as long as it makes you happy.’”
Batgirl got attacked
But like every superhero, Batgirl hasn’t been immune to encountering villains.
Case said she ran into a few on the Fourth of July.
“I was going southbound on Rt. 13. These kids were out on the highway and they threw this [huge] rock at my windshield,” she said. “I called the police, but they couldn’t find the kids.”
The incident left her windshield with a decent-sized crack. Though unhappy, Case said she doesn’t think she was being targeted by the kids.
“I think they were just out there being mischievous,” she said. “That could’ve happened to anybody.”
Case suffered a bloody nose from the incident, she said. But that was the extent of her injuries. She still managed to look on the bright side and said she’s thankful to be safe since “I could’ve gotten into an accident.”
Jesse Danso, an employee at Camden Cigars, said he experienced Batgirl’s positive, laidback personality when she came to his store in October to buy some vape.
“She came to the register and I rung her up and she was asking me ‘how was my day?’” Danso, 24, said. “Before she left she told me, ‘I hope you have a great day.’ She was cool and had a real down-to-earth spirit.”
Danso, however, said he wasn’t expecting Batgirl to be so friendly, since she’d been waiting in a long line.
“I had customers ahead of her and one kept asking me questions,” he said. “I had [Batgirl] standing here for about 15, 20 minutes. But she didn’t get mad or anything.”
Danso said he liked her Batmobile too.
“That vehicle catches everybody’s eye. It caught my eye,” he said with a smile. “I wondered ‘is that a Batmobile?’ because I thought it was pretty funny and pretty dope.”
Hanging up her cape
What wasn’t funny, Case said, were the cluster of problems she was having with her car late last year.
“There was something smoking under the hood and it kept leaking antifreeze for some reason, even when I wasn’t running the AC,” Batgirl said.
On top of that, the Batmobile didn’t have heat. Although Case knew that when she bought it in April, she said it didn’t become a problem until the weather starting getting cold.
Eventually, Case said, the Batmobile broke down while she was on the road and she had to get it towed home.
With all of her car problems too expensive for her to repair, Batgirl said she had no choice but to retire.
Case recently sold the Batmobile to Kroger’s Salvage Inc. in Seaford, she said.
To add insult to injury, Case said the Batmobile didn’t seem well received at its new home.
“The guy at Kroger’s wasn’t really excited. He just cared more or less if it had a catalytic converter,” Case said.
Considering a salvage yard is a graveyard for cars, the Batmobile has most likely been retired as well.
These days, Case said, she has to rely on family, friends and public transportation to get around town. She’s not thrilled about it.
“I hate those nasty, dirty buses,” she said.
The retired Batgirl said she had a good run with her Batmobile. But she misses the joy it brought strangers.
“I just like the fact it put smiles on people’s faces,” she said. “People were like, ‘ah, that’s cool! I’ve never seen something like that.’”
Last fall when she still had the Batmobile, Case said the car did make her feel a little bit like a real superhero.
“When I’m driving, sometimes at night, I feel like I’m in a little city named Gotham,” Batgirl said.
Due to financial struggles, Case said she doesn’t know when she’ll be able to afford a new car. But she has started a Go Fund Me page in hopes of receiving help with buying a new ride.
Meanwhile, All Batgirl is left with now are memories of her one-of-a-kind car.