Actress Ruby Rose recently shocked everyone by announcing she was leaving the role of Batwoman behind after only one season on The CW. Now, the series creators have dropped another bombshell on fans. In an interview with TV Line, Batwoman producer Caroline Dries revealed that character of Kate Kane would no longer be wearing the cape and cowl, as she had decided against “a soap opera recast.”
Dries and the Batwoman writing staff will now introduce a new person behind the mask. The new character will still be a lesbian hero but will be someone else entirely—Ryan Wilder. A character not from the comics, but one created for TV.
Arrowverse’s main mastermind, producer Greg Berlanti, made this call. According to Dries, he told her, “I think we should just reboot Batwoman as a different character.” While that approach can prove interesting to be sure, here’s why I think removing the Kate Kane character as Batwoman is the wrong call.
On one level I understand the producers thoughts regarding this decision. However, as an LGBTQ comics fan and fan of Kate Kane, I think this is a grievous mistake. Kate hasn’t just become a fan favorite superhero in the comics—she has historical significance for several reasons. The very reason she got a TV series was because she’s had almost fifteen years of great stories from different creators. Throwing that all out the window after just one year because the lead actress decided to move on seems wrongheaded.
Kate Kane is important partially because her entire character is literally a “take it back” moment. DC Comics created her original incarnation as a response to homophobic allegations. These allegations came from the book Seduction of the Innocent in 1954. Fredric Wertham’s book leveled a ton of accusations against the comic book medium. He said they enticed America’s children into “unwholesome thinking.” Among other things, he suggested Batman and Robin were secretly gay lovers and that the entirety of Batman comics were meant to entice young boys into a homosexual lifestyle.
DC freaked out, and quickly created Batman’s girlfriend. Enter the Batwoman, a.k.a. circus performer Kathy Kane. She went on adventures to prove to Batman that he should marry her. Her gadgets were all sexist. Instead of a utility belt she had a utility purse, lipstick weapons, etc. This original Batwoman appeared in a ton of stories in the ’50s and early ’60s, and even had her own Robin of a sort with Bat-Girl, a.k.a. her niece Bette Kane.
But in 1964, DC Comics editors decided that the Batman comics became too silly and removed Batwoman from the books. At this point, the anti-comics hysteria surrounding Batman and Robin had died down; she wasn’t needed to assure everyone that Bruce Wayne was straight. When the Adam West Batman television show asked DC for a new female counterpart for Batman to appear in the series, DC came up with a new Batgirl named Barbara Gordon. She was instantly cooler and more capable. She totally eclipsed Batwoman in popularity, and Kathy Kane became a footnote in history.
Then in 2006, DC resurrected the concept of Batwoman for a more diverse era. Instead of a character created to assuage homophobic attitudes, this version of Batwoman would be an out and proud lesbian. They renamed Kathy Kane as Kate Kane. She debuted in the maxi-series 52. A brain trust of DC’s most well known writers, including Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, and Greg Rucka, created Kate Kane. This story was set in a DCU in which Batman and other heroes disappeared. Thus, a new Batwoman steps in to protect Gotham City. This is similar to what Batwoman‘s producers did on the television series.
Kate Kane’s origin presented her as a former soldier; the military dismissed her for being gay. Having lost her military career, she became a hard-partying socialite. Her father, Jacob Kane,was a lifelong soldier and highly decorated Colonel. Jacob was Martha Kane Wayne’s brother, making Kate the first cousin of Bruce Wayne. After terrorists seemingly killed Kate’s twin sister Beth and her mother, Jacob raised Kate alone. Eventually he remarried, and Kate followed in his footsteps and joined the military. After the military discharges her, muggers attack Kate on the streets of Gotham. However, she uses her military training to handily defeat the muggers just as Batman appears.
Inspired by the hero she doesn’t yet know is actually her cousin, Kate steals some military grade armor from her father. She fashions a costume and begins her career as the Batwoman. She protects Gotham for the full year that Batman is missing. When he returns, she becomes a staunch ally to the Dark Knight. The vast majority of her comic book backstory remains intact for the current TV series, albeit with some alterations here and there. But TV Kate Kane is essentially comic book Kate Kane come to life.
Although Batwoman wasn’t the first lesbian hero to get her own ongoing comic at DC, she was certainly the most high profile. The first Batwoman series ran for 40 issues, with her most recent solo series running for 18 issues. During this time, she co-led a team of young vigilantes alongside Batman in the pages of Detective Comics as well. All though her own book is currently on hiatus, she is without a doubt still the most high profile LGBTQ hero in comics.
And this is why Greg Berlanti and Caroline Dries should absolutely not remove Kate Kane from the series and replace her with someone new. Kate Kane has real historical significance; her inclusion in the DCU was a cultural touchstone. She continues to mean a great deal to LGBTQ fans. Just swapping her out with another lesbian hero who wears a red wig and black outfit suggests that’s all Batwoman is—that the other details about her are not important. And that is a slap in the face to her fans across the world.
Having legacy superhero characters are a staple of comics. The current Green Lantern, Flash, and Captain Marvel aren’t the first heroes to use those names. Even the most iconic superheroes of all time have been replaced at one time or another with someone else assuming the mantle. But in those cases, the original Superman, Batman, or whoever always returns, because they are pop culture icons whose popularity is far bigger than the comics. Kate Kane isn’t a household name yet, but she is iconic to the LGBTQ audience. And that needs to count for something.
If the series creators didn’t want to go the soap opera route and replace the actor with no explanation, they could come up with an in-story reason why Kate has changed in appearance. Maybe she absorbs the powers of Clayface for a time, and gets “stuck” with someone else’s face? Or maybe Kate Kane’s secret identity is exposed, forcing her to undergo plastic surgery to look like someone else. There are ways to deal with this and throwing Kate under the bus as a character seems like the lazy way out. It’s a disservice to such an important character.
Batwoman season two isn’t set to premiere until January of 2021. Production won’t commence for months. So it isn’t too late for Caroline Dries, Greg Berlanti, and CW execs to change their minds, and hopefully continue to do right by arguably the most important LGBTQ hero in comics.
Featured Image: The CW