So, news from WonderCon is that there will be no Batwoman series, but Batwoman will be “integral” to DC in 2008.
Well, okay then. We’ll see how that pans out.
I do like the idea of Batwoman. Originally, Kathy Kane was a Batman fan who happened to be a rich circus star, and who therefore (according to 1950s superhero-comics logic) had the means and the ability to fight crime. Introduced in 1956 to help show that Batman = Not Gay, she soon acquired a sidekick, Bat-Girl, so that Robin’s hetero hormones could be stoked as well.
Both Batwoman and Bat-Girl were retired in the mid-1960s when the “Batman Family” was pared down by Julie Schwartz. Kathy did enjoy a brief ‘70s revival — sometimes alongside her sort-of successor, Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl — as a semi-pro superhero whose heart was in the right place. She was killed in 1979′s Detective Comics #485, and Crisis On Infinite Earths allowed her to be forgotten.
52 introduced the current Batwoman as the Bat-figure who patrolled Gotham City during Batman and Robin’s sabbatical. Although it’s been over eighteen months since she first appeared, readers still haven’t learned much about her origins or motivations. Kate Kane is gay, Jewish, rich, lives in what looks like the penthouse of the ‘70s Wayne Foundation building, and once had a relationship with Renee Montoya.
That’s pretty much it, though. She’s probably on the semi-pro level, although she seems a little more competent than just a dabbler in costumed crimefighting. I like to think she’s a cousin of Bruce Wayne on his mother’s side (since Martha Wayne was originally a Kane), but only Greg Rucka knows for sure. According to Dan DiDio, she and Bruce have a yet-to-be-revealed “history.”
She definitely has potential as a supporting character for the Batman titles, filling the same kind of talented-amateur niche as, say, Gangbusterdid in the Superman books a while back. She’s almost an older version of Spoiler, but where Spoiler worked her way up to becoming Robin, Kate put herself in the “inner circle” from the start. Judging from all the grief he gave Huntress, you’d think Batman would be interested in someone new appropriating his schtick, and you’d think Nightwing and Oracle would have told their mentor about the woman with whom they’ve both worked. I presume, then, that Batwoman hasn’t been active enough in Gotham to warrant a visit from the boss. In fact, Batwoman apparently wasn’t active enough to make much of an impression at all, whether on crimefighters or the general public.
Judging from Dan DiDio’s initial comments about the character, such lack of exposure doesn’t bode well for her future appearances. Back in the summer of ’06, DiDio had figured 52 might let Batwoman build some grass-roots appeal:
[O]ne of the things I’d like to see, at least in the beginning, is to see her as a character who will be appearing primarily in 52. Then, we’ll be exploring things in different ways. To use a Marvel reference, I always liked the way that Marvel introduced the Punisher. He started in Amazing Spider-Man, and had some really landmark appearances in Daredevil, and they allowed interest in him to grow. I think this is a character that can really benefit from appearing in different books first before we test the waters with her on her own.
That’s certainly not an unusual way to market a new character, but the difference is that the Punisher wasn’t specifically tied to Spider-Man or Daredevil like Batwoman is to the other Bat-folk. If Batwoman is going to be part of the family, she needs to show up in her relatives’ books. Therefore, I’m surprised, and a little disappointed, not to have seen more of her in the past year’s worth of Batman, Detective, or one of the other titles. I hardly think such guest appearances would have been shoving Batwoman down readers’ throats, but with Batwoman there seems to be a very fine line between “failing to capitalize” and throat-shoving.
By the way, I have no problem whatsoever with Batwoman being gay. It’s a nice reversal of her predecessor’s reason for existing. However, Batwoman risks a backlash not only because she’s gay, but also because she came with the baggage of the Next Big Thing. Everyone else was out of town, so she put on the Bat-gear and started busting heads — but instead of earning her a membership in the Bat-club, it might well be taken as the opportunistic actions of a wannabe. In other words, what has she done to warrant readers’ affections?
Robin, Azrael, Catwoman, Nightwing, the latest Batgirl, and (arguably) the cops of Gotham Central each started out as supporting characters in the main Bat-books before graduating to their own titles. By contrast, Batwoman was introduced completely outside the Bat-books and really has yet to interact meaningfully with any of them. (She’s on a Gotham Underground cover, but I can’t remember a solicitation which advertised her involvement specifically.) Thus, owing to the circumstances of her introduction, Batwoman doesn’t seem to have much of a place in the post-52 lineup; and the Bat-books don’t seem to have made much room for her.
That’s too bad, because I think she’s well-suited to the kinds of identity-related stories the current Bat-books are telling. Robin and Nightwing essentially explore what it’s like to be Not-Quite-Batman, and Grant Morrison has been examining the “Batman identity” in the eponymous title. Batwoman could also benefit from a one-off spotlight in Detective Comics, a run-in with Catwoman, or another Birds Of Prey mission. Moreover, an issue where Batman confronts Kate about her adventuring could be accompanied by a Kathy Kane reprint, and the combination might just appeal to fannish compare-and-contrast impulses.
In short, there are a number of ways for DC to reintroduce Batwoman so she’s integrated more fully into the Bat-lineup. Her relative lack of exposure certainly does nothing to discourage the perception that she’s being deliberately ignored. DC pulled the plug on Devin Grayson’s Batwoman project; and there’s also that rumor that DC has been delaying a Greg Rucka/J.H. Williams Batwoman. Maybe DC hasn’t figured out how to bring her back in an “acceptable” way; or maybe she just has to wait until all the dust clears from “Batman R.I.P.”
(Of course, it would definitely help if, whenever Batwoman’s not on-panel, the other characters should ask, “Where’s Batwoman?” Also, she should be louder, angrier, and have access to a time machine.)
Assuming DC follows through on its Batwoman plans, I’m eager to see how it’ll make her integral. That’s not an insignificant word, and it raises expectations — maybe not to New York Times-coverage levels, but it raises ‘em. Right now Batwoman is little more than a collection of attributes. There’s opportunity there, though, and DC shouldn’t let editorial jitters get in the way of what still looks like an intriguing character.