What will the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ mean for Kate Kane?

by  in Comic News Comment
What will the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ mean for Kate Kane?

I’d be lying if I said that, while following coverage this weekend of the Senate’s repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” I didn’t briefly wonder what this development would mean for Kate Kane, the new Batwoman.

After all, she’s the most notable (if not the only) comic-book superhero whose origin is tied to the law prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military: While a cadet at the United States Military Academy, Kate is discovered to be in a secret relationship with another female student. When confronted with the allegation, Kate chooses to resign from West Point rather than lie. The scene, depicted in Detective Comics #859 by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III, is a powerful one.

“Way back — waaaay back — when I knew I was going to be writing Kate, and I knew we’d be telling her origin story, I knew I would write this scene,” Rucka said in a well-timed post that appeared Sunday at DC Women Kicking Ass. “This was, in many ways, the first scene I wrote for Kate Kane, one I kept rewriting and rewriting in my mind until the time came to put it down on the page. I’d done a lot of research into West Point, and the Cadet’s Code of Honor had stuck with me, stuck with me all the more in the face of DADT. In my mind’s eye, even before ever seeing the Bat Symbol of encountering Batman, this was where Batwoman was born — in Kate’s need to serve something greater and to, at the same time, remain true to herself.”

Williams, who’s sharing writing and art duties on the new Batwoman series, commented this afternoon on the repeal, saying, “It’s just sad that this policy ever occurred in the first place. It was grotesque and shameful that we ever went there. And terrible that it took nearly two decades for the folly to be properly dealt with.”

“Now to figure out what this may mean for Kate Kane,” he continued, “we’ll need to acknowledge this in some way, but properly in the plot, much like the policy’s enforcement affected the plot for Batwoman’s origin. Like it informed her past, setting her on the path she now has, this new progress will have to inform her direction at some point in a significant way.”

As curious as I am about how Williams & Co. will address law’s repeal, I’m even more interested in how later writers — those a decade or more removed from the policy — will address the character’s past. The origins of Marvel’s character operate on a sliding scale, with someone like Tony Stark first being tied to the Korean War, then the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War and now (I think) the conflict in Afghanistan. But how will DC revise Batwoman’s history when “don’t ask, don’t tell” is just a relic of the shameful past?