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Kathy Kane: The Short History (and Reading Order) of the First Batwoman

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If Robin debuted only one year after Batman, it took more than 15 years for another member of the ‘Bat Family’ to be created. Batwoman first appeared in Detective Comics #233 (July 1956). She was created by writer Edmond Hamilton and artist Sheldon Moldoff to counter Fredric Wertham’s accusations that our dynamic duo was homosexual! Despite this, she was a pioneer, becoming the first female superhero to take on a major male superhero in the pages of DC Comics.

Throughout the next decade, Batwoman fought crime next to Batman and Robin and even puts on a Cat-Woman costume at some point to help obtain some information! And though Batwoman was popular with readers, her career came to a halt when Julius Schwartz took over as editor of the Batman-related comic in 1964, before being killed in the 1970s, then completely removed from the main continuity following Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Nothing is set in stone in the DC Universe, and the characters can have multiple existence as well as being completely reimagined. It is what happened to Kathy Kane when she was reintroduced during Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, with some changes.

There is no doubt that Kathy Kane, as the first Batwoman, is a part of Batman’s rich history, a figure who found her place in the Batman Family and paved the way for future female superheroines to combat crime in Gotham alongside Batman and Robin. So, today, we’ll take a deeper look at Kathy Kane’s background and explore her past and appearances.

This article/reading order was suggested by Darci, one of our readers! Don’t hesitate to leave a comment or write to us with some other suggestions!

Who is Kathy Kane? The Origin and history of the original Batwoman

There is no mystery surrounding Kathy Kane, as her identity was revealed in the first issue she appeared! Kathy Kane had a background as a circus daredevil, which equipped her with exceptional acrobatic skills and a thirst for adventure. Her admiration for Batman inspired her to pursue a career as a crime fighter, a goal she could achieve upon inheriting her uncle’s fortune.

She was a skilled combatant who could hold her own in this chauvinistic world, riding through the streets of Gotham City on her iconic red motorcycle, the Bat-Cycle. She equipped herself with uniquely feminine crime-fighting tools, including lipstick cases filled with tear gas, a compact containing sneezing powder, charm bracelets that could transform into handcuffs, and an oversized hair net, ingeniously repurposed for capturing criminals.

Though she proved herself to be quite competent from the beginning, Batman often attempted to dissuade Kathy from continuing her crime-fighting endeavors, hoping she would abandon her cape and cowl for a safer life. Kathy briefly complied, immersing herself in her role as a socialite within Gotham’s high society. However, she couldn’t deny the adrenaline and purpose she found as Batwoman. A chance to save Batman, Robin, and even Superman reaffirmed her commitment to her crime-fighting alter ego. Though there is no doubt about Kathy’s bravery, she has also her weaknesses, among them being a fear of mice!

Like Kathy was inspired by Batman to become a crime fighter, she also, in turn, impacted the next generation. Following the discovery of her aunt’s secret identity, Betty Kane decided to embrace a career as a masked crusader and took on the persona of Bat-Girl!

As changes were happening in the comic book world, Kathy Kane’s role was reexamined and she was, with other characters, considered now non-essential. It could be said that the character has served her purpose and there we no need for her in the new direction chosen for the Batman-related titles.

She didn’t completely disappear at that point though, the character made a few appearances in the Batman-Superman team-up book World’s Finest, and there was a short attempt to revive the character in the Bronze Age, to no avail: she was killed off by Ra’s Al Ghul’s League of Assassins in Detective Comics #485 (August 1979).

Then, DC’s main continuity was rewritten following the events of Crisis of Infinity Earths and the character was simply erased from continuity. But nothing is set in stone in the DC Universe…

The Return of Kathy Kane, a new version imagined by Grant Morrison

Following the events of Infinite Crisis, and the disappearance of DC’s Trinity of heroes, a new Batwoman is introduced. At first, she appears to be quite similar to the Silver Age Batwoman. Created by Greg Rucka, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, and artist Alex Ross on the pages of 52, Kate Kane is a wealthy heiress inspired by Batman to use her resources to combat crime as the masked vigilante known as Batwoman. Though it could be at first argued that she is mostly a rewriting of the original Batwoman, it is established in Detective Comics #824 that she is the new Batwoman – implying there was an earlier Batwoman!

During his run on Batman, writer Grant Morrison chose to take Batman’s long history and treat it mostly like everything was canon. Once removed from the continuity, Kathy Kane could now appear in a panel flashback and be mentioned by Alfred. The character was completely reimagined in 2011 within the Batman Incorporated series.

She was known as Katherine Webb, an aspiring independent film director before her wedding to Nathan Kane, a member of the Kane family. Nathan was the brother of Martha (Kane) Wayne, the mother of Bruce Wayne. The couple was madly in love, and Nathan gave his wife a circus as a birthday present – as rich people do, of course.

In comics, happiness can’t last for too long, and Nathan’s death ended their love story. After that, Kathy’s life took an unexpected turn when she was invited to join an espionage group called Spyral and given the mission of learning who Batman really was. In order to get the attention of the Dark Knight, Kathy wore a costume and fought off crime in Gotham City as Batwoman. Following the development of an unexpected romance, she refused to tell her superiors at Spyral who Batman really was.

Kathy wanted to simply scrape the mission to continue her relationship with Batman, but was forced to break it off by Agent-Zero who also revealed to her that he was really the Nazi master spy Doctor Dedalus, and also her estranged father. She was later killed by the League of Assassins, Batman always believed at least. In reality, she simply faked her death to leave her past behind.

When she resurfaced, she is masquerading as the Headmistress of St. Hadrian’s Finishing School For Girls in England, dedicated to hunting and killing Talia al Gul when Talia had declared war on Batman. She showed up after Talia had lost, and shot her in the back of the head, before vanishing once again.

Afterward, a new page of her story was written by Tim Seeley and Tom King in Grayson. Following Spyral’s collapse, Kathy – aka Katrina Netz – initiated a daring scheme to revive her deceased father and reinstate him as Spyral’s leader. Collaborating with her sister, they orchestrated the transfer of his consciousness into Matron’s body. Yet, a sobering realization soon dawned upon Kathy: her father’s intentions were far from virtuous, driven instead by a thirst for chaos and power. In a desperate bid to rectify her misguided actions, she confronted him, leading to a fateful encounter. Her attempt to eliminate her father ended in her being electrocuted and subsequently thrown off a moving train, plunging into the depths of a river below.

Kathy Kane Reading Order, an issue-by-issue list

Pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths:

Post-Crisis/The new Kathy Kane in the Modern Age

Last Updated on February 9, 2024.

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