There’s a major new player joining The CW’s Arrowverse in this fall’s big crossover. Ruby Rose will make her debut as Batwoman this December, paving the way for a possible spin-off series featuring Gotham’s *other* major superhero protector.
But who is Batwoman, and what is her connection to Batman? And what’s the difference between Batwoman and Batgirl, anyway? Scroll down to learn everything you need to know about this important DC heroine.
Batwoman Explained: The Basics
First things first. Batwoman is not the same character as Batgirl. Where characters like Barbara Gordon and Cassandra Cain are more sidekicks to Batman than true peers, the modern version of Batwoman, Kate Kane, is a fully independent heroine motivated by her own tragic past and with her own resources to bring to bear in defense of Gotham City.
In many ways, Kate’s superhero evolution mirrors Batman’s own. She comes from a wealthy family that helped build Gotham into what it is today. She has her own advanced training, high-tech gadgets and a helpful assistant (in this case her father, Jacob). But in other ways she’s a vastly different character, whether because of her military background, her romantic ties to multiple GCPD officers or the fact that her own twin sister is basically her personal Joker.
Learn about Ruby Rose’s response to her casting as Batwoman in the video above.
Batwoman’s Powers and Abilities
Like most Gotham vigilantes, Batwoman has no superhuman abilities, but she doesn’t need powers to carry out her missions. She’s an expert martial artist whose skills have been honed by her time at West Point and growing up with an ex-Army colonel for a father. Kate also has extensive firearms training, though like Batman she tends to forgo guns in favor of her fists and other non-lethal weapons.
The Kane family wealth funds all manner of high-tech gadgets, many of which are inspired by Batman’s own tools of the trade. Kate also wears a suit of advanced body armor that allows her to go to-to-toe with the worst criminals Gotham has to offer.
Batwoman: Origin and Background
The original version of Batwoman, Kathy Kane, dates all the way back to 1956 and debuted in the pages of Detective Comics #233. She was conceived by Edmond Hamilton and Sheldon Moldoff both as a way of expanding the Batman franchise’s supporting cast and to address concerns raised by Frederic Wertham’s infamous 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent about Batman and Robin’s stories containing a gay subtext. As a result, Batwoman and her niece Bat-Girl were introduced as wholesome love interests for the Dynamic Duo.
The two characters played recurring roles in the Batman line until 1964, at which point editor Julie Schwartz cleaned house and eliminated Batwoman and Bat-Girl alongside Batman’s growing menagerie of Bat-sidekicks. They were replaced by the new Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, who became a prominent fixture in the Batman comics and the 1966 TV series. Eventually, 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths removed Batwoman and Bat-Girl from DC continuity altogether.
It wouldn’t be until 2007 that a new Batwoman would rise. The weekly series 52 introduced the modern incarnation of Batwoman, Kate Kane. Initially, Batwoman was meant to be a new costumed identity for Barbara Gordon, but it was instead decided to create a wholly new character. And where the original Batwoman was an arguably misguided response to the homophobia of the time, the new Batwoman became one of DC’s most prominent LGBT characters to date.
Because 52 explored a DC Universe where Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman were temporarily MIA, Batwoman was given the perfect opportunity to leave her mark on Gotham City. After that series wrapped, she also became the lead character in Detective Comics for a time before spinning out in her own solo comic in 2011.
These early stories established Kate’s origin story, revealing her to be a member of the wealthy Kane family and the daughter of a brash army colonel. An early tragedy claimed the life of both Kate’s mother and (seemingly) her twin sister, Beth. That sparked an obsession with justice that led Kate to follow her father’s footsteps into the military. Unfortunately, her promising career was cut short when she refused to deny her sexuality. After being drummed out of West Point, Kate became an aimless party girl until finding new inspiration thanks to Batman.
As Batwoman, Kate has made a significant impact on her city. However, her personal life is rarely so neat and efficient. Over the years she’s discovered that her supposedly dead twin sister is alive and now masquerading as a supervillain named Alice. She’s had a major falling out with her father, who went underground and formed a paramilitary group in opposition to the Bat-family. And she’s had failed relationships with both Renee Montoya and Maggie Sawyer.
Batwoman’s presence in the Batman comics has only grown with time. Currently, she plays a central role in Detective Comics, where Batman has charged her with running a sort of superhero boot camp to help train younger heroes like Red Robin, Spoiler and the reformed Clayface. She also has her own solo comic again, one that explores her globetrotting adventures outside of Gotham City.
Not only that but the original Batwoman has also returned to the spotlight in recent years. Writer Grant Morrison revived the character in his Batman work, eventually revealing that Kathy Kane survived her apparent death and became an assassin for the super-spy organization known as Spyral.
Batwoman: Beyond the Comics
While Batwoman has appeared in several animated Batman projects over the years, not all of these incarnations are directly based on the source material. For instance, the version of Batwoman that appears in the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a daredevil and acrobat named Katrina Moldoff. And while the character is the prime focus of the direct-to-DVD animated movie Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, this Batwoman is revealed to be three women sharing one mantle – Kathy Duquesne, Sonia Alcana and Dr. Roxanne Valentine.
As for Kate Kane, she played a supporting role in the 2016 direct-to-DVD animated movie Batman: Bad Blood. She’s also appeared in several recent DC video games, including DC Universe Online, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham and Arkham Knight.
Watch the video above to learn why we think the Arrowverse’s Batwoman casting is perfect.
Batwoman will finally make her live-action debut as part of a December 2018 crossover between Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow. Ruby Rose has been cast as Kate Kane. It’s unclear whether Batwoman hails from the main Arrowverse, Supergirl’s Earth-38 or another branch of the DC multiverse. The CW is also reportedly developing a full-fledged Batwoman spinoff, with Rose expected to reprise the role for that project.