Batwoman Makes Her Surprisingly Gay (And Surprisingly Great) Animated Debut in “Batman: Bad Blood”

As studios and networks have finally begun to grapple with the shocking reality that audiences enjoy watching women go on adventures, we’ve seen an influx of female protagonists on superhero television in the last year. And while Agent Carter, Jessica Jones, and Supergirl have all been emphatically pushing the conversation forward, another hero took a quiet and revolutionary step earlier this month. Kate “Batwoman” Kane made her cinematic debut in Batman: Bad Blood, the latest film from DC Universe Animated Original Movies (DCUAOM).

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Likes: girls, single malt, fast bikes, and making an entrance.

DC Comics has had a tempestuous relationship with Batwoman since she came out as a lesbian in 2006. It was all supporting roles and pats on the back for diversity, until 2009, when writer Greg Rucka and artist J.H. Williams III took her out for a leading lady spin in Detective Comics and grew her into one of DC’s most compelling characters. Her seven-issue Detective Comics arc — which detailed her journey from teenage socialite to celebrated West Point cadet to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell victim to caped crusader — was collected into the graphic novel Batwoman: Elegy. It quickly became a critical and commercial success, pulling down Eisner nominations and a GLAAD Award, and earning a foreword from Rachel Maddow. From there, DC launched Batwoman’s first post-coming out solo title, and that’s when the real drama started.

The book was never what DC wanted it to be. Williams and his new co-author, W. Haden Blackman, had big plans for Batwoman, including an epic romance between Kate Kane and Detective Maggie Sawyer. Even though it was unheard of for a Bat-family character to exist outside of Batman’s whims, they wanted the creative freedom to tell Batwoman’s story without having to center her arcs on whatever was happening in the Dark Knight’s books. After all, Batwoman had taken over Detective Comics because Batman “died,” and she’d done brilliantly with audiences without him. For a while Williams and Blackman had their autonomy, but DC grew increasingly frustrated at their unwillingness to compromise on their vision and drew a hard line in the sand when Kate proposed to Maggie. Batwoman was not going to marry her girlfriend, no way, no how.

The book tanked soon after a new writing team took over, and DC finally pulled the plug on Batwoman in late 2014.

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Attack of the nun-jas.

She’s been around a little since then, most notably in DC’s World War II-era alternate universe series Bombshells, but she’s barely seen present day Gotham, where everyone else in the Bat-family enjoys fighting crime in their solo books.

So it’s surprising that Batwoman appeared in Bad Blood at all, and downright shocking that the movie was created, in large part, to fold her into the modern Bat-family. Bad Blood opens with Batwoman and Batman teaming up to fight a new villain named Heretic, who gets the best of them both, ultimately “killing” Batman after he launches Kate through some warehouse windows and into the harbor to keep her out of Heretic’s clutches. Though she has always preferred to work alone, Batman’s disappearance forces Kate to drop her guard and team up with Dick Grayson (who sheds his Nightwing suit for the Cape and Cowl), Robin (in his current Damien Wayne incarnation), and the newly minted Batwing (who is Lucius Fox’s son, Luke Fox) to solve the mystery of Batman’s “death.”

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That Autostraddle scissoring tank looks good under that blazer, girl.

Bad Blood doesn’t start at the beginning of Kate’s story; rather, it introduces us to it through a series of flashbacks and tidbits of research it turns out Bruce Wayne has done about her over the years. It’s all there: The “death” of her mother and sister, her expulsion from West Point, her spiral into a booze-fueled depression, and her decision to make something of herself after she met Batman for the first time in a drunken, dangerous stupor in a Gotham back-alley. And it presents her whole story against the casual, matter-of-fact backdrop of her sexuality. It is not a big deal to anyone inside the Bat-universe; in fact, to them, Kate being gay is the least interesting thing about her.

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Atomic batteries to power. Turbines to speed.

In Bad Blood, Kate goes to a gay bar and flirts with Renee Montoya; she chats with her worried father about how he just wants her to find a good girl and settle down; she jokes with Dick about how it took her a long time to figure out women, too. And at the end of the film, she’s the only character whose happy ending includes a romantic interest.

Both Renee Montoya and pre-New 52 versions of Batwoman occasionally appear in animated Batman movies and TV series, but none of them have openly discussed gay stuff. Our Trans Editor, Mey Rude, has written extensively about the importance of all-ages queer representation on TV. And while we’ve seen enormous strides in recent years with Legend of Korra and Adventure Time, and most especially with Steven Universe, there’s something extra special about having an animated lesbian character fighting alongside Batman, and accepting her place in the larger Bat-family in what will surely translate to more appearances in these beloved DCUAOM movies.

You can buy Batman: Bad Blood on DVD or BluRay, or download it on iTunes.


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Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets.

Heather has written 414 articles for us.

9 Comments

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    Awesome article. Only comment–Renee not Rene. I love me some Montoya, and am thrilled to see her back. I am even thrilled to see that they didn’t erase Montoya’s drinking propensity that gets her in big trouble down the road.

    And Kate…dear Kate. Never change. It was so important to see that her character wasn’t retconned to ignore the West Point terping.

    Great job!

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    Yayy!! I want to see this. Where do i see this?
    Also, I sort of also wanted to say; I just got “Juliet Takes a Breath” in the mail, and OMG OMG OMG. I have no one to share this excitedness with but you guys. Ugh, it looks, and smells so good. I’m gonna go retreat and read it all now. !!!! Super excited for Batwoman too, Heh. Also, why is Batman a word but not Batwoman?

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    I’m usually not a fan of the DC animated movies. The ones I’ve seen are mostly all action and little story or character. And they take their PG-13 ratings a little too literally, seemingly crafting them specifically for 13-year-olds. But I’m definitely going to have to see this one. Because Batwoman and because Heather said so.

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    I found this really disappointing. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up, considering how most of their recent output has been pretty bad, but I did nonetheless because she’d be in it. She was fine. I’d be happy to see the voice actress do her again. But sadly there was just not much to this movie, the villain plot was downright silly, Batwing felt needlessly included, having Batman literally just stare forward and explain Batwoman’s backstory was such a lazy way of exposition, it just was a poorly written mess. Despite really really disliking this movie, I’m glad she was in it at least, since I’m rather nervous DC might just sweep her under the rug sooner or later with their current regime and anything to stall that worry is good. Wish we’d get another solo book. One without rape apologizing, Hush-level of a bad whodunit mysteries and space adventures with Clayface and Morgana Le Fay. I’d love if they just got Bennett from Bombshells to do one. Or Rucka again (though I see he’s not working at DC at the moment, does he have an exclusive contract somewhere for the time being?). Or Valentine from Catwoman. But Didiot and the others in charge at the moment, I can’t see this happening. 🙁

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    I saw this and loved it. Not only for Kate, but also for Batwing, who seems to get even less exposure. Great diversity all around. And this review really gets to the heart of why it’s so exciting.

    Here’s an interview with the director that’s worth a read. I’ve picked out the most exciting bits:

    https://www.inverse.com/article/10489-batman-bad-blood-director-jay-oliva-talks-shop-on-future-of-dc-animation

    “‘What else can we expect in the future of DC Animation? What other books are you guys are looking to adapt? We already heard *Justice League vs. Teen Titans.’

    We do the Justice League continuity then Elseworlds, so there’s a lot of things. I’d love to do Gotham by Gaslight. Even in this [Justice League] continuity, I’d love to do a Batwoman/Wonder Woman movie, based on that story. I thought it was a fantastic pair-up, you know? Or I’d love to go back and do a Flashpoint sequel or prequel.

    ‘Are you open to original stories that aren’t based on anything?’

    When we’re in this continuity, they try to have something that we pick and choose from as a basis, and then elaborate and come up with something original, so it really depends what the market is going for. Right now, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman are getting hot because of Batman v. Superman, so because of that Warner Bros. might be like, “Hey, we want to see more of those.” We might have another Wonder Woman film because of the Wonder Woman movie, or if Batwoman is a fan favorite and the sales are up for Bad Blood we might be able to have a Batwoman solo film. Why don’t we have Batwoman and Thomas Wayne? How cool is that?

    This is a testing ground to see new characters, if you think about it. Flashpoint Paradox was the first time Flash had a solo movie, and it’s because of that Geoff Johns was able to show it to The CW and get the The Flash TV show. So who knows? What we’re doing [with *Bad Blood*], we might be able to make a solo Batwoman or Batwing. Nightwing would be great, I’d love to see that.”

    TL;DR: Support this movie so we can get a Wonder Woman/Batwoman team-up or a solo Kate film!! I don’t even know which I want more lol.

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