Batwoman always had an uphill battle. She began in 1956, basically as Batman’s beard. “I’m not gay with Robin; there is a woman (who also dresses like a bat, a more feminine bat…with a bat purse),” Batman could now argue. In fact, in some stories, the Bat-man and woman were married, with costumed kids! Poor Kathy Kane and her niece, Bette (A Bat-Girl for Robin!) faded into obscurity as Batman got darker and Barbra Gordon entered the scene to be a much more fleshed out female role model. Kane reappeared back in 1979 only to die at the swords of the League of Assassins. Editorial didn’t care for her and saw her as nothing more than a love interest for Batman to save. Recently, Batman Incorporated sheds light on this as Grant Morrison seeks to legitimize the most obscure facets of Batman’s publishing history.
Fifty years after Batwoman made her debut, DC decided to dust off the idea of having a Batwoman again. Her new design was created by the legendary Alex Ross, allegedly because having Barbara Gordon shed her paralysis was seen as a bad move then. Babs would stay as Oracle and this new Batwoman would hit the scene…but wait, she would be a lesbian as well. Call it a PR move. Call it catching up with the times. But when news hit that a lesbian Bat character would be in DC’s new weekly series, 52, the press ate it up. 52 was a strong title and Batwoman had a leading role, written by Greg Rucka. Kate Kane was here, she was queer, and everyone had to get used to it.
It wasn’t until she took over Detective Comics, with the art of J.H. Williams and Greg Rukka returning to write, did the character fully take flight. She was a military brat who got expelled during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Now, a grown up socialite of sorts, with plenty of skeletons in her closet, Kate Kane was ready to take Gotham by storm…as Batwoman. She was not in Batman’s shadow or really following in his footsteps or anything. She was just kicking ass, and taking names. When Batman took back his title, it was clear Kate and Batwoman were not finished.
Finally, after much delay, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman launched a Batwoman ongoing series as one of the New52 line. The stunning art kept its quality from Detective Comics and the writing was up to snuff. Kane’s ex girlfriend, Renee Montoya/The Question, was nowhere to be seen in the New52, but Kate always had a thing for ladycops. She got together with Maggie Sawyer, who recently transplanted to GCPD, and the couple even got engaged. Batwoman was working with the shady D.E.O. and cousin Bette was back as Hawkfire. Things were steady.
Then things changed. The wedding proposal was doomed as DC decided to this should be the time to set in their new “no happy heroes” policy. The impending marriage was annulled and the creative team that breathed so much life into the character chose to leave. Jeremy Haun and Marc Andreyko had big shoes to fill. J.H. Williams III’s layouts and aesthetic had a huge role in defining the book and now things were just not as beautiful. The covers after issue 24(when the creative team stepped down) are hit and miss, mostly miss. In the storyline, Kane ended things with her fiancé in a note, making DC editorial happy and upsetting most of the fanbase who was finally beginning to accept Kate with someone other than Renee Montoya. The same fans and press that embraced a lesbian Batwoman lashed out on DC for their decision that seemed like a commentary on gay marriage.
Currently, Batwoman is in space. She is hanging out with Clayface, Ragman, Entrigan the Demon, in what seems to me, a cheap version of Justice League Dark meets Mystery in Space. Gone are the days where her inner demons and fears can take up a storyline. Her detective skills are flimsy in space. It seems as if Andreyko ran out of ideas for her in Gotham and decided to see what would stick when he started throwing all sorts of things at her. . What made Batwoman so admirable was her family backstory and how she persevered. Space Batwoman just misses the point.
Batwoman will end with issue 40 on sale March 18th. Marc Andreyko writes and Georges Jeanty provides the art. In an effort that seems like they are throwing everything Batwoman to the curb, Batwoman Annual #2 is out a few weeks later, promising to wrap up the Unknowns saga. In April, DC will deliver many requested stories, and some nobody asked for! Greg Rucka is returning to DC to write Renee Montoya’s Question, along with a throwback to her popular Gotham Central storyline with Two-Face. Could Greg write Batwoman again? It’s possible. We will see when the smoke clears in June and DC is all settled in Burbank and they re-evaluate New52. Otherwise, the character that inspired LGBT fans for the past 8 years might be put back on ice. Only time for tell. Until then, rereading Batwoman: Elegy is the best it gets.