The fact that a network television channel has cast a queer, gender fluid actor to play a lesbian superhero is a major milestone. It’s also going to be the first time Batwoman has appeared in a live action adaptation–unless you count the unofficial 1968 oddity!–so we’ve gone back and looked at our back issues to select the seven most essential Batwoman stories for you to read as you prepare for the thrilling new Bat-World era.
DETECTIVE COMICS #233 (1956)
Though Ruby Rose won’t portray Kate Kane’s Batwoman in the upcoming crossover and potential solo series, Detective Comics #233 is the first appearance of wealthy heiress Kathy Kane (definitely not the same as Kate. Ah, comics!) who was inspired by Batman to become a vigilante. This wild Golden Age issue by Sheldon Moldoff and Edmond Hamilton introduced Batwoman to combat assertions that Batman and Robin were gay–oh sweet, sweet irony–and it’s Batwoman’s first appearance. This Kathy Kane is a glamor girl with a “utility purse” full of dangerous weapons shaped like lipsticks, pearls, and a makeup compact. A true hard femme icon.
These two issues of DC’s experimental 2006 weekly series 52 are vital in the Kate Kane origin. They introduce the new iteration of Batwoman–created by a comics committee of Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Geoff Johns, Mark Waid and Keith Giffen– first as a citizen and then as a superhero. 52 #7 is a notable rarity in comics as it immediately establishes that Kate is a queer woman when we learn of her romantic past with Gotham City P.D.’s Renee Montoya. In 52 #11we see Kate in her iconic red, black, and grey costume for the first time as Batwoman.
BATWOMAN: ELEGY (2009)
Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III’s iconic run (#854-860) on Detective Comics is now the collection Batwoman: Elegy. This arc centered Batwoman instead of her male counterpart and is an exceedingly special and surreal story as Kate Kane battles a terrifying woman named Alice–inspired by the works of Lewis Carroll–who’s determined to live out her fairy tale no matter how many people it harms.
BATWOMAN: NEW 52 (2011-2015)
After the excellent reception to his Batwoman-led run on Detective Comics, J.H. Williams III returned to co-write and draw a solo Batwoman title–alongside fill-in artist Amy Reeder–written by W. Haden Blackman as part of the company’s New 52 line. It ran for 40 issues, and the first volume is a great start for new Batwoman fans as it deals with Kate Kane trying to understand her place in Gotham, the legacy of carrying a mantle, and her family ties all while she tries to uncover the mystery of disappearing children in the barrio.
Originally a digital only comic, this radical reimagining of an alt-world set of DC heroes was so popular that it became a print series. If you like sexy women beating up Nazis and helping refugees, then DC Bombshells is for you. Aside from being a lot of fun, this is also the first time Batwoman completely helmed by women. Marguerite Bennett, Ant Lucia, Marguerite Sauvage, Bilquis Evely, Mirka Andolfo, and Ming Doyle, were the team behind this one.
BATWOMAN: REBIRTH (2017-PRESENT)
Marguerite Bennett took her talent and fans from Bombshells and brought them to a solo Batwoman title co-written with James Tynion IV and drawn by Steve Epting. This ongoing title, which launched in early 2017 under the DC Rebirth banner, is a fantastic jumping-on point for new readers and focuses on Kate Kane’s “lost year’ as she tries to piece together her past whilst also protecting Gotham.
Images: DC Comics, Header by J.H. Williams III and Dave Stewart