Maria Vargas was a respected Gotham City judge.
As a child, Maria Vargas enjoyed exploring, which is natural for children. She was supposed to get her parents' permission, but decided one day to go off without doing so. She went into an abandoned warehouse, a place which her parents said was private property and off-limits, but her curiousity got the better of her. It was dark, and she lit a match to see her way. However, when she held the match too long, it singed her fingers and she dropped it. The match landed on some flammable liquids, which quickly ignited. She was able to flee to safety, but watched in shock as the fire grew into a conflagration which consumed much of Gotham's docks. The fire was eventually extinguished, but it was never determined what had caused such destruction. Horrified at causing this, she kept it secret out of embarrassment and potential for adversely affecting her life.
Although she grew up to become a lawyer and eventually her current career as a judge, her childhood incident would come to haunt her once again as a full-grown woman. Whilst on a relaxing trip to Hugo Strange's resort, the doctor recorded the image of her mind and blackmailed her on the basis that she could be impeached from her judgeship if it was learned she caused the infamous Gotham dock fire. Snap and Numbers went to collect the money for Strange on the condition that the incriminating tape would be handed over to Judge Vargas, who would presumably destroy it. However, Numbers saw that Judge Vargas did not give the agreed sum, and Snap said that she now owes an extra $100,000, which she could ill afford. Batman intervened, but in the fight, the tape flew out of the hands of the thugs and onto a crossbeam. While Batman was subduing Numbers and Snap, Judge Vargas crawled towards it, but after she had retrieved it, she was afraid to go back. After immobilizing the hoods, Batman was shocked to see Judge Vargas attempt a dangerous stunt, and yelled for her to stay calm. She fainted and slid off the crossbeam. Though Batman was able to catch her, the tape fell into the river below. She was rushed to the hospital, where she had fallen into a coma. While she was unconscious, Batman wondered why a sensible woman like Judge Vargas would go to extremes and deal with the likes of Numbers and Snap, and did his own investigation, leading to his discovery of Dr. Strange's methods. While looking at tapes of Strange's patients, he found a copy of the VHS tape Judge Vargas had been desperate to get rid of, which replayed her as a little girl causing the great Gotham fire. This led to Batman's realization that Dr. Strange pretended to be a holistic healer, but in actuality was a cheap crook who misused his genius to blackmail people by exposing problems of their past should they not pay him large amounts of money. After Batman brings Strange to justice, Judge Vargas wakes up from her coma where she confessed everything to James Gordon. Commissioner Gordon said the worse problem was Dr. Strange's blackmail, not the fire, and that she had no reason to be ashamed of an accident, a sentiment that Batman agreed with.