by Fred Grandinetti
Kathy Kane, The Batwoman, was the first
heroine to emulate a major male superhero in the pages of DC Comics.
Not a hero who appeared as a supporting character but one who was
featured in three popular comic book titles. Today, heroines have
super powers beyond imagination. The ones, which don't, are able
to flip the biggest bad guys over their shoulders. Batwoman, though,
was the trailblazer and she has often been dismissed by comic book
critics and people in the industry as just part of the bat-clutter
which appeared in the Caped Crusader's adventures from the late
1950' through mid-1960's. Throughout that
era, Batman also had help from Bat-Mite, a visitor from another
world dressed in a Batman costume, Ace the Bat-Hound, who was a
German Shepard in a Bat-mask and Bat-Girl, Batwoman's
niece. Although some time elapsed between each character's debut,
in general, they're all pretty much lumped together and regarded
as the reason why Batman became less unique. There were simply
too many Bat-characters running around in Gotham City.
DC Comics, at the time, believed new
characters would help bump up the sales and no one was opposed to
that. However, Batwoman, her skills, her weapons, what made her
unique and the ability to hold her own in such a male-chauvinistic
time, has gotten lost in the shuffle. She’s worth another look.
Millionaire playboy, Bruce Wayne had
first donned the famed Batman costume in 1939. Dick Grayson joined
him as Robin the Boy Wonder in 1940. For several years readers
looked forward to reading their adventures in the pages of Detective
Comics, Batman and later, World's Finest. To most, they
were a pair of heroes, who battled the criminals and masterminds
of the underworld. That is, until Dr. Fredric Wertham outted Batman and Robin
as queers in his book, Seduction of the Innocent in 1954.
Wertham, a psychiatrist, launched a campaign
against comics in true McCarthy style, which resulted in congressional
hearings and the adoption of the Comic Code Authority. While most
of Wertham's attacks focused on the fact
that young people would emulate the crimes they read about in the
comics, he also attacked the relationship of Batman and Robin, stating:
"Sometimes Batman ends up in bed
injured and young Robin is shown sitting next to him. At home they
lead an idyllic life. They are Bruce Wayne and 'Dick' Grayson.
Bruce Wayne described as a 'socialite' and the official relationship
is that Dick is Bruce's ward. They live in sumptuous quarters,
with beautiful flowers in large vases...Batman is sometimes shown
in a dressing gown...It is like a wish dream of two homosexuals
living together." I suppose the fact they had a butler named
Alfred living with them didn't help either.
The result of Wertham's
attacks on Batman and Robin led DC Comics to make changes. The
Catwoman, Batman's feline foe since 1940, was now considered too
strong and harsh a female to continue popping up to bedevil Batman.
She took an extended catnap (until 1966) and another woman debuted
1) to attract a younger audience to the Batman titles 2) to attract
more girls into that audience 3) To socialize (lighten up) Batman
and give him a female companion. Sheldon "Shelly" Moldoff who drew Batman's adventures at this time said to
me, "Wertham had suggested Batman
and Robin was or could be mistaken for a gay relationship."
"There's only one Batman! That's been said many times and has been
true for no other man has ever rivaled Batman as a champion of the
law, nor matched his superb acrobatic skill, his scientific keenness,
his mastery of disguise and detective skill! But now, in one suspenseful
surprise after another, Batman finds he has a great rival in the
mysterious and glamorous girl? The Batwoman!"
Comics #233 (1956)
Designed by artist, Sheldon Moldoff, Batwoman wore a black and yellow body suit, oversized
mask (red, later yellow in color), red cape with a weapons bag strung
over shoulder. Moldoff said, regarding
her design, "Any character that came into the story was usually
brought by the writer. I would create the visual part of it. So
when people say to me, you created Batwoman, I would say it called
for the character in the script."
Batwoman’s real name was Kathy Kane, a wealthy
heiress and one time circus daredevil who used her skills to battle
criminals like her idol, Batman. She had her own “Batcave” and rode around Gotham City on her red motorcycle, the Bat-Cycle.
To make sure that Batman fully understood this was a woman crimefighter (this story was also written years before women's
liberation and the era before judo and karate were handy self-defense
traits for females), Batwoman's weapons
were all very ladylike. Her weapon's bag contained lipstick cases
filled with tear gas, a compact filled with sneezing powder, charm
bracelets that were actually handcuffs and an oversized hair net,
used to snare criminals. Though Batwoman saved Batman from harm
during her first adventure both he and Robin didn't readily accept
her aid. Kathy, being an ex-circus performer let some circus slang
slip during her encounters with Batman, which he then used to discover
her secret identify. By the conclusion of her first adventure,
Batman convinced Kathy that crooks could do the same so she decided
to give up being Batwoman. Kathy gave in without thinking clearly.
Robin says to Batman, "A girl saving you? It's ridiculous!
Batman feels, rather than skill, it has been just "good luck"
that she's been successful thus far. Later, Batwoman shows she has
values when a crook, hiding in a giant robot costume, plans to slam
her with an oversized fist. Batman pushed her out of the way and
takes the blow. Batwoman leans over the unconscious Batman and
ponders, "While he's unconscious --I could lift his mask and
see who he is. No--I can't do it! He got stunned because he tried
to save me from a blow! I'm to blame for his plight. It wouldn't
be fair for me to unmask him."
Though Batman states through out this
story that he fears for Batwoman's safety
and that she's taking too many risks Robin makes a very telling
remark, when the police gain custody of yet another criminal she
captures, "Batwoman's made us look
like amateurs again!"
The reader gets the impression it is
perhaps competition from a woman that is unnerving the duo and her
safety is not the prime concern. When Batwoman returns to her Bat-cave
she finds a boldly confident Dynamic Duo waiting and Batman says,
"Hello--Kathy!" Batman, his manhood restored, gives her
the drivel about how crooks could find out her identity if he did
and Kathy replies with "I--I never thought of that! I guess
you're right! I-I'll quit my career as Batwoman!" Batman
takes Kathy's portrait of herself as Batwoman for his own Bat-Cave
and with the woman, shown her place in his world, relaxes. Though,
with Robin's last line in the story, "I wonder if we'll ever
fight crime with her again as the Dynamic Trio?" the door was
truly left open for her return.
Batwoman did return and despite no
letters published to support this, the reading public, as Moldoff
stated, "liked the idea" of a Batwoman. Keep in mind
that one of Batwoman's primary functions
was to get Batman to pay attention to a female who would appear
on a regular basis. If Kathy Kane had failed to click with readers,
more than likely, a new Batwoman would have been tried.
Challenge of Batwoman" was presented before the readership
in Batman #105, 1957. Kathy Kane, bored with being a society
girl, pines for her Batwoman days but she can't break her promise
to Batman and don her costume again. The solution arises when Kathy
decides to wear her costume at the masquerade ball. Meanwhile,
Batman and Robin trail a gang of art thieves. The bandit chief
tries to escape when boarding the top of a moving train. A thick
puff of smoke blinds him and he falls. Before blacking out, the
bandit tosses his cowl in the bushes so he can't be identified as
one of the crooks. Batman, twists his
ankle, while trying to chase after him. Robin, goes after the crook and Kathy happens to drive on to
the scene. Kathy recognizes the crook as Curt Briggs, who runs
a physical culture school. She sees part of Brigg's face not blackened
by the engine smoke and makes an incorrect conclusion, "Robin,
it all adds up, your presence here, with a man who wore a cowl!
Curt Briggs is Batman!" Instead of telling Batwoman the truth,
Robin fears that if Kathy saw Bruce Wayne with an injured ankle
and knew the real Batman had the same injury, she would deduce the
truth. Batman must have taught Robin the nature of females, as
the boy wonder couldn't possibly tell Kathy this man is a criminal
who was simply wearing a cowl to cover his face from the police.
She's a woman, after all, who would blare their secret identities over a public address system!
Due to the fall, Briggs has no memory
of who he is and Batwoman, thinking he’s Batman, begins to retrain
him as a crime fighter. Batman thinks this is a good idea for criminals
to think he is still active while recovering from his injury. He
must have a lot of faith in Robin, teaming him up with a woman who
he doesn't feel should be out battling criminals and is training
a crook, wearing his costume! When it's time for the bogus Batman
and Robin to go on patrol, Kathy joins them stating, "Until
Batman regains his memory, Batwoman is coming out of retirement!"
Briggs regains his memory and thinks to himself, "Batman and
Robin must have some private reason for stringing Batwoman along
this way…so I'll pretend I've still got amnesia and lead her and
the kid right into a trap." Briggs, as Batman, does just that
at the scene of his gang's next robbery but the real caped crimefighter
arrives! Batwoman and Robin take care of the Brigg's gang while
Batman, who stood on a dummy leg, says, "Thanks for your help,
Batwoman! Without you, we could have never captured the Briggs gang!"
Robin later says to Kathy, "I'm sorry Batman and I had to trick
you Kathy…but we know you'll understand." Of course, this story taking place
in 1957, Kathy does and puts Batwoman back into "retirement".
While Batwoman certainly held her own in battle in her second outing
this story smacks of male chauvinism. Batman and Robin can't trust
in telling her the truth, mainly because they fear what she would
do if she learned that Bruce Wayne was Batman! Batman, who in the
previous story was afraid of her safety, puts not only Batwoman
but Robin in peril by allowing them to harbor a dangerous criminal.
The entire "trick" Batwoman plot line in this story demonstrates
that women, even those who wore masks and capes, were still second
class citizens in Gotham City and could not readily be trusted to
keep a secret.
were looking up for The Batwoman by her third appearance, though
not in either Batman nor in Detective Comics. In World's
Finest #90, 1957, Batman, Robin and
Superman had to cope with "The Super Batwoman!" Elton
Craig, a "dangerous prisoner" has escaped, looking for
a capsule made by Superman's father, Jor-El.
Once the capsule is taken, the person who took it gains super powers
for twenty-four hours. Batman, Robin and Superman
team up to search for Craig. Kathy Kane, illustrated in a
very beautiful manner, thinks to herself, "I, who was once
Batwoman, could help Batman and Superman
in this emergency! Even though Batman discovered my identity and
insisted I give up my career, he'd surely welcome my aid now!"
However, when Batwoman joins the male
heroes she gets a less than positive reaction! Batman reminds Batwoman
that crooks could learn her secret identity and Superman agrees.
Batwoman, instead of being greeted with admiration for her willingness
to help in this dangerous situation is put in her place by men!
A dejected Batwoman starts homeward but her detective skills lead
her to Craig. She grabs the capsule but can't get past him. I
should note that her weapon's bag was not part of her wardrobe in
this adventure. Batwoman swallows the capsule and returns Craig
to prison. Batman, learning of Batwoman's
powers, favors lecturing her rather than thank her for making the
capture. "You must go home and stay quiet until your powers
have faded away!" Finally, Batwoman, having enough of Batman's
lecturing, lets him have it. "Batman!
I'm tired of your bossing me. Just because you found out my identity,
you think your superior and keep lecturing me!" Batman replies,
"It's only for your own good!" Batwoman attempts to use
her X-Ray vision to see through Batman and Robin's masks. However,
Superman has lined their masks with lead. Superman, the male which
he is, chuckles and says, "Batman's proved that he's too clever
for you Batwoman!"
Batwoman decides to use her powers
to discover their secrets but displaying her respect for their mission
says, "I don't want to obstruct you in your vital work, so
I'll declare a truce whenever you're on a mission--but other times
look out!" This small piece of dialogue shows what a dedicated
crimefighter Kathy Kane so desperately
wanted to be and to help, not hinder her colleagues. However, all
Batman, Robin and Superman saw was a female behind the mask, not
the skills for crime fighting skills she possessed. While conflict
in a story among characters makes for interesting reading, this
constant put-down of Batwoman because Batman presumes she has a
big mouth and would blurt out his secret identity was becoming irksome.
"Superman, with super-powers she could likely
find out who we are and that would be risky for us! Crooks
might trick the secret of our identities out of her!", the one-tracked minded Batman says as Batwoman flies
Batwoman tries to use her powers to
discover their secrets but is thwarted by Batman and Superman. However,
she also uses her powers to help put out a huge fire and stop a
threatening avalanche. Dejected that she failed to learn the men's
secrets, Batwoman says, "I'll go back home and never be Batwoman
again!" Batman, apparently impressed by her heroics stopping
Craig, the fire and avalanche, replies, "No, Batwoman, we think
you've won! You showed such cleverness and courage that I can't
ask you to drop your career completely. Just be careful!"
A beaming Batwoman replies, "Oh, Batman--Superman-- you're
darlings after all!" Why Batman's sudden change of attitude?
In realistic terms, the character of Batwoman was apparently accepted
by the readership and did provide a boost in sales. To keep writing
stories where she comes in and out of retirement would have been
tedious. Batman's acceptance of her role as a crimefighter was reluctant at best, and his desire for her
to retire would remain for awhile.
"The Super Batwoman" was a bit of a step up in Batman's
acceptance of her ability as a crimefighter, her next appearance in "The Crime of Bruce
Wayne" from Detective Comics #249, 1957 reminded the
readers that this was after all, a woman, secondary to a man. Commissioner
Gordon asks Bruce Wayne to be convicted while posing as the criminal,
The Collector. The real Collector is at large in Gotham City. Gordon hopes that while Wayne is in prison, he can learn where a
crook named Squint Neely is hiding blueprints valuable to the police.
Wayne succeeds but during a scuffle with
Squint, the crook hits his head on an iron. The criminals, who
watched the incident, swear Wayne killed him and the warden believes
them! Commissioner Gordon, who has been in an auto accident and
"in a coma ever since" and can't clear Wayne as his operative. Wayne is scheduled to be executed but Robin
swears he will capture the real Collector to prove him innocent.
Bruce says to Robin, "No--you can't do it alone, Dick! You'll
need help! Go to the Batwoman!" While it is refreshing that,
at last, Batman has confidence in Kathy's abilities to entrust his
life in her hands, it is unfortunate that the rest of the story
shines such an indifferent light on her. Robin, explaining that
Batman is away on a case in Europe, asks Kathy to help. She agrees but only on the condition that he works
out of her Bat-Cave and follows her orders.
Who could blame Kathy for wanting this
condition after continually being rejected in her guise as Batwoman?
Perhaps, she was a bit over confidence in making the deal, but her
past being considered, easily understandable. Batwoman and Robin
find the real Collector and his gang pulling a job but when a stray
bullet clips a sculpture that Kathy is under; Robin leaps to her
rescue, allowing the criminals to escape. Batwoman finds hairs at
the scene of the crime and examines them in her Bat-Cave to help
deduce the identity of the masked Collector. Robin, feeling she
has overlooked something in examining the hairs, looks them over
in Batman's Bat-Cave. Sure enough, Batwoman jumped to the wrong
conclusion while Robin deduction was correct. Batwoman, again,
overlooks a vital clue involving fingerprints which Robin detects.
Batwoman and Robin locate the Collector's hideout, take care of
the criminal's gang and Robin discovers the Collector's true identity.
The only saving grace for Batwoman in this story was the conclusion
where Batwoman says to Robin, "Robin, I'm sorry! I shouldn't
have been so smug about those clues! I've been a fool!" At
least she was aware of her faults and being too hasty in her deductions.
Bruce says to Batwoman, "No, Batwoman--from what Robin tells
me, he couldn't have cracked this case without your fine help!
Batman himself couldn't have done better!" Bruce Wayne was
on death's row for most of this story so either he was just being
kind or Robin was filling his head with lies for this story should
have been billed as "Robin" (in bold letters) with "Batwoman,
the glamour gal" (in small letters). While having Batwoman
there to help battle the Collector's gang was helpful to Robin,
it was clearly the Boy Wonder who discovered all the clues and led
to the Collector's capture. It is too bad readers weren't allowed
to read a truly equal partnership between Batwoman and Robin. The
fact, however, Bruce Wayne sent Robin to her rather than Bat-Hound,
was one step further in solidifying Kathy's credibility as a crimefighter. By the way, Commissioner Gordon never did
wake up from his coma by the story's end.
Batman's acceptance of Kathy as Batwoman changed as often as the
weather, for in her next adventure, "Batwoman's
New Identity" from Batman #116, 1958, the description
of the story reads: "There's only one Batwoman--and it's Batman's
opinion that's one too many--for he feels that no girl should pursue
the dangerous occupation of crimefighting."
As this story would indicate to readers, Kathy took her role as
a crime fighter very seriously. She goes to the extreme of deciding
to go undercover and dons a blonde wig and camera, beginning work
as a photographer in gangster Al Talley's club. By snapping photographs
featuring members of the criminal Funny Face gang, she is able to
predict their next strike. Readers are reminded in this story Batwoman
had her own methods to discover where criminals would strike, working
independently from Batman. Batwoman manages to alert a truck carrying
a fur shipment to take a different route to prevent a theft by the
Funny Face Gang. The gang tries to swing an iron ball at Batwoman
but miss. Batwoman, dazed is about to be attacked by the criminals
when Batman and Robin arrive.
When Batman confronts Batwoman regarding her undercover work he
tells her its too dangerous and states, "not so long ago, you promised
to give up crime fighting." She replies, "Why Batman,
you know a lady has the right to change her mind." Later,
one of Funny Face gang recognizes the skin irritation on Batwoman's
shoulder caused by her camera bag and captures her. Locked up, the
still disguised Batwoman uses black carbon paper and a bellows to
send a message to Batman as to where the gang has gathered. Just
as the gang leader prepares to rub off Batwoman's
makeup and remove her wig, Batman and Robin arrive! While Batman
and Robin battle the gang members, Batwoman dives for the gang leader's
leg and handcuffs herself to him saying, "One thing of my Batwoman
costume I always wear are these trick handcuffs." Batwoman
comments to Batman that they make a good team but he replies, "Don't
you know crime fighting is too dangerous for a girl? Sometimes
I wish your secret identity would be exposed so you'd have to quit
being Batwoman!" Batwoman replies, "Someone almost did!
Talley remember? But you interrupted him!" Batman moans,
"Ohh-no-ooo". While this story
did have Batwoman being rescued by Batman and Robin, it also illustrated
she had the ability to locate criminals using her own methods of
detection and alert Batman to their whereabouts.
would not only have to worry about Batman's reluctant acceptance
of her but a rival for his affections as well in Batman#119,
"The Arch Rivals of Gotham City", 1958. Up until now,
Batwoman's romantic feelings towards the
Caped Crusader had not been played up. While it had been mentioned
she admired Batman, it has never been written that she was in love
with him or wished to be Mrs. Batman. The Batwoman and news
photographer, Vicki Vale, who had been seen in Batman's adventures
since 1949 are finalists in "The Woman of the Year Contest".
The judge of the contest gives the ladies six hours to see who is
the most talented in their chosen field.
In World's Finest
#104, 1959, Batman, Robin and Batwoman team up to stop Superman's
arch foe, Luthor from disintegrating the Man of Steel. Though captured
by Luthor's henchmen, Batwoman is able to lead Batman and Robin
to the criminal's hideout by leaving a lipstick trail, to which
Robin remarks, "Batwoman certainly used her head! She used
her lipstick to draw arrows for us to follow."
Batman #126, 1959, Kathy's love for the caped crusader got
the better of her in "The Menace of the Firefly." This
story establishes that Kathy Kane and Bruce Wayne have been dating,
but Kathy gives Bruce the brush off when she thinks that Ted Carson
is really Batman. Carson, turns out is actually the criminal known as Firefly. When
Kathy spotted Carson changing clothes in the bushes, she
thought he was taking off a Batman costume. Batwoman thinks Bruce
Wayne may actually be the Firefly and goes to Carson's home thinking she is alerting Batman.
Carson changes into his Firefly costume and
ties Batwoman in his basement. Batman and Robin arrive where The
Firefly will strike next but are captured. Just when the Firefly
is about to beam a lethal light at the pair, a protective shield
comes hurling from the hands of Batwoman! "Surprised I'm free?
Batwoman says, I managed to get the compact out of my utility purse--broke
the glass and sawed through the ropes!" Later, after the criminal
gang is jailed, Kathy Kane and Bruce Wayne resume dating. The scene
of Batwoman saving Batman and Robin's life by hurling the protective
shield was featured on the comic book cover with text blaring; "Batwoman
teams up with Batman and Robin to battle, The Menace of the Firefly!"
While this story illustrated how Kathy Kane's love for Batman led
her to the wrong conclusions it also demonstrated Batwoman's
ability to escape her own capture and pull off a rescue of the dynamic
critic of Batwoman, stating she was just a woman, wearing a costume
in need of rescuing, will have his opinion questioned after reading,
"The Return of Bat-Mite" from Detective Comics #276,
1960. While this story featured the magical imp from another dimension,
Bat-Mite, whose joy is to see Batman, Robin and Batwoman in action,
the girl gangbuster was featured prominently. Batman scolds Bat-Mite
for using his magic to prolong a battle he and Robin were having
with a gang of criminals. Bat-Mite decides to visit Batwoman who
describes the mite as a "cute little fellow". Later,
Batwoman, with Batman's knowledge, hides in a museum exhibit waiting
for the Hobby Robbers gang to strike. Two criminals show up but
Batwoman pulls out of her utility bag an imitation pearl necklace.
She snaps the string so that the crooks slip on the pearls. Batwoman
is about to rope the pair when Bat-Mite uses his magic to trip up
her up, allowing the crooks to scatter. The criminals try to get
away by climbing a huge organ. Batwoman stomps on the organ's foot
pedals, blowing the criminals in the air. Batwoman swiftly pushes
a huge drum (thanks to Bat-Mite's magic) under the bouncing crooks.
They bounce like yo-yos and, as the text reads, "Batwoman's capable fists take the bounce out of them."
Yes, you read it right; a woman was able to subdue two dangerous
criminals by using her imagination and fists. While Bat-Mite may
have used his magic to prolong the battle and enlarge the drum,
it was Batwoman who used what was at hand to capture the criminals
without any help from neither Batman nor Robin.
Despite Batwoman's achievement, Batman
feels his plan to capture the rest of the Hobby Robbers is too "dangerous,
we can't let Batwoman in on it." Bat-Mite overhearing this
informs Batwoman of Batman's plan, which does nothing but get him
and Robin captured. Batman and Robin find themselves tied to the
end of a pool filled with miniature boats containing real ammunition.
Batwoman dives in the water and uses a smoke bomb to blind the criminals
while she frees Batman and Robin. "It will give me a chance
to free Batman and Robin without interference," she thinks
to herself while hurling the smoke bomb. Does Batwoman get rewarded
from Batman? Instead, he thanks Bat-Mite for informing Batwoman
of his plan.
cover of Batman #129 has become infamous as it depicts female
bondage, which was quite popular during the 1950's. Batwoman is
tied to a huge fan with The Spinner, a criminal, at the controls.
He warns, "Don't come any closer Batman or I'll turn the fan
to full speed and Batwoman will be doomed." As Batwoman saved
Batman and Robin's lives in the recent past, it seems fair that
they rescue her. Of course, seeing the female form tied up on the
cover was certainly an eye catcher to readers. Yet, many people
seem to remember this cover which leads them to believe every story
Batwoman was in, featured her tied to some dangerous trap with Batman
having to rescue her. In this issue's tale, "The Web of the
Spinner", Kathy Kane conducts her own investigation, which
leads her to The Spinner's hideout. She rides up a windmill and
invades the criminal's lair only to be spotted and tied to a spinning
fan. Batman arrives and throws a pitchfork into the fan's controls
and frees Batwoman. Through the combined detective work of both
Batman and Batwoman, the identity of the Spinner is revealed.
A glimpse of what may happen for a
grown-up Robin was seen in "The Second Batman and Robin Team"
from Batman #131, 1960. In this tale of the future, written
by Alfred, Bruce Wayne had married Kathy Kane and she gave birth
to a son, Bruce junior. Later, Bruce junior aid's Dick Grayson, now called "Batman-II", as "Robin-II".
When the pair get into trouble, Bruce Wayne dons his Batman costume and despite
protests from her husband, Kathy becomes Batwoman. When Bruce tells
Kathy to stay home the text reads, "Naturally no man ever wins
an argument with a woman."
Batman #133, 1960, Bat-Mite returns as "Batwoman's
Publicity Agent". The story opens with three criminals pushing
Batwoman off a balcony. Though Batman and Robin arrive at the scene
they're too late to break her fall but suddenly Batwoman loops around
in mid-air and slams back into her attackers, bouncing off an information
booth. Batwoman's capture is caught on
camera and a reporter shouts, "Wow! this
is the greatest single-handed capture of all time!" Batman
asks Batwoman how she pulled off the stunt but the girl gangbuster
doesn't know but suddenly the answer appears in the form of Bat-Mite.
Bat-Mite, again, wants to become Batwoman's partner but his nature to cause trouble gets the
better of him and he pops back to his own dimension. Batwoman says,
"Funny..though I just can't stay angry with that cute little
imp! When do you suppose he'll return again?"
In Detective Comics #285, 1960,
"The Mystery of The Man-Beast", a caveman, who has been
in refrigeration thaws out and escapes. Batman and Robin go after
the caveman and Kathy thinks, "I'd better slip into my costume…maybe
Batman will need the help of Batwoman." By this time in Batwoman's
career, it's apparent she didn't care what Batman thought of her
efforts to be a crime fighter. Batman and Robin have a tough time
stopping the caveman until Batwoman arrives with a roast chicken,
which calms the beast down. "You men, Batwoman says, you always
think you know everything! You didn't stop to think that he might
be hungry after sleeping thousands of years!" Robin looks at
the caveman, who has been gassed to sleep and says, "Wow--look
at his muscles! The toughest guy in the world, but he's beaten now!"
Batman chimes in with "Beaten by a woman no less." The beast later escapes with Batman, Robin and Batwoman in pursuit.
Along a mountainside, a lion springs towards Batwoman when suddenly
the caveman appears and wrestles with the beast. The pair tumbles
over a cliff and Batman thinks that it's best as he could not adapt
in this world.
bizarre criminal battles the crimefighting
trio in Detective Comics #286, 1960, "The Doomed Batwoman".
One could appreciate the adventures of one Bat-female in Batman's
life but this issue introduced another in a story called, "Bat-Girl!"
Betty Kane, upon visiting her Aunt Kathy discovers her secret life,
whips up a costume and becomes the teen-aged Bat-Girl. Feeling
distinctly like Batman must have in adventures past,
Kathy seeks council from Batman on how to dissuade her from dangerous
crime fighting. Batman suggests that Kathy keep her in training
until it's time for her to go home. Betty catches wise to Kathy's
plan and heads out on her own to capture the Cobra Gang. Although
she finds the gang on her own, she gets captured. Bat-Girl manages
to send out a paper Bat-Signal which alerts Batman, Robin and Batwoman
to the scene. The foursome, their talents combined, capture the Cobra Gang and
Batwoman says to Bat-Girl maybe they will go out on a case together
While Bat-Girl was a cute addition to the Batman Family, probably
added for the same reason Batwoman was, to give Robin a love interest
and stifle those homosexual rumors, her presence did take away some
of Batwoman's uniqueness. It simply was
a matter of one Bat-female too many and, along with Bat-Mite and
Bat-Hound, gave the impression that anyone could be Bat-something
and battle criminals in Gotham City. One interesting footnote to this
story featured a scene where Betty is watching Batwoman on television.
The news announcer says, "Surprising thieves robbing the safe
of a manufacturer of school supplies, Batwoman instantly went into
action." Batwoman slams several stools at two criminals and
follows up the capture by upsetting a box of gold stars. As Betty
watches, she thinks to herself, "Golly! She's wonderful! How
I wish I could be like her!" This brief scene illustrated
that not only was Batwoman able to track down criminals on her own
but nabs them without Batman or Robin's help. The more sophisticated
Batman fan often forgets this fact today.
Batwoman was featured on the cover,
and in a minor role, in Batman #140, 1961. "The
Eighth Wonder of Space". In this tale, Batman and Robin
are turned into strange alien creatures. The interesting aspect
in this story is that we learn Commissioner Gordon knows that Batman
learned the secret identity of Batwoman, though it doesn't look
as though Gordon knows who she is.
returned to help Batman, Robin and Batwoman in Batman #141,
1961 billed as "Batwoman's Junior
Partner". Bat-Girl not only manages to help Robin capture
the Moth but frees Batman and Batwoman from a dangerous trap. While
Bat-Girl may have been introduced to gain more girls to buy comics,
Robin's displeasure of Bat-Girl's overt affection towards him, did
little to help some wonder if he would rather be sending flowers
to Batman. By this time in Batman's comic book career a letter
page was added, with reader's stating, "How did Batwoman get
started on her career? She's one of my favorite characters, and
I would like to know more about her". One reader wrote that,
though he appreciated the Batman Family of characters, felt there
presence was taking away the uniqueness of Batman. The reply was
that many readers felt the opposite and wanted to see more of The
Batman Family. Batwoman was briefly seen in Batman #144,
1961 in "Bat-Mite Meets Bat-Girl", which featured the
imp trying to play matchmaker between Bat-Girl and Robin.
Batwoman and Robin had to cope with
a giant Batman in Detective Comics #292, 1961 when he became
"The Colossus of Gotham City". During this stage in his
career, Batman was being transformed into all kinds of strange creatures.
In this tale, he becomes a giant and Kathy Kane thinks to herself,
"Batman knows I'm Batwoman--but I only suspect that he's Bruce
Wayne". When the Batman giant is unmasked by thugs, the crimefighter
had the foresight to disguise his face beforehand, leaving Batwoman
to comment, "This proves again how wrong I was to suspect that
Bruce Wayne was Batman!" When Batman begins to shrink back
to normal size during a battle, Robin and Batwoman swing to his
aid. Batman appeared more pleased that a ruse he planned with Superman,
"even fooled Kathy Kane" to keep his Bruce Wayne identity
a secret than being returned too normal. This 1950's mentality,
that women must be secondary to men in the deductive field, was
carried over into Batwoman's next appearance, in the physical sense.
In Detective Comics #302, 1961,
Batwoman, again, works independently from Batman and Robin to track
down "The Bronze Menace". In one scene Batwoman swings
down from a rope to capture a criminal stealing
rare sculptures. Suddenly two more thugs appear and when
Batwoman sees them she thinks to herself, "Oh dear--too many
for me to handle, I'm afraid!" One crook throws a net on her
while the others scatter until Batman and Robin arrive. Batman
orders Robin to, "Help Batwoman with that net". It appears
that for every step Batwoman took forward in proving herself a capable
crimefighter, the male writer couldn't
resist reminding the audience, "hey, she is a woman, after
all"! Later in the story, Batwoman's
pursuit of a criminal leads her to discover that Batman and Robin
have been turned into Bronze Statues. She not only revives the crimefighters
but also turns the criminals into statues. If it wasn't for the
writer of this story's decision to have Batwoman save the day, that
"Oh dear" scene, would have severely set back Batwoman's crime fighting career.
Detective Comics #307, 1962 saw Batman, Robin and Batwoman confront yet another
science fiction related problem in the form of "Alpha, The
Experimental Man!" Alpha, an artificial man made of synthetics
falls in love with Batwoman and says to her, "Batwoman! You
are not un-nice to look at!" Batwoman turns to Batman and says,
"Did you hear that compliment Batman? I wish you could be as
sweet to me!" Alpha, while looking at Batwoman and Batman chatting
thinks to himself, "Her face--her eyes grow soft--when she looks
at Batman!" Alpha ends up saving Batwoman's life when she becomes trapped on a ledge but Batman
never says to her, she is "un-nice" to look at.
1962 featured a major turning point in Batman and Batwoman's
relationship. In "Prisoners of Three Worlds", Batwoman
and Bat-Girl aid the crimefighting males
in battling a creature from another world. The alien creature sends
Robin and Bat-Girl back to his world while splitting Batman and
Batwoman into two beings. One set of Batman and Batwoman are pure
energy, stranded on an alien planet, while their earthly bodies
remain in a weakened state. Batman and Batwoman huddle together,
awaiting death as their bodies become weaker and weaker. Batwoman,
says to Batman, "Hold me close! If I must die I want to be
in your arms! Oh, Batman! You know I love you--dying wouldn't
be so bad, if I knew you loved me too--". Batman's eyes widen
and he replies, "I--I do love you! I never wanted to admit
it before." Batwoman then kisses Batman. Of course, after
Batman and Batwoman retain their energy selves and defeat the alien,
Batman explains to Batwoman, "Well-er
Batwoman, I thought we were going to die and I wanted to make your
last moments happy ones!" Batwoman
says, "hmmm--I wonder." While Batman had an excuse for admitting
he loved Batwoman, Bat-Girl also planted a kiss on Robin in this
story. By the end of the tale, Robin was finally smitten with Batwoman's
junior partner. Perhaps, Batman couldn't commit to Batwoman because
it wasn't the macho thing to do during this period of time?
role is minor in Batman #157, 1963, "The Hunt for Batman's
Secret Identity", Batman acknowledges Batwoman's bravery as a crime fighter. When Batman and Robin
dart out a door to chase after the Mirror Man and his gang they
see the fallen figure of Batwoman! Batwoman explains, "I heard
the news flash--came to investigate and saw the Mirror Man and his
gang running out. I tried to stop them, but they overpowered me!"
Batman, putting his hand on Batwoman's chin says, "You did a brave thing tackling
those men alone, Batwoman! You've always been a big help--so don't
feel too badly about this!" Finally! Batman has fully accepted
and come to appreciate what Kathy Kane has done to battle crime
in her role as Batwoman. It's too bad she is not seen capturing
any criminals in this story, which revolves around Vicki Vale, but
you, can't get everything from this era.
Batwoman, again in a minor role, attempts
to capture the Cat-Man in Detective Comics #311, 1963, "The
Challenge of The Cat-Man". She gets tied up by the Cat-Man
who falls in love with her. Batman arrives and thanks Batwoman
for delaying him but the feline crook becomes smitten with the girl
gangbuster. This was an interesting role reversal as The Catwoman
was in love with Batman and now a Cat-Man has fallen for Batwoman.
Bat-Girl teamed again with Batwoman
in "The Great Clayface-Joker Feud"
from Batman #159, 1963. Clayface,
a shape-changing criminal and The Joker decide to see who can outwit
Batman first. The Joker gets snagged in a net sprung from two whirly-bats,
operated by Batwoman and Bat-Girl.
was revealed in Detective Comics #318, 1963, "The Cat-Man
Strikes Back" that the public thought Batman and Batwoman were
an item. Cat-Man, having saved Batwoman from falling into a ravine,
stirs mixed emotions regarding his capture in the lady crimefighter.
"What a strange man he is, good-looking, intelligent--yet a
criminal! What a waste." Batman and Batwoman decide to use
Cat-Man's romantic feelings towards her as a way to locate his hide
out and capture him. Batman and Batwoman have a public argument
where she says, "Cat-Man was right about you! Crimefighting
is your only love. Don't ever talk to me again!" Batwoman
then slaps Batman (something this writer thinks she should have
done when he was bossing her around, earlier in her career!). The
newspaper headline reads, "Batman and Batwoman Split-Up."
Batwoman, disguised as a little old lady, gets Cat-Man's men to
take her to his lair where she puts on a Cat-Woman costume to prove
her loyalty to the feline felon. Of course, Batwoman becoming Cat-Woman
is all a ruse so she can alert Batman and Robin to Cat-Man's hide
out. The plan does nothing but end all three crimefighters in predicaments. Batwoman is taken hostage
by Cat-Man while Batman and Robin imprisoned. With the help of
Bat-Hound, Batman and Robin blast their way free and go after Cat-Man.
Cat-Man speeds away on his boat with Batman in pursuit. The feline
foe prepares to throw a razor sharp catarang
at Batman when Batwoman slams into him throwing him off balance
and her into the water. Batman decides to rescue Batwoman and they
watch the Cat-Man's boat hit a buoy and explodes! They both wonder
if the Cat-Man has survived and will return.
Batwoman again saves Batman and Robin's
lives in Detective Comics #321, 1963, "The Terrible
Trio". Batman disguises himself as a convict, Elton Craig,
to get in league with the terrible trio; The Fox, The Shark and
The Vulture. Batwoman, not aware that Craig is Batman, trails him
to the trio's hideout. Batman and Robin attempt to capture the trio
but are stunned by an electrical floor built to stop them. The crooks
decide to smuggle the pair right out of this world. When Batman
and Robin awake they find themselves in two separate missiles, launched
skyward. Being able to communicate via there belt-radio, Batman
says to Robin, "Robin--I'm afraid this looks like our finish!
G-good bye lad.." Meanwhile Batwoman
has snuck into the trio's lair and adjusted the missile's controls
so that Batman and Robin can return to earth. When spotted by the
criminals she tosses her expanded hairnet in the air, which lands
on the threesome. The Shark's miniature harpoons snag her cape
and pin her to the wall while the Vulture rips through the net with
his talon knife. Batman and Robin appear and capture the crooks
before they can harm Batwoman. Batman says, while rushing in, "Batwoman..now
I'm beginning to understand how those manual controls in the missiles
were suddenly turned on!" Batwoman says to Batman it's a
good thing that she never suspected he was convict
Elton Craig or she wouldn't have followed the phony criminal to
the trio's hideout. This story certainly illustrates the advantage
of having Batwoman around for Batman found no way out of his peril
and said farewell to the boy wonder.
Batwoman was involved in "The Batman Creature" from Batman
#162, 1964. Once gain, Batman is transformed into some weird
creature, this time a Bat-Ape. Only Batwoman
is able to control him and she helps Robin nab the criminals behind
his transformation. Batman is later returned too normal. Kathy
Kane's notion that Bruce Wayne is Batman was played up again in
"The Ghost of Batman" from World's Finest #139,
1964. Bruce asks Superman to stand in for Batman while he goes
on a date with Kathy to halt her suspicions. Superman, dressed
as Batman is caught in an explosion and to help find the criminals,
who caused it, Superman flies about dressed as a Batman-ghost!
Meanwhile, it is reported Batman was killed in the explosion to
panic the criminals. Batwoman manages to capture one of the criminals
involved to the dismay of Batman and Superman. The crimefighting
duo wanted the criminal Batwoman caught to get away in hopes he
would lead the pair to the entire gang's hideout. Once all the criminals
are caught and the Batman ghost revealed to be a hoax, Kathy is
again tricked into thinking that Bruce Wayne and Batman are two
separate people. Wayne thinks to himself that it was a good thing Kathy suspected
him of being Batman or he never would have
asked Superman to double for him and he would have died in the explosion.
So, in a sense, this time Kathy Kane saved Batman's life.
Alfred wrote another of his tales of
the future featuring a married Bruce Wayne and Kathy Kane. Kathy's
niece Betty comes to visit and decides no longer to be Bat-Girl
but, "Bat-Girl--Batwoman II" in Batman #163, 1964.
This would be the last time Batwoman/Kathy Kane would be in the
pages of Batman. Detective Comics #325, 1964 saw the return
of the Cat-Man in "The Strange Lives of The Cat-Man."
It was the costume the criminal wore which saved him from doom in
his last two outings. The costume, made on a small pacific island,
which worshipped cats, protects the wearer from harm, giving them
nine lives. When Batman and Robin are tied in the middle of the
street with Cat-Man setting the road on fire, Batwoman wearing her
Cat-Woman costume walks through the fire to save the pair, ""Don't
worry! I'm coming to free you", she says. The Cat-Woman costume
is made from the same material as Cat-Man's attire. Batwoman then
uses up many of the costume's lives to catch up to the Cat-Man,
who is perched on a high rise. Cat-Man says to Batwoman, "I love you--but I love freedom
more! I cannot allow you to capture me!" He manages to push
a large elephant statue, causing Batwoman to fall back to her doom.
Batman and Robin arrive and the caped crimebuster
catches the falling Batwoman. Batman says to Batwoman, "I'm
glad you phoned police headquarters when you tracked the Cat-Man
to this place!" Batwoman replies, "I'm glad I decided
at the last minute not to play this alone." Although,
since the costume had one life left, Batwoman would have survived
the fall. In the last panel, Batman, Robin and Batwoman
see a jailed Cat-Man. This would be Kathy Kane's final appearance
in costume in Detective Comics.
In 1964, the sales on both Batman
and Detective were low. While many contribute this decline
Bat-Hound, Bat-Mite and Bat-Girl, letters have indicated readers
wanted to see more of these characters. In truth, too many Bat-characters
did spoil the brew in addition to the outlandish science fiction
stories, which were, totally out of Batman's element. They were
there, as Sheldon Moldoff said, "One of those things must have worked,
so they kept trying." Moldoff also
stated regarding this period in Batman's adventures, "Society
changes and the readers wanted more realism in art and story line."
Batwoman probably could have been used, on occasion, if the other
Bat-characters were retired but when editor Julius Schwartz took
over --he cleaned house. The "New Look" Batman began
in Detective Comics #327, 1964 and featured more modern artwork.
Alfred, was killed off and Dick Grayson's
Aunt Harriet was brought in to avoid that question, "What do
three men do in a mansion together?"
Batman's sales began to slowly climb
but it was the debut of the Batman TV series in January of
1966 which made him a household name. An array of Batman related
merchandise was produced and oddly enough, Batwoman was included
in a few products. Though using the wrong colors for her costume
there was a Batwoman paper doll and Batwoman flasher ring. Some
products used the image of Batwoman and called her Catwoman! The
Catwoman, had long since vanished from the comics and apparently
there were no model sheets available for the feline criminal. Manufacturers, used Batwoman's image
by mistake. In a 1966 issue of Castle of Frankenstein featuring an article on the Batman
series, there is a picture of Batwoman, smiling, on her Bat-Cycle.
The caption under the photo states this is how The Catwoman currently
appears in the comics!?!
1965 Kathy Kane appeared as Bruce Wayne's wife and later, as Batwoman
in Worlds Finest #154, in the imaginary story, "The
Sons of Superman and Batman". Kathy Kane, with gray in her
hair also appeared in Worlds Finest #157, 1966, "The
Abominable Brats". Beyond that, Batwoman was seen only in
reprinted stories. She was also getting bashed in letter columns
when compared to the "new" Batgirl, who, debuted in Detective
Comics #359, 1966. This mod-dressed, red haired Batgirl was
Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon. This Batgirl relied
on karate and judo to battle criminals which was more appropriate
to her time period as Batwoman using her weapon's bag in the late
1950's. Still, when compared to Batgirl, Batwoman took a beating
as in this letter from Detective Comics #417, 1971:
"I'd like to say a few words about the reaction some readers
have to Batgirl. These are readers who remember Batwoman and the
other Bat-girls from year's back. These characters were invented
when the time was right for bats. They were there because romance
seemed to be needed in Batman's life. But thanks to the big change
and a foresighted editor, these hapless females are gone for good.
In their place stands a girl who is a capable crime-fighter, a far
cry from Batwoman who constantly had to be rescued from Batman."
In 1975, DC Comics began publishing
Batman Family, which was a spin-off of the successful Superman
Family comic book. The lead characters in Batman Family were
Batgirl and Robin. While Batgirl and Robin were featured in new
stories (often teamed together) the rest of the comic reprinted
old Batman adventures. The letter column featured in Batman
Family #4 featured this comment from a reader, "It is totally
beyond me why you ignored Batwoman in your first two issues. With
the "new look" Batman a successful eleven years old, I
can understand your reluctance to go back to the days where everybody
in Gotham had a Bat-identity, but you can't
wipe out Batwoman that easily." The following issue of Batman
Family said more of the same from a reader, "The only thing
I didn't like was Batwoman's reappearance in a reprint. I was counting on her
making the scene in a new story, perhaps coming out of retirement
to offer assistance to your Dynamite Duo? How about it? The reply
from editor Bob Rozakis planted the seed
for Batwoman's return; "Who knows what will happen? If enough
readers demand it, maybe Kathy Kane will don her Batwoman costume
and more requests for the return of Batwoman poured in, too many
to be ignored and she was revived in Batman Family #10, 1977.
On the cover of Batman Family #10, Batgirl is caught in a
struggle with two criminals, Killer Moth and The Cavalier. Batwoman
is pictured in a box, billed as "Batgirl's guest heroine".
Killer Moth is a criminal wearing a moth costume whom first appeared
in the 1950's. The Cavalier goes back to the 1940's. Both criminals
had been put into limbo but, along with Batwoman, were revived for
this story called, "Those Were the Bad Old Days." Written
by Bob Rozakis, with obvious affection
for Kathy Kane, the story begins with Barbara reading a letter addressed
to Batgirl asking isn't it about time she change her name to Batwoman?
Barbara thinks to herself that there was a Batwoman before she started
crime fighting and wonders about her current whereabouts. Kathy
meets Barbara in Providencetown, mentioning
she hasn't been back to Gotham City since she left eight years ago to
run a carnival. When Bruce Wayne is mentioned, Kathy says, "Ah..Bruce..still the carefree bachelor, I'm sure! There was
a time when I hoped--but you don't want to hear the leftover dreams
of a retired jet-setter."
When both Killer Moth and The Cavalier attack Batgirl, Batwoman
joins the fray, to the shock of the red-haired lady crimefighter.
Batwoman explains to Batgirl, "I've been in retirement for
years, but when I heard The Cavalier was back in action I decided
to take the old costume out of mothballs." This is a shaky
reason at best when one considers all of the dangerous criminals
who have appeared, while Kathy was in retirement. During the course
of the story, Barbara and Kathy stumble upon each other's identities
and bring both criminals to justice. Barbara asks Kathy, "Is
Batwoman going back into retirement?" Kathy replies, "Guess
so! It was fun wearing the old costume again…chasing around like
I was a big important crimefighter--but I'm no spring chicken anymore! I'll leave
the criminals--and The Batwoman name to you--you're a most worthy
successor." Barbara responds, "It's an honor Kathy--but
I think I'll stick with being Batgirl. There has been and always
will be only one Batwoman..and retired or not, it's
While the story was well written and
the characterization of Kathy Kane well defined, Batwoman just wasn't
the same. Her costume was now a yellow body suit, with black lines.
While she retained her red cape, she no longer sported a red diamond
in the center of her waist. She had fur trim around her red gloves
and no weapon's bag slung over her shoulder. This version of Batwoman
certainly didn't need a weapon's bag, as she was prone to using
her acrobatic skills to battle the criminals. She was also pretty
capable with her fists. Clearly, Batwoman was seen as an older
version of Batgirl losing the costumed elements, which made her
unique during the late 1950's and early 1960's.
wanted to see more of Batwoman after this story was published.
One reader stated: "The revived and revised Batwoman is a resounding
success!" Another said, "Stupendous--that's the word
I use to describe the return of the original daredoll--Batwoman." Others comments included, "It's
ridiculous for you to even talk about re-retiring a dynamite character
like her" and "she is too interesting to retire."
Unfortunately Batwoman's follow up appearance
was less than stellar, featuring a weak story and even weaker art.
Batman Family #14, 1977 presented, "Old Super-Heroines
Never Die--They Just Fade Away", written by Bob Rozakis.
Batwoman arrives at Barbara Gordon's apartment, fading away. Barbara,
in tears, tries to discover what happened to Batwoman. With Robin's
help, she learns Batwoman tried to stop two thieves, who worked
for Kathy Kane's carnival, from robbing a mansion. One of the crooks
hits Batwoman with a weapon called, "The Convincer".
Batwoman's body slowly begins to disintegrate
and so will anyone else whom she has been in contact with, including
Batgirl and Robin! Batgirl and Robin catch the criminals and restore
Batwoman to normal, who was actually inside her costume all along. Batwoman's role in this story was little more than a cameo
and the only brief exchange worth mentioning is when she says to
Robin, "Believe me…after this, I'm going to stay in retirement."
Robin replies, "I'll believe that when I see it." Batwoman's
costume was altered in this story as now a red-outlined bat symbol
blazed across her chest.
Before getting into Batwoman's next appearance it should be noted to explain how
characters such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman didn't seem
to age in comics, DC established the concept of Earth-II. This
was the earth where Superman made his debut in 1938, never was Superboy
and didn't have a cousin, Supergirl, Wonder
Woman battled Nazis during World War II
and Batman arrived on the scene in 1939
using a gun in his early adventures. Through out the 1960's and
1970's, the characters on Earth-II were seen quite a bit. If a
storyline could not be introduced in the younger version of Superman's
career, it would become part of the Earth-II Man of Steel's life.
For example, on Earth-II Superman married, reporter Lois Lane and Batman wed Selina Kyle, The reformed
Catwoman. On Earth-II, Selina Wayne gave birth to a daughter, Helena.
When Selina is blackmailed into one more crime as Catwoman, she
is killed. Helena dons the costume of The Huntress to
not only avenge her mother's death but replace her father as the
guardian of Gotham City.
Wayne's doubts of becoming the Huntress was worked into the first
story depicted in Batman Family #17, 1978, "Scars".
Helena travels to Earth-One, the planet where
the younger versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman reside
(and presumably the earth where there adventures, post-1960, have
taken place). Helena meets with Batman who suggests that
she seek the council of an "older, experienced super-heroine--and
I know just the person--Kathy Kane!" Batman takes Helena to meet Kathy and while this would
be the first meeting of Batman and Kathy Kane since 1964, it's hardly
a big reunion scene. Now, think for a moment, Batman is taking
Helena Wayne, the daughter of Bruce Wayne from another Earth to
meet Kathy Kane. Helena explains to Kathy who she is, what
her connection is to the Earth-II Batman and Catwoman and maybe,
just maybe do you think Kathy is smart enough to figure who the
Earth-1 Batman really is? While this is certainly never mentioned
in the story, one should hope Kathy Kane isn't that dumb.
The meeting of Kathy and Helena is
really just a set-up for the next story which appears in the same
issue, "Horoscopes of Crime". Barbara Gordon joins Helena
and Kathy to do battle with The Catwoman, Poison Ivy and a new criminal
called, Madame Zodiac. Batwoman's role in this story is saved until the last act
where she confronts Madame Zodiac who hits her with a trash can
lid. Batwoman whacks the lid out of her hands and says, "Lady--I've
been doing this stuff for years--and I've been hit with a lot worse
than a trash can lid--so you tell me what you see in these stars."
With that Batwoman, belts Madame Zodiac with her fist - "POW!"
While there was an interesting confrontation between The Huntress
and the Earth-1 Catwoman, it would have
also been thought provoking to explore Batwoman's
first meeting with the feline criminal. Both women, after all,
had a mutual attraction towards Batman and Batwoman did take Catwoman's place in his life when she vanished from the chronicles
next appeared with Batgirl in two issues of Freedom Fighters
#14 and #15, 1978, written by Bob Rozakis.
The pair help the Freedom Fighters, a group
of superheroes wanted by the law, battle an alien invasion, which
takes place in Providencetown near Kathy
Kane's Kolossal Karnival.
Batwoman became a team player in this story using her fists to battle
the aliens. A red bat-symbol was now a part of her uniform, appearing
across her breasts.
I recall, when I first read the news
regarding the death of Kathy Kane. I was flipping through the latest
issue of Detective Comics and the letter column started with
"As expected the death of Kathy Kane brought a loud cry of
protest?" I was stunned, when did I miss this? I quickly
grabbed the back issue of Detective Comics, where this event
took place. It was issue #485, 1979 and the lead story was called
"The Vengeance Vow". Batman arrives at Kathy's carnival
after getting a tip The League of Assassins would be there. Kathy
is already doing battle with the assassins upon Batman's arrival.
They exchange pleasantries when a man in a tiger mask bursts in
and declares, "We have come for the women!" Batman boasts,
"You'll have to get past me first!" The tiger- masked
figure kicks Batman, which causes him to pass out but before he
blacks out, he sees the rise and fall of steel and "hears Kathy's
Batman awakens and discovers that Kathy managed to crawl away, clutch
her Batwoman costume and dies. "She died, Batman says, clutching
her costume, the clothes she once wore as Batwoman." Batman's
mysterious foe, Ras Al Ghul,
tipped off the League of Assassins that Kathy was a threat to their
organization. Ras Al Ghul wanted Batman to eliminate
his competition, The League of Assassins, out of vengeance. What
is disturbing about this story was that Batman,
woke up the next morning, more concerned that he was knocked out
by one blow to the chest rather than the death of a close friend.
Sure, Batman arrived at the murderer's lair, threw Batwoman's
mask down as a challenge to the masked muscle man, called The Bronze
Tiger and captured Kathy's two killers.
Was there another motive behind killing Kathy Kane other than telling
a gripping story? Denny O'Neil, the writer of "The Vengeance
Vow", stated in an interview, "we already had Batgirl,
we didn't need Batwoman." The truth is the sales on Detective
Comics were getting so low, there was talk of cancellation.
Instead, the magazine was combined with the more popular Batman
In order to boost sales of Detective
Comics, both O'Neil and the publishers at DC Comics, felt that
the killing of a beloved character would boost reader interest.
Once Kathy was killed, her death wasn't mentioned by Batgirl, who
had become close friends with her nor Betty Kane, the original Bat-Girl,
who had been revived in the comic book, Teen Titans, shortly
after Batwoman's return. While readers
praised the story, many felt that Kathy should have survived. As one reader summed it up: "Though used infrequently, the character
of Batwoman is too good to lose".
The fanzine, "The Heroines Showcase" paid tribute to The
Batwoman in issue #18, Summer 1980. The
author of the piece had this say regarding her demise, "I've
just been re-reading Detective #485 wherein Batwoman gets
bumped off by the League of Assassins and I must admit being…well,
disturbed. For one thing it's the unexpected nature of her demise;
a far cry from the usual comic book "death" (blasted into
another "another dimension" and back in six issues) she's
stabbed in the belly and bleeds to death, which is a hell of a mess
and undignified way to go - besides being painful, of course. Not
that it seems to worry Batman a lot, which is the second unpleasant
aspect of this story; oh, he vows revenge, sure, but so what? He's
done that much for total strangers in the past - considering that
this is a woman he once came to admitting he loved; I would have
expected just a little sorrow. And since it was his under-estimation
of a foe who indirectly caused her death,
a trace of guilt or self-doubt might have been in order. But no…after
all, Kathy Kane's murder was basically just a cheap trick to launch
Batman into action. One can almost see O'Neil plotting the story,
"Now lessee...what can I do for a springboard to get Bats into
yet another rematch with the boring old League of Assassins? Oh
yeah…I'll kill off Batwoman and have him swear revenge…after all,
who's gonna miss her?" Well, I will.
Oh, you could argue that she was a silly character but that doesn't
mean potential couldn't have been developed. People have regarded
Batwoman as "femme" or "cutest" but I'd point
out that she saved Batman almost as often as he saved her, which
for a heroine of the unliberated fifties
wasn't bad going and I one, thought her cosmetic weapons were appealing
and distinctive…no I thought Batwoman had a lot going for her and
I resent her being killed when such bland boring characters as Vicki
Vale, the original Bat-Girl and indeed, the present Batgirl, are
was at my local comic book store when I spotted the cover to The
Brave and The Bold #182, 1982, a comic,
which teamed Batman with various heroes. Was that Batwoman on the
cover, along with Batman and what appeared to be an older version
of Robin? Though her cape was colored blue rather than red, it
was indeed...Batwoman. How, I thought, she's dead?!? The story,
"Interlude on Earth-II" begins with Dick Grayson, now
a US Ambassador, investigating a freak
electrical storm with Ted Knight, known as the hero, Starman.
Professor Hugo Strange, one of the original Batman's earliest foes,
thought long dead, is causing the storm. He steals Starman's
cosmic rod and warns the pair that he will destroy Gotham City in twenty-four hours. Meanwhile the
Earth-1 Batman is drawn to a cemetery and almost hit by lighting.
The lighting causes a dimensional rift and he is transported to
Earth-II, in front of the graves of the Earth-II Bruce Wayne and
his wife, Selina. Robin asks Batman if he will help stop Hugo Strange
and the two set out to locate the madman. Robin soon resents Batman
giving him orders, as he is no longer the "boy wonder".
Strange creates images from Robin's past to create havoc in Gotham including one of the Spinner's old
weapons, a giant top! Before Batman or Robin can stop the destruction
it will surely cause, a thin rope grabs the top and steers it out
of harm's way. Robin says, "Who on earth could have done--?"
A woman's voice says, "Dear Robin! How soon they forget!"
Robin turns and shouts, "Batwoman?!" While she is wearing
the revised costume of The Batwoman of Earth-1, we are now introduced
to her Earth-II counterpart. When Batwoman sees the figure of Batman,
she says, "Oh my lord who--?" that said, Batman kisses Batwoman on the cheek, much to her
The story, written by Alan Brennert, was filled with rich characterization from all involved.
It was a great tale for nostalgists, featuring appearances of items from Batman's
Reader's comments included, "great,
I especially liked the Batman/Robin and Batman/Batwoman interplay."
Another wrote, "one of my favorite scenes was the meeting of Batman and Batwoman,
each knowing their counterparts are deceased." Today, this
story is regarded as a classic and praise for it continues today.
The death of the Earth-1 Kathy Kane actually benefits this tale,
making it her demise almost worth it. I repeat, almost, worth it.
Batwoman again appeared in The Brave
and the Bold #197, 1983, in a cameo role. In another Alan Brennert script, "The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne",
readers learned the details leading up to the marriage of Batman
and Catwoman (Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle). While Bruce Wayne and
Dick Grayson attend the wedding of one of Wayne's old girlfriend's Linda Page, The
Scarecrow creates a panic in the crowd. The Scarecrow, long an
enemy of Batman, prompts both Bruce and Dick to get into costume.
Kathy Kane, also at the wedding, dons her costume to try and "quell
the panic". The Batwoman is seen in her original costume and
though she appears briefly, is a welcome addition to the story.
In 1985 DC Comics decided to get rid
of all there various Earth's and duplicate characters by creating
the twelve part series, Crisis on Infinite Earths. By the
story's end, literally millions of people died; their earths being
consumed by anti-matter. Earth-II was pretty much gone, being merged
with Earth-1 with only the modern versions of Batman, Robin and
Superman (and their histories) remained. Originally, Batwoman,
Bat-Hound, Bat-Girl and Bat-Mite were all erased from Batman's history
(though Bat-Mite has crept back in). Betty Kane is now known as
Flamebird and although Kathy Kane's death
had been mentioned in an issue of Suicide Squad involving
The Bronze Tiger, she was never Batwoman,
just a friend of Batman's who ran a carnival. Through the years
DC Comics has chosen to kill off a number of their once-renown heroines
including, The Huntress (Helena Wayne) The original Black Canary,
The Spoiler (a purple
garbed crimefighter who appeared in various
Batman related stories), Kole, Lilth,
both members of the Teen Titans; and Hawkwoman. Barbara Gordon,
was shot by the Joker. No longer Batgirl, she now fights crime
as the wheelchaired bound, Oracle. Surely
if Batwoman hadn't been killed off in 1979, DC Comics would have
been rid of her by the end of the 1990s. Murdering women appears
to be all the rage at DC Comics while the
male heroes who have been killed, have a way of coming back.
Kane's role as Batwoman was revived in a bizarre way in Batman:
Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #6, 1996. Titled, "The
Executioner's Song”, Kathy Kane is the daughter of a Batman of the
future who learns that her father had been duped into executing
innocent citizens. Duped by a Commissioner who
wanted a threat of terror to grip the citizens of this futuristic
Gotham City, Kathy Kane takes
on the Bat-Mantle from her late father as The Batwoman. In a well written tale by Alan Grant,
Kathy Kane retains her familiar looks and beauty but her costume
as Batwoman consists of body armor with a bat-symbol on her breast.
She wears a small bat shaped mask with her massive hair flowing
out behind her. Her weapon of choice is a sword, which she uses
with terrifying precision. Her story tied in with the modern day
Batman as her family adopted the symbol of the Bat upon hearing
"tales of Gotham's greatest hero". Still, when
readers weighed in on this story, they mentioned the Batwoman of
old, with her weapon's bag and the like. One writer responded with,
"True the very name Batwoman usually elicits wall to wall groans,
but I like her. I liked her spring-coiled powder puffs, her yellow
costume and yes, her purse. I like her niece, the Batgirl and the
camaraderie she shared with Batman. This was the woman I envisioned
Bruce marrying, not the trampy Catwoman.
My Kathy Kane didn't have really big hair, chain-mail armor, or
an axe but when you really love a character, you get what you can
and well, this Batwoman is cool!"
with weapon bag intact, wearing her original costume, did return
- well, sort of, in The Kingdom: Planet Krypton#1, 1999.
In "Haunted", written by Mark Waid,
young Rose D'Angelo becomes a waitress
at a super hero theme restaurant called, Planet Krypton. While
locking up one night she is visited by what appears to be "ghosts".
Actually, there transparent figures of heroes and heroines not part
of DC Comics current storylines. For example, The Earth-II Robin,
Superboy, Supergirl, Insect Queen, Diana Prince (a non-powered version
of Wonder Woman) and a host of others appear to listen as Rose discusses
her problems. Michael Carter, the owner of the restaurant calls
in Batman to investigate the ghostly visitors. In doing so, Batman
has an encounter with someone who should no longer exist? The Batwoman!
Before being interrupted, Batman looks into the eyes of Batwoman,
at first with a grim look on his face, which begins to turn tender
as he says softly, "Kathy..?" Batman explains to Rose
that the figures are not "Ghosts…they may however be echos...as unlikely as it sound, reflections of realities
similar to our own, though divergent". Rose asks, "Is
that why you recognized that woman?" Batman replies sharply,
"I don't know her. It's impossible for me to know her."
In The Kingdom #2, 1999, also written by Waid,
readers learned Hypertime existed or "an
infinite realm of parallel words". This was the same thing
DC Comics wanted to be rid of in 1985, but apparently it was back.
This means, of course, that in some Gotham City, Kathy Kane may still be wearing her
Batwoman costume much to Batman's consternation. In 2000, both Batwoman
and Bat-Girl appeared briefly, along with Supergirl in a parody
of World’s Finest called World's Funnest.
In this comic, Bat-Mite and Superman's foe, Mr. Mxyzptk
destroy the various versions of major DC comic characters. In 2004,
DC Comics produced a box set of action figures featuring Batwoman,
Bat-Girl, Bat-Mite and Bat-Hound.
more surprising in Batman: Dark Detective #2 (2005), Bruce
Wayne gives Silver St. Cloud a tour of his trophy room in the Bat Cave. Hanging on the wall is a portrait
of Batwoman, reminiscent of the one Kathy gave Batman at the end
of her first adventure. Whether or not DC Comics wants present
day readers to forget these characters appears to be a conflicted
The Batwoman is still a well-remembered
character to this day as reprints of her older stories continue
to be published. Though lumped in with the goofy days of Batman's
adventures, she proved she could hold her own and save the life
of her male counterpart and his sidekick. Though in love with Batman
she did not let her affection for him, get in the way of the crimefighting which needed to be done. Her weapons of choice
were simply a reflection of her time and quite effective. The Batwoman
was a trailblazer for many of the heroines, which have followed
in her footsteps. Happy 50th Anniversary early, Kathy!