A few months ago, being the comic book nerd I am, I wrote a post about how DC Comics was reintroducing one of their oldest characters and original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, as a gay man. Within that post, I made note of a few other gay super heroes, and being that I’m an all things Batman fan first, I feel like it would be appropriate to do a follow up post about Gotham’s own gay protector…
Prior to 2006, Batwoman was a character who appeared in Batman’s campier era of the 50s and 60s, and was thought to be dead in current continuity. Following a major continuity shake up event known as Infinite Crisis, DC continuity jumped forward a year, and all of the sudden there was a new Batwoman in Gotham, Kate Kane. Readers were introduced to Kate through the series 52 that covered that “lost year” of DC continuity, and would learn of her sexual orientation through her relationship with GCPD Detective Renee Montoya, but her exact origins were not explained fully explained, as 52 had a lot of ground to cover. There were plans to eventually give Batwoman her own book, but sidetracks, push backs, etc. over a number of months, turned to years, and those plans never really came to fruition. That was the case until 2009, where the “death” of Batman (looooong story) lead to a shake up in the Gotham books, allowing Batwoman to star in DC’s name sake book, Detective Comics.
With the award winning writer/artist team of Greg Rucka and JH Williams III, Detective Comics starring Batwoman instantly became a book to take notice of. Rucka’s occult/supernatural themed scripts provided Williams a vehicle to really go nuts with his art, and as pretty much any comic fan will tell you, JH Williams III is an artistic god, so nothing bad was coming out of that one. (Seriously, just Google image search JH Williams III, and behold.) But getting back to the point of this post, while the first arc, dealing with Kate’s long thought dead sister, leading a group known as the Religion of Crime, was all good and well, it was the second arc that solidified Kate as one of, if not, the strongest gay character in DC’s line up.
Born and raised as an army brat, Kate, her sister and mother, were abducted by terrorists while overseas, being held for ransom. During the rescue, Kate’s mother and her sister Beth were thought to be killed, leaving Kate as the only survivor of the tragedy. Never wanting to be a victim again, Kate followed in her father’s footsteps, and joined the military. Now, if you remember, there used to be this little thing called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” which made gays serving in the military a bit of a complicated situation. Kate’s superior officer eventually caught wind of her orientation, but given how much he respected her, and her family, he gave her the opportunity to deny the charges, and that would be that. But, Kate being who she is, a proud lesbian, did just the opposite, simply stating “I’m gay,” as she left her academy ring on the table, leaving the military forever.
While we currently live in a post “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era, at the time of this issue’s release, it was quite the subject of discussion, and the would-be-Batwoman’s outing made a few headlines. There had been gay characters in comics before, but never had their origin been so closely tied to real world events, and to have Kate stand up for herself in such a way, showed how strong of a character she really was, in six simple panels. After her dismissal from the military, Kate’s life wouldn’t exactly stay steady. Her father remarried, into money, as Kate became somewhat of a Gotham socialite on her step-mother’s dime. It was at this period, she’d meet her then girlfriend Renee Montoya, but even that relationship would eventually bomb, due to Kate’s depressed, not a care in the world, attitude.
Having seemingly lost the fire that once drove her, Kate left a seedy Gotham bar late one night, and on cue (this is Gotham, we’re talking about) was attacked. The attack didn’t last long, as once again… this is Gotham, so where there’s crime, there’s Batman, meaning it was not long before Kate was saved by the Dark Knight. Not saying a word to her, Batman offered her his hand, helping her up, and would disappear into the shadows. This event sparked something in Kate, being rescued again, being a victim, she was reminded how much she didn’t want to be that person. So, instead of the army, Kate found another way of not being a victim, and instead of camo, she dawned a new uniform, that of the Bat, and the rest is history.
Jump forward a year and some change, and with the launch of DC’s New 52 initiative in September 2011, Batwoman finally received her long promised monthly series, helmed by JH Williams III and co-writer Haden Blackman. While there are other gay characters in DC’s line of books, Batwoman is the only solo title lead by a gay character, and deservingly so. Not only is Batwoman a strong, gay, female character, she’s just a straight badass as well. She answers to no one, not even Batman, and does everything her way. Where Batman from time to time, will go off with the Justice League to fight some world threatening event, Batwoman for the most part is very grounded, helping those who need it the most. For example, the first arc in her ongoing title involves her trying to save a number of abducted children, something that mirrors her own past greatly, showing her core values remain the same.
So, that’s Batwoman in a nutshell. Gotham’s gay Dark Knight. If you’re interested in reading more about Batwoman, her Detective Comics run (with her origin story) is collected in a book titled Batwoman: Elegy, and the first collected volume of her ongoing series, Batwoman: Hydrology just hit store shelves a few weeks ago.
PS. Just a heads up, next month’s issue of Batwoman, issue #12, will have the beginning of a team up with another one of DC’s (arguably) gay icons, the one and only Wonder Woman.