Sponsored by The CW’s Batwoman.
Batwoman is no stranger to breaking ground; she’s been doing it since she zoomed past Batman and Robin on her Bat-cycle on the cover of Detective Comics in 1956. Over the decades, she’s been the first lesbian superhero to have her own comic book, the first gay superhero to get engaged, and the first LGBTQ superhero to be featured in DC’s animated universe. On October 6th, she’ll add another first to the list: She’ll land in Gotham City in her much-anticipated series, making her the very first lesbian superhero to headline her own show. It’s been a thrilling, harrowing, often bumpy road to get here — but Batwoman always comes out on top (if you know what I mean and I think you do). Below are 14 of her queerest and most badass moments. If you’re new to them, welcome! If you’re just reliving them, it’s great to see you again!
1st appearance (Katherine Kane), Detective Comics #233
Kate Kane, the wealthy lesbian heiress we all know and love as Batwoman, wasn’t the first woman to wear the cape and cowl. That honor belongs to Katherine Kane, who, ironically, arrived in Gotham City during the Silver Age to make Batman seem straighter. Rumors were swirling about his relationship with Robin, so DC sent in Batwoman on her Bat-cycle to do a little heterosexual flirting and use the super femme contents of her “shoulder bag utility case” to thwart criminals. In her first appearance, she beats Batman and Robin to a crime scene, stops the in-progress jewel heist, and saves Batman’s life — by using the mirror in her makeup compact to reflect a blinding light into the bad guys’ eyes. Batman, who is completely bamboozled by her, tells her it’s illegal to wear a Batman costume, but she grins and says, “You’re wrong, Batman! The law says no man can wear it! I’m a woman!”
Katherine Kane is removed from Batman’s storyline with other “unessential” characters.
Batwoman’s existence is separated from regular earth in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
1st appearance of modern Batwoman (Kate Kane), 52 #7
In 2006-2007, DC published 52, a weekly comic book series chronicling the lost year the DCU spent without Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in the wake of the Infinite Crisis. Katherine Kane’s Batwoman had been missing from the DCU since 1964. When the new Batwoman arrives, she does so in the form of Kate Kane. Yes, a wealthy heiress. And yes, a badass. And also yes, a love interest — but not Batman’s this time. Kate Kane is the ex-girlfriend of Renee Montoya (who, at the moment, is estranged from the Gotham City PD and working as a private investigator en route to becoming the faceless superhero The Question). Renee showers twice, does her hair, irons her shirt, shines her boots and uses her fancy soap when she realizes she’ll have to speak to Kate about the case she’s working. “Pictures,” Renee sighs when Kate waltzes in, asking if Rene is going to pat her down, “never do her justice.” Kate doesn’t come right out as Batwoman (in fact, she still hasn’t even come out as gay to her family and friends), but between all the internal dialogue about how good they were at “pushing each other’s buttons,” Renee does notice that, since their breakup, someone taught Kate how to really throw a punch.
Batwoman takes over Detective Comics, Detective Comics #854
Detective Comics is where DC got its name, and it’s most famous for introducing Batman in 1939 — so it’s no small thing that in 2009, Batwoman took over the series for the first time. She’s the first woman and the first gay character to do so, and it was her first shot at a starring role in the DCU. It was a major success! With a sleek new character design and art from J.H. Williams III and a beefed-up backstory from Greg Rucka (who’d made both Kate Kane and Renee Montoya gay a few years earlier), Batwoman won over fanbois and fangirls new and old. Batwoman’s run in Detective Comics is collected in the award-winning Batwoman: Elegy, which features a foreword from Rachel Maddow and also won Eisner and GLAAD Awards. She kicks a lot of asses in it, and also falls in love.
Batwoman gets her first solo title, Batwoman #0
Batwoman’s run in Detective Comics was so well-received that DC finally gave her a book of her own a year later. It, too, was anchored by Williams’ art continued the exploration of Kate’s newly colored-in backstory (kicked out of West Point during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; forever traumatized by the deaths of her mother and twin sister by a terrorist organization when they were kids; whoops no actually her twin sister’s alive and a supervillain) and her relationship with Detective Maggie Sawyer of the Gotham City Police Department. It also finds Batwoman in Batman’s crosshairs for the first time as he follows her from rooftop to cemetery and back again to try to uncover her civilian identity. He’s impressed with her fighting style and the fact that he never has to intervene on her behalf, whether she’s taking down street criminals or just launching herself at the Religion of Crime. He deduces that she’s Kate Kane, finally, and he wants a little chat.
Teams up with Wonder Woman for the first time, New 52 Batwoman #13
Batman and Superman met for the first time in a comic book in 1939’s The Vigilantes; they ran into each other at the Metropolis World’s Fair. Batwoman and Wonder Woman met for the first time in 2012; they ran into each other in hell. Okay, that’s actually not true. They met up and descended into hell together to fight Medusa. Batwoman has never once lost her cool in the face of Batman’s constant scrutiny, but she very nearly crashes her aircraft every time Wonder Woman talks to her. They destroy mythical beasts together like longtime crime-fighting gal-pals, but what’s especially great about their team-up is they help each other do some real soul-searching about whether or not they’re defined by their trauma and destined to repeat it (gay!). In the end, Batwoman wins over Wonder Woman; Diana even caresses Kate’s hair and tells her to call any old time.
Batwoman teams up with Batgirl for the first time, New 52 Batgirl #12
While Batwoman is teaming up with Wonder Woman in her own book, she hops over to Batgirl’s solo title to fight alongside her too. But first they have to fight each other! The way all members of the Bat-family do when they end up crashing each other’s crime-thrashing parties! Batwoman and Batgirl were actually created for the same reason: to fill out Batman’s backstory. In the early ’60s, Batgirl eclipsed Batwoman because she had a real utility belt and real Bat-gadgets and not lock-picks disguised as lipsticks. But in Batgirl #12, neither of them care about Batman; they’re too enamored with each other. Batwoman’s broody and Batgirl’s plucky. Batwoman’s brute force and Batgirl’s agility. Batwoman’s deadpan threats and Batgirl’s sarcastic sass. Batwoman is Batgirl’s hero. Together, they do take down Nightfall. And in a nice throwback to the Golden Age, after Batwoman bloodies Batgirl’s nose, she offers her a silk handkerchief.
Kate Kane proposes to Maggie Sawyer, New 52 Batwoman #17
One of Kate Kane’s biggest struggles is figuring out whether or not it’s be best to just be there for Maggie while she does her detective work, or donning the cape and cowl and going to find and deal with the bad guys by herself. After finally destroying the myriad underworld creatures that kept kidnapping Gotham’s kids en masse, and saving the city from near-destruction, Maggie’s sitting alone on a swingset pondering life and how her girlfriend keeps abandoning her when Batwoman swaggers up in full costume, pulls Maggie into an embrace, and outs herself on a full splash page by asking Maggie to marry her. Maggie’s stunned. They smooch. It’s the first gay proposal in mainstream comics.
Batwoman is cancelled again after New 52 Batwoman #40
Batwoman is in a league of her own; DC Comics, Bombshells
DC’s Bombshells started out as just a series of statuettes inspired by 1940s pinup art. Among them is Batwoman in a baseball uniform like a Rockford Peach, but black and with her Bat-symbol on it. The figures were so popular they spawned their own comic book series, an AU as good as any fan fiction you’ve ever read. Kate Kane’s at university in Spain. That’s where she meets Renee Montoya. They fall in love, fight in the Spanish Civil War, adopt and lose a child, tale as old as time. That’s when Kate returns to Gotham City to fight crime in a her baseball uniform and with a bat as a weapon (get it? a bat?). It’s also where she dates Maggie Sawyer for a good long time before bumping into Renee Montoya and immediately getting back together with her. Lesbians!
Batwoman returns!, DC Comics Rebirth Detective Comics #934
Batwoman has always been the biggest loner in the Bat-family (a group of crime-fighters notorious for their aloofness) — but in DC’s Rebirth continuity, Batwoman returns to the pages of Detective Comics as Batman’s co-star and biggest ally as he attempts to clean up Gotham by bringing the entire Bat-clan together. The thing is, Batwoman and Batman wear similar costumes and are branded with similar iconography and they’re both Bat-people, but their philosophies on life and crime-fighting and general group dynamics could not be more different. Batwoman stands up to Batman in ways no one else would dare to do. He hates it, and also he loves it. In a really fascinating narrative and visual flip, this story arc ends with Batman in Batwoman’s crosshairs.
Batwoman makes her debut in the DC Animated Movie Universe, Batman: Bad Blood
The only thing more surprising than Kate Kane showing up gay as a window in a DC Universe Animated Original Movie is the fact that the film seems to exist to fold her into the larger animated Bat-family! In Bad Blood, Kate is called to action — and forced to keep the Bat-family together — when Batman goes missing after a tag-team fight and is presumed to be dead. She pulls together Dick Grayson (who ditches his Nightwing suit in favor of the cape and cowl), Robin (Damien Wayne), and Batwing (Lucius Fox’s son, Luke Fox) to solve the mystery of Batman’s death. She fist-fights, zips around on her Bat-cyle, soars through the air like an actual bat, and — shockingly, at at time when Princess Bubblegum and Marceline were still subtext, and Kora and Assami had just held hands and walked off into the sunset — makes time to go on two entire dates with Renee Montoya.
Batwoman gets her own solo title again, Batwoman Rebirth #1
Batwoman’s first Detective Comics and New 52 run was celebrated by fans and critics, especially gay ones, but it always had the creators at odds with DC’s larger editorial vision. DC wanted Batwoman to be part of the larger Bat-universe; they wanted her story to be tethered, at least, to what was going on with Batman. Her post-Rebirth storyline, which handed her a solo title again, finally saw DC embracing the fact that Kate Kane just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the Bat-crew, especially Batman — but that doesn’t mean they have to be enemies! Rebirth retells Kate Kane’s story, and Batwoman’s origin, and it is gay gay gay gay. Issue #1 runs through her love interests like a wedding rom-com shopping montage. It’s glorious.
Batwoman chooses now with Renee Montoya, Batwoman #18
Kate Kane may have proposed to Maggie Sawyer, but in every incarnation of her story, she’s been circling around and coming back to Renee Montoya over and over. The two reunite at the end of Batwoman’s most recent Detective Comics arc and in Batwoman #18, Kate makes the bravest decision of her life. After attending a masquerade ball undercover with Renee to try to take down the Clock King, both Kate and Renee are subjected to visions of their past and their future. Kate, who has always been stuck in both places, tells Renee that she chooses her, right now. For the first time in her life, she forces herself to live in the moment and just be with the woman she loves.
Batwoman makes her live-action TV debut in The CW’s Arrowverse crossover “Elseworlds”
Batwoman makes her live-action TV debut high in the sky on a clock tower, staring down at Gotham City on a broody, cloudy night, because of course she does. When Supegirl arrives during the “Elseworlds” crossover, she meets up with Kate Kane and then she meets up with Batwoman. They fight crime together and then reveal that they absolutely know each other’s secret identities. (Kate Kane: lots of tattoos; Kara Danvers: zero tattoos.) They even shake hands and laugh about being the World’s Finest. Their cousins may be enemies (frenemies?) but they’re destined to be friends. What they don’t talk about is that Maggie Sawyer exists in this universe too, and in it, she was engaged to Kara’s sister.
Batwoman gets her own live-action show in The CW’s Arrowverse
Batwoman has been so many firsts: First woman to take over Detective Comics, first gay superhero to have her own solo title, first gay superhero to get engaged, first lesbian superhero to make it into DC’s animated universe, and now the first lesbian superhero to headline her own live-action TV series (and the first lesbian superhero to be played by an IRL lesbian in Ruby Rose). Will she kick ass? Absolutely. Will she woo women? You know it. Will she have at least one delightfully awkward brunch with Sara Lance, Anissa Pierce, and Alex Danvers? Only time will tell!
Batwoman premieres on The CW October 6th, Sunday at 8/7c, or streams free next day on The CW App.
An article that includes geekery, lesbianism, and the CW foots the bill. What’s not to like?
SO EXCITED. This is a great write up–the only DC book I really read is Bombshells. I love the 40s and the AAGPBL, so leading the series off with Kate Kane and her bat sucked me in permanently. (It also made me ship her and Maggie, since that’s where the story started, so I kinda hope Maggie shows up in the show, even though Renee seems to be endgame everywhere!) I’ve been curious about what lines to read for “real” Kate and now have a lot of titles to put on hold at the library.
Can’t wait for the pilot. Thanks to CW for sponsoring this!!
Thank you for this write-up. Though a huge reader my whole life, I never got into comics much (except reading a lot of Betty and Veronica as a kid) This is exactly the kind of explainer that is so helpful and thorough for a newbie like me without being condescending. Going to see if I can find some of these at my library!
Also, the lesbian gazes in some of these panels (especially the second one!) are truly a sight to behold.
This is going to be so much fun!
I’m so excited about this!
I didn’t even know Batwoman was gay. And I’m a comics fan! Admittedly not much of a superhero comics fan.
This makes me want to go back and read some of Batwoman’s arcs!
Thank you Heather for this, and for literally pressing the Batwoman comics into my hands way back when. I can’t wait for the show!
There’s a panel in the 52 Christmas issue, where Kate and Renee are sitting on the couch and share a kiss. It was a first, then, and entirely unexpected and absolutely blew me out of the water.
Whenever I look at that panel, I still feel that spark of hope.
Of the world changing, of things previously unimagined becoming a non-issue.
And while I’m going to be very critical of the new Batwoman show, as a superhero nerd is wont to do, there’s also another part of me, who wanted to cry over the trailer.
This is like the grown up Princess Charming tale I never thought would be possible, just you know, with capes.
Jeez, it’s been a year and a half since the CW announced that Batwoman would make an appearance in the Crisis event and now we’re finally on the cusp of her own show! It’s been alternately a whirlwind of news and at the same time has dragged on forever! I’ve loved Kate so long and I still have trouble believing we’re actually getting a Batwoman show. Amazing!
I hope we get to enjoy many seasons of this character’s complicated love life!
ok yay for sponcon and also also also, this is an extremely helpful primer for a person like me who has not and may never read the comic books but is definitely going to watch the series!
I’m so excited about this! And yay sponcon! Thank you for your support, CW! Your hair looks great today
Ahhh I didn’t realise the show was out so soon, this article is so great and I’m so excited to watch it!
I’ve been reading Batwoman since around 2007 when Rucka took over but I still can’t get over the art that were J.H. Williams III’s visuals. Sometimes I think I could stare at them forever and be still in awe and fascinated. And every time I see them I want one/a few prints to hang in my apartment.
Not that the other artists are bad – quite the opposite. But no one manages to enthrall me quite as J.H. Williams III manages.
Also: quite proud of you Autostraddle for the paid gig for Batwoman!
Looking forward to the show :)
Ooh I’ve only read Elegy and some of Bombshells and I’m looking forward to using this guide to read more!
Also loving the ads on the site this week!