Fans of the Arrowverse know that the annual crossover episodes between Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow like to give fans introductions to new characters. This year, a familiar comic book face came to TV screens in the Kate Kane incarnation of Batwoman. Fans of the comics know that Batwoman has gone through a lot of changes over the years, but Kate’s version of the character, who debuted in 2006, is a beloved member of the Bat Family. Inspired by Batman and his commitment to protect the city of Gotham, Kate Kane decided to put her military training to use as a vigilante as well. In addition to thorough training in the military, Kate learned a variety of martial arts and languages, studied investigative practices with the F.B.I., and even plays the guitar. With such a wide variety of skills, she’s a match for even Bruce Wayne.
Like Batman before her, she has her own dedicated rogues gallery. Chief amongst them is the mysterious group Intergang. The group is a cult who believes in the writings of ancient texts. They have a firm fixation on Kate, leading to some of her most memorable comic book story arcs. For those fans who aren’t as familiar with Kate Kane, we’ve got a good primer for you when she makes her Arrowverse debut with 25 Things Only True Fans Know About Batwoman.
For comic book fans who already know Kate Kane, they might see her as a relatively new hero. In reality, Katherine “Kathy” Kane was a Gotham socialite who made her comic book debut in 1956. Created by Edward Hamilton and Sheldon Moldoff, Kathy was an heiress who found herself by the caped crusader. She decided to find a way to fight the crime in Gotham herself and she did it by disguising her bat-accessories as everyday items.
Using a utility purse instead of a belt, she had her tools disguised as lipstick, hairnets, and makeup compacts.
In the 1950s, psychologist Fredric Wertham “outed” what he believed was a romantic coded relationship between Batman and Robin. In response, the creative team behind the comics wanted to create a new love interest for Bruce Wayne to quell the rumors. Kathy Kane was initially infatuated with just Batman, which is what prompted her to emulate his crime fighting. Once Batman uncovered the identity of the woman behind the mask, she became an extension of the Bat Family.
Kathy and Bruce entered into a relationship at one point, but it didn’t last. Despite her not appearing in comics for years, Catwoman remained the more popular love interest.
Barbara Gordon might be the best known Batgirl these days, but when writers were focused on extending the Bat Family, there was a different Bat-Girl first. Kathy’s niece Betty came for a visit. When she did, the younger girl learned that her aunt was a superhero. Rather than simply try to get Betty to keep her secret, Kathy trained her. Kathy thought if Betty saw how difficult the work was, she wouldn’t be interested in pursuing life as a crimefighter.
Betty proved her aunt wrong, excelling as Bat-Girl, and becoming her aunt’s first official sidekick.
The modern Batwoman, Kate Kane, grew up in a military family. With her dad stationed all over the world, her family, which included her mother and twin sister Elizabeth, traveled a lot. Kate believed she lost both her mother and her sister when all three were captured. It turned out that Kate wasn’t the lone survivor of the incident.
Elizabeth grew into an unstable woman obsessed with Alice In Wonderland. She began calling herself Alice, speaking in quotes from Lewis Carroll's novel, and living a life of crime. After Kate became Batwoman, she went up against Alice a few times, not knowing until one of their final encounters that Alice was actually her twin sister.
Like her father before her, Kate Kane joined the military. Following her training at West Point though, Kate entered into a romantic relationship with another female cadet. When her superiors confronted her about the relationship, Kate admitted to it, despite training during part of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era. As a result, Kate was no longer allowed to remain in her post.
She received a dishonorable discharge for her commitment to telling the truth. One good thing that came out of the experience for Kate was that her father supported her, and her decision to tell the truth.
Kate had her first brush with Batman when a mugger went after her in a Gotham alley. Batman thought Kate was a damsel in distress. What he didn’t know was that with Kate’s military training, she was able to save herself. Batman only got there in time to help her up from the ground after she defeated her own mugger, sending him running.
Coming face to face with Batman led Kate to realize what she could do with her life even though she was no longer in the military. She decided to use the training she had to help people as a vigilante herself.
Though the Kate Kane character has been firmly interested in women in her new incarnation, not all the characters that interact with her as Batwoman were aware of that. Nightwing took his leave from Gotham for a while. When he returned during the 52 series put out by DC Comics in the mid 2000s, Batwoman was a prominent figure. He teamed up with her immediately and made his crush on her pretty obvious.
After continually hitting on her, Nightwing gave her a gift: an “official” batarang to use instead of the ones she made herself.
The original Furies were a group of female villains in DC Comics. Trained by Granny Goodness, they really worked for Darkseid. Over the years, their lineup changed a few times, but their purpose did not. How does a hero like Batwoman end up serving Darkseid? Brainwashing.
During the events of Final Crisis several characters were brainwashed into becoming Furies who had never been members of the team before. In addition to Batwoman, Wonder Woman and Catwoman were also part of the lineup. Batwoman and Catwoman bore a resemblance to previous Furies Mad Harriet and Lashina, while Wonder Woman acted as the new team leader.
In comics, tattoos aren’t always common with superheroes because they serve as identifying markers. Kate, however, has at least three. One is a Green Beret insignia on her arm. An exact match to the one her mother had, it’s likely something she got during military training.
Another is a nautical star on her back. Historically, the nautical star is popular amongst members of the U.S. Navy and Marines. Her third tattoo isn’t associated with her military past. On her shoulder, the bluebird hides a scar she received during the “Zero Year” arc.
With alternate timelines and a sprawling multiverse, there are many different versions of the same heroes in DC Comics. Batwoman appeared in more than two dozen different incarnations. There are, of course, multiple versions of both Kathy and Kate Kane. In Elseworlds, another familiar name took on the guise of Batwoman. That would be Selina Kyle.
Best known as Catwoman in the regular timeline, Selina actually pulled Batman out of a deep depression in this version of the story, becoming his sidekick when he lost both Batman and Batgirl. She eventually gave up her Catwoman persona to become Batwoman - and Bruce Wayne’s wife.
When the Kate Kane version of the character debuted in 2006, she debuted as the love interest of Detective Renee Montoya. While she and Renee would date for a long time, her more well known relationship might be with Maggie Sawyer. Just a few years after her debut, Kate began dating Maggie. Like Renee, Maggie was a member of the police force and eventually discovered Kate’s dual identity.
The two did eventually break things off (more than once), but even alternate reality versions of their characters usually end up together.
During their initial confrontations, Kate Kane wasn’t aware that “Alice” was actually her sister. Time and a supervillain makeover made her look completely different. Alice, on the other hand, was aware of their connection. That didn’t stop her from going after her sister. When a Batwoman story arc in Detective Comics in 2009 came to a head, the two came face-to-face in a fight. More accurately, they came face-to-razor-blade.
As Batwoman immobilized Alice, the latter revealed a poisoned blade she hid in her mouth. Using it to slash Batwoman’s cheek, Alice got away and Kate found herself hallucinating images from her past all around her.
Like a lot of heroes in DC, Kate Kane’s skills as Batwoman are quite acrobatic. There’s a reason for that. She’s actually an elite gymnast, or she was in her youth. As a child, much like both Dick Grayson and Harleen Quinzel, Kate trained in gymnastics. Dick was in a family circus act and Harleen got a college scholarship out of it. Kate, on the other hand, made it to the “Senior Elite” level according to her comic backstory, but didn’t go any farther.
She might not have ended up competing in the Olympics or anything, but the muscle memory certainly helps her out in the middle of a fight.
Everyone knows that Batman can disappear so quietly, it’s like he vanished. The movies have even made a joke of it. He’s not the only one without superpowers who can do it. Kate Kane trained herself so well in the art of being stealthy that she can even sneak up on Batman himself. She’s done it - and been able to ambush him.
Her skills have also allowed her to go undetected by multiple military personnel while in a confined space with them. She’s even quiet enough to escape the notice of Supergirl, who has enhanced senses as a Kryptonian.
Kate Kane spent her formative years as a gymnast looking toward military life, but her cousin Bette spent her formative years training to become a superhero. Though more recent comics have Bette using a different superhero moniker after training under Kate, her previous incarnation was Flamebird. Flamebird didn’t go solo in her vigilante role like Batwoman, but instead, joined a team.
As Flamebird, Bette was a member of the West Coast Teen Titans. Friends with Beast Boy, she even went to bail him out of jail - in costume.
When DC published the series Justice League: Cry For Justice, Kate Kane appeared to be a central figure. Batwoman was announced as a member of the team and even appeared on the cover of the first issue. She didn’t stay for long.
The publisher changed what was originally slated as an ongoing series into a miniseries. The miniseries was used to set up a new Justice League title instead of standing on its own. When the sixth issue released, James Robinson included a note in the text explaining that Batwoman didn’t make the team when the changes took place.
There are quite a few comic book characters in the mainstream Marvel and DC books who are in same-gender relationships. Many of those relationships, however, don’t take things to the marriage level. DC Comics made a lot of readers very happy when Kate’s longtime relationship with Maggie Sawyer appeared to be headed that way. Kate even proposed to Maggie, while still in costume as Batgirl, following a fight. It became a historic moment - the first time a lesbian proposed marriage in a mainstream book.
Readers thought they might get to see Batwoman get married, but things didn’t exactly go the way everyone expected them to.
Not long after Batwoman’s famous proposal reached comic book stores, the creative team behind her book resigned. Williams and Blackmore cited creative differences, which largely included that DC Comics “prohibited” Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer’s wedding. The official statement out of DC was that heroes, especially those in the Bat Family, couldn’t have happy personal lives. Apparently, that unhappiness is what drives them to be heroes in the first place. That would explain why Bruce Wayne, Barbara Gordon, and Dick Grayson see so much tragedy.
It’s also become the norm in comics. Shadowcat and Colossus didn’t make it down the aisle in X-Men, and neither did Batman and Catwoman this year.
Batwoman has a strange list of villains. Her large story arc involved a cult pursuing her and wanting to use her as a sacrifice. The group almost succeeded. Renee Montoya tracked Batwoman down after she had been taken by Intergang. Intergang prophet Bruno Mannheim already had Kate on an altar and stabbed her when Renee reached her. Kate managed to remove the blade and use it as a weapon while Renee helped to free her.
It only took her a month to heal from the serious wound, though the scar tissue around her heart makes it weaker than it was before the incident.
Plenty of publishers produce “Holiday Specials” for different characters. Most of the time, those special issues are oversized, feature a larger than normal cast, and place a story right around Christmas. Though Kate Kane appeared in the DC Infinite Holiday Special of 2006, her story didn’t center on Christmas. Instead, she talked about Hanukkah with an old friend, recovered a stolen menorah, and reunited a separated family.
At the time, she was dating Renee Montoya, so the duo celebrated the holiday together. The arc following the special revealed more than just her heritage as writers wanted to expand her backstory.
Batman has Alfred helping him in the background. Kate, though she’s still a Gotham socialite, doesn’t have a butler aiding her vigilante habits. Instead, it’s her own father. In addition to acting as her backup (and pulling her out of situations she can’t handle), Kate’s father’s military history leaves him with a unique perspective to help her. He provides computer support when she’s on missions, but he also designed a suit to help protect her.
He designs the suit, and all of Kate’s assorted weapons, while she spends two years away from Gotham training with her father’s military friends. She comes home to find he has it all stored in a bunker in her house.
The Bombshells universe creates a different World War II timeline. In it, most of the DC comic book heroes and villains fan know are reimagined in new roles. Kate Kane is on a women’s baseball team, but she’s also the vigilante Batwoman. When she’s recruited for some overseas work, Kate doesn’t want to leave the city without protection. She does some recruiting of her own.
Kate has an entire team of young women who wear baseball uniforms with bats on them. Dubbed the Batgirls, they protect citizens while she’s away. The team grows beyond Kate’s leadership over time.
Tradition holds in DC comics that none of the members of the Bat Family have superpowers. They are regular people who train in very specific skill sets. As former members of military, acrobats, and aspiring detectives, they all work very hard to be vigilantes. Every once in a while though, one of the heroes ends up with a temporary superpower. Such is the case with Kate Kane.
After a head injury, Kate’s wound was stitched shut with gold thread. For some reason, this combination of an injury and the gold stitching allowed Kate to be hypersensitive to the world around her. She could actually detect strong electromagnetic fields in the atmosphere.
Variations of the Batwoman character already exist in animation, but she’s only come to live action once. Orange Is The New Black star Ruby Rose landed the role of Batwoman in late 2018. CW’s annual crossover amongst Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow includes the live action debut of Batwoman.
The casting choice has led many to wonder if this version of Kate Kane will come with her comic book tattoos since Rose has so many of her own. Rumors of a spinoff for the character also started circulating as soon as casting was announced.
When artwork for the Arrow crossover debuted, one of the promotional posters featured Ruby Rose in her Batwoman uniform. Some fans criticized the bright red hair at the top of the mask. That hair, however, has comic book precedent. Portrayed with short hair in the comics, Kate dons the long red wig while out as a vigilante as a way to help hide her identity. The bright red hair matches the red logo of her Batwoman costume.
The idea is actually fairly common amongst female heroes in the comics. Black Canary also donned a wig when she changed her hairstyle to keep people in the dark about who she really was.
Did you learn something new about Batwoman? Or are you the Kate Kane expert. Let us know if there’s something important we missed in the comments!