The comic history of Batwoman: A fierce Jewish, lesbian superhero


Since Kate Kane is getting her titular television series, it’s time that we remind everyone of Batwoman’s comic book history and how she became a fierce Jewish, lesbian superhero.

The CW put a Batwoman series in for consideration back in July, and news surrounding the developing show has been swirling since then. Thankfully, we have the rundown on most things Kate Kane, the drawn-out history of Kate donning the Batwoman costume and alias. We’d say we have a layout of everything Kate Kane, but it would take us several thousand words to review everything that makes Kate one of the best superheroes. Because Kate Kane’s Jewish and lesbian identities are important to both her personal and heroic endeavors, we thought we’d highlight some of her comic history and her Batwoman predecessor, Kathy Kane, who indirectly inspired future comic writers to create an openly lesbian superhero within the BatFam.

That’s right: There’s been more than one woman to wear the scarlet cape and mostly black spandex. In fact, there have been more than one Kathy Kanes to wear the Batwoman suit. Kathy Kane initially joined the DC Comics circuit in 1956 in Detective Comics #233. In a strange series of events, Kathy Kane, with no relation to Kate, was incorporated into Detective Comics as a weird plot device to keep Batman straight.

According to History, a psychiatrist, Fredric Wertham, in the 1950s claimed that Batman was gay and reading his comics could “turn kids gay and violent.” In an attempt to keep Bruce Wayne heteronormative reputation intact, DC Comics introduced Kathy Kane as both Batwoman and Batwoman’s love interest.

Detective Comics #233. Photo Credit: DC Comics.

Although Kathy Kane and her symbolic alias, Batwoman, earned positive reviews from comic fans, she was neglected for nearly a decade before she came back into the DC Comics scene in 1964, only to die 15 years later in Detective Comics #485. DC retconned Kathy’s death to reprise an alternate version Kathy Kane in an alternate universe. However, the second Kathy only made a few brief appearances in Brave and the Bold in the early 1980s.

It wasn’t until after the Crisis on Infinite Earths in the New 52 that Batwoman resurfaced in the DC Comics scene under a new name and a new face in 2006. Under the guise of Kate Kane (i.e., Katherine Kane), DC Comics finally embraced including more openly gay characters to introduce Bruce Wayne’s cousin and the new Batwoman: Kate Kane.

Injustice: Gods Among Us. Photo Credit: DC Comics.

Like Kathy Kane, Kate cane was also introduced simultaneously as a superhero and a hero’s girlfriend. Upon her Batwoman’s revival in the comic multiverse, DC introduced Kate as Renee Montoya‘s girlfriend. At one point in the post-Crisis run, Kate and Renee celebrate Hanukkah together. Granted, Kate and Renee’s relationship didn’t last.

Thankfully, Kate got a happily-ever-after as much as any superhero in the DC Comics’ universes. Kate has been in a longtime relationship with police officer Maggie Sawyer. After Batwoman’s titular comic series continued in 2011 and after one of the most iconic kisses in comic book history, and, yes, we’re talking about that kiss between Maggie and Kate, Batwoman writers were gearing up for the next step in the dynamic couple’s relationship: marriage.

Batwoman (2011). Photo Credit: DC Comics.

After DC Comics wanted Batwoman writers to retcon the already scripted wedding between the two (even though Kate already proposed to Maggie in the comic run), the writers of Kate’s comic series quit in symbolic solidarity for the lesbian superhero, as Business Insider reports. Granted, DC Comics claims their adversity to the Maggie and Kate wedding was being superheroes don’t get married, which accounts for Selina leaving Bruce at the altar. However, fans are still rutting for a Batwoman wedding.

Regardless of the status of their wedding vows, it’s clear that Maggie and Kate are soulmates. Even in alternate universes, they’re still girlfriends who are supportive of each other’s own crimefighting methods.

DC Bombshells #8. Photo Credit: DC Comics.

Though set in an alternate universe during World War II, DC Bombshells encapsulates the canon characteristics of our favorite leading women heroes in DC Comics, from Zatanna, Wonder Woman, and Batwoman (Kate Kane). Being the canon Jewish hero in the DC Comics multiverse, Kate uses her combat prowess to fight Nazi in Germany. Kate Kane symbolically rewrote the tragedies in this alternate realm as she stopped crime syndicates that were selling Jewish names to the Nazi regime.

Aside from actively rebelling against Nazis and saving fellow Jewish citizens in the Berlin area from the Holocaust, the DC Bombshells runs also allows for readers to see more cathartic moments in Kate’s Jewish pride. After forming the Justice League with some of our favorite Bombshell gals, Kate meets a young Jewish girl in Berlin who educates her on why she isn’t afraid of all the genocide and oppression during the war.

DC Bombshells. Photo Credit: DC Comics.

In the process, the girl teaches Kate about the powerful Jewish heroes that came before her, and despite the Nazis’ and Hilter’s attempts to squander their faith, you can’t kill faith. The panels then soon transition into a Shabbat dinner, where Kate is obviously invited to join. Given the tension of the WWII setting, and the previous panels that expressed the young girl’s explicit Jewish pride.

While Kate mispronounces some of the Hebrew in the proceeding panels because, although she is heavily guided by her Judaism both in her constant insurgency against Nazis and drive to protect Jewish people and other disenfranchised people, she has never spoken Hebrew before. Being educated about years of Jewish heroes and being invited at the Shabbat dinner table gave Kate an explicit place in the community, where she’s always welcome.

DC Bombshells is indicative of dozens of examples of Kate’s faith, which is why we recommend you read it at your leisure, along with Kate’s titular series, Batwoman (2011), Batwoman (2017), and Batwoman: Rebirth. Even at the center of her heroism, Kate uses her identity as Batwoman to showcase her Judaism.

Even when Kate isn’t literally punching Nazis in a flashback universe, Batwoman carries her Judaism with her wherever she goes. One of the primary colors she designed into her suit pays homage to her Judaism. The color red on her suit symbolizes Kabbalah, so you could easily argue that any comic panel that includes Kate Kane in or out of her Batwoman suit exemplifies her Jewish pride.

Given how critical Kate’s Jewish and lesbian identities are to her civilian life and her life under the mask, many fans are upset that a Jewish lesbian actress wasn’t cast for the role of Batwoman. While the CW still hasn’t confirmed whether or not Batwoman will remain canonically Jewish in her television series, it’s easy to see why some fans are still skeptical that the production could commit Jewish erasure.

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Like most members of the BatFam, Bruce in particular, Kate Kane has a complicated family history. Her twin sister Alice (birth name, Beth Kane) is evil and controlled by a religious-cult-turned-crime-syndicate. Whether Kate is fighting Nazis in the DC Bombshells‘ universe or trying to talk some sense into her sister in Gotham, Kate has always been Jewish, lesbian, and a hero (who was raised into a Jewish family).

Though these three identities don’t begin to summarize Kate Kane or her heroic pseudonym, Batwoman, they are important to her as a character, and they’re apart of her whether she’s wearing her sewn-in wig and Batmask or not.