At long last, a member of the Bat Family will appear on The CW’s Arrowverse. Stephen Amell revealed that Batwoman would be coming to live action in this fall’s crossover event between ‘Arrow’, ‘The Flash’, ‘Supergirl’ and ‘Legends of Tomorrow’. Not only that, but the story will take place in Gotham City.
In preparation, DC Comics’ co-publisher Dan Didio reflected on the character’s creation.
Batwoman was originally introduced in 1956 and was created by Bob Kane and Sheldon Moldoff. This character was secretly Katherine “Kathy” Kane, a wealthy socialite and former circus performer. Her secret origin is that she was created as a love interest for Batman in order to dispel rumors that Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson were gay lovers, as suggested in Frederic Wertham’s takedown of the comic book industry ‘Seduction of the Innocent’. Later, her niece Betty would accompany her as Bat-Girl. Like aunt, like niece, Betty was in love with Robin.
Neither Batwoman nor Bat-Girl were major characters and they eventually faded into obscurity. In 1968, a new Batgirl, Barbara Gordon was created as a tie-in to the ‘Batman’ TV show. This Batgirl was a hit and remained a major player in the comics for decades, but in the 1988 ‘Killing Joke‘ graphic novel, Barbara Gordon was paralyzed after being shot by The Joker and her career as Batgirl ended (for quite a while anyway).
In 2006, a new take on Batwoman was introduced in the weekly comic book ’52’. Like the original, this character’s name was Katherine Kane, but she went by Kate instead of Kathy. The twist was that this character was a lesbian. (And Jewish!)
As Didio recollects:
“It started out from a conversation I had with [former DC president] Paul Levitz about wanting to diversify the DC Universe and bring in a strong gay character. I felt very strongly that the character had to either wear a Bat shield or an S shield in order to really matter and show that we strongly believe in this character and who she is. The other thing we said was very important: She’s a hero first, gay second. If you see how this character is introduced, we don’t introduce her sexuality until later in the story. We wanted to establish her as a hero first, and then as we uncover who she is and what motivates her and what she’s about, then you got to hear about her background and personality.”
Didio further pointed out the need to make her Batwoman and not another Batgirl. DC had tried introducing new Batgirls to keep the rights to the name, after sidelining Barbara Gordon and while Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain had their devoted fans, they were never widely embraced. (Barbara has since reclaimed the Batgirl name, after spending decades in a wheelchair as Oracle, one of only a few handicapped heroes.)
“It was important for that character to land, and it was important for her to be Kate Kane, because there was already a Batgirl. So if we introduced her as Batgirl she would never be the ‘real’ Batgirl. That way, it wasn’t something that someone could undo easily.”
Ironically, artist Alex Ross who designed her original costume basically dressed her in Barbara Gordon’s costume, substituting red for yellow and darkening the gray to black. He modified the mask, but overall, she looked a lot like Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl. Ross even admitted to giving her red hair because he missed having a redhead in that classic costume.
Nightwing certainly appreciated that. Dick Grayson had harbored a crush on “older woman” Barbara Gordon as Robin and the two eventually did become romantically involved. However, they were not a couple when he met Batwoman and became smitten with her. In the pages of ’52’ however, under the pen of writer Greg Rucka, Kate became involved with ex-Gotham City Police detective Renee Montoya. Their romance mostly took place off-panel, but cast a shadow over early issues of ‘Batwoman’ when the hero was given her own series.
As Didio said, “That was a character Greg really gravitated to, and took such intense ownership of, that we knew she would be properly rolled out over the course of the series.”
Rucka wrote the first batch of ‘Batwoman’ solo stories in ‘Detective Comics’ but his artistic collaborator J.H. Williams III took over co-writing Kate’s exploits with W. Haden Blackman in her own series. (Williams also redesigned her costume, maintaining the basics of Ross’, but making it more armor-like and ditching her high heels.)
The book was a breakout smash, becoming a best seller and earning critical accolades. However, when DC nixed their plans to have Kate marry police officer Maggie Sawyer (more on her in a sec), Williams and Blackman walked off the book. (In all fairness, DC scrapped these plans because they didn’t want ANY of their headliners to be married, because they felt it aged them and removed any romantic tension or uncertainty.)
Unfortunately, since then, Batwoman has struggled to maintain her own comic book for any real length of time, but she currently headlines ‘Detective Comics’, leading a gathering of other Bat Family members.
Batwoman made a cameo in the animated straight-to-video movie ‘Batman Vs. Robin’ but made her full debut in the movie ‘Batman: Bad Blood’, voiced by Yvonne Strahovski. She has also been adapted into the video games ‘DC Universe Online’ and ‘LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham’.
There have already been many gay storylines in the Arrowverse, so Batwoman’s sexuality won’t be particularly distinguishing. And yes, I mentioned Maggie Sawyer, who was romantically involved with Kate in the comics. But viewers of ‘Supergirl’ will remember that she dated Alex Danvers for quite a while. Will Maggie and Kate share a history on TV? Or will Kate take a shining to Alex? Or possibly even Sarah Lance?
We’ll find out this fall!
Quotes Source: Entertainment Weekly