Katherine Kane is the name of two fictional characters that both appeared as Batwoman in comic books published by DC Comics. The first character, known as Kathy Kane, appeared in Detective Comics #233 (1956) and was created by Bob Kane and Sheldon Moldoff. This classic Batwoman appeared sporadically until her brutal murder in 1979 and was subsequently removed from canon in 1986.
In 52 #7 (2006), a new version of Katherine Kane, known as Kate Kane, makes her debut, created by Greg Rucka and Alex Ross. This modern Batwoman headlined Detective Comics for ten critically acclaimed, Eisner Award-winning issues published from 2009 to 2010 before being spun off into her own ongoing Batwoman comic book in 2011. Kate has received mainstream media attention for being the most prominent GLBT super-hero and the very first to wear the emblem of a super-hero icon.
Kathy Kane is primarily associated with the Silver Age of Comic Books. In the aftermath of the attacks on comics in the early 1950s, the Batwoman was the first of several characters that would make up the 'Batman Family'. Since the family formula had proven very successful for the Superman franchise, editor Jack Schiff suggested to Batman creator, Bob Kane, that he create one for the Batman. A female was chosen first, to offset the charges made by Fredric Wertham that Batman and the original Robin, Dick Grayson, were homosexual. Kathy Kane and alter ego Batwoman first appeared in Detective Comics #233 (July 1956). In the character's debut issue, Batwoman is introduced as a female rival to the crime-fighting prowess of Batman.
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!
She was a costumed crime-fighter like Batman, yet in many ways not an exact counterpart. For example, the contents of her utility purse were actually weapons disguised as stereotypical feminine products such as lipstick, cosmetic compacts, charm bracelets, and hair nets. Batwoman appeared regularly in the pages of Batman and Detective Comics through the early 1960s. Although letters from fans indicated Batwoman had become popular with readers, editor Julius Schwartz considered the heroine, as well as other Batman-related characters, to be inappropriate for the new direction he planned to take the Batman universe. Following the revamp to Detective Comics in 1964, Batwoman was removed from the series. The 'new' Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, not only replaced Batwoman as Batman's female counterpart, she surpassed the original heroine in popularity. Batgirl also proved to be more appropriate for her time period and the realistic approach DC Comics began taking with its characters. Unlike Batwoman, Gordon's Batgirl used a utility belt and various gadgets similar to Batman's, in addition to being a skilled martial artist and possessing a doctorate in her civilian identity. Despite requests from readers to revive Batwoman, DC's editorial staff initially declined to bring the character out of retirement, considering the fact that she was specifically created to be a love interest for Batman.
Batwoman was brought back in Batman Family #10 (1979) as "Batgirl's guest heroine" when she comes out of retirement to assist Batgirl in defeating Killer Moth and Cavalier. However, in Detective Comics #485 (August–September 1979), Batwoman is killed by the League of Assassins (assisted by the Bronze Tiger). Editor Dennis O'Neil later stated in an interview, "we already had Batgirl, we didn't need Batwoman." The issue marked the final appearance of the Earth-1 Kathy Kane. An Earth-2 version appeared in Brave and The Bold #182 (January 1982). This Kathy Kane retired from crime-fighting when that world's Batman married Catwoman. She comes out of retirement to help a grown-up Robin and Earth-1 Batman battle Hugo Strange. The Kathy Kane version of Batwoman was restored to modern continuity by writer Grant Morrison in flashback sequences in various issues of his run on the Batman-related titles, most explicitly in Batman Inc. #4 (2011). This issue reveals the origin of the original Batwoman in current DC Universe continuity.
The limited series Infinite Crisis (2005), written as a sequel to the 1985 maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths, altered DC Comics continuity. Subsequently, all comic book titles published by DC Comics skip forward one year and a new maxi-series entitled 52 retroactively chronicles the 52 weeks which directly followed Infinite Crisis. When DC editors called for a redesign of Batwoman, comic book artist Alex Ross drew inspiration from the modified Batgirl costume he designed for Barbara Gordon, seven years prior to Kate Kane's debut in the limited comic book series 52. Ross and comic book author Paul Dini initially planned to revive the former Batgirl Barbara Gordon using an updated version of the character's original costume, with red accents in place of the traditional yellow. However, since Gordon serves as one of a very small number of disabled superheroes of DC Comics as Oracle, DC's editorial staff decided to revitalize the original Batwoman instead.
Batwoman's sexual orientation has gathered mixed reviews, ranging from acceptance to outrage. While a reviewer at Out asserts "Batwoman will be the highest profile gay superhero to ever grace the pages of DC Comics," according to the Associated Press, another online observer asked "[w]ouldn't ugly people as heroes be more groundbreaking?" Although several GLBT organizations such as GLAAD have praised DC Comics for attempting to diversify their characters, some have observed that Batwoman is not the first gay or lesbian character to appear in comic books, nor is she the only lesbian to be associated with the Batman series. In the character's civilian identity as a socialite, Katherine Kane is acquainted with Bruce Wayne and is friends with a doctor named Mallory. She is presented as having porcelain white skin, several tattoos, and a clothing style defined as punk-psychobilly-goth in her civilian persona. The character is also Jewish, and celebrates Hanukkah with Renee Montoya during the events of 52. Her father is an ex-colonel and in Detective Comics #854, it is stated she is the cousin of Bette "Flamebird" Kane. The younger Kate also has a stepmother named Catherine Kane, making Catherine the aunt of Bette. At the 2008 New York Comic Con, it was announced that Batwoman would be among the characters appearing in a new Justice League comic book written by James Robinson. Batwoman briefly took over as the lead character in Detective Comics, starting with #854. It was revealed at the 2009 New York Comic Con that she would be DC Comics' highest profile gay superhero.